Hans Christian Andersen ruined his friendship with Charles Dickens by overstaying his welcome.

  • Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen
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Famed British novelist Charles Dickens and Danish fairy-tale writer Hans Christian Andersen (known for The Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid) could have been lifelong friends. They met in 1847 at a swanky party; Andersen told Dickens he was “the greatest writer of our time,” and Dickens, in turn, sent Andersen several books he signed as “his friend and admirer.” The pair were close pen pals for the next decade, but their relationship quickly went south in 1857, when Andersen visited Dickens for what was supposed to be two weeks, but stretched on for five.

Dickens later wrote in a letter to his friend William Jerdan — one of multiple letters to multiple people complaining about the visit — that “whenever [Andersen] got to London, he got into wild entanglements of cabs and sherry, and never seemed to get out of them agin until he came back here, and cut out paper into all sorts of patterns and gathered the strangest little nosegays in the woods.”

While Andersen, who was notoriously difficult to be around, remembers the visit fondly, for the Dickens family it was both peculiar and exhausting. Andersen was moody, anxious, and sensitive to rejection. Dickens’ daughter Katey called Andersen a “bony bore,” and one morning, Dickens’ wife Catherine found the visitor facedown on the lawn crying and clutching a bad review of his most recent book. After Andersen’s departure, Dickens left a note on the mirror in the guest room: “Hans Andersen slept in this room for five weeks — which seemed to the family AGES.” In the following years, Andersen continued to write letters to Dickens, but Dickens stopped responding.

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