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The Influence of Old Norse Literature on English Literature   By: (1867-1900)

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Deyr fé deyja frændr, deyr siálfr it sama; en orðstírr deyr aldrigi hveim er sér góðan getr. Hávamál , 75.

Cattle die, kindred die, we ourselves also die; but the fair fame never dies of him who has earned it. Thorpe's Edda .


The present publication is the only literary work left by its author. Unfortunately it lacks a few pages which, as his manuscript shows, he intended to add, and it also failed to receive his final revision. His friends have nevertheless deemed it expedient to publish the result of his studies conducted with so much ardor, in order that some memorial of his life and work should remain for the wider public. To those acquainted with him, no written words can represent the charm of his personality or give anything approaching an adequate impression of his ability and strength of character.

Conrad Hjalmar Nordby was born September 20, 1867, at Christiania, Norway. At the age of four he was brought to New York, where he was educated in the public schools. He was graduated from the College of the City of New York in 1886. From December of that year to June, 1893, he taught in Grammar School No. 55, and in September, 1893, he was called to his Alma Mater as Tutor in English. He was promoted to the rank of Instructor in 1897, a position which he held at the time of his death. He died in St. Luke's Hospital, October 28, 1900. In October, 1894, he began his studies in the School of Philosophy of Columbia University, taking courses in Philosophy and Education under Professor Nicholas Murray Butler, and in Germanic Literatures and Germanic Philology under Professors Boyesen, William H. Carpenter and Calvin Thomas. It was under the guidance of Professor Carpenter that the present work was conceived and executed.

Such a brief outline of Mr. Nordby's career can, however, give but an imperfect view of his activities, while it gives none at all of his influence. He was a teacher who impressed his personality, not only upon his students, but upon all who knew him. In his character were united force and refinement, firmness and geniality. In his earnest work with his pupils, in his lectures to the teachers of the New York Public Schools and to other audiences, in his personal influence upon all with whom he came in contact, he spread the taste for beauty, both of poetry and of life. When his body was carried to the grave, the grief was not confined to a few intimate friends; all who had known him felt that something noble and beautiful had vanished from their lives.

In this regard his career was, indeed, rich in achievement, but when we consider what, with his large equipment, he might have done in the world of scholarship, the promise, so untimely blighted, seems even richer. From early youth he had been a true lover of books. To him they were not dead things; they palpitated with the life blood of master spirits. The enthusiasm for William Morris displayed in the present essay is typical of his feeling for all that he considered best in literature. Such an enthusiasm, communicated to those about him, rendered him a vital force in every company where works of creative genius could be a theme of conversation.

A love of nature and of art accompanied and reinforced this love of literature; and all combined to produce the effect of wholesome purity and elevation which continually emanated from him. His influence, in fact, was largely of that pervasive sort which depends, not on any special word uttered, and above all, not on any preachment, but upon the entire character and life of the man. It was for this reason that his modesty never concealed his strength. He shrunk above all things from pushing himself forward and demanding public notice, and yet few ever met him without feeling the force of character that lay behind his gentle and almost retiring demeanor... Continue reading book >>

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