1905 Nobel Prize in Literature
Henryk Sienkiewicz
"because of his outstanding merits as an epic writer."
  • 5 October 1905 (announcement)
  • 10 December 1905
LocationStockholm, Sweden
Presented bySwedish Academy
First awarded1901
WebsiteOfficial website
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The 1905 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the Polish novelist Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846–1916) "because of his outstanding merits as an epic writer."[1] He was given the prize on 10 December 1905.[1] He is the first Polish author to win the Nobel Prize in the literary category and the second Polish citizen to win in general after the chemist Maria Skłodowska Curie in 1903. He was followed by Władysław Reymont in 1924.


Main article: Henryk Sienkiewicz

Henryk Sienkiewicz is best known for his epic historical novels. He began writing them during the 1880s and published them as serial installments in Polish newspapers. Comprehensive historical studies formed as the basis for his great trilogy of Polish life during the mid-17th century: Ogniem i mieczem ("With Fire and Sword", 1884), Potop ("The Deluge", 1886) and Wołodyjowski ("Fire in the Steppe", 1888). The trilogy intertwines facts, fiction and a strong patriotic undertone. His best-known novel is Quo Vadis (1895), a story of St. Peter in Rome in the reign of Emperor Nero.[2]



Sienkiewicz was first nominated in 1901. Since then he has been annually nominated by literary scholars and academic for his epic oeuvres. In 1905, he was nominated by Hans Hildebrand, an archeologist and member of the Swedish Academy.

In total, the academy received 35 nominations for 15 writers such as the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, British poet Algernon Charles Swinburne and writer Rudyard Kipling (awarded in 1907), Czech poet Jaroslav Vrchlický, French historian Albert Sorel, and British essayist John Morley. Two of the nominees were women, Polish novelist Eliza Orzeszkowa and Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf (awarded in 1909).[3] John Macmillan Brown, a Scottish-New Zealand academic, administrator and promoter of education for women, nominated himself under the pseudonym Godfrey Sweven.[4]

The authors Alphonse Allais, Rudolf Baumbach, Victor Daley, Julius de Geyter, José-Maria de Heredia, Otto Erich Hartleben, Hermann Lingg, Mirra Lokhvitskaya, George MacDonald, Paul Meurice, Balduin Möllhausen, Vjenceslav Novak, Manuel Reina Montilla, William Sharp, Amalie Skram, Julius Stinde, Debendranath Tagore, Juan Valera y Alcalá-Galiano, Jules Verne, and Lew Wallace died in 1905 without having been nominated for the prize.

Official list of nominees and their nominators for the prize
No. Nominee Country Genre(s) Nominator(s)
1 Demetrios Bernardakis (1833–1907)  Greece drama, history, essays Athanasios Vernardakis (1844–1912)[a]
2 Georg Brandes (1842–1927)  Denmark literary criticism, essays Troels Frederik Lund (1840–1921)
3 Giosuè Carducci (1835–1907)  Italy poetry, literary criticism, biography, essays
  • Johan Vising (1855–1942)
  • Carl Bildt (1850–1931)
4 Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936)  Great Britain short story, novel, poetry William John Loftie (1839–1911)
5 Selma Lagerlöf (1858–1940)  Sweden novel, short story
6 Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo (1856–1912)  Spain history, philosophy, philology, poetry, translation, literary criticism 24 members of the Royal Spanish Academy[b]
7 John Morley (1838–1923)  Great Britain biography, literary criticism, essays John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury (1858–1929)
8 Lewis Morris (1833–1907)  Great Britain poetry, songwriting, essays William Morris Colles (1855–1926)
9 Eliza Orzeszkowa (1841–1910)  Russia
( Poland)
novel, short story
10 Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846–1916)  Russia
( Poland)
novel Hans Hildebrand (1842–1913)
11 Albert Sorel (1842–1906)  France history, essays
12 Godfrey Sweven[d] (1845–1935)  Great Britain
 New Zealand
novel, essays, pedagogy John Macmillan Brown (1845–1935)[e]
13 Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909)  Great Britain poetry, drama, literary criticism, novel Frank Evers Beddard (1858–1925)[f]
14 Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910)  Russia novel, short story, drama, poetry
15 Jaroslav Vrchlický (1853–1912)  Austria-Hungary
( Czechoslovakia)
poetry, drama, translation

Prize decision

For 1905, the Nobel committee shortlisted Henryk Sienkiewicz, Giosuè Carducci and Eliza Orzeszkowa,[citation needed] the first female author shortlisted for the Nobel Prize.[citation needed] Sienkiewicz was praised for his monumental masterpiece Quo Vadis which was regarded by the committee as a "work displaying the traits of Tolstoy";[citation needed] Orzeszkowa was dismissed due to the committee's uncertainty of her quality of writing;[citation needed] and Carducci was dismissed (but was awarded the following year) because of his controversial poem A Hymn to Satan and his religious views.[citation needed] The committee had planned a shared prize between Sienkiewicz and Orzeszkowa both the previous year and for 1905, but was rejected because Sienkiewicz was seen as more vital and greater writer than Orzeszkowa.[citation needed] Hence, the committee's choice.[7][page needed]


It is often incorrectly asserted that Sienkiewicz received his Nobel Prize for Quo Vadis.[8] While Quo Vadis is the novel that brought him international fame, the Nobel Prize does not name any particular novel, instead citing "his outstanding merits as an epic writer".[1] In his acceptance speech, he said this honor was of particular value to a son of Poland: "She was pronounced dead – yet here is proof that she lives on... She was pronounced defeated – and here is proof that she is victorious."[9]

According to Burton Feldman, the Nobel judges needed only nine years to honur Sienkiewicz for his Quo Vadis – "displacing Tolstoy," claimed a Nobel evaluator. Sienkiewicz's Quo Vadis appeared in 1896 and over the next few decades sold millions of copies. The Nobel judges have often been greatly impressed by the international popularity of a writer and was awarded thereafter.[10]


  1. ^ Athanasios Bernardakis [Vernardakis] is the brother of Demetrios Bernardakis.
  2. ^ The nomination was made in three separate letters by 24 members of the Royal Spanish Academy (the members were: Luis Pidal y Mon (1842–1913), Eduardo Saavedra (1829–1912), José María Asensio (1829–1905), Jacinto Octavio Picón (1852–1923), José Ortega Munilla (1856–1922), Juan Antonio Cavestany (1861–1924), Emilio Alcalá-Galiano (1831–1914), Juan José Herranz (1839–1912), Francisco Silvela (1843–1905), Juan Valera y Alcalá-Galiano (1824–1905), Cipriano Muñoz y Manzano (1862–1933), Francisco Commelerán y Gómez (1848–1919), Benito Pérez Galdós (1843–1920), Miguel Mir (1841–1912), Francisco Fernández y González (1833–1917), Santiago de Liniers y Gallo Alcántara (1842–1908), Eduardo de Hinojosa y Naveros (1852–1919), Antonio Maura Montaner (1853–1925), Alejandro Pidal y Mon (1846–1913), Eugenio Sellés (1842–1926), Eduardo Benot (1822–1907), Antonio Hernández Fajarnés (1851–1909), Ramón Menéndez Pidal (1869–1968), Daniel Cortázar y Larrubia (1844–1927), Enrique Ramírez de Saavedra (1828–1914), José Echegaray (1832–1916), Raimundo Fernández-Villaverde (1848–1905), Manuel del Palacio (1831–1906), Emilio Cotarelo (1857–1936), Mariano Catalina (1842–1913), and José María de Pereda (1833–1906).)
  3. ^ The nomination was made jointly by Gabriel Hanotaux and 24 other members of the French Academy.
  4. ^ Macmillan Brown: Limanora, the Island of Progress (1903)[5]
  5. ^ John Macmillan Brown has only been nominated himself under the pseudonym Godfrey Sweven. This nomination was later declared invalid by the Nobel Committee because nomination of oneself is not permitted.[6]
  6. ^ The nomination was made jointly by Frank E. Beddard and 30 other members of the English Society of Authors.
  7. ^ The nomination was made by Carl Gustaf Estlander and 16 other members of the Finnish Society of Sciences.


  1. ^ a b c The Nobel Prize in Literature 1905 nobelprize.org
  2. ^ Henryk Sienkiewicz – Facts
  3. ^ Nomination archive – 1905 nobelprize.org
  4. ^ Nomination archive – Godfrey Sweven nobelprize.org
  5. ^ Svensén, Bo. "Nobelpriset i litteratur. Nomineringar och utlåtanden 1901–1950". Swedish Academy. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  6. ^ Nomination and selection of Nobel Prize Laureates nobelprize.org
  7. ^ Gustav Källstrand Andens Olympiska Spel: Nobelprisets historia, Fri Tanke 2021
  8. ^ Sylwia Wilczak, "Quo Vadis Noblowska Pomyłka" archiwum.wyborcza.pl
  9. ^ Lech Wałęsa – Acceptance Speech nobelprize.org.
  10. ^ Burton Feldman, The Nobel Prize: A History of Geniuses Controversy, and Prestige, p. 47.