1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dutch Literature
DUTCH LITERATURE. The languages now known as Dutch and Flemish did not begin to take distinct shape till about the end of the 11th century. From a few existing fragments—two incantations from the 8th century, a version of the Psalms from the 9th century, and several charters—a supposed Old Dutch language has been recognized; but Dutch literature actually commences in the 13th century, as Middle Dutch, the creation of the first national movement in Brabant, Flanders, Holland and Zealand.
From the wreck of Frankish anarchy no genuine folk-tales of Dutch antiquity have come down to us, and scarcely any echoes of German myth. On the other hand, the sagas of Charlemagne and Arthur appear immediately in Willem the Minstrel. Middle Dutch forms. These were evidently introduced by wandering minstrels and jongleurs, and translated to gratify the curiosity of the noble women. It is rarely that the name of such a translator has reached us, but we happen to know that the fragments we possess of the French romance of William of Orange were written in Dutch by a certain Klaas van Haarlem, between 1191 and 1217. The Chanson de Roland was translated about the same time, and considerably later Parthenopeus de Blois. The Flemish minstrel Diederic van Assenede completed his version of Floris et Blanchefleur about 1250. The Arthurian legends appear to have been brought to Flanders by some Flemish colonists in Wales, on their return to their mother-country. About 1250 a Brabantine minstrel translated Walter Map’s Lancelot du lac at the command of his liege, Lodewijk van Velthem. The Gauvain was translated by Penninc and Vostaert before 1260, while the first original Dutch writer, the famous Jakob van Maerlant, occupied himself about 1260 with several romances dealing with Merlin and the Holy Grail. The earliest existing fragments of the epic of Reynard the Fox were written in Latin by Flemish priests, and about 1250 the first part of a very important version in Dutch was made by Willem the Minstrel, of whom it is unfortunate that we know no more save that he was the translator of a lost romance, Madoc. In his existing work the author follows Pierre de Saint-Cloud, but not slavishly; and he is the first really admirable writer that we meet with in Dutch literature. The second part was added by another hand at the end of the 14th century.
It is not necessary to dwell at any length on the monkish legends and the hymns to the Virgin Mary which were abundantly produced during the 13th century, and which, though destitute of all literary merit, were of use as exercises John I., duke of Brabant. in the infancy of the language. The first lyrical writer of Holland was John I., duke of Brabant, who practised the minnelied with success, but whose songs are only known to us through a Swabian version of a few of them. In 1544 the earliest collection of Dutch folk-songs saw the light, and in this volume one or two romances of the 14th century are preserved, of which Het Daghet in den Oosten is the best known. Almost the earliest fragment of Dutch popular poetry, but of later time, is an historical ballad describing the murder of Count Floris V. in 1296. A very curious collection of mystical medieval hymns by Sister Hadewych, a nun of Brabant, was first printed in 1875 by Heremans and Ledeganck.
Hitherto, as we have seen, the Middle Dutch language had placed itself at the service of the aristocratic and monastic orders, flattering the traditions of chivalry and of religion, but scarcely finding anything to say to the bulk of the population. With the close of the 13th century a change came over the face of Dutch literature. The Flemish towns began to prosper and to assert their commercial supremacy over the North Sea. Under such mild rulers as William II. and Floris V., Dort, Amsterdam, and other cities contrived to win such privileges as amounted almost to political independence, and with this liberty there arose a new sort of literary expression. The founder and creator of this original Dutch literature was Jacob van Maerlant Maerlant. (q.v.). His Naturen Bloeme, written about 1263, forms an epoch in Dutch literature; it is a collection of moral and satirical addresses to all classes of society. With his Rijmbijbel (Rhyming Bible) he foreshadowed the courage and free-thought of the Reformation. It was not until 1284 that he began his masterpiece, De Spieghel Historiael (The Mirror of History), at the command of Count Floris V. Of his disciples, Boendale. the most considerable in South Holland was Jan van Boendale (1280-1365), known as Jan de Klerk. He was born in Brabant, and became clerk to the justices at Antwerp in 1310. He was entrusted with various important missions. His works are historical and moral in character. In him the last trace of the old chivalric and romantic element has disappeared. He completed his famous rhyme chronicle, the Brabantsche Yeesten, in 1350; it contains the history of Brabant down to that date, and was brought down to 1440 by an anonymous later writer. For English readers it is disappointing that Boendale’s other great historical work (Van den derden Edewaert, coninc van Ingelant ..., ed. J. F. Willems, Ghent, 1840), an account of Edward III. and his expedition to Flanders in 1338, has survived only in some fragments. The remainder of Boendale’s works are didactic poems, pursuing still further the moral thread first taken up by Maerlant, and founded on medieval scholastic literature. In Ypres the school of Maerlant was represented by Jan de Weert, a surgeon, who died in 1362, and Weert. who was the author of two remarkable works of moral satire and exhortation, the Nieuwe Doctrinael of Spieghel der Sonden, and a Disputacie van Rogier end van Janne. In the beginning of the 13th century Gielijs van Molhem wrote a Dutch version of part of the Miserere of the Picard poet who concealed his identity under the name of the recluse of Moiliens. The poem consisted of meditations on the origin and destiny of man, and on the sins of pride, envy, &c. The translation, completed later by an author calling himself Heinrec, was critically edited (Groningen, 1893) by P. Leendertz. In North Holland a greater talent than that of Weert or of Boendale was exhibited Stoke. by Melis Stoke, a monk of Egmond, who wrote the history of the state of Holland to the year 1305; this work, the Rijmkronik, was printed in 1591, and edited in 1885 for the Utrecht Historical Society; and for its exactitude and minute detail it has proved of inestimable service to later historians.
With the middle of the 14th century the chivalric spirit came once more into fashion. A certain revival of the forms of feudal life made its appearance under William III. and his successors. Knightly romances came once more into vogue, but the newborn didactic poetry contended vigorously against the supremacy of what was lyrical and epical. It will be seen that from the very first the literary spirit in Holland began to assert itself in a homely and utilitarian spirit. Jan van Heelu, a Brabanter, Heelu.
Aken. was the author of an epic poem on the battle of Woeronc (1288), dedicated to Princess Margaret of England, and to him has been attributed the still finer romance of the War of Grimbergen. Still more thoroughly aristocratic in feeling was Hein van Aken, a priest of Louvain, who lived about 1255-1330, and who combined to a very curious extent the romantic and didactic elements. As early as 1280 he had completed his translation of the Roman de la rose, which he must have commenced in the lifetime of Jean de Meung. More remarkable than any of his translated works, however, is his original romance, completed in 1318, Heinric en Margriete van Limborch, upon which he was at work for twenty-seven years. During the Bavarian period (1349-1433) very little original writing of much value was produced in Holland. Buodewijn van der Loren wrote one excellent piece on the Maid of Ghent, in 1389. Augustijnken van Dordt was a peripatetic minstrel of North Holland, who composed for the sheriff Aelbrecht and for the count of Blois from 1350 to 1370. Such of his verses as have been handed down to us are allegorical and moral. Willem van Hildegaersberch (1350-1408) was another northern poet, of a more strictly political cast. Many of his writings exist still unpublished, and are very rough in style and wanting in form. Towards the end of the 14th century an erotic poet of Dirk Potter. considerable power arose in the person of the lord of Waddinxsveen and Hubrechtsambacht, Dirk Potter van der Loo (c. 1365-1428), who was secretary at the court of the counts of Holland. During an embassy in Rome (1411-1412) this eminent diplomatist made himself acquainted with the writings of Boccaccio, and commenced a vast poem on the course of love, Der Minnen Loep, which is a wonderful mixture of classical and Biblical instances of amorous adventures set in a framework of didactic philosophy. In Dirk Potter the last traces of the chivalric element died out of Dutch literature, and left poetry entirely in the hands of the school of Maerlant. Many early songs, with some of later date, are preserved in a Liedekens-Boeck printed by Jan Roulans (Antwerp, 1544). The unique copy in the Wolfenbüttel library was edited by Hoffmann von Fallersleben in Horae Belgicae (vol. xi., 1855).
It is now time to consider the growth of prose literature in the Low Countries. The oldest pieces of Dutch prose now in existence are charters of the towns of Flanders and Zealand, dated 1249, 1251 and 1254. A prose translation of the Old Testament was made about 1300, and there exists a Life of Jesus about the same date. Of the mystical preachers whose religious writings have reached us, the Brussels friar, Jan van Ruysbroec (1294-1381), is the most important. But the most interesting relics of medieval Dutch prose, as far as the formation of the language is concerned, are the popular romances in which the romantic stories of the trouvères and minstrels were translated for the benefit of the unlettered public into simple language. As in most European Religious drama. nations, the religious drama takes a prominent place in every survey of medieval literature in Holland. Unfortunately the text of all the earliest mysteries, the language of which would have an extraordinary interest for us, has been lost. We possess records of dramas having been played at various places—Our Lord’s Resurrection, at the Hague, in 1400; Our Lady the Virgin, at Arnheim, in 1452; and The Three Kings, at Delft, in 1498. The earliest existing fragment, however, is part of a Limburg-Maastricht Passover Play of about 1360. The latest Dutch miracle play was the Mystery of the Holy Sacrament, composed by a certain Smeken, at Breda, and performed on St John’s day, 1500. This play was printed in 1867. With these purely theological dramas there were acted mundane farces, performed outside the churches by semi-religious companies; these curious moralities were known as “Abelespelen” and “Sotternieën.” In these pieces we discover the first traces of that genius for low comedy which was afterwards to take perfect form in the dramas of Brederôo and the paintings of Teniers.
The theatrical companies just alluded to, “Gesellen van den Spele,” formed the germ out of which developed the famous “Chambers of Rhetoric” which united within themselves all the literary movements that occupied the Chambers of Rhetoric. Low Countries during the 15th and 16th centuries. The poets of Holland had already discovered in late medieval times the value of gilds in promoting the arts and industrial handicrafts. The term “collèges de rhétorique” is supposed to have been introduced about 1440 to the courtiers of the Burgundian dynasty, but the institutions themselves existed long before. These literary gilds lasted till the end of the 16th century, and during the greater part of that time preserved a completely medieval character, even when the influences of the Renaissance and the Reformation obliged them to modify in some degree their outward forms. They were in almost all cases absolutely middle-class in tone, and opposed to aristocratic ideas and tendencies in thought. Of these remarkable bodies the earliest were almost entirely engaged in preparing mysteries and miracle-plays for the populace. Each chamber, and in process of time every town in the Low Countries, possessed one, and took as its title some fanciful or heraldic sign. At Diest “The Eyes of Christ,” dated from 1302, and an earlier one, the “Lily,” is mentioned. “The Alpha and Omega,” at Ypres, was founded about 1398; that of the “Violet,” at Antwerp, followed in 1400; the “Book,” at Brussels, in 1401; the “Berberry,” at Courtrai, in 1427; the “Holy Ghost,” at Bruges, in 1428; the “Floweret Jesse,” at Middelburg, in 1430; the “Oak Tree,” at Vlaardingen, in 1433; and the “Marigold,” at Gouda, in 1437. The most celebrated of all the chambers, that of the “Eglantine” at Amsterdam, with its motto In Liefde Bloeyende (Blossoming in Love), was not instituted until 1496. Among the most influential chambers not above mentioned should be included the “Fountain” at Dort, the “Corn Flower” at the Hague, the “White Columbine” at Leiden, the “Blue Columbine” at Rotterdam, the “Red Rose” at Schiedam, the “Thistle” at Zierikzee, “Jesus with the Balsam” at Ghent, and the “Garland of Mary” at Brussels. And not in these important places only, but in almost every little town, the rhetoricians exerted their influence, mainly in what we may call a social direction. Their wealth was in most cases considerable, and it very soon became evident that no festival or procession could take place in a town unless the “Kamer” patronized it. Towards the end of the 15th century the Ghent chamber of “Jesus with the Balsam” began to exercise a sovereign power over the other Flemish chambers, which was emulated later on in Holland by the “Eglantine” at Amsterdam. But this official recognition proved of no consequence in literature, and it was not in Ghent, but in Antwerp, that intellectual life first began to stir. In Holland the burghers only formed the chambers, while in Flanders the representatives of the noble families were honorary members, and assisted with their money at the arrangement of ecclesiastical or political pageants. Their pompous landjuweelen, or tournaments of rhetoric, at which rich prizes were contended for, were the great occasions upon which the members of the chambers distinguished themselves. Between 1426 and 1620 at least 66 of these festivals were held. There was a specially splendid landjuweel at Antwerp in 1496, in which 28 chambers took part, but the gayest of all was that celebrated at Antwerp on the 3rd of August 1561. To this the “Book” at Brussels sent 340 members, all on horseback, and clad in crimson mantles. The town of Antwerp gave a ton of gold to be given in prizes, which were shared among 1893 rhetoricians. This was the zenith of the splendour of the “Kamers van Rhetorica,” and after this time they soon fell into disfavour. We can trace the progress of literary composition under the chambers, although none of their official productions has descended to us. Their dramatic pieces were certainly of a didactic cast, with a strong farcical flavour, and continued the tradition of Maerlant and his school. They very rarely dealt with historical or even Biblical personages, but entirely with allegorical and moral abstractions, until the age of humanism introduced upon the stage the names without much of the spirit of mythology. Of the pure farces of the rhetorical chambers we can speak with still more confidence, for some of them have come down to us, and among the authors famed for their skill in this sort of writing are named Cornelis Everaert of Bruges and Laurens Janssen of Haarlem. The material of these farces is extremely raw, consisting of rough jests at the expense of priests and foolish husbands, silly old men and their light wives. Laurens Janssen is also deserving of remembrance for a satire against the clergy, written in 1583. The chambers also encouraged the composition of songs, but with very little success; they produced no lyrical genius more considerable than Matthijs de Casteleyn (1488-1550), the founder of the Flemish chamber of “Pax Vobiscum” at Oudenarde, and author of De Conste van Rhetorijcken (Ghent, 1573), a personage whose influence as a fashioner of language would have been more healthy if his astounding metrical feats and harlequin tours de force had not been performed in a dialect debased with all the worst bastard phrases of the Burgundian period.
In the middle of the 16th century a group of rhetoricians in Brabant and Flanders attempted to put a little new life into the stereotyped forms of the preceding age by introducing in original composition the new-found branches of Houwaert. Latin and Greek poetry. The leader of these men was Jean Baptista Houwaert (1533-1599), a personage of considerable political influence in his generation. Houwaert held the title of “Counsellor and Master in Ordinary of the Exchequer to the Dukedom of Brabant”; he played a prominent part in the revolution of the Low Countries against Spain; and when the prince of Orange entered Brussels victoriously (Sept. 23rd, 1577), Houwaert met him in pomp at the head of the two chambers of rhetoric—the “Book” and the “Garland of Mary.” He did not remain faithful to his convictions, for he composed in 1593 a poem in honour of the cardinal-archduke Ernest of Austria, the governor of the Spanish Netherlands. He considered himself a devout disciple of Matthijs de Casteleyn, but his great characteristic was his unbounded love of classical and mythological fancy. His didactic poems are composed in a wonderfully rococo style, and swarm with misplaced Latinities. In his bastard Burgundian tongue he boasted of having “poëtelijck geïnventeert ende rhetorijckelijck ghecomponeert” for the Brussels chamber such dramas as Aeneas and Dido, Mars and Venus, Narcissus and Echo, or Leander and Hero—named together the Commerce of Amorosity (1583). But of all his writings, Pegasides Pleyn (Antwerp, 1582-1583), or the Palace of Maidens, is the most remarkable; this is a didactic poem in sixteen books, dedicated to a discussion of the variety of earthly love. Houwaert’s contemporaries nicknamed him “the Homer of Brabant”; later criticism has preferred to see in him an important link in that chain of homely didactic Dutch which ends in Cats. His writings are composed in a Burgundian so base that they hardly belong to Flemish literature at all. Into the same miserable dialect Cornelis van Ghistele of Antwerp translated, between 1555 and 1583, parts of Terence, Virgil, Horace, and Ovid, while the painter Karel van Mander (1547-1609) put a French version of the Iliad and of the Eclogues of Virgil into an equally ill-fitting Flemish dress. In no country of Europe did the humanism of the 16th century at first affect the national literature so slightly or to so little purpose.
The stir and revival of intellectual life that arrived with the Reformation found its first expression in the composition of Psalms. The earliest printed collection appeared at Antwerp in 1540, under the title of Souter-Liedekens, and was dedicated to Psalms and hymns. a Dutch nobleman, Willem van Zuylen van Nieuvelt, by whose name it is usually known. This collection, however, was made before the Reformation in Holland really set in. For the Protestant congregations Jan Utenhove printed a volume of Psalms in London in 1566; Lucas de Heere (1534-1585), and immediately after him, with much greater success, Petrus Datheen (1531-1590), translated the hymns of Clément Marot. For printing this last volume, in 1567, Herman Schinkel of Delft was burned to death in 1568. Datheen was not a rhetorician, but a person of humble origin, who wrote in the vulgar tongue, and his hymns spread far and wide among the people. Until 1773 they were in constant use in the state church of Holland. But the great events of the period of reformation are not marked by psalms only in Dutch literature. Two collections of hymns and lyrical pieces, printed in 1562 and 1569, perpetuate the fervour and despair of the martyrs of the Mennonite Church. Similar utterances of the persecuted Protestants were published at Haarlem and Leeuwarden, at Ghent and at Bruges. Very different in tone were Battle-songs. the battle-songs of liberty and triumph sung a generation later by the victorious Reformers, the “Geuzen” or “Gueux” (q.v.). The famous song-book of 1588, the Geusen Lieden Boecxken, was full of ardent and heroic sentiment, expressed often in marvellously brilliant phrases. In this collection appeared for the first time such classical snatches of Dutch song as the Ballad of Heiligerlee, the Ballad of Egmond and Horn, and the song of the Storm of Leiden. The political ballads, with their ridicule of the Spanish leaders, form a section of the Boecxken which has proved of inestimable value to historians. All these lyrics, however, whether of victory or of martyrdom, are still very rough in form and language.
The first writer who used the Dutch tongue with grace and precision of style was a woman and a professed opponent of Lutheranism and reformed thought. Modern Dutch literature practically begins with Anna Bijns (c. 1494-1575). Anna Bijns. Against the crowd of rhetoricians and psalm-makers of the early part of the 16th century she stands out in relief as the one poet of real genius. The language, oscillating before her time between French and German, formless, corrupt and invertebrate, took shape and comeliness, which none of the male pedants could give it, from the impassioned hands of a woman. Anna Bijns, who is believed to have been born at Antwerp in 1494, was a schoolmistress at that city in her middle life, and in old age she still “instructed youth in the Catholic religion.” She died on the 10th of April 1575. Hendrik Peppinck, a Franciscan, who edited her third volume of poems when she was an old woman in 1567, speaks of her as “a maiden small of descent, but great of understanding, and godly of life.” Her first known volume bears the date 1528, and displays her as already deeply versed in the mysteries of religion. We gather from all this that she was a lay nun, and she certainly occupied a position of great honour and influence at Antwerp. She was named “the Sappho of Brabant” and the “Princess of all Rhetoricians.” She bent the powerful weapon of her verse against the faith and character of Luther. In her volume of 1528 the Lutherans are scarcely mentioned; in that of 1538 every page is occupied with invectives against them; while the third volume of 1567 is the voice of one from whom her age has passed. All the poems of Anna Bijns which we possess are called refereinen or refrains. Her mastery over verse-form was extremely remarkable, and these refrains are really modified chants-royal. The writings of Anna Bijns offer many points of interest to the philologist. In her the period of Middle Dutch closes, and the modern Dutch begins. In a few grammatical peculiarities—such as the formation of the genitive by some verbs which now govern the accusative, and the use of ghe before the infinitive—her language still belongs to Middle Dutch; but these exceptions are rare, and she really initiated that modern speech which Filips van Marnix adopted and made classical in the next generation.
In Filips van Marnix, lord of St Aldegonde (1538-1598), a much greater personage came forward in the ranks of liberty and reform. He was born at Brussels in 1538, and began life as a disciple of Calvin and Beza in the schools of Geneva. Marnix. It was as a defender of the Dutch iconoclasts that he first appeared in print, with his tract on The Images thrown down in Holland in August 1566. He soon became one of the leading spirits in the war of Dutch independence, the intimate friend of the prince of Orange, and the author of the glorious Wilhelmuslied. It was in the autumn of 1568 that Marnix composed this, the national hymn of Dutch liberty and Protestantism. In 1569 he completed a no less important and celebrated prose work, the Biencorf or Beehive of the Romish Church. In this satire he was inspired in a great measure by Rabelais, of whom he was an intelligent disciple. It is written in prose that may be said to mark an epoch in the language and literature of Holland. Overwhelmed with the press of public business, Marnix wrote little more until in 1580 he published his Psalms of David newly translated out of the Hebrew Tongue. He occupied the last years of his life in preparing a Dutch version of the Bible, translated direct from the original. At his death only Genesis was found completely revised; but in 1619 the synod of Dort placed the unfinished work in the hands of four divines, who completed it.
In Dirck Volckertsen Coornhert (1522-1590) Holland for the first time produced a writer at once eager to compose in his native tongue and to employ the weapons of humanism. Coornhert was a typical burgher of North Coornhert. Holland, equally interested in the progress of national emancipation and in the development of national literature. He was a native of Amsterdam, but he did not take part in the labours of the old chamber of the Eglantine, but quite early in life proceeded to Haarlem, and was notary, secretary and finally pensionary of the town. In 1566 he was imprisoned for his support of the Reformers, and in 1572 he became secretary to the states of Holland. He practised the art of etching, and spent all his spare time in the pursuit of classical learning. He was nearly forty years of age before he made any practical use of his attainments. In 1561 he printed his translation of the De officiis of Cicero, and in 1562 of the De beneficiis of Seneca. In these volumes he opposed with no less zeal than Marnix had done the bastard forms still employed in prose by the rhetoricians of Flanders and Brabant. During the next decade he occupied himself chiefly with plays and poems, conceived and expressed with far less freedom than his prose, and more in the approved conventional fashion of the rhetoricians; he collected his poems in 1575. The next ten years he occupied in polemical writing, from the evangelical point of view, against the Calvinists. In 1585 he translated Boethius, and then gave his full attention to his original masterpiece, the Zedekunst (1586), or Art of Ethics, a philosophical treatise in prose, in which he studied to adapt the Dutch tongue to the grace and simplicity of Montaigne’s French. His humanism unites the Bible, Plutarch and Marcus Aurelius in one grand system of ethics, and is expressed in a style remarkable for brightness and purity. He died at Gouda on the 29th of October 1590; his works, in three enormous folio volumes, were first collected in 1630.
Towards the end of the period of transition, Amsterdam became the centre of all literary enterprise in Holland. In 1585 two of the most important chambers of rhetoric in Flanders, the “White Lavender” and the “Fig Amsterdam the centre of letters. Tree,” took flight from the south, and settled themselves in Amsterdam by the side of the “Eglantine.” The last-named institution had already observed the new tendency of the age, and was prepared to encourage intellectual reform of every kind, and its influence spread through Holland and Zealand. In Flanders, meanwhile, crushed under the yoke of Parma, literature and native thought absolutely expired. From this time forward, and until the emancipation of the southern provinces, the domain of our inquiry is confined to the district north of the Scheldt.
In the chamber of the Eglantine at Amsterdam two men took a very prominent place, more by their intelligence and modern spirit than by their original genius. Hendrick Laurenssen Spieghel (1549-1612) was a humanist Spieghel. of a type more advanced and less polemical than Coornhert. He wrote a charming poem in praise of dancing; but his chief contributions to literature were his Tweespraeck van de nederduytsche letterkunst, a philological exhortation, in the manner of Joachim du Bellay’s famous tract, urging the Dutch nation to purify and enrich its tongue at the fountains of antiquity, and a didactic epic, entitled Hertspieghel (1614), which has been greatly praised, but which is now much more antiquated in style and more difficult to enjoy than Coornhert’s prose of a similar tendency. That Spieghel was a Catholic prevented him perhaps from exercising as much public influence as he exercised privately among his younger friends. The same may be said of the man who, in 1614, first collected Spieghel’s writings, and published them in a volume with his own verses. Roemer Pieterssen Roemer Visscher. Visscher (1547-1620) proceeded a step further than Spieghel in the cultivation of polite letters. He was deeply tinged with a spirit of classical learning that was much more genuine and nearer to the true antique than any that had previously been known in Holland. His own disciples called him the Dutch Martial, but he was at best little more than an amateur in poetry, although an amateur whose function it was to perceive and encourage the genius of professional writers. Roemer Visscher stands at the threshold of the new Renaissance literature, himself practising the faded arts of the rhetoricians, but pointing by his counsel and his conversation to the naturalism of the great period.
It was in the salon at Amsterdam which the beautiful daughters of Roemer Visscher formed around their father and themselves that the new school began to take form. The republic of the United Provinces, with Amsterdam at its head, The Renaissance. had suddenly risen to the first rank among the nations of Europe, and it was under the influence of so much new emotion and brilliant ambition that the country no less suddenly asserted itself in a great school of painting and poetry. The intellect of the whole Low Countries was concentrated in Holland and Zealand, while the six great universities, Leiden, Groningen, Utrecht, Amsterdam, Harderwijk and Franeker, were enriched by a flock of learned exiles from Flanders and Brabant. It had occurred, however, to Roemer Visscher only that the path of literary honour lay, not along the utilitarian road cut out by Maerlant and Boendale, but in the study of beauty and antiquity. In this he was curiously aided by the school of ripe and enthusiastic scholars who began to flourish at Leiden, such as Drusius, Vossius and Hugo Grotius, who themselves wrote little in Dutch, but who chastened the style of the rising generation by insisting on a pure and liberal Latinity. Out of that generation arose the greatest names in the literature of Holland—Vondel, Hooft, Cats, Huygens—in whose hands the language, so long left barbarous and neglected, took at once its highest finish and melody. By the side of this serious and aesthetic growth there is to be noticed a quickening of the broad and farcical humour which had been characteristic of the Dutch nation from its commencement. For fifty years, and these the most glorious in the annals of Holland, these two streams of influence, one towards beauty and melody, the other towards lively comedy, ran side by side, often in the same channel, and producing a rich harvest of great works. It was in the house of the daughters of Roemer Visscher that the tragedies of Vondel and the comedies of Bredero, the farces of Coster and the odes of Huygens, alike found their first admirers and their best critics.
Of the famous daughters of Roemer, two cultivated literature with marked success. Anna (1584-1651) was the author of a descriptive and didactic poem, De Roemster van den Aemstel (The Glory of the Aemstel), and of various miscellaneous writings; Roemer Visscher’s daughters. Tesselschade (1594-1649) wrote some lyrics which still place her at the head of the female poets of Holland, and she translated the great poem of Tasso. They were women of universal accomplishment, graceful manners and singular beauty; and their company attracted to the house of Roemer Visscher all the most gifted youths of the time, several of whom were suitors, but in vain, for the hand of Anna or of Tesselschade.
Of this Amsterdam school, the first to emerge into public notice was Pieter Cornelissen Hooft (1581-1647). His Achilles and Polyxena (1598) displayed a precocious ease in the use of rhetorical artifices of style. In his pastoral drama Hooft. of Granida (1605) he proved himself a pupil of Guarini. In tragedy he produced Baeto and Geraad van Velsen; in history he published in 1626 his Life of Henry the Great, while from 1628 to 1642 he was engaged upon his master-work, the History of Holland. Hooft desired to be a severe purist in style, and to a great extent he succeeded, but, like most of the writers of his age, he permitted himself too many Latinisms. In his poetry, especially in the lyrical and pastoral verse of his youth, he is full of Italian reminiscences both of style and matter; in his noble prose work he has set himself to be a disciple of Tacitus. Motley has spoken of Hooft as one of the greatest historians, not merely of Holland, but of Europe. His influence in purifying the language of his country, and in enlarging its sphere of experience, can hardly be overrated.
Very different from the long and prosperous career of Hooft was the brief, painful life of the greatest comic dramatist that Holland has produced. Gerbrand Adriaanssen Bredero (1585-1618), the son of an Amsterdam Bredero. shoemaker, was born on the 16th of March 1585. He knew no Latin; he had no taste for humanism; he was a simple growth of the rich humour of the people. He entered the workshop of the painter Francisco Badens, but accomplished little in art. His life was embittered by a hopeless love for Tesselschade, to whom he dedicated his dramas, and whose beauty he celebrated in a whole cycle of love songs. His ideas on the subject of drama were at first a mere development of the medieval “Abelespelen.” The “Oude Kammer,” one of the chambers of rhetoric, furnished an opening for his dramatic powers. He commenced by dramatizing the romance of Roderick and Alphonsus, in 1611, and Griane in 1612, but in the latter year he struck out a new and more characteristic path in his Farce of the Cow. From this time until his death he continued to pour out comedies, farces and romantic dramas, in all of which he displayed a coarse, rough genius not unlike that of Ben Jonson, whose immediate contemporary he was. His last and best piece was Jerolimo, the Spanish Brabanter, a satire upon the exiles from the south who filled the halls of the Amsterdam chambers of rhetoric with their pompous speeches and preposterous Burgundian phraseology. The piece was based on a Dutch version (Delft, 1609) of an early Spanish picaresque romance, La Vida de Lazarillo de Tormes (Burgos, 1554). Bredero was closely allied in genius to the dramatists of the Shakespearian age, but he founded no school, and stands almost as a solitary figure in the literature of Holland. He died on the 23rd of August 1618. Theodore Rodenburg (d. 1644), ridiculed by Bredero for his pretentiousness, had a wider knowledge of contemporary foreign literature than the other dramatists. He adapted some of the dramas of Lope de Vega, which he had witnessed at Madrid, into Dutch, and in 1618 he adapted Cyril Tourneur’s Revenger’s Tragedy.
The only individual at all clearly connected with Bredero in talent was Dr Samuel Coster, who was born at Amsterdam on the 16th of September 1579. He studied medicine at Leiden, and practised at Amsterdam. He is chiefly remembered for Coster. having been the first to take advantage of the growing dissension in the body of the old chamber of the Eglantine to form a new institution. In 1617 Coster founded what he called the “First Dutch Academy.” This was in fact a theatre, where, for the first time, dramas could be publicly acted under the patronage of no chamber of rhetoric. Coster himself had come before the world in 1612 with his farce of Teuwis the Boor, based on a folk-song in Jan Roulans’s Liedekens Boeckh, and he continued this order of composition in direct emulation of Bredero, but with less talent. In 1615 he began a series of “blood-and-thunder” tragedies with his horrible Itys, and he continued this coarse style of tragic writing for several years. He survived at least until after 1648 as a supreme authority in Amsterdam upon all dramatic matters.
The first work of the greatest of all Dutch writers, Joost van den Vondel (1587-1679), was Het Pascha (1612), a tragedy or tragi-comedy on the exodus of the children of Israel, written, like all his succeeding dramas, on the Vondel. recognized Dutch plan, in alexandrines, in five acts, and with choral interludes between the acts. There is comparatively little promise in Het Pascha. It was much inferior dramatically to the plays just being produced by Bredero, and metrically to the clear and eloquent tragedies and pastorals of Hooft; but it secured the young poet a position inferior only to theirs. Yet for a number of years he made no attempt to emphasize the impression he had produced on the public, but contented himself during the years that are the most fertile in a poet’s life with translating and imitating portions of du Bartas’s popular epic. The short and brilliant life of Bredero, his immediate contemporary and greatest rival, burned itself out in a succession of dramatic victories, and it was not until two years after the death of that great poet that Vondel appeared before the public with a second tragedy, the Jerusalem laid Desolate. Five years later, in 1625, he published what seemed an innocent study from the antique, his tragedy of Palamedes, or Murdered Innocence. All Amsterdam discovered, with smothered delight, that under the name of the hero was thinly concealed the figure of Barneveldt, whose execution in 1618 had been a triumph of the hated Calvinists. Thus, at the age of forty-one, the obscure Vondel became in a week the most famous writer in Holland. For the next twelve years, and till the accession of Prince Frederick Henry, Vondel had to maintain a hand-to-hand combat with the “Saints of Dort.” This was the period of his most resolute and stinging satires; Cats took up the cudgels on behalf of the counter-Remonstrants, and there raged a war of pamphlets in verse. A purely fortuitous circumstance led to the next great triumph in Vondel’s slowly developing career. The Dutch Academy, founded in 1617 almost wholly as a dramatic gild, had become so inadequately provided with stage accommodation that in 1638, having coalesced with the two chambers of the “Eglantine” and the “White Lavender,” it ventured on the erection of a large public theatre, the first in Amsterdam. Vondel, as the greatest poet of the day, was invited to write a piece for the first night; on the 3rd of January 1638 the theatre was opened with the performance of a new tragedy out of early Dutch history, the famous Gysbreght van Aemstel. The next ten years were rich in dramatic work from Vondel’s hand; he supplied the theatre with heroic Scriptural pieces, of which the general reader will obtain the best idea if we point to the Athalie of Racine. In 1654, having already attained an age at which poetical production is usually discontinued by the most energetic of poets, he brought out the most exalted and sublime of all his works, the tragedy of Lucifer. Very late in life, through no fault of his own, financial ruin fell on the aged poet, and from 1658 to 1668—that is, from his seventieth to his eightieth year—this venerable and illustrious person, the main literary glory of Holland through her whole history, was forced to earn his bread as a common clerk in a bank, miserably paid, and accused of wasting his masters’ time by the writing of verses. The city released him at last from this wretched bondage by a pension, and the wonderful old man went on writing odes and tragedies almost to his ninetieth year. He died at last in 1679, of no disease, having outlived all his contemporaries and almost all his friends, but calm, sane and good-humoured to the last, serenely conscious of the legacy he left to a not too grateful country. Vondel is the typical example of Dutch intelligence and imagination at their highest development. Not merely is he to Holland all that Camoens is to Portugal and Mickiewicz to Poland, but he stands on a level with these men in the positive value of his writings.
Lyrical art was represented on its more spontaneous side by the songs and ballads of Jan Janssen Starter (b. 1594), an Englishman by birth, who was brought to Amsterdam in his thirteenth year. Very early in life he was made Starter. a member of the “Eglantine,” and he worked beside Bredero for two years; but in 1614 he wandered away to Leeuwarden, in Friesland, where he founded a literary gild, and brought out, in 1618, his plays Timbre de Cardone, Fenicie van Messine, the subject of which is identical with that of Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing, and Daraïda. But his great contribution to literature was his exquisite collection of lyrics, entitled the Friesche Lusthof, or Frisian Pleasance (1621). He returned to Amsterdam, but after 1625 we hear no more of him, and he is believed to have died as a soldier in Germany. The songs of Starter are in close relation to the lyrics of the English Elizabethans, and have the same exquisite simplicity and audacity of style.
While the genius of Holland clustered around the circle of Amsterdam, a school of scarcely less brilliance arose in Middelburg, the capital of Zealand. The ruling spirit of this school was the famous Jakob Cats (1577-1660). Cats. In this voluminous writer, to whom modern criticism almost denies the name of poet, the genuine Dutch habit of thought, the utilitarian and didactic spirit which we have already observed in Houwaert and in Boendale, reached its zenith of fluency and popularity. During early middle life he produced the most important of his writings, his pastoral of Galathea, and his didactic poems, the Maechdenplicht and the Sinne- en Minne-Beelden. In 1624 he removed from Middelburg to Dort, where he soon after published his tedious ethical work called Houwelick, or Marriage; and this was followed from time to time by one after another of his monotonous moral pieces. Cats is an exceedingly dull and prosaic writer, whose alexandrines roll smoothly on without any power of riveting the attention or delighting the fancy. Yet his popularity with the middle classes in Holland has always been immense, and his influence extremely hurtful to the growth of all branches of literary art. Among the disciples of Cats, Jakob Westerbaen (1599-1670) was the most successful. His works included translations from Virgil, Ovid, Seneca, Terence and Juvenal, besides original poems. The Jesuit Adriaen Poirters (1606-1675) closely followed Cats in his remarkable Masquer of the World. A poet of Amsterdam, Jan Hermansz Krul (1602-1644), preferred to follow the southern fashion, and wrote didactic pieces in the Catsian manner.
A poet of dignified imagination and versatile form was Sir Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687), the diplomatist. He threw in his lot with the great school of Amsterdam, and became the intimate friend and companion of Vondel, Huygens. Hooft and the daughters of Roemer Visscher. His famous poem in praise of the Hague, Batava Tempe, appeared in 1622, and was, from a technical point of view, the most accomplished and elegant poem till that time produced in Holland. His collected poems, Otiorum libri sex, were printed in 1625. Oogentroost, or Eye Consolation, was the fantastic title of a remarkable poem dedicated in 1647 to his blind friend, Lucretia van Trello. He printed in 1654 a topographical piece describing his own mansion, Hofwijck. Huygens represents the direction in which it would have been desirable that Dutch literature, now completely founded by Hooft and Vondel, should forthwith proceed, while Cats represents the tame and mundane spirit which was actually adopted by the nation. Huygens had little of the sweetness of Hooft or of the sublimity of Vondel, but his genius was eminently bright and vivacious, and he was a consummate artist in metrical form. The Dutch language has never proved so light and supple in any hands as in his, and he attempted no class of writing, whether in prose or verse, that he did not adorn by his delicate taste and sound judgment. A blind admiration for John Donne, whose poems he translated, was the greatest fault of Huygens, who, in spite of his conceits, remains one of the most pleasing of Dutch writers. In addition to all this he comes down to us with the personal recommendation of having been “one of the most lovable men that ever lived.”
Three Dutchmen of the 17th century distinguished themselves very prominently in the movement of learning and philosophic thought, but the illustrious names of Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) and of Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) can Bekker. scarcely be said to belong to Dutch literature. Balthasar Bekker (1634-1698), on the contrary, a Reformed preacher of Amsterdam, was a disciple of Descartes, who deserves to be remembered as the greatest philosophical writer who has used the Dutch language. His masterpiece, Betoverde Wereld, or the World Bewitched, appeared in 1691-1693. Bekker is popularly remembered most honourably by his determined attacks upon the system of a penal code for witchcraft.
From 1600 to 1650 was the blossoming time in Dutch literature. During this period the names of greatest genius were first made known to the public, and the vigour and grace of literary expression reached their highest development. It happened, however, that three men of particularly commanding talent survived to an extreme old age, and under the shadow of Vondel, Cats and Huygens there sprang up a new generation which sustained the great tradition until about 1680, when the final decline set in. Jan Vos (d. 1667) gained one illustrious Vos.
Brandt. success with his tragedy of Aaron and Titus in 1641, and lost still more in 1642 by his obscene farce of Oene. His second tragedy of Medea, in 1665, and his collected poems in 1662, supported his position as the foremost pupil of Vondel. Geeraerdt Brandt (1626-1685), the author of a History of the Reformation (4 vols., 1671-1704), deserves remembrance less as a tragic dramatist than as a consummate biographer, whose lives of Vondel and of De Ruyter are among the masterpieces of Dutch prose. Johan Antonides van der Goes Goes.
Anslo. (1647-1684) followed Vos as a skilful imitator of Vondel’s tragical manner. His Chinese tragedies, Trazil (1665) and Zungchin (1666), scarcely gave promise of the brilliant force and fancy of his Yslroom, a poem in praise of Amsterdam, 1671. He died suddenly, in early life, leaving unfinished an epic poem on the life of St. Paul. Reyer Anslo (1626-1669) marks the decline of taste and vigour; his once famous descriptive epic, The Plague at Naples, is singularly tame and rococo in style. Joachim Oudaen (1628-1692) Oudaen.
Luiken. wrote in his youth two promising tragedies, Johanna Gray (1648) and Konradyn (1649). The Amsterdam section of the school of Cats produced Jeremias de Decker (1609-1666), author of The Praise of Avarice, a satirical poem in imitation of Erasmus, and Joannes Vollenhove (1631-1708), voluminous writers of didactic verse. The engraver Jan Luiken (1649-1708) published in 1671 a very remarkable volume of poems. In lyrical poetry Starter had a single disciple, Daniel Jonctijs (1600-1652), who published a volume of love songs in 1639 under the affected and untranslatable title of Rooselijns oochjens ontleed. None of these poets, except in some slight degree Luiken, set before himself any more ambitious task than to repeat with skill the effects of his predecessors.
Meanwhile the romantic and voluminous romances of the French school of Scudéry and Honoré d’Urfé had invaded Holland and become fashionable. Johan van Heemskerk (1597-1656), a councillor of the Hague, set himself Heemskerk.
Heinsius. to reproduce this product in native form, and published in 1637 his Batavian Arcadia, the first original Dutch romance, in which a party of romantic youths journey from the Hague to Katwijk, and undergo all sorts of romantic adventures. This book was extremely popular, and was imitated by Hendrik Zoeteboom in his Zaanlandsche Arcadia (1658), and by Lambertus Bos in his Dordtsche Arcadia (1662). A far more spirited and original romance is the Mirandor (1675) of Nikolaes Heinsius the younger (b. 1655), a book which resembles Gil Blas, and precedes it.
The drama fell into Gallicized hands at the death of Vondel and his immediate disciples. Lodewijck Meijer translated Corneille, and brought out his plays on the stage at Amsterdam, where he was manager of the national theatre or Gallican dramatists. Schouwburg after Jan Vos. In connexion with Andries Pels (d. 1681), author of the tragedy of Dido’s Death, Meijer constructed a dramatic club, entitled “Nil Volentibus Arduum,” the great object of which was to inflict the French taste upon the public. Pels furthermore came forward as the censor of letters and satirist of barbarism in Horace’s Art of Poetry expounded, in 1677, and in his Use and Misuse of the Stage, in 1681. Willem van Focquenbroch (1640-1679) was the most voluminous comic writer of this period. The close of the century saw the rise of two thoroughly Gallican dramatists, Jan van Paffenrode (d. 1673) and Pieter Bernagie (1656-1699), who may not unfairly be compared respectively to the Englishmen Farquhar and Shadwell. Thomas Asselijn (1630-1695) was a writer of more considerable talent and more homely instincts. He attempted to resist the dictatorship of Pels, and to follow the national tradition of Bredero. He is the creator of the characteristic Dutch type, the comic lover, Jan Klaaszen, whom he presented on the stage in a series of ridiculous situations. Abraham Alewijn (b. 1664), author of Jan Los (1721), possessed a coarse vein of dramatic humour; he lived in Java, and his plays were produced in Batavia. Finally Pieter Langendijk, the author of a farce borrowed from Don Quixote, claims notice among the dramatists of this period, although he lived from 1683 to 1756, and properly belongs to the next century. With him the tradition of native comedy expired.
The Augustan period of poetry in Holland was even more blank and dull than in the other countries of northern Europe. Of the name preserved in the history of literature there are but very few that call for repetition here. Decline of poetry. Arnold Hoogvliet (1687-1763) wrote a passable poem in honour of the town of Vlaardingen, and a terrible Biblical epic, in the manner of Blackmore, on the history of Abraham. Hubert Cornelissen Poot (1680-1733) showed an unusual love of nature and freshness of observation in his descriptive pieces. Sybrand Feitama (1694-1758), who translated Voltaire’s Henriade (1743), and wrote much dreary verse of the same class himself, is less worthy of notice than Dirk Smits (1702-1752), the mild and elegiac singer of Rotterdam. Tragic drama was more or less capably represented by Lucretia Wilhelmina van Merken (1722-1789), wife of the very dreary dramatist Nicholaas Simon van Winter (1718-1795).
In the midst of this complete dissolution of poetical style, a writer arose who revived an interest in literature, and gave to Dutch prose the classical grace of the 18th century. Justus van Effen (1684-1735) was born at Utrecht, Van Effen. fell into poverty early in life, and was thrown very much among the company of French émigrés, in connexion with whom he began literary life in 1713 by editing a French journal. Coming to London just when the Tatler and Spectator were in their first vogue, Van Effen studied Addison deeply, translated Swift and Defoe into French, and finally determined to transfer the beauties of English prose into his native language. It was not, however, until 1731, after having wasted the greater part of his life in writing French, that he began to publish his Hollandsche Spectator, which his death in 1735 soon brought to a close. Still, what he composed during the last four years of his life, in all its freshness, manliness and versatility, constitutes the most valuable legacy to Dutch literature that the middle of the 18th century left behind it.
The supremacy of the poetical clubs in every town produced a very weakening and Della-Cruscan effect upon literature, from which the first revolt was made by the famous brothers Van Haren, so honourably known as diplomatists in the history of the The brothers Van Haren. Netherlands. Willem van Haren (1710-1768) wrote verses from his earliest youth, while Onno Zwier van Haren (1713-1779), strangely enough, did not begin to do so until he had passed middle life. They were friends of Voltaire, and they were both ambitious of success in epic writing, as understood in France at that period. Willem published in 1741 his Gevallen van Friso, a historical epos, and a long series of odes and solemn lyrical pieces. Onno, in a somewhat lighter strain, wrote Piet and Agnietje, or Pandora’s Box, and a long series of tragedies in the manner of Voltaire. The baroness Baroness de Lannoy.
Bellamy. Juliana Cornelia de Lannoy (1738-1782) was a writer of considerable talent, also of the school of Voltaire; her poems were highly esteemed by Bilderdijk, and she has a neatness of touch and clearness of penetration that give vivacity to her studies of social life. Jakobus Bellamy (1757-1786) was the son of a Swiss baker at Flushing; his pompous odes (Gezangen myner Jeugd, 1782; Vaderlandsche Gezangen, 1782) struck the final note of the false taste and Gallic pedantry that had deformed Dutch literature now for a century, and were for a short time excessively admired.
The year 1777 has been mentioned as the turning-point in the history of letters in the Netherlands. It was in that year that Elizabeth (Betjen) Wolff (1738-1804), a widow lady in Amsterdam, persuaded her friend Agatha (Aagjen) The ladies Wolff and Deken. Deken (1741-1804), a poor but extremely intelligent governess, to throw up her situation and live with her. For nearly thirty years these women continued together, writing in combination, and when the elder friend died on the 5th of November 1804, her companion survived her only nine days. Madam Wolff had appeared as a poetess so early as 1762, and again in 1769 and 1772, but her talent in verse was by no means very remarkable. But when the friends, in the third year of their association, published their Letters on Divers Subjects, it was plainly seen that in prose their talent was very remarkable indeed. Since the appearance of Heinsius’s Mirandor more than a century had passed without any fresh start in novel-writing being made in Holland. In 1782 the ladies Wolff and Deken, inspired partly by contemporary English writers, and partly by Goethe, published their first novel, Sara Burgerhar. In spite of the close and obvious following of Richardson, this was a masterly production, and it was enthusiastically received. Another novel, Willem Leevend, followed in 1785, and Cornelia Wildschut in 1792. The ladies were residing in France at the breaking out of the Revolution, and they escaped the guillotine with difficulty. After this they wrote no more, having secured for themselves by their three unrivalled romances a place among the foremost writers of their country.
The last years of the 18th century were marked in Holland by a general revival of intellectual force. The romantic movement Nieuwland. in Germany made itself deeply felt in all branches of Dutch literature, and German lyricism took the place hitherto held by French classicism. Pieter Nieuwland (1764-1794) was a feeble forerunner of the revival, but his short life and indifferent powers gave him no chance of directing the transition that he saw to be inevitable. One volume of poems appeared in 1788, and a second, posthumously, in 1797.
The real precursor and creator of a new epoch in letters was the famous Willem Bilderdijk (1756-1831) (q.v.). This remarkable man, whose force of character was even greater than his genius, impressed his personality on his generation so Bilderdijk. indelibly that to think of a Dutchman of the beginning of the 19th century is to think of Bilderdijk. In poetry his taste was strictly national and didactic; he began as a disciple of Cats, nor could he to the end of his life tolerate what he called “the puerilities of Shakespeare.” His early love-songs, collected in 1781 and 1785, gave little promise of talent, but in his epic of Elias in 1786, he showed himself superior to all the Dutch poets since Huygens in mastery of form. For twenty years he lived a busy, eventful life, writing great quantities of verse, and then commenced his most productive period with his didactic poem of The Disease of the Learned, in 1807; in 1808 he imitated Pope’s Essay on Man, and published the tragedy of Floris V., and in 1809 commenced the work which he designed to be his masterpiece, the epic of De Ondergang der eerste Wereld (The Destruction of the First World), which he never finished, and which appeared as a fragment in 1820. To the foreign student Bilderdijk is a singularly uninviting and unpleasing figure. He unites in himself all the unlovely and provincial features which deform the worst of his countrymen. He was violent, ignorant and dull; his view of art was confined to its declamatory and least beautiful side, and perhaps no writer of equal talent has shown so complete an absence of taste and tact. Ten Brink has summed up the character of Bilderdijk’s writings in an excellent passage:—“As an artist,” he says, “he can perhaps be best described in short as the cleverest versemaker of the 18th century. His admirable erudition, his power over language, more extended and more colossal than that of any of his predecessors, enabled him to write pithy and thoroughly original verses, although the general tone of his thought and expression never rose above the ceremonious, stagy and theatrical character of the 18th century.” But in spite of his outrageous faults, and partly because these faults were the exaggeration of a marked national failing, Bilderdijk long enjoyed an unbroken and unbounded popularity in Holland. Fortunately, however, a sounder spirit has arisen in criticism, and the prestige of Bilderdijk is no longer preserved so religiously.
Bilderdijk’s scorn for the dramas of Shakespeare was almost rivalled by that he felt for the new German poetry. Notwithstanding his opposition, however, the romantic fervour found its way into Holland, and first of all in the persons of Hieronymus van Alphen (1746-1803) and Pieter Leonard van de Kastiele (1748-1810), who amused themselves by composing funeral poems of the school of Gessner and Blair. Van Alphen at one time was extolled as a writer of verses for children, but neither in this nor in the elegiac line did he possess nearly so much talent as Rhijnvis Feith (1753-1824), burgomaster of Zwolle, the very type of a prosperous and sentimental Dutchman. In his Julia (1783), a prose romance, Feith proved himself as completely the disciple of Goethe in Werther as Wolff and Deken had been of Richardson in Sara Burgerhart. In Johannes Kinker (1764-1845) a comic poet arose who, at the instigation of Bilderdijk, dedicated himself to the ridicule of Feith’s sentimentalities. The same office was performed with more dignity and less vivacity by Baron W. E. van Perponcher (1741-1819), but Feith continued to hold the popular ear, and achieved an immense success with his poem The Grave in 1792. He then produced tragedies for a while, and in 1803 published Antiquity, a didactic epic. But his popularity waned before his death, and he was troubled by the mirth of such witty scoffers as Arend Fokke Simons (1755-1812), the disciple of Klopstock, and as P. de Wacker van Zon (1758-1818), who, in a series of very readable novels issued under the pseudonym of Bruno Daalberg, sharply ridiculed the sentimental and funereal school.
Under the Batavian republic a historian of great genius arose in the person of Johannes Henricus van der Palm (1763-1840), whose brilliant and patriotic Gedenkschrift van Nederlands Van der Palm.
Loots. Herstelling (1816) has somewhat obscured his great fame as a politician and an Orientalist. The work commenced by Van der Palm in prose was continued in verse by Cornelis Loots (1765-1834) and Jan Frederik Helmers (1767-1813). Loots, in his Batavians of the Time of Caesar (1805), read his countrymen a lesson in patriotism, which Helmers far exceeded in originality and force by his Dutch Nation in 1812. Neither of these poets, however, had sufficient art to render their pieces classical, or, indeed, Helmers. enough to protect them during their lifetime from the sneers of Bilderdijk. Other political writers, whose lyrical energies were stimulated by the struggle with France, were Maurits Cornelis van Hall (1768-1858), Samuel Iperuszoon Wiselius (1769-1845) and Jan ten Brink (1771-1839), the second of whom immortalized himself and won the favour of Bilderdijk by ridiculing the pretensions of such frivolous tragedians as Shakespeare and Schiller.
The healthy and national spirit in which the ladies Wolff and Deken had written was adopted with great spirit by a novelist in the next generation, Adriaan Loosjes (1761-1818), a bookseller at Haarlem. His romantic stories of Loosjes. medieval life, especially his Charlotte van Bourbon, are curiously like shadows cast forward by the Waverley Novels, but he has little of Sir Walter Scott’s historical truth of vision. His production was incessant and his popularity great for many years, but he was conscious all through that he was at best but a disciple of the authoresses of Sara Burgerhart. Another disciple whose name should not be passed over is Maria Jacoba de Neufville (1775-1856), author of Little Duties, an excellent story somewhat in the manner of Mrs Opie.
A remarkable poet whose romantic genius strove to combine the power of Bilderdijk with the sweetness of Feith was Hendrik Tollens (1780-1856), whose verses have shown more Tollens. vitality than those of most of his contemporaries. He struck out the admirable notion of celebrating the great deeds of Dutch history in a series of lyrical romances, many of which possess a lasting charm. Besides his folk-songs and popular ballads, he succeeded in a long descriptive poem, A Winter in Nova Zembla, 1819. He lacks the full accomplishment of a literary artist, but his inspiration was natural and abundant, and he thoroughly deserved the popularity with which his patriotic Messchert.
Bogaers. ballads were rewarded. Willem Messchert (1790-1844), a friend and follower of Tollens, pushed the domestic and familiar tone of the latter to a still further point, especially in his genre poem of the Golden Wedding, 1825. Both these writers were natives and residents of Rotterdam, which also claims the honour of being the birthplace of Adrianus Bogaers (1795-1870), the most considerable poetical figure of the time. Without the force and profusion of Bilderdijk, Bogaers has more truth to nature, more sweetness of imagination, and a more genuine gift of poetry than that clamorous writer, and is slowly taking a higher position in Dutch literature as Bilderdijk comes to take a lower one. Bogaers printed his famous poem Jochebed in 1835, but it had then been in existence more than thirteen years, so that it belongs to the second period of imaginative revival in Europe, and connects the name of its author with those of Byron and Heine. Still more beautiful was his Voyage of Heemskerk to Gibraltar (1836), in which he rose to the highest level of his genius. In 1846 he privately printed his Romances and Ballads. Bogaers had a great objection to publicity, and his reputation was long delayed by the secrecy with which he circulated his writings among a few intimate friends. A poet of considerable talent, whose powers were awakened by personal intercourse with Bogaers and Staring. Tollens, was Antoni Christiaan Winand Staring (1767-1840), who first at the age of fifty-three came before the world with a volume of Poems, but who continued to write till past his seventieth year. His amorous and humorous lyrics recall the best period of Dutch song, and are worthy to be named beside those of Starter and Vondel.
After 1830 Holland took a more prominent position in European thought than she could claim since the end of the 17th century. In scientific and religious literature her men of letters showed themselves cognizant of the newest shades 19th century influences. of opinion, and freely ventilated their ideas. The language resisted the pressure of German from the outside, and from within broke through its long stagnation and enriched itself, as a medium for literary expression, with a multitude of fresh and colloquial forms. At the same time, no very great genius arose in Holland in any branch of literature. The vast labours of Jakobus van Lennep (1802-1868) consist of innumerable translations, historical novels and national romances, which have gained for him the title of the leader of the Dutch romantic school.
The novels of Sir Walter Scott had a great influence on Dutch literature, and the period was rich in historical novels. J. van der Hage (1806-1854), who wrote under the pseudonym of Jan Frederick Oltmans, was the author of the famous novels, Castle Loevenstein in 1570 (1834), and The Shepherd (1838), both dealing with the national history. Other popular works were the antique romance Charikles and Euphorion (1831) of Petrus van Limburg-Brouwer (1795-1847), author of a history of Greek mythology; the Mejuffrouw Lèclerc (1849), and the Portretten van Joost van den Vondel (1876) of the literary historian and critic J. A. A. Alberdingk Thijm (1820-1899); the Jan Faessen (1856) of Lodewijk Mulder (b. 1822); and the Lucretia d’Este of W. P. Walters (1827-1891). Johannes Kneppelhout (1814-1885) sketched university life at Leiden in two amusing volumes of Studententypen (1841) and Studentenleven (1844). Reinier Cornelis Bakhuizen van den Brink (1810-1865) was the chief critic of the romantic movement, and Everhard Johannes Potgieter (1808-1875) its mystical philosopher and esoteric lyrical poet. The genius and influence of Potgieter were very considerable, but they were exceeded by the gifts of Nicolaes Beets (q.v.), author of the famous Camera Obscura (1836), a masterpiece of humour and character. Johannes Pieter Hasebroek (1812-1896), who has been called the Dutch Charles Lamb, wrote in 1840 an admirable collection of essays entitled Truth and Dreams. Willem Hofdijk (1816-1888) wrote a collection of ballads, Kennemerland (1849-1852), and a series of epic and dramatic poems in the romantic style. Bernard ter Haar (1806-1881), an Amsterdam pastor and, in the last year of his life, a professor at Utrecht, made a reputation as a poet by his Johannes and Theagenes, a legend of apostolic times (1838). His poems were collected in 1866 and 1879. A poet of unusual power and promise was lost in the early death of Pieter Augustus de Genestet (1803-1861). His Eve of Saint Nicholas appeared in 1849, and was followed by two volumes of verse in 1851 and 1861, the second of which contains some poems that have attained great popularity. Among the poets should not be forgotten two writers of verse for children, Jan Pieter Heije (1809-1876) and J. J. A. Gouverneur (1809-1889). Criticism was represented by W. J. A. Jonckbloet (1817-1885), author of an excellent History of Dutch Literature (1868-1870), C. Busken Huet, and Jan ten Brink (1834-1901), author of a great number of valuable works on literary history, notably of a history of Dutch literature (1897), and a series of biographies of 19th century Dutch writers (new edition, 1902). His novels were collected in 13 volumes in 1885. With Isaak da Costa (q.v.), W. J. van Zeggelen (1811-1879), and J. J. L. Ten Kate (q.v.), the domestic tendency of Cats and Bilderdijk overpowered the influence of romanticism. The romantic drama found its best exponent in H. J. Schimmel (q.v.), who found a disciple in D. F. van Heyst (b. 1831), whose George van Lalaing was produced in 1873. Hugo Beijerman (ps. Glanor) produced a good play in his Uitgaan (1873), which was followed by other successes. Rosier Faessen (b. 1833) published his dramatic works in 1883.
The recent literature of Holland presents the interesting phenomenon of an aesthetic revolution, carefully and cleverly planned, crowned with unanticipated success, and dying away in a languor encouraged by the complete Recent developments. absence of organized resistance. It would perhaps be difficult to point to another European example so well defined of the vicissitudes which keep the history of literature varied and fresh. For the thirty or forty years preceding 1880 the course of belles-lettres in Holland was smooth and even sluggish. The Dutch writers had slipped into a conventionality of treatment and a strict limitation of form from which even the most striking talents among them could scarcely escape. In 1880 the most eminent authors of this early period were ready to pass away, and they appeared to be preparing no successors to take their place. The greatest humorist of Holland, Nicolaas Beets, had drawn his works together. The most interesting novelist, Mrs Gertrude Bosboom-Toussaint, had in her last psychological stories shown an unexpected sympathy with new ideas. M. G. L. van Loghem (b. 1849), known under the pseudonym of “Fiore delle Neve,” made a great success by his Een liefde in het Zuiden (1881), followed in 1882 by Liana, and in 1884 by Van eene Sultane. Among the novelists were Gerard Keller (b. 1829), author of From Home (1867); Johan Gram (b. 1833), of whose novels De Familie Schaffels (1870) is the best known; Hendrik de Veer (1829-1890), author of Frans Holster (1871); Justus van Maurik (b. 1846), who wrote plays and short sketches of Amsterdam life (Uit het Volk, 1879), and Arnold Buning (b. 1846), whose Marine Sketches (1880) won great popularity. The colonial novels of N. Marie C. Sloot, born in Java in 1853, are widely read in Holland and Belgium, and many of them have been translated into German. A number of them were collected (Schiedam, 1900-1902) as Romantische Werken. Adèle Opzoomer (b. 1856; pseud. A. C. S. Wallis) made her first success in 1877 with In Days of Strife. The two leading Dutch men of letters, however, besides Beets and Douwes Dekker, were critics, Conrad Busken-Huet (q.v.) and Carel Vosmaer (q.v.). In Huet the principles of the 1840-1880 period were summed up; he had been during all those years the fearless and trusty watch-dog of Dutch letters, as he understood them. He lived just long enough to become aware that a revolution was approaching, not to comprehend its character; but his accomplished fidelity to literary principle and his wide knowledge have been honoured even by the most bitter of the younger school. Vosmaer, although in certain directions more sympathetic than Huet, and himself an innovator, has not escaped so easily, because he has been charged with want of courage in accepting what he knew to be inevitable.
In November 1881 there died a youth named Jacques Perk (1860-1881), who had done no more than publish a few sonnets in the Spectator, a journal published by Vosmaer. He was no sooner dead, however, than his posthumous poems, and in particular a cycle of sonnets called Mathilde, were published (1882), and awakened extraordinary emotion. Perk had rejected all the formulas of rhetorical poetry, and had broken up the conventional rhythms. There had been heard no music like his in Holland for two hundred years. A group of young men, united in a sort of esoteric adoration of the memory of Perk, collected around his name. They joined to their band a man somewhat older than themselves, Marcellus Emants (born 1848), poet, novelist and dramatist, who had come forward in 1879 with a symbolical poem called Lilith, which had been stigmatized as audacious and meaningless; encouraged by the admiration of his juniors, Emants published in 1881 a treatise on Young Holland, in the form of a novel in which the first open attack was made on the old school. The next appearance was that of Willem Kloos (born 1857), who had been the editor and intimate friend of Perk, and who now undertook to lead the army of rebellion. His violent attacks on recognized authority in aesthetics began in 1882, and created a considerable scandal. For some time, however, the new poets and critics found a great difficulty in being heard, since all the channels of periodical literature were closed to them. But in 1883 Emants expressed his intellectual aspirations in his poem The Twilight of the Gods, and in 1884 the young school founded a review, De Nieuwe Gids, which was able to offer a direct challenge to De Gids, the ultra-respectable Dutch quarterly. In this year a new element was introduced: hitherto the influences of the young Dutch poetry had chiefly come from England; they were those of Shelley, Mrs Browning, the Rossettis. In 1884 Frans Netscher began to imitate with avidity the French naturalists. For some time, then, the new Dutch literature became a sort of mixture of Shelley and Zola, very violent, heady and bewildering. In 1885 the Persephone and other Poems of Albert Verwey (b. 1865) introduced a lyrical poet of real merit to Holland; Emants published his novel Goudakker’s Illusions. This was the great flowering moment of the new school. It was at this juncture that the principal recent writer of Holland, Louis Couperus (b. 1863), made his first definite appearance. Born in the Hague, the opening years of his boyhood were spent in Java, and he had preserved in all his nature a certain tropical magnificence. In 1884 a little volume of lyrics, and in 1886 the more important Orchids, showed in Couperus a poet whose sympathies were at first entirely with the new school. But he was destined to be a novelist, and his earliest story, Eline Vere (1889), already took him out of the ranks of his contemporaries. In 1890 he published Destiny (known as Footsteps of Fate in the English version), and in 1892 Ecstasy. This was followed in 1894 by Majesty, in 1896 by World-wide Peace, in 1898 by Metamorphosis, a delicate study of character, in 1899 by Fidessa, in 1901 by Quiet Force, and in 1902 by the first volume of a tetralogy called The Books of Small Souls. Of all these later books, some of which have been translated into English, by Couperus, it is perhaps Ecstasy in which the peculiar quality of his work is seen at present to the greatest advantage. This is an extreme sensitiveness to psychological phenomena, expressed in terms of singular delicacy and beauty. The talent of Couperus is like a rich but simple tropical flower laden with colour and odour. He separated himself, as he developed, from the more fanatical members of the group, and addressed himself to the wider public. Another writer, of a totally different class, resembling Couperus only in his defiance of the ruling system of aesthetics, is the prominent Ultramontane politician and bishop, E. J. A. M. Schaepmann (born 1844), whose poem of Aja Sofia originally appeared in 1886. Recent novelists of some polemical vigour are H. Borel and van Hulzen. A very delightful talent was revealed by Frederick van Eeden in Little Johnny (1887), a prose fairy-tale; in Ellen (1891), a cycle of mysterious and musical elegies; and in From the Cold Pools of Death (1901), a very melancholy novel. Another poet of less refinement of spirit, but even greater sumptuousness of form, appeared in Helène Swarth-Lapidoth (born 1859), whose Pictures and Voices belongs to 1887. In that year also, in which Dutch literature reached its height of fecundity, was published the powerful and scandalous naturalistic novel, A Love, by L. van Deyssel (K. J. L. Alberdingk Thijm) who had hitherto been known chiefly as a most uncompromising critic. After 1887 the condition of modern Dutch literature remained comparatively stationary, and within the last decade of the 19th century was definitely declining. In 1889, it is true, a new poet Herman Gorter, made his appearance with a volume of strange verses called May, eccentric both in prosody and in treatment. He held his own without any marked advance towards lucidity or variety. Since the recognition of Gorter, however, no really remarkable talent has made itself prominent in Dutch poetry, unless we except P. C. Boutens, whose Verses in 1898 were received with great respect. Willem Kloos, still the acute and somewhat turbulent leader of the school, collected his poems in 1894 and his critical essays in 1896. L. van Deyssel, though an effective reviewer, continued to lack the erudition which years should have brought to him. Gorter remained tenebrous, Helène Swarth-Lapidoth still gorgeous; the others, with the exception of Couperus, showed symptoms of sinking into silence. The entire school, now that the struggle for recognition is over, and its members are accepted as little classics and the tyrants of taste, rests on its triumphs and seems to limit itself to a repetition of its old experiments. The leading dramatist of the close of the century was Hermann Heijermans (b. 1864), a Jew of strong realistic and socialistic tendencies, and the author of innumerable gloomy plays. His Ghetto (1898) and Ora et Labora (1901) particularly display his peculiar talent. Other notable products of drama are those of de Koo, whose Tobias Bolderman (1900) and Vier Ton (1901) are effective comedies. Dutch literature presented features of remarkable interest between 1882 and 1888, but since that time the general heightening of the average of merit, the abandonment of the old dry conventions, and a recognition of the artistic value of words and forms, are more evident to a foreign observer than any very important single expression of the national genius in literary art. An exception should be made in favour of the powerful peasant-stories of Steijn Streuvels (Frank Lateur), a young baker by trade, whose Summer Land (1901) was a most promising production.
Authorities.—Dr W. J. A. Jonckbloet, Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Letterkunde (4th ed., 1889-1892); Dr J. ten Brink, Kleine Geschiedenis der Nederlandschen Letteren (Haarlem, 1877); and the same author’s Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Letterkunde (1897), with elaborate illustrations, facsimiles of MSS. and title pages, &c.; Dr J. van Vloten, Schets van de Geschiedenis der Nederlandschen Letteren (1879); L. Schneider, Geschichte der niederländischen Literatur (Leipzig, 1887); G. Kalff, Literatuur en tooneel te Amsterdam in de zeventiende Eeuw (Haarlem, 1895).
Interesting observations on the development of the new school in Dutch literature will be found in Willem Kloos, Veertien Jaar Literatuur-Geschiedenis (2 vols., 1880-1896), and in L. van Deyssel, Verzamelde Opstelen (4 vols., 1890-1897), and in the series of monographs and bibliographies by Prof. J. ten Brink, Geschiedenis der Noord-Nederlandsche Letteren in de XIXe Eeuw (Rotterdam, new ed. 1902, &c.).
- (E. G.)
- Edited by J. F. Willems (Brussels, 1836).
- Edited by C. P. Serrure and Ph. Blommaert (Ghent, 1852-1854).
- Edited by Dr E. Verwijs (Leiden, 1868).
- Edited by L. P. C. v. den Bergh (Leiden, 1846-1847).
- Edited by P. Leendertz (Leiden, 1845-1847).
- Edited by Dr Jul. Zacher in Haupt’s Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum, vol. ii. (Leipzig, 1842).
- See Schotel, Geschiedenis der Rederijkers in Nederland (1862-1864), Amsterdam.
- For Houwaert, see a study by K. F. Stallaert in the Nederlandsch Museum (1885).
- Ed. Dr W. L. van Helten (1875).
- For Coornhert see also J. ten Brink, D. V. Coornhert en zijne wellevenkunst (Amsterdam, 1860).
- The best edition is by P. Vlaming (Amsterdam, 1723).
- On Visscher and his daughters see N. Beets, Al de gedichten van Anna Roemers Visscher (1881), and E. Gosse, Studies in the Literature of Northern Europe (1879).
- See J. ten Brink, G. A. Brederoo (Utrecht, 1859; 3rd ed. 1887-1888); also J. H. W. Unger, Brederoo, eine Bibliographie (1884). His works were edited (3 vols., 1885-1890) by J. ten Brink and others.
- See R. A. Kollewijn’s edition of Samuel Coster’s Werken (1883).
- See Dr W. Bisschop, Justus van Effen ... (Utrecht, 1859).
- See Dr J. van Vloten, Leven enwerken van Willem en Onno van Haren (1874), and Busken-Huet, De van Harens (1875).
- See Dr J. van Vloten, Elisabeth Wolff ... (1880).