Carlén, Emilia (1807–1892)

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Carlén, Emilia (1807–1892)

Swedish novelist and feminist. Name variations: Emilie Smith Flygare-Carlén; Emilia Carlen. Born Emilia Smith in Strömstad, Sweden, on August 8, 1807; died in Stockholm on February 5, 1892; youngest of 14 children of Rutger Smith (a merchant, shipowner, and retired sea captain); self-educated; married Axel Flygare (a doctor), in 1827 (died 1833); married Johan Gabriel Carlén (a lawyer and poet), in 1841; children: (first marriage) son Edvard Flygare (1820–1853), and three others (two died in childhood); (out of wedlock) daughter, Rosa Carlén (1836–1883), who was also a popular novelist.

Emilia Carlén, considered Sweden's first regional writer, was the youngest of a family of 14 children whose father, Rutger Smith, was a retired sea-captain. Rutger had settled down as a small merchant in Strömstad, and Emilia often accompanied him on the voyages he made along the coast; she would later become noted for her stories of seafarers, fishermen, and smugglers, with whom she came in frequent contact as a child.

In 1827, Emilia married an impoverished, elderly physician from Kronbergslän and lived with him in the province of Småland, The couple had four children, two of whom died in childhood. After her husband's death in 1833, she returned to her old home. While there, she fell in love with another man and was soon pregnant. When he died before they could get married, Emilia avoided the scrutiny of society by secretly giving birth, then adopting the child, future novelist Rosa Carlén . Five years later, 30-year-old Emilia published her first novel, Waldemar Klein (1838), anonymously, and it met with great success.

On her father's advice, in 1839, she moved to Stockholm; shortly thereafter, in 1841, she married the jurist and poet Johan Gabriel Carlén (1814–1875). She produced one or two novels annually over the next 12 years, and her works were widely read. Carlén's son by her first marriage, Edvard Flygare (1820–1853), had published three books and shown great promise before his premature death in 1853. The tragedy silenced Carlén's pen for the next six years. She resumed her writing in 1858 and would continue until 1884. Carlén was honored by the Swedish Academy in 1862, and her house became a meeting place for Stockholm's literati until the death of her husband in 1875, when she completely retired from the world. With the considerable sum earned from her writing, she founded charitable endowments to aid teachers, established the Rutger Smith Fund for poor fishermen and their widows, and instituted an endowment for students to the University of Uppsala in memory of her son.

Carlén, Rosa (1836–1883)

Swedish novelist. Name variations: Rosa Carlen. Born in Sweden in 1836; died in 1883; daughter of Emilia Carlén.

Rosa Carlén's first book, Agnes Tell, was well received in 1861. She followed with Tuva (1862), Helena, a Woman's History (1863), Three Years and Three Days (1864), and The Gypsy's Son (1866), which is regarded as her best work.

In her work, Emilia Carlén was most comfortable depicting fisherfolk and peasantry, but her writing embraced all facets of Swedish life; her stories were considered rich, her characters natural. As a novelist, she shared the limelight with her fellow countrywoman, Fredrika Bremer . The most famous of Carlén's tales are Rosen på Tistelön (The Rose of Tistelön, 1842); Enslingen på Johannisskäret (1846; English translation published as The Hermit of the Johannis Rock, 4 vols., 1853); Jungfrutornet (The Maiden's Tower, 1848), and Ett köpemanshus i skärgarden (The Merchant's House on the Cliffs, 1859). She also wrote Gustav Lindorm (1835). Carlén's novels were collected in 31 volumes (Stockholm, 1869–1875).