Friday, January 27, 2012

Signe Toksvig (1891-1983)

Author and Editor
Born February 14, 1891, Nykøbing Sjælland, Denmark
Died January 15, 1983, Kongens Lyngby, Denmark

Though considered a Danish author, Signe Toksvig wrote exclusively in English and crisscrossed the Atlantic Ocean several times, living in her native land as well as in the United States and Ireland. Signe Kirstine Toksvig was born on February 14, 1891, in Nykøbing Sjælland, on the island of Zealand in Denmark. She came to the United States with her family in 1905, first to Troy, New York, later to live in New York City. Signe graduated from Cornell University in 1916 and went to work at The New Republic as an assistant editor. In 1918 she married one of the founders of the magazine, Irish-born writer and critic Francis Hackett (1883-1962). The couple made several trips to Ireland and Europe in the early 1920s and lived in Ireland between 1926 and 1937. Signe and Hackett left Ireland after the nation banned her novel Eve's Doctor (1937) and his novel The Green Lion (1936). They lived in Denmark 1937-1939 and spent the war years in the United States. The Hacketts returned to Europe in the 1950s and settled at last in Copenhagen in 1952. Their literary friends included Ellen Glasgow, Karen Blixen, Sigrid Undset, and Hendrik van Loon.

Signe Toksvig wrote biography in The Life of Hans Christian Andersen (1933) and Emanuel Swedenborg: Scientist and Mystic (1948); and fiction in the novels The Last Devil (1927), Eve's Doctor (1937), Port of Refuge (1938), and Life Boat (1941). Her other books included Fairy Tales and Stories (1921), adapted or translated from Hans Christian Andersen's work; Signe Toksvig's Irish Diaries, 1926-1937 (1994), edited by Lis Pihl; and Free Lances (ca. 1976), an unpublished autobiography now in the collections of Cornell University. Signe published stories in The Popular Magazine in 1925-1926 and Tomorrow in 1942-1943. Her lone work for Weird Tales was "The Devil's Martyr," the cover story of the June 1928 issue.

Incidentally, I believe Signe Toksvig's brother, Harald Toksvig, was the same Harald Toksvig who worked as an artist, illustrator, translator, and editor. A Harald Toksvig was responsible for: 1) translations of stories by Gustav Wied published in Our World in 1924; 2) the original map of Sherwood Anderson's fictional Winesburg, Ohio; and 3) scripts for  Danish-language Mickey Mouse comic book stories. If those were all the same author, I should say he was a versatile man.

The author Signe Toksvig died on January 15, 1983, in Kongens Lyngby, near Copenhagen, Denmark, at age ninety-one.

Signe Toksvig's Story in Weird Tales
"The Devil's Martyr" (June 1938)

Further Reading
Cornell University holds Signe Toksvig's papers. There are lots of materials on her online as well.

The cover of Signe Toksvig's 1927 novel The Last Devil.
And the cover of Weird Tales for June 1928 featuring the similarly entitled story "The Devil's Martyr." The cover art is by C.C. Senf.
Winesburg, Ohio, a fictional town and subject of Sherwood Anderson's novel of the same name. The cartographer was Harald Toksvig, who I believe was the brother of Signe Toksvig.
A German-language Mickey Mouse comic book with story or stories by a Harald Toksvig. Was he the same Harald Toksvig? I hope a German or Danish reader can answer that question.
P.S. Thanks to Louisa, a Swedish reader, for a correction to the captions.
Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley

1 comment:

  1. He was indeed the same Harald Toksvig. He was my grandfather
    Sandi Toksvig