Octavia Carlén was an author during the 1860s and 1870s.
Octavia Carlén grew up in the province of Västergötland where her father Carl Gabriel Carlén was an official. There were five children in the family, three girls and two boys. Octavia Carlén’s older brothers Johan Gabriel and Richard Carlén chose legal careers. However the oldest brother abandoned the law and devoted himself more and more to learned pleasures in Stockholm’s literary circles. In 1841, he married Emilie Flygare-Carlén, whose successful authorship he supported. Johan Gabriel Carlén was active as an author too, but his work consisted mainly of editing. His brother Richard attempted to be a poet in his youth, but his main career was as a lawyer. He was a circuit judge and a member of parliament. Richard Carlén married Emilie Flygare-Carlén’s 20-year-old daughter Rosa Carlén, which meant that Rosa Carlén was her own mother’s sister-in-law. Rosa Carlén became an author like her mother. The Carlén family from Västergötland thus gained an interesting position in the Swedish literary world.
However, Octavia Carlén remained unmarried all her life. During one period, she ran a lending library in Stockholm with her sister Christina. As with her brothers, writing came easily to her. Her interest in historical productions was first awakened when she as a child stayed with the vicar J. Stalin in Forshem, a friend of her father’s from his youth. Reviews of her historical short stories are that they are exciting but ”lacking in all artistic value”. However, her copious production of historical, topographical and travel handbooks contain a wealth of facts that make them valuable for anyone who is historically interested.
Octavia Carlén’s career as an author resembles several other women’s on the nineteenth-century book market. She is particularly reminiscent of the older Wilhelmina Stålberg whose choice of genre was the type of popular calendar, newspaper and journal that flourished at that time. Octavia Carlén wrote numerous contributions to publications like Freja, Linnea, Norden, Svea, Vinterblommor and Violblomman. One usually wrote under a pseudonym and received orders from publishers.
Octavia Carlén’s opus list is very comprehensive and can be divided into works of popular history and fictional narratives. Some examples may be given to create an understanding of the character of her works. The first dated piece of information in her bibliography concerns a greeting with homage to the duchess of Östergötland in 1857, four pages long. This type of complimentary address to royalty shows how the author is trying to create a position for herself in the middle-class circles of the capital. There are several such in her list of works.
Her historical interest resulted in a quite extensive popular compilation of the Royal Armoury’s collections, published by Octavia Carlén in 1859. Drottningholm Castle was described in 1861, and that opus was published in three editions. Gotland and its monuments from 1862 show the breadth of Octavia Carlén’s interests. Octavia Carlén portrayed several well-known attractions in the Stockholm region, among others the Gripsholm collection of portraits, as well as the Ulriksdal, Stockholm and Tullgarn Castles, just to name a few. And a typical publication for the time was delivered by Octavia Carlén in 1866: a little travel guide for the recently opened railway line from Stockholm to Uppsala. She made an excursion to Gothenburg in 1869 which also resulted in a travel guide.
When it came to fiction, she was a regular producer. The first collection appeared in 1859 as Ny och nedan, poemer och noveller, and in 1861 she collected together Fem noveller. Poemer och noveller came out in 1879. In between times she published separate stories in various contexts that dealt especially with historical subjects, often called historical-romantic narratives. In the series aimed at the popular market Öresskrifter för folket Octavia Carlén contributed for example Svenska konungadöttrars förmälning, in 1869.
Octavia Carlén collaborated with authors like Marie Sophie Schwartz and Carl Anton Wetterbergh whose signature was Onkel Adam. However, she was never completely bound to any particular publication or person. Octavia Carlén became neither a prolific author of fiction nor a writer primarily for children, as was usual for women authors of her time.
Octavia Carlén died in Stockholm aged 52.