1. The Language.—2. Dutch Literature to the Sixteenth Century: Maerlant; Melis Stoke; De Weert; the Chambers of Rhetoric; the Flemish Chroniclers; the Rise of the Dutch Republic.—3. The Latin Writers: Erasmus; Grotius; Arminius; Lipsius; the Scaligers, and others; Salmasius; Spinoza; Boerhaave; Johannes Secundus.—4. Dutch Writers of the Sixteenth Century: Anna Byns; Coornhert; Marnix de St. Aldegonde, Bor, Visscher, and Spieghel.—5. Writers of the Seventeenth Century: Hooft; Vondel; Cats; Antonides; Brandt, and others; Decline in Dutch Literature.—6. The Eighteenth Century: Poot; Langendijk; Hoogvliet; De Marre; Feitama; Huydecoper; the Van Harens; Smits; Ten Kate; Van Winter; Van Merken; De Lannoy; Van Alphen; Bellamy; Nieuwland, Styl, and others.—7. The Nineteenth Century: Feith; Helmers; Bilderdyk; Van der Palm; Loosjes; Loots, Tollens, Van Kampen, De s'Gravenweert, Hoevill, and others.
1. THE LANGUAGE.—The Dutch, Flemish, and Frisic languages, spoken in the kingdoms of Holland and Belgium, are branches of the Gothic family. Toward the close of the fifteenth century, the Dutch gained the ascendency over the others, which it has never since lost. This language is energetic and flexible, rich in synonyms and delicate shades, and from its fullness and strength, better adapted to history, tragedy, and odes, than to comedy and the lighter kinds of poetry. The Flemish, which still remains the literary language of the southern provinces, is inferior to the Dutch, and has been greatly corrupted by the admixture of foreign words. The Frisic, spoken in Friesland, is an idiom less cultivated than the others, and is gradually disappearing. In the seventeenth century it boasted of several writers, of whom the poet Japix was the most eminent. The first grammar of the Frisic language was published by Professor Rask, of Copenhagen, in 1825. In some parts of Belgium the Walloon, an old dialect of the French, is still spoken, but the Flemish continues to be the common language of the people, although since the establishment of Belgium as an independent kingdom the use of the French language has prevailed among the higher classes.
2. DUTCH LITERATURE TO THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY.—When the obscurity of the dark ages began to disappear with the revival of letters, the Netherlands were not last among the countries of Europe in coming forth from the darkness. The cities of Flanders were early distinguished for the commercial activity and industrial skill of their inhabitants. Bruges reached the height of its splendor in the beginning of the fifteenth century, and was for some time one of the great commercial emporiums of the world, to which Constantinople, Genoa, and Venice sent their precious argosies laden with the products of the East. At the close of the thirteenth century Ghent, in wealth and power, eclipsed the French metropolis; and at the end of the fifteenth century there was, according to Erasmus, no town in all Christendom to compare with it for magnitude, power, political institutions, or the culture of its citizens. The lays of the minstrels and the romances of chivalry were early translated, and a Dutch version of “Reynard the Fox” was made in the middle of the thirteenth century. Jakob Maerlant (1235-1300), the first author of note, translated the Bible into Flemish rhyme, and made many versions of the classics; and Melis Stoke, his contemporary, wrote a rhymed “Chronicle of Holland.”
The most important work of the fourteenth century is the “New Doctrine,” by De Weert, which, for the freedom of its expression on religious subjects, may be regarded as one of the precursors of the Reformation.
Towards the close of the fourteenth century there arose a class of wandering poets called Sprekers, who, at the courts of princes and elsewhere, rehearsed their maxims in prose or verse. In the fifteenth century they formed themselves into literary societies, known as “Chambers of Rhetoric” (poetry being at that time called the “Art of Rhetoric"), which were similar to the Guilds of the Meistersingers. These institutions were soon multiplied throughout the country, and the members exercised themselves in rhyming, or composed and performed mysteries and plays, which, at length, gave rise to the theatre. They engaged in poetical contests, distributed prizes, and were prominent in all national fetes. The number of the rhetoricians was so immense, that during the reign of Philip II. of Spain more than thirty chambers, composed of fifteen hundred members, often entered Antwerp in triumphal procession. But the effect of these associations, composed for the most part of illiterate men, was to destroy the purity of the language and to produce degeneracy in the literature. The Chamber of Amsterdam, however, was an honorable exception, and towards the close of the sixteenth century it counted among its members distinguished scholars, such as Spieghel, Coornhert, Marnix, and Visscher, and it may be considered as the school which formed Hooft and Vondel.
During the reign of the House of Burgundy (1383-1477), which was essentially French in tastes and manners, the native tongue became corrupted by the admixture of foreign elements. The poets and chroniclers of the time were chiefly of Flemish origin; the most widely known among the latter are Henricourt (d. 1403), Monstrelet (d. 1453), and Chastelain (d. 1475). A translation of the Bible and a few more works close the literary record of the fifteenth century.
The invention of printing, the great event of the age, is claimed by the cities of Mayence, Strasbourg, and Harlem; but if the art which preserves literature originated in the Netherlands, it did not at once create a native literature, the growth of which was greatly retarded by the use of the Latin tongue, which long continued to be the organ of expression with the principal writers of the country, nearly all of whom, even to the present day, are distinguished for the purity and elegance with which they compose in this language.
The Reformation and the great political agitations of the sixteenth century ended in the independence of the northern provinces and the establishment of the Dutch Republic (1581) under the name of the United Provinces, commonly called Holland, from the province of that name, which was superior to the others in extent, population, and influence. The new republic rose rapidly in power; and while intolerance and religious disputes distracted other European states, it offered a safe asylum to the persecuted of all sects. The expanding energies of the people soon sought a field beyond the narrow boundaries of the country; their ships visited every sea, and they monopolized the richest commerce of the world. They alone supplied Europe with the productions of the Spice Islands, and the gold, pearls, and jewels of the East all passed through their hands; and in the middle of the seventeenth century the United Provinces were the first commercial and the first maritime power in the world. A rapid development of the literature was the natural consequence of this increasing national development, which was still more powerfully promoted by the great and wise William I., Prince of Orange, who in 1575 founded the university of Leyden as a reward to that city for its valiant defense against the Spaniards. Similar institutions were soon established at Groningen, Utrecht, and elsewhere; these various seats of learning produced a rivalry highly advantageous to the diffusion of knowledge, and great men arose in all branches of science and literature. Among the distinguished names of the sixteenth century those of the Latin writers occupy the first place.
3. LATIN WRITERS.—One of the great restorers of letters in Europe, and one of the most elegant of modern Latin authors, was Gerard Didier, a native of Rotterdam, who took the name of Erasmus (1467-1536). To profound learning he joined a refined taste and a delicate wit, and few men have been so greatly admired as he was during his lifetime. The principal sovereigns of Europe endeavored to draw him into their kingdoms. He several times visited England, where he was received with great deference by Henry VIII., and where he gave lectures on Greek literature at Cambridge. He made many translations from Greek authors, and a very valuable translation of the New Testament into Latin. His writings introduced the spirit of free inquiry on all subjects, and to his influence may be attributed the first dawning of the Reformation. But his caution offended some of the best men of the times. His treatise on “Free Will” made an open breach between him and Luther, whose opinions favored predestination; his “Colloquies” gave great offense to the Catholics; and as he had not declared for the Protestants, he had but lukewarm friends in either party. It has been said of Erasmus, that he would have purified and repaired the venerable fabric of the church, with a light and cautious touch, fearful lest learning, virtue, and religion should be buried in its fall, while Luther struck at the tottering ruin with a bold and reckless hand, confident that a new and more beautiful temple would rise from its ruins.
Hugo de Groot, who, according to the fashion of the time, took the Latin name of Grotius (1583-1645), was a scholar and statesman of the most diversified talents, and one of the master minds of the age. He was involved in the religious controversy which at that time disturbed Holland, and he advocated the doctrines of Arminius, in common with the great statesman, Barneveldt, whom he supported and defended by his pen and influence. On the execution of Barneveldt, Grotius was condemned to imprisonment for life in the castle of Louvestein; but after nearly two years spent in the prison, his faithful wife planned and effected his escape. She had procured the privilege of sending him a chest of books, which occasionally passed and repassed, closely scrutinized. On one occasion the statesman took the place of the books, and was borne forth from the prison in the chest, which is still in the possession of the descendants of Grotius, in his native city of Delft. The States-General perpetuated the memory of the devoted wife by continuing to give her name to a frigate in the Dutch navy. After his escape from prison, Grotius found an asylum in Sweden, from whence he was sent ambassador to France. His countrymen at length repented of having banished the man who was the honor of his native land, and he was recalled; but on his way to Holland he was taken ill and died before he could profit by this tardy act of justice. The writings of Grotius greatly tended to diffuse an enlightened and liberal manner of thinking in all matters of science. He was a profound theologian, a distinguished scholar, an acute philosopher and jurist, and among the modern Latin poets he holds a high place. The philosophy of jurisprudence has been especially promoted by his great work on natural and national law, which laid the foundation of a new science.
Arminius (1560-1609), the founder of the sect of Arminians or Remonstrants, was distinguished as a preacher and for his zeal in the Reformed Religion. He attempted to soften the Calvinistic doctrines of predestination, in which he was violently opposed by Gomarus. He counted among his adherents Grotius, Barneveldt, and many of the eminent men of Holland. Other eminent theologians of this period were Drusius and Coeceius.
Lipsius (1547-1606) is known as a philologist and for his treatises on the military art of the Romans, on the Latin classics, and on the philosophy of the Stoics. Another scholar of extensive learning, whose editions of the principal Greek and Latin classics have rendered him famous all over Europe, was Daniel Heinsius (1580-1655). Gronovius and several of the members of the Spanheim family became also eminent for their scholarship in various branches of ancient learning.
The two Scaligers, father and son (1483-1554) (1540-1609), Italians, resident in Holland, are eminent for their researches in chronology and archaeology, and for their valuable works on the classics. Prominent among those who followed in the new path of philological study opened by the elder Scaliger was Vossius, or Voss (1577-1649), who excelled in many branches of learning, and particularly in Latin philology, which owes much to him. He left five sons, all scholars of note, especially the youngest, Isaac Vossius (1618-1689).
Peter Burmann (1668-1741) was a scholar of great erudition and industry.
Christian Huyghens (1629-1695) was a celebrated astronomer and mathematician, and many great men in those branches of science flourished in Holland in the seventeenth century. Among the great philologists and scholars must also be mentioned Hemsterhuis, Ruhnkenius, and Valckenaer.
Menno van Coehorn (1641-1704) was a general and engineer distinguished for his genius in military science; his great work on fortifications has been translated into many foreign languages. Helmont and Boerhaave have acquired world-wide fame by their labors in chemistry; Linnaeus collected the materials for his principal botanical work from the remarkable botanical treasures of Holland; and zoology and the natural sciences generally counted many devoted and eminent champions in that country.
Salmasius (1588-1653), though born in France, is ranked among the writers of Holland. He was professor in the University of Leyden, and was celebrated for the extent and depth of his erudition. He wrote a defense of Charles I. of England, which was answered by Milton, in a work entitled “A Defense of the English People against Salmasius' Defense of the King.” Salmasius died soon after, and some did not scruple to say that Milton killed him by the acuteness of his reply.
Boerhaave (1668-1738) was one of the most eminent writers on medical science in the eighteenth century, and from the time of Hippocrates no physician had excited so much admiration. Spinoza (1632-1677) holds a commanding position as a philosophical writer. His metaphysical system, as expounded in his principal work, “Ethica,” merges everything individual and particular in the Divine substance, and is thus essentially pantheistic. The philosophy of Spinoza exercised a powerful influence upon the mind of Kant, and the master-minds and great poets of modern times, particularly of Germany, have drawn copiously from the deep wells of his suggestive thought.
Among the many Latin poets of Holland, John Everard (1511-1536) (called Jan Second or Johannes Secundus, because he had an uncle of the same name) is most celebrated. His poem entitled “The Basia or Kisses" has been translated into the principal European languages. Nicholas Heinsius (1620- 1681), son of the great philologist and poet Heinsius, wrote various Latin poems, the melody of which is so sweet that he was called by his contemporaries the “Swan of Holland.”
4. DUTCH WRITERS OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY.—The first writer of this century in the native language was Anna Byns, who has been called the Flemish Sappho. She was bitterly opposed to the Reformation, and such of her writings as were free from religious intolerance evince more poetic fire than is found in those of her contemporaries. Coornhert (1522-1605) was a poet and philosopher, distinguished not less by his literary works than by his participation in the revolution of the Provinces. In purity of style and vigor of thought he far surpassed his predecessors. Marnix de St. Aldegonde (d. 1598) was a soldier, a statesman, a theologian, and a poet. He was the author of the celebrated “Compromise of the Nobles,” and his satire on the Roman Catholic Church was one of the most effective productions of the time. He translated the Psalms from the original Hebrew, and was the author of a lyric which, after two centuries and a half, is still the rallying song of the nation on all occasions of peril or triumph.
Bor (1559-1635) was commissioned by the States to write a history of their struggles with Spain, and his work is still read and valued for its truthfulness and impartiality. Meteren, the contemporary of Bor, wrote the history of the country from the accession of the House of Burgundy to the year 1612—a work which, with some faults, has a high place in the literature.
Visscher (d. 1612) and Spieghel (d. 1613) form the connecting link between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Visscher, the Maecenas of the day, was distinguished for his epigrammatic and fugitive poems, and rendered immense service to letters by his influence on the literary men of his time. His charming daughters were both distinguished in literature. Spieghel is best remembered by his poem, the “Mirror of the Heart,” which abounds in lofty ideas, and in sentiments of enlightened patriotism.
5. THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.—At the close of the sixteenth century, although the language was established, it still remained hard and inflexible, and the literature was still destitute of dramatic, erotic, and the lighter kinds of poetry; but an earnest, patriotic, religious, and national character was impressed upon it, and its golden age was near at hand.
The commencement of the seventeenth century saw the people of the United Provinces animated by the same spirit and energy, preferring death to the abandonment of their principles, struggling with a handful of men against the most powerful monarchy of the time; conquering their political and religious independence, after more than half a century of conflict, and giving to the world a great example of freedom and toleration; covering the ocean with their fleets, and securing possessions beyond the sea a hundred times more vast than the mother country; becoming the centre of universal commerce, and cultivating letters, the sciences, and the arts, with equal success. Poetry was national, for patriotism predominated over all other sentiments; and it was original, because it recognized no models of imitation but the classics.
The spirit of the age naturally communicated itself to the men of letters, who soon raised the literature of the country to a classic height; first among these were Hooft, Vondel, and Jacob Cats.
Hooft (1581-1647), a tragic and lyric poet as well as a historian, greatly developed and perfected the language, and by a careful study of the Italian poets imparted to his native tongue that sonorous sweetness which has since characterized the poetry of Holland. He was the creator of native tragedy, as well as of erotic verse, in which his style is marked by great sweetness, tenderness, and grace. He rendered still greater service to the native prose. His histories of “Henry IV.,” of the “House of Medici,” and above all the history of the “War of Independence in the Low Countries,” without sacrificing truth, often border on poetry, in their brilliant descriptions and paintings of character, and in their nervous and energetic style. Hooft was a man of noble heart; he dared to protect Grotius in the days of his persecution; he defended Descartes and offered an asylum to Galileo.
Vondel (1587-1660), as a lyric, epic, and tragic poet, far surpassed all his contemporaries, and his name is honored in Holland as that of Shakspeare is in England. His tragedies, which are numerous, are his most celebrated productions, and among them “Palamedes Unjustly Sacrificed” is particularly interesting as representing the heroic firmness of Barneveldt, who repeated one of the odes of Horace when undergoing the torture. Vondel excelled as a lyric and epigrammatic poet, and the faults of his style belonged rather to his age than to himself.
No writer of the time acquired a greater or more lasting reputation than Jacob Cats (1577-1660), no less celebrated for the purity of his life than for the sound sense and morality of his writings, and the statesmanlike abilities which he displayed as ambassador in England, and as grand pensioner of Holland. His style is simple and touching, his versification easy and harmonious, and his descriptive talent extraordinary. His works consist chiefly of apologues and didactic and descriptive poems. No writer of Holland has been more read than Father Cats, as the people affectionately call him; and up to the present hour, in all families his works have their place beside the Bible, and his verses are known by heart all over the country. An illustrated edition of his poems in English has been recently published in London.
Hooft and Vondel left many disciples and imitators, among whom are Antonides (1647-1684), surnamed Van der Goes, whose charming poem on the River Y, the model of several similar compositions, is still read and admired. Among numerous other writers were Huygens (b. 1596), a poet who wrote in many languages besides his own; Heinsius (b. 1580), a pupil of Scaliger, the author of many valuable works in prose and poetry; Vallenhoven, contemporary with Antonides, a religious poet; Rotgans, the author of an epic poem on William of England; Elizabeth Hoofman (b. 1664), a poetess of rare elegance and taste, and Wellekens (b. 1658), whose eclogues and idyls occupy the first place among that class of poems. As a historian Hooft found a worthy successor in Brandt (1626-1683), also a poet, but best known by his “History of the Reformation in the Netherlands,” which has been translated into French and English, and which is a model in point of style. At this period the Bible was translated and commented upon, and biographies, criticisms, and many other prose works appeared. The voyages and discoveries of the Dutch merchants and navigators were illustrated by numerous narratives, which, for their interest both in style and detail, deserve honorable mention.
From the commencement of the last quarter of the seventeenth century, however, many causes combined to produce a decline in the literature of the Netherlands. The honors which were accorded not only by the Dutch universities, but by all Europe to their Latin writers and learned professors, were rarely bestowed on writers in the native tongue, and thus the minds of men of genius were turned to the study of the classics and the sciences. The Dutch merchants, while they cultivated all other languages for the facilities they thus gained in their commercial transactions, restricted by so much the diffusion of their own. Other causes of this decline are to be found in the indifference of the republican government to the interests of literature, and in the increasing number of alliances with foreigners, who were attracted to Holland by the mildness of its laws, in the growing commercial spirit and taste for luxury, and especially in the influence of French literature, which, towards the close of the seventeenth century, became predominant in Holland as elsewhere.
6. THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY.—For the first three quarters of the eighteenth century the literature of Holland, like that of other countries of Europe, with the exception of France, remained stationary, or slowly declined. But in the midst of universal mediocrity, a few names shine with distinguished lustre. Among them that of Poot (1689-1732) is commonly cited with those of Hooft and Vondel. He was a young peasant, whose rare genius found expression in a sweet and unaffected style. He excelled in idyllic and erotic poetry, and while he has no rival in Holland, he may perhaps be compared to Burns in Scotland, and Beranger in France. The theatre of Amsterdam, the only one of the country, continued to confine itself to translations or imitations from the French. There appeared, however, at the commencement of this period, an original comic author, Langendijk (1662-1735), whose works still hold their place upon the stage, partly for their merit, and partly to do honor to the only comic poet Holland has produced.
Hoogvliet (1689-1763) was distinguished as the author of a poem entitled “Abraham,” which had great and merited success, and which still ranks among the classics; for some years after it appeared, it produced a flood of imitations.
De Marre (b. 1696), among numerous writers of tragedy, occupies the first place. From his twelfth year he was engaged in the merchant marine service, and besides his tragedies his voyages inspired many other works, the chief of which, a poem entitled “Batavia,” celebrates the Dutch domination in the Asiatic archipelago. Feitama (1694-1758), with less poetic merit than De Marre, had great excellence. He was the first translator of the classics who succeeded in imparting to his verse the true spirit of his originals.
Huydecoper (d. 1778) was the first grammarian of merit, and he united great erudition with true poetic power. His tragedies are still represented.
Onno Zwier Van Haren (1713-1789) was also a writer of tragedy, and the author of a long poem in the epic style, called the Gueux (beggars), a name given in derision to the allied noblemen of the Netherlands in the time of Philip, and adopted by them. This poem represents the great struggle of the country with Spain, which ended in the establishment of the Dutch republic, and is distinguished for its fine episodes, its brilliant pictures, and its powerful development of character.
The only strictly epic poem that Holland has produced is the “Friso" of William Van Haren (1710-1758), the brother of the one already named. Friso, the mythical founder of the Frisons, is driven from his home on the shores of the Ganges, and, after many adventures, finds an asylum and establishes his government in the country to which he gives his name. This work with many faults is full of beauties. The brothers Van Haren were free from all foreign influence, and may justly be regarded as the two great poets of their time. The poems of Smits (1702-1750) are full of grace and sentiment, but, like those of almost all the Dutch poets, they are characterized by a seriousness of tone nearly allied to melancholy. Ten Kate (1676-1723) stands first among the grammarians and etymologists, and his works are classical authorities on the subject of the language.
Preeminent among the crowd of historians is Wagenaar (1709-1773), the worthy successor of Hooft and Brandt, whose “History of the United Provinces” is particularly valuable for its simplicity of style and truthfulness of detail.
Of the lighter literature, Van Effen, who had visited England, produced in French the “Spectator,” in imitation of the English periodical, and, like that, it is still read and considered classical.
Towards the conclusion of the century, other periodicals were established, which, in connection with literary societies and academies, exercised great influence on literature. The contemporary writers of Germany were also read and translated, and henceforth in some degree they counterbalanced French influence.
First among the writers who mark the close of the eighteenth century are Van Winter (d. 1795), and his distinguished wife, Madame Van Merken (d. 1789). They published conjointly a volume of tragedies in which the chief merit of those of Van Winter consists in their originality and in the expression of those sentiments of justice, humanity, and equality before the law, which were just then beginning to find a voice in Europe.
Madame Van Merken, who, late in life, married Van Winter, has been called the Racine of Holland. To masculine energy and power she united all the virtues and sweetness of her own sex. Besides many long poems, she was the author of several tragedies, many of which have remarkable merit. Madame Van Merken gave a new impulse to the literature of her country, of which she is one of the classic ornaments, and prepared the way for Feith and Bilderdyk.
The Baroness De Lannoy, the contemporary of Madame Van Merken, was, like her, eminent in tragedy and other forms of poetry, though less a favorite, for in that free country an illustrious birth has been ever a serious obstacle to distinction in the republic of letters.
Nomz (d. 1803) furnished the theatre of Amsterdam with many pieces, original and translated, and merited a better fate from his native city than to die in the public hospital.
The poets who mark the age from Madame Van Merken to Bilderdyk, are Van Alphen, Bellamy, and Nieuwland. Van Alphen (d. 1803) is distinguished for his patriotism, originality, and deeply religious spirit. His poems for children are known by heart by all the children of Holland, and he is their national poet, as Cats is the poet of mature life and old age. Bellamy, who died at the early age of twenty-eight years (1786), left many poems characterized by originality, force, and patriotic fervor, no less than by beauty and harmony of style. Nieuwland (d. 1794), like Bellamy, rose from the lower order of society by the force of his genius; at the age of twenty-three he was called to the chair of philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy at Utrecht, and later to the university of Leyden. He was equally great as a mathematician and as a poet in the Latin language as well as his own. All his productions are marked by elegance and power.
Styl (d. 1804) was a poet as well as a historian; one of the most valuable works on the history of the country is his “Growth and Prospects of the United Provinces.” Te Water, Bondam, and Van de Spiegel contributed to the same department.
Romance writing has, with few exceptions, been surrendered to women. Among the romances of character and manners, those of Elizabeth Bekker Wolff (d. 1804) are distinguished for their brilliant and caustic style, and those of Agatha Deken for their earnest and enlightened piety. The works of both present lively pictures of national character and manners.
7. THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.—The political convulsions of the last years of the eighteenth century and the early part of the nineteenth, which overthrew the Dutch Republic, revolutionized the literature not less than the state,—and the new era was illustrated by its poets, historians, and orators. But in the elevation of inferior men by the popular party, the more eminent men of letters for a time withdrew from the field, and the noblest productions of native genius were forgotten in the flood of poor translations which inundated the country and corrupted the taste and the language by their Germanisms and Gallicisms.
Among the crowd of poets, a few only rose superior to the influences of the time. Feith (d. 1824) united a lofty patriotism to a brilliant poetical genius; his odes and other poems possess rare merit, and his prose is original, forcible, and elegant.
Helmers (d. 1813) is most honored for his poem, “The Dutch Nation,” which, with some faults, abounds in beautiful episodes and magnificent passages.
Bilderdyk (1756-1831) is not only the greatest poet Holland has produced, but he is equally eminent as a universal scholar. He was a lawyer, a physician, a theologian, a historian, astronomer, draftsman, engineer, and antiquarian, and he was acquainted with nearly all the ancient and modern languages. In 1820 he published five cantos of a poem on “The Destruction of the Primitive World,” which, though it remains unfinished, is a superb monument of genius and one of the literary glories of Holland. Bilderdyk excelled in every species of poetry, tragedy only excepted, and his published works fill more than one hundred octavo volumes.
Van der Palm (b. 1763) occupies the same place among the prose writers of the nineteenth century that Bilderdyk does among the poets. He held the highest position as a pulpit orator and member of the Council of State, and his discourses, orations, and other prose works are models of style, and are counted among the classics of the country. His great work, however, was the translation of the Bible.
Since the time of Bilderdyk and Van der Palm no remarkable genius has appeared in Holland.
Loosjes (d. 1806) added to his reputation as a poet by his historical romances, and Fokke (d. 1812) was a satirist of the follies and errors of his age. Among the historians who have devoted themselves to the history of foreign countries are Stuart, Van Hamelsveld, and Muntinghe, who, in a short space of time, enriched their native literature with more than sixty volumes of history, of a profoundly religious and philosophical character, which bear the stamp of originality and nationality.
The department of oratory in Dutch literature, with the exception of that of the pulpit, is poor, and this is to be explained in part by the fact that the deliberations of the States-General were always held with closed doors. Holland was an aristocratic republic, and the few families who monopolized the power had no disposition to share it with the people, who, on the other hand, were too much occupied with their own affairs and too confident of the wisdom and moderation of their rulers, to wish to mingle in the business of state. The National Assembly, however, from 1775 to 1800, had its orators, chiefly men carried into public life by the events of the age, but they were far inferior to those of other countries.
The impulse given to literature by Bilderdyk and Van der Palm is not arrested. Among the numerous authors who have since distinguished themselves, are Loots, a patriotic poet of the school of Vondel; Tollens, who ranks with the best native authors in descriptive poetry and romance; Wiselius, the author of several tragedies, a scholar and political writer; Klyn (d. 1856); Van Walre and Van Halmaal, dramatic poets of great merit; Da Costa and Madame Bilderdyk, who, as a poetess, shared the laurels of her husband. In romance, there are Anna Toussaint, Bogaers, and Jan Van Lennep, son of the celebrated professor of that name, who introduced into Holland historical romances modeled after those of Scott, and who contributed much to discard French and to popularize the national literature. In prose, De Vries must be named for his eloquent history of the poetry of the Netherlands; Van Kampen (1776-1839) for his historical works; Geysbeck for his biographical dictionary and anthology of the poets, and De s'Gravenweert, a poet and the translator of the Iliad and Odyssey. Von Hoevell is the author of a work on slavery, which appeared not many years since, the effect of which can be compared only to that of “Uncle Tom's Cabin.”
In Belgium, Conscience is a successful author of fiction and history, and his works have been frequently translated into other languages. De Laet, one of the ablest writers of the country in connection with Conscience, has done much for the revival of Flemish literature, which now boasts of many original writers in various departments.
The literature of the Netherlands, like the people, is earnest, religious, always simple, and often elevated and sublime. It is especially distinguished for its reflective and patriotic character, and bears the mark of that accurate study of the classic models which has formed the basis of the national education, and to which its purity of taste, naturalness, and simplicity are undoubtedly to be attributed. There exists no nation of equal population which, within the course of two or three centuries, has produced a greater number of eminent men.
From the age of Hooft and Vondel to the present day, though the Dutch literature may have submitted at times to foreign influence, and though, like all others, it may have paid its tribute to the fashions and faults of the day, it has still preserved its nationality, and is worthy of being known and admired.