De Achttiende Eeuw 29 (1997) nr.1
Roel Bosch, Willem Goede’s dream of 1807 about a new Rotterdam in 1850
In 1770 L.-P. Mercier published his hope of a new enlightened society in the form of a dream about the year 2240. In the Dutch Republic, only a few years later, Elisabeth Wolff-Bekker adopted his idea, and wrote a letter on the same theme, also situated in the year 2240. In 1807 one of the remonstrant ministers in Rotterdam, Willem Goede, delineated his hopes for the year 1850, again in the form of a dream, for an audience of members and guests of the `Maatschappij tot Nut van het Algemeen’ (Society for Public Welfare), section of Rotterdam.
In this dream he walked through the streets of Rotterdam in the year 1850. He felt deeply impressed by the flourishing of education, the arts, health care, and public order. All prostitutes still in function were supervised; their prospective customers were warned of the risk of becoming infected with venereal diseases. There were two fire-brigades, the duty of the first being to save money and valuable papers, whereas the second one was to extinguish the fire. Corpses were no longer buried, but cremated. The `Maatschappij tot Nut van het Algemeen’ assisted the poor by paying their lawyer if they need one, and giving them medical aid. In all these changes Goede felt the spirit of the founder of the Society, Jan Nieuwenhuijzen, close by, still assisting and inspiring his followers.
Whereas Mercier and Wolff-Bekker had long-term utopian dreams, Goede envisaged the realisation of his dream in the next generation. The approach of the `Maatschappij tot Nut van het Algemeen’ gave him the idea that it would be possible to make dreams come true.
Jeremy D. Popkin, Antoine-Marie Cerisier, the Leidse Ontwerp, and the Grondwettige Herstelling: an as yet open debate
In articles published in 1993 and 1994, Jeremy D. Popkin and Stephan Klein and Joost Rosendaal have thrown new light on the circumstances surrounding the composition of two key documents of the Dutch Patriot movement of the 1780s, the Leidse Ontwerp and the Grondwettige Herstelling. Popkin has shown that the French journalist Antoine-Marie Cerisier claimed to have played a major role in the composition of these two texts. Klein and Rosendaal have discovered, however, that a preliminary version of the Leidse Ontwerp, written in Dutch, preceded the printed text. Since Cerisier is not known to have written documents in the Dutch language, this casts doubt on his insinuation that he was the principal author of that document.
In this article, Popkin presents the texts of two previously unpublished letters of Cerisier in which he refers to his role in the composition of the Leidse Ontwerp and the Grondwettige Herstelling, as well as the French version of the Ontwerp that Cerisier published in Paris in 1788. Thanks to this version, the Ontwerp was known to the French “Patriots” who helped draft the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen in 1789.
René Veenman, The Dialogue of the Dead in the Netherlands
This paper will be a survey of the development of the dialogue of the dead in the Netherlands. The dialogue of the dead, a fictitious dialogue held in the hereafter, was originally invented by Lucian; it became very popular in Western Europe towards the end of the seventeenth century, and retained this popularity throughout the eighteenth century.
To begin with, some attention will be paid to dialogues of the dead, written during the Renaissance period by Erasmus and Vives in Neo-Latin, and by Jan van Vladeracken and P. C. Hooft in Dutch. The focus, however, will mainly be on the eighteenth century. Although Lucian was a well-known author, the dialogue of the dead in that period developed rather under the influence of Fontenelle’s satirical dialogues and the conversations of Fénelon, which were chiefly educational. These dialogues were popular in the Netherlands, both in Dutch translations and in the French originals. Fontenelle was imitated by Justus van Effen in his periodical Le Misanthrope (1711-1712).
Coinciding with the introduction of the genre in literary circles the dialogue of the dead appeared as a medium for satire in Dutch pamphlet literature. It seems that once again French influence, this time from Eustache Lenoble’s Pierre de touche politique (1688-1691), was a stimulus.
However, the greatest influence was exerted by the monthly published dialogues of the dead by the German writer Faßmann. Translations of his dialogues appeared in a monthly periodical, Maandelyksche Berichten uit de andere waerelt, from 1721 to 1771, although the last volumes were filled with matter in the same vein from other sources. During the 1720s various authors were inspired by Faßmann’s success to publish periodicals: La Martinière, a Frenchman residing in Holland, wrote satirical conversations (1722); Tysens published a monthly with dialogues of the dead, which actually were comedies (1722); Van Swaanenburg wrote his weekly dialogues between characters from classical antiquity, which, though comical in the beginning, eventually became rather eccentric and esoteric (1724-1725); and, lastly, Campo Weyerman wrote satirical dialogues between the living and the dead (1726). But these periodicals never existed for more than a single year, and so Faßmann’s moralistic-biographical dialogues remained dominant among Dutch publications of dialogues between the dead.
In the sixties Lyttelton’s dialogues of the dead were rather popular in the Netherlands, as appears from two separate translations into French, but they were not imitated. In the seventeens and eighties, after a period of calm, once again many dialogues of the dead were written, especially in the form of pamphlets, but also as contributions to periodicals. Some of them were written by well-known literary authors like Kersteman, Kinker, and Le Francq van Berkhey. An anonymous writer even tried to initiate a new periodical: De Mercurius der Elizeesche velden (1786).
The period of popularity of the dialogue of the dead lasted well into the nineteenth century. Most noteworthy among the last publications in this vein were a series of satirical dialogues by Wibmer, called De Nekroloog (1819), and a literary satire by Jacob Geel (± 1832).
Joost Rosendaal, A Cheerful Philosopher and a decent patriot: Gerrit Paape in exile (1787-1795)
In the aftermath of the repression of the patriot movement in September 1787 the Dutch writer and patriot Gerrit Paape was forced to take refuge in the Austrian Netherlands, like thousands of his compatriots. He showed great sympathy for the enlightened politics of the Emperor Joseph II. In his numerous publications he displayed a strongly anticlerical attitude, and criticized in particular the fanatical clergy in Brabant; consequently, he was forced again to flee, this time to Dunkerke in France, where already many Dutch patriots were living. Paape returned to his country in 1794, in the wake of the French army and the French-Dutch general Daendels, whose secretary he was. In his publications he advocated the study of philosophy (`wijsgeerte’) and patriotism as remedies against superstition and fanaticism. To begin with, therefore, he welcomed the French policy of dechristianization, but afterwards he deplored the fact that this had had the opposite effect: people became even more fanatical and superstitious.
Natalie Kerssebeeck,`Who will stop the Truth?’ Pieter Corbeels, an engagé printer in Leuven and Turnhout (1755-1799)
There have been many publications about the turbulent life of the patriot Pieter Corbeels; but in this contribution the focus is on his printing activities. As to innovation or originality he was certainly not the most notable printer. If one accepts that the printings preserved are representative for the original publisher’s list, this is rather to be labelled as traditional, consisting as it does of almanacs, pamphlets, religious and occasional printings. Even so, we may characterize Corbeels as a printer who by and large subordinated his livelihood to his patriot ideals. Also, when he moved to Turnhout, the reasons for that were not economical, but the urgent need for a workshop where he could continue his printing activities without being disturbed. He preferred continuity to adapting himself to the changed conditions of life and the times.
The audience reached by Corbeels with his publications should be rated as lower middle class, and higher; towards the end of the 18th century a large part of the populace could not read or write; analphabetism was rife in any case in the lower classes. Almanacs were used as a practical instrument in daily life; political pamphlets served as newsmagazines, explaining the events, in a society which, far more than nowadays, was devoid of information; whereas other pamphlets should rather be called lampoons. Prayer books and missals were widespread among the Catholic populace, the majority of which was very religious, also in periods when the position of the Church was threatened. Each publication which we have counted as an occasional printing, was aimed at a specific audience of readers. We rarely know the author of a publication.
With this contribution on the subject of the publications printed by Pieter Corbeels I hope to have shed some new light on this almost legendary character. Even so, two centuries after his activities, the work of Corbeels has still not yet yielded up its innermost secrets.
Henk Gras & Bennie Pratasik, Studying the Theatre in the Netherlands: a historiographic investigation, with critical scrutiny of the sources, taking Corver’s Tooneel-Aaantekeningen as a starting-point.
Martin Corver’s Tooneel-Aantekeningen were published in 1786; taking this text as one of our starting-points, we shall try to investigate the historiography of the theatre in the Netherlands, with a critical scrutiny of the sources. Corver wrote his text in response to the biography of the eighteenth-century actor and his rival Jan Punt, which was written by Simon Stijl, but published anonymously in 1781. These two texts have determined the historiography of the theatre in the Netherlands up to the present time. Corver’s Tooneel-Aantekeningen have even been exalted as the most important source for the ins and outs of the eighteenth-century theatre in the Netherlands.
Even so, neither the text of Stijl, nor that of Corver have ever been the object of a critical investigation. Stijl’s biography may be regarded as an attempt to define the position of the Amsterdam City theatre in the field of theatrical activities in the Republic, and to this are linked a number of preferences with regard to repertory and style of acting; implicitly, the latter were in their turn related to a vision on `culture’ and the way society ought to be structured (ideology). In a reaction to these opinions Corver wrote his Tooneel-Aantekeningen, in which he had to defend himself passionately; so that these two texts acquired the character of a debate about cultural policy avant la lettre. Especially in the nineteenth century the positive evaluation of Corver’s text has acquired a canonical status in the historiography of the theatre. In the twentieth century the nineteenth-century assessment of Corver’s text has been adhered to in extenso as well. A closer scrutiny shows, however, that Corver’s text is less `reliable’ than has been maintained up to now. When the genesis of the Rotterdam Theatre is studied it becomes apparent that the text of Corver (and with that, the traditional historical accounts of these events) should be handled with great caution. It becomes evident that Corver often has relied on his memory, which, however, often failed him, with all consequent factual inaccuracies.
Attempts of students of (systematic) dramaturgy to create new frameworks for historiographical investigation of the theatre have virtually failed, mainly because the historical aspect of the discipline has hardly come in for serious attention; hence the consequences for historical investigation cannot but be regarded as disastrous. Within the study of dramaturgy historical criticism of the sources and a good tradition of editing are still lacking. In most recent historical accounts of the theatre (cf. nn. 2 and 26) the consequences of that are very evident, because, notwithstanding claims to the opposite, there is hardly any trace of a break with the past.
It is hoped that this contribution will give at least an initial impetus for a more critical handling of source material and the theatrical past.
Anna de Haas, French Classicism and the Theatre in the Netherlands 1660-1730
During the 1660s the French doctrine classique found its way to the Netherlands. The Dutch adherents of this theory, and in particular the art society (kunstgenootschap) `Nil Volentibus Arduum’ started a campaign to `reform’ the theatre, launching attacks on current stage practice, on the audience, and on the playwrights. Of the genres cultivated at that time the neoclassicists appropriated tragedy and comedy. These in particular ought to conform to the requirements of verisimilitude (vraisemblance) and decorum (bienséance). The first requirement implied a criticism of the then popular Spanish drama (neglecting the unities of time and place), and the supernatural phenomena (ghosts, gods, metamorphoses etc.) of the pièces à machines. Following the second requirement, no allusions to politics, religion or sex should be allowed in any play, as being potentially offensive; nor should scenes of cruelty be represented on stage (as in revenge tragedies).
Although, when one goes by the titles of the plays performed, all these `irregular’ genres continued to be staged throughout the eighteenth century, there is evidence that actually they were thoroughly `neoclassicized’. Texts were censured and adapted, cruel scenes `acted’ backstage. For the audience, then, neoclassicism consisted mainly in things not heard and not seen.
During the 1720s the Spanish drama ceased to be a source of inspiration for playwrights; the machines were banished from tragedy to other genres (e.g. the morality plays). In the neoclassical universe of the early eighteenth century each genre (except the revenge tragedy) had been assigned its own place: tragedy and comedy in the centre, minor genres like the morality plays and pièces à machines in the border regions where neoclassical rules were only partly applicable.
This might be viewed as a victory for neoclassicism, but it was short-lived: by 1730 the neoclassical elan seems to have withered; the production of original Dutch plays dropped sharply. Various causes may be pointed out for this: (1) of the playwrights originally inspired by the doctrine classique some died and others stopped writing plays; (2) the historical and literary sources, used for tragedies were depleted; (3) playwrights lost their elan because their plays were never very successful onstage (if they made the stage at all). Thus, for any or all of these reasons Dutch playwrights fell silent until 1760 when new ideas from France and Germany inspired a new generation again to take to the stage.
Jan Konst, `The Guilt is Heavy, the Punishment just’: poetic justice in the non-Biblical plays of Claas Bruin (1671-1732)
This article focuses upon the non-Biblical plays of a dramatist in the French-classicist tradition, Claas Bruin. During the first decades of the eighteenth century he was a reasonably popular and successful playwright; nowadays, however, he is like so many eighteenth-century Dutch tragedians almost wholly forgotten. His oeuvre will be studied in connection with the doctrine of poetic justice, which has played an important role in tragedies written in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Special attention will be paid to Bruin’s last play, Epaminondas. It will be argued that in Bruin’s conception poetic and divine or providential justice converge.
Marijke Jonker, Le Brun’s Expression generale et particulière and the eighteenth-century actor
Charles Le Brun’s theory about the expression of the passions was widely acclaimed in eighteenth-century discussions of acting. Prints copying Le Brun’s original illustrations were used as models by actors trying to master the art of facial expression.
Even so, Le Brun’s theory of expression was strictly analytical, and part of the austere culture of the `honnête homme’ prevailing in seventeenth-century France; this article will attempt to answer the question which part it played in eighteenth-century theatre history.
It will be made clear that during the greater part of the eighteenth century Le Brun’s influence was at the most superficial. While eighteenth-century theorists of the theatre and facial expression never forgot to mention him, they emphasized the importance of the imagination (Du Bos), observation (Parsons), or calculation ((Riccoboni, Diderot). Mentioning Le Brun probably served merely to remind the reader that the actor’s ability to give visual expression to the passions gave him the right to share the high social status of the history painter. The eighteenth actor was claimed to be a man of intellect and taste.
Only in the Theoretische lessen over de gesticulatie en de mimiek (1827) by Jelgerhuis the influence of Le Brun on acting became clearly noticeable. The reasons for this, given by Kirchner (1991), are accepted; yet one should also be aware of the debate on the authentic style for Dutch acting, which went on during the 1780s between Simon Stijl and Martin Corver, and which may have prompted Jelgerhuis to advocate classically authentic acting, which was not limited to Dutch examples, and only fit for the Dutch stage. >
Rudolf Rasch, Opera troupes in Amsterdam 1750-1763
Before opera was established as a standard element in the programming of the permanent theatres in Amsterdam around 1780, opera performances were given either by touring theatre companies or by troupes formed locally. They performed within the walls of Amsterdam in the City Theatre, or outside the walls in temporary or semi-permanent theatres on the Overtoom and the Amstel. This article briefly discusses the comings and goings of a number of such companies during the years 1750-1763: the Italian opera buffa companies directed by Crosa, Giordani, Lapis, Ferrari, De Amicis, and Gurrini respectively; the French troupes which, among other genres of French theatre, also presented operas, and who were directed by Jean-Benoît Leclair, Garnier, Duplessis, Quinault respectively, and the visiting companies from The Hague; the `children’s operas’ in the French language of Sieur Frédéric and Monsieur de Bruyère; and the `Flemish opera’ of Neyts. The composition of the companies is also investigated, as well as their ways of doing business, their repertoires, and their successes.
Bennie Pratasik, The flourishing of drama societies in the Netherlands around 1800
In the historywriting about the Dutch theatre scant attention has been paid to the dramatic societies. Consequently, as yet little is known about their activities. Even so, the dramatic societies have occupied a prominent position. For instance, to a large degree they have contributed to the introduction of a new repertory in the Netherlands. To mention one example: the High German theatre played, probably for the first time, Kotzebue’s Misanthropy and Repentance in German in The Hague on 7 May 1790. What has probably been the first performance of this play in a Dutch translation was the initiative of the Haarlem dramatic society Leerzaam Vermaak (Instructive Entertainment); it took place in Haarlem on 25 January 1791. In the Amsterdam City Theatre this play was for the first time performed on 3 May 1792.
It is not always possible to determine incontrovertibly how these dramatic societies should be defined; the more so because regular organizational forms of theatre groups also might have characteristics in common with the societies. In the case of the majority of dramatic societies one had to be a member, and this membership was acquired through election; hence in most cases the list of members displayed a homogeneous composition. Members who were also playwrights have recurrently advocated proposals generally to improve the theatre. They had, then, in general no high opinion of the regular theatre. Contemporaries often mentioned in lyrical terms the role played by the dramatic societies. In such discussions it was in particular the high level of the performances which was praised.
Henny Ruitenbeek, Classicistic Tragedies for Nineteenth-century Spectators
It is commonly believed that the interest in tragedy faded away in the nineteenth century. Many theatre historians tend to think that tragedies were rarely performed and that when this actually happened, the performance attracted only a small audience. These historians seem to base their opinion on contemporary statements, but I doubt whether the interpretation of such remarks has taken their original meaning and context into account. For the investigation of this issue I propose first to focus on the reviewers of the two theatre journals, Pandora, in het bezit van het Toneelklokje (Pandora, possessing the little Theatre bell) and De Toneelkijker (The Pair of Binoculars). Then their views will be compared with the figures available on the share of tragedies in the programming, and on the number of the spectators; in this we shall concentrate on the repertory of the Amsterdam Theatre in the beginning of the nineteenth century.
The two journals claim that the audience was less interested in classical tragedy than in new theatre genres like melodrama and ballet. There are grounds to query the reliability of such statements when it is realized that they served a political purpose. Pandora intended primarily to criticize the new board of the city theatre; it was believed that the board members had not kept their promise to reform the repertoire in the classical spirit. The Toneelkijker was governed by its political aim to purify society from its `individualism’ – which was also felt to be present in the new theatre genres. As for the figures, these do not support the claim that old classical tragedy disappeared in the nineteenth century. We may conclude that both Pandora and the Toneelkijker caricatured the real situation.