The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

The Language in Thorvaldsen’s diary and early letters

  • Jørn Lund,, 2008
  • This is a re-publication of the article:
    Jørn Lund: ‘The Language in Thorvaldsen’s diary and early letters’, in: Meddelelser fra Thorvaldsens Museum (Communications from the Thorvaldsens Museum) p. 2008, p. 51-60.

    For a presentation of the article in its original appearance in Danish, please see this facsimile scan.

Summary The Language in Thorvaldsen’s diary and early letters

The article throws light on Bertel Thorvaldsen’s language as it appears in two sources: 1) The only diary fragment preserved in Thorvaldsen’s own handwriting. This is a diary he kept from 16 January to 17 February 1797, while he was staying respectively in Malta, at Palermo and in Naples without any of his fellow countrymen around him. 2) Thorvaldsen’s early letters from 1793 to c. 1805. Starting out from the character of the language he acquired in Copenhagen, a number of examples are examined that show how incredibly difficult Thorvaldsen found it to express himself in writing. He had problems on all levels with regard to writing, and there is no doubt that he suffered from dyslexia. He only wrote very reluctantly and most often had others to write his letters for him. Thorvaldsen was himself extremely conscious of his lack of ability to express himself in writing, and on several occasions he made his excuses to the recipient of the letter for the many mistakes in letters he wrote personally.


Bobé, Louis: Thorvaldsen i Kærlighedens Aldre. Kbh. 1938.

Brink, Lars og Jørn Lund: Dansk Rigsmål 1-2. Lydudviklingen siden 1840 med særligt henblik på sociolekterne i Kobenhavn. Gyldendal, 1975 (forkortet DR).

Noack, Friedrich: Das Deutschtum in rom seit dem Ausgang des Mittelalters, Bd. 1-2, Stuttgart 1927. Opperman, Th.: Thorvaldsen, hans Barndom og Ungdom 1768-1797. G.E.C. Gads Forlag, 1924.

Thiele, J. M.: Thorvaldsens Biografi, 1. del. C. A. Reitzel, 1851.

Last updated 11.05.2017