1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hooft, Pieter Cornelissen

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HOOFT, PIETER CORNELISSEN (1581–1647), Dutch poet and historian, was born at Amsterdam on the 16th of March 1581. His father was one of the leading citizens of Holland, both in politics and in the patronage of letters, and for some time burgomaster of Amsterdam. As early as 1598 the young man was made a member of the chamber of rhetoric In Liefde bloeiende, and produced before that body his tragedy of Achilles and Polyxena, not printed until 1614. In June 1598 he left Holland and proceeded to Paris, where on the 10th of April 1599 he saw the body of Gabrielle d’Estrées lying in state. He went a few months later to Venice, Florence and Rome, and in 1600 to Naples. During his Italian sojourn he made a deep and fruitful study of the best literature of Italy. In July 1600 he sent home to the In Liefde bloeiende a very fine letter in verse, expressing his aspirations for the development of Dutch poetry. He returned through Germany, and after an absence of three years and a half found himself in Amsterdam again on the 8th of May 1601. In 1602 he brought out his second tragedy, Theseus and Ariadne, printed at Amsterdam in 1614. In 1605 he completed his beautiful pastoral drama Granida, not published until 1615. He studied law and history at Leiden from 1606 to 1609, and in June of the latter year received from Prince Maurice of Orange the appointment of steward of Muiden, bailiff of Gooiland, and lord of Weesp, a joint office of great emolument. He occupied himself with repairing and adorning the decayed castle of Muiden, which was his residence during the remainder of his life. There he entertained the poet Vondel, the scholar Barlaeus,[1] Constantin Huygens, Vossius, Laurens Reael and others. Hooft had been a suitor for the hand of Anna Roemer Visscher, and after the death of Roemer Visscher both the sisters visited Muiden. Anna’s sympathies were in time diverted to the school of Jacob Cats, but Marie Tesselschade maintained close ties with Hooft, who revised her translation of Tasso. In August 1610 he married Christina van Erp, an accomplished lady who died in 1623, and four years later he married Eleonora Hellemans. In 1612 Hooft produced his national tragedy of Geeraerdt van Velzen (pr. 1613), a story of the reign of Count Floris V. In 1614 was performed at Coster’s academy Hooft’s comedy of Ware-nar, an adaptation of the Aulularia of Plautus, first printed in 1617. In 1616 he wrote another tragedy, Baeto, or the Origin of the Dutch, not printed until 1626. It was in 1618 that he abandoned poetry for history, and in 1626 he published the first of his great prose works, the History of Henry the Great (Henry IV. of France). His next production was his Miseries of the Princes of the House of Medici (Amsterdam, 1638). In 1642 he published at Amsterdam a folio comprising the first twenty books of his Dutch History, embracing the period from 1555 to 1585, a magnificent performance, to the perfecting of which he had given fifteen years of labour. The seven concluding books were published posthumously in 1654. His idea of history was gained from Tacitus, whose works he translated. Hooft died on a visit to the Hague, whither he had gone to attend the funeral of Prince Frederick Henry, on the 21st of May 1647, and was buried in the New Church at Amsterdam.

Hooft is one of the most brilliant figures that adorn Dutch literature at its best period. He was the first writer to introduce a modern and European tone into belles lettres, and the first to refresh the sources of native thought from the springs of antique and Renaissance poetry. His lyrics and his pastoral of Granida are strongly marked by the influence of Tasso and Sannazaro; his later tragedies belong more exactly to the familiar tone of his native country. But high as Hooft stands among the Dutch poets, he stands higher—he holds perhaps the highest place—among writers of Dutch prose. His historical style has won the warmest eulogy from so temperate a critic as Motley, and his letters are the most charming ever published in the Dutch language. After Vondel, he may on the whole be considered the most considerable author that Holland has produced.

Hooft’s poetical and dramatic works were collected in two volumes (1871, 1875) by P. Leendertz. His letters were edited by B. Huydecoper (Leiden, 1738) and by van Vloten (Leiden, 4 vols., 1855). The best original account of Hooft is given by G. Bradt in his Leven van P. C. Hooft (1677), and his funeral address (1647), edited together by J. C. Matthes (Groningen, 1874). There is an account of the Muiden circle in Edmund Gosse’s Literatures of Northern Europe. Many editions exist of his prose works.

  1. Kaspar van Baerle (1584–1648), professor of rhetoric at Amsterdam, and famous as a Latin poet.