The following biography was originally published in The Continental Drama of Today. Barrett H. Clark. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1914. pp. 39-40.
Björnstjerne Björnson, together with Henrik Ibsen the first Norwegian to embody to any considerable extent the true spirit of his native land in modern times, and create a distinctly national literature, was born in Kvikne, Norway, in 1832. His primary education was received in Molde. At the age of twenty, he entered the University of Christiania, where he made the acquaintance of Ibsen. His first book appeared in 1857, an idyllic novel called Synnöve Solbakken, which was received with considerable enthusiasm; it has remained one of his most popular books. The following year Björnson assumed the directorship of the Bergen theater and there produced some of his earlier plays, the subject-matter of which was drawn largely from Norse sagas. The next few years were devoted to travel, the writing of stories, plays, and poems, and to practical politics. The years 1865-1867 saw him in charge of a theater in Christiania, as well as editor of a newspaper, which he used to further his struggle for Norwegian independence, political and literary. For practically the rest of his life, Björnson participated in the great political upheaval in Norway, and was considered the leader of the liberal party. In 1880 he came to America and delivered a number of lectures in the Northwest. From 1881, when he returned to his native country, until 1910, when he died in Paris, he spent most of his time on his estate in the south of Norway.
Although he was primarily a novelist and poet, Björnson claims a place among the foremost of modern dramatists, because he was the first to found the new drama in Norway, and among the first to employ that medium for a free discussion of individual rights and personal liberty, moral and intellectual.