From, Pictures of Sweden (1851)


The painter Callot–who does not know the name, at least from Hoffmann’s “in Callot’s manner?”–has given a few excellent pictures of Italian beggars. One of these is a fellow, on whom the one rag lashes the other: he carries his huge bundle and a large flag with the inscription, “Capitano de Baroni.” One does not think that there can in reality be found such a wandering rag-shop, and we confess that in Italy itself we have not seen any such; for the beggar-boy there, whose whole clothing often consists only of a waistcoat, has in it not sufficient costume for such rags.

But we see it in the North. By the canal road between the Venern and Vigen, on the bare, dry rocky plain there stood, like beauty’s thistles in that poor landscape, a couple of beggar-boys, so ragged, so tattered, so picturesquely dirty, that we thought we had Callot’s originals before us, or that it was an arrangement of some industrious parents, who would awaken the traveller’s attention and benevolence. Nature does not form such things: there was something so bold in the hanging on of the rags, that each boy instantly became a Capitano de Baroni.

The younger of the two had something round him that had certainly once been the jacket of a very corpulent man, for it reached almost to the boy’s ancles; the whole hung fast by a piece of the sleeve and a single brace, made from the seam of what was now the rest of the lining. It was very difficult to see the transition from jacket to trowsers, the rags glided so into one another. The whole clothing was arranged so as to give him an air-bath: there were draught holes on all sides and ends; a yellow linen clout fastened to the nethermost regions seemed as if it were to signify a shirt. A very large straw hat, that had certainly been driven over several times, was stuck sideways on his head, and allowed the boy’s wiry, flaxen hair to grow freely through the opening where the crown should have been: the naked brown shoulder and upper part of the arm, which was just as brown, were the prettiest of the whole.

The other boy had only a pair of trowsers on. They were also ragged, but the rags were bound fast into the pockets with packthread; one string round the ancles, one under the knee, and another round about the waist. He, however, kept together what he had, and that is always respectable.

“Be off!” shouted the Captain, from the vessel; and the boy with the tied-up rags turned round, and we–yes, we saw nothing but packthread, in bows, genteel bows. The front part of the boy only was covered: he had only the foreparts of trowsers–the rest was packthread, the bare, naked packthread.


Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875), was a Danish author and poet, most renowned for his fairy tales, the first of which was published in 1835. His first major work was The Improvisatore (1835). His books of travel writing include A Walking Tour from the Holmen Canal to the Eastern Point of the Amager (1829); Shadow Pictures (1831), Life in Denmark (1836), and Pictures of Sweden (1851).