De Achttiende Eeuw 27 (1995) nr.1
C.P. Courtney, Reassessing Belle de Zuylen. A historical perspective
Pierre H. Dubois, Belle van Zuylen and the Enlightenment
Belle van Zuylen was born into the nobility on 20 October 1740 at Zuylen castle near Utrecht. In European and Dutch society of the time French was widely spoken, being the international language of culture; it is therefore not surprising that she wrote exclusively in French. She owes her reputation to her writings, her character, her ideas and emancipated personality, closely related to the ideas of the Enlightenment. The study of her life and work in the context of the mainstream of Enlightenment culture gives a different picture of Belle van Zuylen than the traditional image she got after her death. On the one hand she has been understood insufficiently in the perspective of the Enlightenment, on the other hand the Enlightenment itself too much with traditional conceptions. This was due to sheer ignorance of texts and documents. The edition of her complete works and letters has led to a total change. The contribution of Belle van Zuylen to the Enlightenment consists of her special attention to the ‘shadowfield’, i.e. the part of human reality upon which reason has no control. In connection herewith her scepticism is a form of critical realism at variance with the scepticism of the Enlightenment philosophers. It does not deal with the doubts of reason about the reliability of traditional knowledge and insights, but with the doubts of the power of reason. Belle believed in life, but not in the natural goodness of man as Rousseau did.
Yvette Went-Daoust, L’oeuvre épistolaire de Mme de Charrière
L’œuvre épistolaire de Belle de Zuylen/Mme de Charrière couvre deux domaines: la correspondance réelle et le roman épistolaire. Or ces deux domaines évoluent parallèlement ; le roman épistolaire ne tire pas seulement sa forme, et jusqu’`a un certain point son style, de la correspondance, il développe des idées et des thèmes que l’on retrouve dans celle-ci.
C’est que Mme de Charrière est avant tout un écrivain qui déverse l’expérience personelle complètement dans l’écriture quel qu’en soit le type. Par ailleurs, la multiplicité des sujets que l’écrivain aborde, et dans sa correspondance et dans son œuvre de fiction, permet de prendre la mesure de l’ampleur de ses champs d’intérêt. Aussi bien les questions qui concernent la personnalité que celles qui touchent à l’organisation sociale, à l’histoire, à la philosophie, à la morale, à l’éducation, au statut des femmes etc. sont pour elle objets d’analyse.
Sur le plan générique, en prolongeant l’écriture de la lettre le roman devient polymorphe car, tout comme son modèle, il met à contribution, tour à tour, le journal intime, la biographie, le dialogue familier ou l’essai. Le passage du premier registre au second va de pair avec la marge de liberté que s’octroie Mme de Charrière vis-à-vis de certaines conventions, à la mode à l’époque, notamment les divers procédés d’authentification des lettres dans le roman. Dans le domaine de l’esthétique, comme dans bien d’autres domaines, Mme de Charrière ne suit pas la mode. La formule de la correspondance appliquée au genre romanesque lui permet surtout de dire ce qu’elle juge important de dire, sans trop s’embarrasser d’une intrique suivie. En d’autres mots, la formule lui permet d’aller à l’essentiel.
Joke J. Hermsen, On Freedom. Belle van Zuylen and the Enlightenment
Belle van Zuylen (1740-1805), outside the Netherlands better known under her married name Mme de Charrière, was an 18th-century Dutch scholar, who reflected in her novels, letters, essays and political pamphlets intensively upon the two most important philosophical issues of the Enlightenment, the principles of freedom, equality and human rights. In her work she shows however that these principles were only applied to a small number of taxpaying, male citizens and that all the other inhabitants of ‘the modern state’ – women, farmers, working class – were excluded from these rights. This articles focusses further on her critical discussions with Rousseau and Kant about the sexual difference issue and ends with some remarks about the relation between freedom, gender and writing.
Joris van Eijnatten, Tragedy of the excessive desire of glory. The ‘philosophical’ background of Bilderdijk’s translation of Oedipus (1779)
During the last decade or so of the eighteenth century, the Dutch poet, dramatist and religious thinker Willem Bilderdijk (1756-1831) experienced a change in outlook and conviction that in both intellectual and literary terms can be described as a shift from Enlightenment to post-Enlightenment or, if one likes, Romantic thought. This article examines a sample of Bilderdijk’s literary output prior to this change. In 1779 the poet published an annotated translation of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex which not only reflected the Enlightened views of its author, but to some extent also indicates the manner in which the author later was able to combine new perspectives and personal idiosyncrasies into a more ‘Romantic’ vision. Resenting the development of eighteenth-century bourgeois drama, Bilderdijk in 1779 advocated a neoclassicist ideal of moral grandeur, noble simplicity, and perfect unity. Also, by concurring with Lessing’s interpretation of Aristotle’s Poetics, the young poet supported the new emphasis on dramatic emotion. Basically, Bilderdijk’s Edipus is very much an Enlightenment text. Middle-of-the-road republican views are put forward and the Greek sense of inexplicable tragedy is rationalized on the basis of an ethic derived from Cicero, Christian Wolff, and Moses Mendelssohn. This eigtheenth-century rendering of Sophocles’ masterpiece thus illustrates an interesting combination of newer literary aims with the rational attitude of an Enlightenment thinker.
Karl de Leeuw, A bookcipher used by Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia during the exile of the Stadholder’s family on Hampton Court
During the 1750s the making of codes and ciphers at the Court of the Princess-Governess Anne and, later on, of Stadholder William V, came into the hands of Pierre Lyonet: a microscopist and talented engraver of insects who was also active as a head of the Dutch Black Chamber. Profiting from his experience as a codebreaker he was able to improve the quality of Dutch codes, but he could not be maintained after the outbreak of the civil war between Patriots and Orangists, because of his strong political views, not favourable to the cause of the House of Orange.
The making of codes and ciphers passed into the hands of the wife of Stadholder William V: Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia. From 1786 onwards, when the Court resided in Nijmegen as a consequence of Patriot take-over in the province of Holland, she handled all volatile correspondence herself and this remained to be the case after the restoration of the Stadholder’s authority in September 1787.
At the beginning she used simple codes and ciphers which were no match for professional cryptanalysts, but they were intended for the encoding or enciphering of information already known to the host governments or for use inside the Dutch Republic only.
These codes and ciphers were no longer thought to be sufficient after the Stadholder and his family were expelled from the Republic by a French occupation army and its Patriot partisans in 1795. They went to England and were lodged in Hampton Court as guests of King George III. The Stadholder and his family, now a liability to their former English and Prussian allies rather than an asset, became politically isolated and could only regain a bargaining position by organizing a war party of their own while cultivating their contacts with the crowned heads of Europe.
Princess Wilhelmina had to construct a new type of cipher, more secure than her former ones, but not more diffcult to operate. She made a small two-part code, consisting of about 300 items in an apparently random alphabetical order, mostly referring to names of places or persons and, to a lesser degree, titles and concepts. The codegroup ranged from 10 to 334, but the one-digit numbers were exclusively used to indicate the position of letters in the words or names in the code-list. Thus new words could be made by adding single digits between dots to codegroups and indicating the end of a word by underlining the last digit. In this way the cipher provided for a great variety of means of representing the letters of the alphabet, while retaining all the advantages of a code that could be memorized.
The construction of this cipher, likely to be the work of the Princess herself, showed a profound understanding of cryptography and innovative capacity in this field as well.
This particular variant of the bookcipher was not described in literature until 14 years later and has to be considered remarkably fit for its use.
De Achttiende Eeuw 27 (1995) nr.2
Lia van Gemert, Eighteenth-century Dutch female writers and their authorship
In this article, several aspects of the authorship of Dutch female writers from the eighteenth century are discussed. Although most of them showed modesty about their own work, they also knew very well how to meet the expectations from the world of letters. Often their talent for poetry had been recognized in their youth already and subsequently they were given the chance to practice. As long as writing activities did not prevent other duties, such as house keeping, they were allowed, especially when the contents of the verses supported the ideal of usefulness.
This general pattern of ‘usefulness’ is elaborated in various ways. Many authors, for instance Bosch and Deken, wrote quite a lot of ‘occasional’ poems for all sorts of events, from birth to death, from public to private life. Women like Van Zon, Wolff and De Lannoy reflected on the art of writing in theoretical verses, which could be highly serious, but also ironical. Between 1760 and 1790 Van der Horst-Roelfzema, Slicher, De Lannoy and Wolff focused on the role of women in society and their image as writers. Especially De Lannoy and Wolff claimed to be full-grown authors, equal to their male colleagues. Along with the fact that a growing number of women could publish their work, female writers took the chance to express their own opinions.
Willeke Los, The disguise of morality. Virtue and vice as expressions of masculinity and femininity in Dutch eighteenth-century educational discourse?
Ideas of women and femininity played an important part in Dutch educational discourse in the second half of the eighteenth century. Although at first sight women seemed to be particularly associated with the general complaint of the effeminacy of Dutch culture as a consequence of French influence, Dutch critics did not consider women to be mainly responsible for the problem of effeminacy. Effeminate conduct could be detected in men and women alike. Therefore, the criticism on the effeminacy of Dutch culture, was not specifically directed against women but sprang from a cultural criticism directed at the upper classes of society. By ridiculing the upper class way of life, Dutch educational authors contested their power to rule. In contrast with the vices of society the virtues of republicanism were presented as a healthy foundation of society. Although images of masculinity and femininty played a part in this discourse, there was no univocal connection between masculinity and virtue and femininity and vice or the other way around. Vice and virtue could be expressed in masculine and feminine ways but both were sexually neutral in essence.
Wil Borger, Spinsters in Alkmaar, 1725-1750
Did spinsters in Alkmaar during the first half of the eighteenth century have opportunities to make an economically independent way of living and did they have opportunities on the labour market? In her article ‘Women without men’, Olwen Hufton draws a rather gloomy picture of the social and economic position of widows and spinsters from different classes in England and France. She argues that they were more of less outcasts of society. In my research on the social and economic position of spinsters in Alkmaar I try to compare their situation with Hufton’s theses by studying their financial position, their profession or source of income and their housing.
Contrary to Hufton’s vision, spinsters in Alkmaar were reasonably or even very well able to make an independent living. The profession of the spinsters we found was generally a homeworker, and most of them did not employ other workers. The retail trade was favoured among them, but many had a living as needle woman or maid-servant too. Of approximately half of the spinsters I traced, their way of housing is known. Surprisingly most of these women owned their own house. The women who lived in with others were maid-servants; they therefore had a restricted freedom in living conditions. But all the other spinsters of this group were heads of a household of their own, living alone or with a sister or brother. It seems probable that a good many spinsters were able to choose for an independent living in all the different periods of their life.
So the theory of Olwen Hufton about the social and exonomic position of spinsters is too gloomy indeed, when we look to their way of life in the city of Alkmaar.
Dini Helmers and Els Kloek, Suzanna von Wolzogen Kühr (1883-1953), a women’s historian avant la lettre
In 1914 Suzanna von Wolzogen Kühr published her study on the Dutch woman of the first half of the eighteenth century. It was her graduation study of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Leiden. Six years later, in 1920, she published a supplementary study, dealing with the Dutch woman in the second half of the eighteenth century. In this article, a description is given of the life and work of this unknown women’s historian avant la lettre. Von Wolzogen Kühr has been born and raised in the Dutch East Indies. Around 1904 she came to Holland to study Dutch literature at Leiden. Although she was not engaged in the feminist movement of that time, she wrote this unique study of the history of women in the eighteenth century, based on a wide range of especially literary sources, varying from spectators, poems and farces to travel literature and pamphlets. After a short career as a schoolteacher at The Hague, she led a retired life at Lunteren, together with her mother and sister. She was an active member of the theosophian community.
Hans De Canck, Printing in times of revolution : a survey of the careers of the Louvain brothers Michel (ca. 1770-ca. 1820)
The three brothers Michel – Jozef, Johannes Petrus Georgius and Franciscus – worked at the same time as printers/booksellers in the university town Louvain. This provides an interesting starting point for research into the influence of the changing political context of the Southern Netherlands at the end of the eighteenth century upon the activities of printers. The constant change of governments, law and order certainly took effect on the profile of printers and their production. According to the three different printing-stocks we have reconstructed – amplified with fragmentary archives – there is an obvious fluxion in genre and number of printed matters. The new enlightened ideas and shifting values in human society offered new chances for printers, obviously shown by the politically motivated Jozef Michel (1745-1812). On the other hand he also pointed out that by sharing certain political opinions in tumultuous times, a great risk was taken. He became persona non grata in 1793 after his role as a democratic, jacobin printer in 1791-1793. J.P.G. (1748-1824) and Franciscus (1760-1818) Michel went to work the better way and did not commit themselves politically. Nevertheless, they also had to deal with the risks of fastly changing tastes and censorship, what made it precarious to invest in new printed matter, to rebuild a network of new commercial relations, and to sell their supplies that suddenly became old-fashioned or forbidden. That these risks were real, can clearly be concluded from the printing activities of both of them.