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Henrik Wergeland was born in Kristiansand. His father, Nicolai Wergeland, was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1814. Three years later he became a Protestant minister at Eidsvoll, where the convention had been held. His mother was Alette Dorothea Thaulow, a daughter of a civil servant. Nicolai Wergeland supported Rousseau's educational ideas but was also a conservative pedagogue who crystallized his ideas in a small book entitled Henrikopædie. Kortfattede Love for Opdragelsen fra den spædeste Alder. The children in the family grew up in relative spiritual freedom. Wergeland's sister became a writer under the name Camilla Collett, and later depicted vividly in her memoir their happy childhood in the vicarage.
In 1825 Wergeland entered the University of Christiania (now Oslo), where he studied theology, history and botany. He graduated in 1829 with a degree in theology and then started his career as a free-lance writer. Christiania at that time was a small bourgeois town of some 20,000 people, without much cultural activity. Wergeland entered the city like a hurricane, and already in 1827 was dominating its literary scene. He made patriotic speeches, sat drinking and discussing with his friends throughout the night, and focused on his studies erratically. "I was quite a dare-devil at that time," he later confessed. Among his acquaintances was the poet Johan S.C. Welhaven (1807-1873), supporter of the "l'art pour l'art' idea, who later became Wergeland's leading opponent. "Din Rang du sikred dig med tusind Stemmer, / Rang blandt Parnassets Daarekistelemmer!" was Welhaven's early attack on Wergelang in which he guaranteed him the place of honor among the lunatics of Parnassus.
Wergeland's dramatic Creation epic, SKABELSEN, MENNESKET OG MESSIAS was published in 1830 and was intended to rival John Milton's Paradise Lost. Wergeland considered it his major work. It describes the development of humanity as a battle between light and darkness, and expresses the poet's optimistic world-view. Wergeland was on the side of light and he saw that poets have a crucial role in the struggle. During this early period Wergeland also composed his 'Stella poems', which expressed his feelings of love and joy of life.
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