Every time Hans Christian Andersen had a wank, he would put a mark in his diary. “Today I had a visit from such-and-such a person, they’re so sweet,” he would write. “When they left, I had a double-sensuous ++.”

In Denmark, Andersen is regarded as a national hero with a whiter-than-white image. His fans argue that the reason he never married or had sex was his desire to remain pure. Most biographies about him are very boring. But there’s one, Hans Christian Andersen: The Life of a Storyteller by Jackie Wullschlager, that is fantastic. Wullschlager approaches aspects of his life that have never been discussed frankly and openly – not only sexuality but other shady sides to his character.

When he visited Paris, for example, he would go to brothels in the Porte Saint-Denis area, not to touch the women, but to speak to them, return to his hotel and wank off. Then he would write about it in his diary.

Robert Lepage
Bedtime stories