De Achttiende Eeuw 30 (1998) nr.1
Paul van Gestel, ‘The corruptions of Christianity’: Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) and the Dutch Enlightenment
In this article the author studies the reception of the History of the corruptions of Christianity (1782) by the British theologian and scientist Joseph Priestley, and its Dutch translations (1784, 1787). In theCorruptions Priestly attacks elements in the Christian doctrine, like the Trinity, predestination, and atonement, which in his opinion are at variance with the views of the early Christians, and for a large part full of internal contradictions, and contrary to reason. In Dordrecht fines were imposed on the publisher, the printer, and two booksellers, because they were involved in the production of this socinian book. At the provincial synod delegates expressed their wish for a society which would organize competitions for denouncing unorthodox literature; and in The Hague ‘The Society for Defending the Christian Religion’ was founded in 1785.
The publication of the essays against Priestley’s Corruptions gave rise to a lively debate, which the Dutch press followed with interest. The book was banned in The Hague in 1785, and in Haarlem in 1789. In the latter town Priestley was asked to participate in the Dutch Society of Sciences; subsequently, one of its directors gave up his post by way of protest against Priestley’s heresy. Most reactions display a great fear of the possible impact of the Corruptions.
In connection with this the author of the article points to Priestley’s celebrity status as a natural philosopher, the great importance of the physical sciences in both theology and culture, and the priority given by many people to morality over dogmatism in the Dutch Republic towards the end of the Age of Enlightenment. Patriots, many of whom had read Priestley’s Essay on the first principles of government (1768), and dissenters especially valued the Corruptions.
Thomas von der Dunk, To reign is to ignore. Building a new clubhouse for Doctrina et Amicitia in Amsterdam.
In the summer of 1787 the Patriotic National Society (Vaderlandsche Sociëtiet) in Amsterdam, founded four years earlier, took the initiative to acquire an accommodation of their own on the Kalverstraat. To begin with a new back part of the house was being built, but in the autumn this work was brought to a standstill, consequent upon the Restoration of the Orangist regime; whereas by order of the city government the Society itself was dissolved. Even so, its members just founded a new society, Doctrina et Amicitia, which simply took over the unfinished premises in the Kalverstraat and completed the back part of the building in 1790.
This new society pretended, to be sure, to focus on purely scientific and cultural subjects, yet in its aim and practice it proved to be to a high degree a cover for pursuing subversive politics. The magistrate was aware of this, but because of the lack of concrete proofs they did not dare to intervene, just like the States of Holland, who were consulted by the magistrate. They felt that the most sensible policy would be to tolerate the existence of Doctrina,- an approach which is of old very characteristic for the political culture of the Netherlands, which is a country of minorities, none of which is able by means of power actually to impose its will wholly on the others – and does not want to do so either, for the sake of internal peace.
When Doctrina et Amicitia had implemented its political aim with the Batavian Revolution in 1795, it changed its actual task-setting and only now really focused on scientific subjects. Because in the meantime the old foremost part of the house had fallen into decay it was decided in 1802 to rebuild it. The way in which the board of directors handled this issue was again, albeit in a different way, characteristic for the Dutch political culture, in which from old a strong emphasis is put onparticipation. Being democrats, they could not avoid consulting the members; however, being administrators, they also wanted to obtain some results. This resulted in a kind of controlled democracy, which safeguarded the illusion of the members that the decision was theirs, whereas the board of directors was protected against the risk that their plan would be rejected. Following this, a collection could be started among the members for defraying the costs of the building; in this the individual members of the board themselves did not feel a personal obligation to contribute for decency’s sake more than what was in their position the absolute minimum, – this also reveals a typically Dutch characteristic.
Sofie Cerruti, Illegal book trade around 1791. Paape’s biography of William V, or how a bookseller found himself in the rasp house.
In 1791 an exceptionally radical biography of Stadholder Willem V appeared at the publishing company of Pierre la Fage in Dunkirk: Het leven van Willem V &c., bederver van zijn vaderland. (The life of William V, corruptor of his fatherland). Although the name of the author was kept carefully secret, it can hardly be doubted that the writer was Gerrit Paape, who lived in exile since 1787. In spite of the strict censorship in the Netherlands in 1791, the book was smuggled from Dunkirk through Brabant and Rotterdam to Amsterdam, where a reckless bookseller, called Jan Verlem, sold it under the counter. Verlem was a rather radical Patriotic bookseller. who several times previously had been convicted for publishing subversive periodicals. For the sale of this satirical biography he was sentenced to as much as six years of imprisonment.
An interesting aspect of the 1791 trial of Verlem is the fact that several different paths cross here: of the banished writers in Northern France and the Patriot booksellers still staying in the Netherlands; the contacts between them survived the high risks, and the books continued to be published. The case files demonstrate that Verlem was indeed a vital link in a network of Patriot writers and booksellers in the Netherlands and abroad, which provided a continuous flow of illegal books. Among Verlem’s connections, to name but a few, were the publishers Krap & De Leeuw in Dordrecht, De Wildt & Altheer in Utrecht, Leeuwenstijn in The Hague, and De la Croix in Dunkirk.
This article deals partly with the process against Jan Verlem and his background as an illegal bookseller, and partly with the book that caused such a great amount of controversy: Paape’s satirical biography of William V. The case reveals a small part of the illegal scene of Patriot authors and publishers/booksellers, which existed in the Netherlands and abroad in a period when the oppression of the Patriots was at its peak.
Pierre Delsaerdt & Dries Vanysacker, Buying and inheriting books. The private libraries of the Antwerp canon Petrus Knyff (1713-1784) and his father Jacobus (1681-1756).
In this article the private library of the Antwerp canon Petrus Knyff, a member of a rich and politically influential Antwerp family, will be discussed. Knyff studied canonical and civil law at the Louvain university, and became a canon at the cathedral of Antwerp. His library was put up for auction in Antwerp in 1785; several copies of the printed catalogue are still extant.
Petrus Knyff was the son of Jacobus Knyff (d. 1756), who had been a member of the city council, but after the death of his wife became a canon at the cathedral of Antwerp. A post mortem inventory of his possessions, preserved in the archives of the city of Antwerp and dated 1756, contains also the particulars about his library. The collection of books was divided into three parts, each of which was assigned to one of his three sons. Supplementary archival evidence goes to show that his son Petrus not only inherited a third part of the books, but also bought the other two thirds from his brothers Joannes and Michael.
When one compares the inventory of this library with the auction catalogue of Petrus’ own library one can identify the titles of the books Petrus inherited from his father (the so-called ‘passive’ library), as well as his own acquisitions (the ‘active’ library). From the latter (70% of the books enumerated in the auction catalogue) it becomes clear that Knyff was an enthusiastic collector of the great authors of the Enlightenment, of political essays and of the ‘forbidden bestsellers’ of his time. On the other hand, however, he also continued to pay attention to some of his father’s fields of study, like church history, history of the Netherlands, and biology.
De Achttiende Eeuw 30 (1998) nr.2
Jan Wim Buisman, ‘Balthasar Bekker, the theory of accommodation and Dutch protestant theologians, 1750-1800′.
The Frisian protestant minister Balthasar Bekker (1634-1698) is primarily known as author of De betoverde Weereld (The World Bewitched) 1691-1693. Nevertheless, his long-term influence is not based on his demonology as such, but on his exegetical method. More frequently than many other theologians of his day, Bekker applied the theory of accommodation, especially on demonology.
In 1996, the philosopher Michiel Wielema concluded that Bekker’s influence in Dutch calvinist circles during the first half of the eighteenth century must have been rather slight. Wielema’s conclusions, I found, hold good for the second half of the eighteenth century as well, at least when Bekker’s direct theological impact is concerned. Paradoxically, his indirect influence grew steadily during the age of Enlightenment. Especially after 1750 the theory of accommodation became rather popular in certain theological circles, and in the wake of it the nitty-gritty of Bekkerian exegesis gained ground, too. According to the enlightened interpretation, the possessed people occurring in the New Testament simply have to be considered psychically or physically ill. Particularly in Dutch learned societies this kind of exegesis and the underlying accommodation-theory were discussed explicitly.
Furthermore, it is significant that even in (relatively) orthodox circles Bekker was gradually hold in somewhat higher esteem. Thoroughly enlightened spirits (like Paulus van Hemert and others) however, preferred to engage the debate with more radical thinkers like the German Neologians. In their minds the essence of Bekker’s thoughts was internalized to such a degree that they did not feel the need to refer to him explicitly at all. Perhaps they were yet only slightly aware of their theological indebtedness to Bekker. But even so, it remains one of the best examples of Bekker’s lasting indirect influence that it was just the Neologian J. S. Semler who edited the German translation of Bekker’s disputed book.
Wiep van Bunge, ‘Quelle extravagance’: Balthasar Bekker in Germany and France
In this paper the French and German reception of Balthasar Bekker’s De betoverde Weereld (1691-1693) are analysed. In Germany in particular Die bezauberte Welt (1693) provoked many furious reactions. This seems to have been due to the absence of any sceptical tradition as regards the supernatural and to the fact that in Germany belief in witchcraft remained strong throughout the eighteenth century. Finally, Bekker’s ‘modernity’ is assessed.
Jacob van Sluis, Balthasar Bekker in 1683: Comets, Travelling and the Early Enlightenment
The present essay analyses two texts from 1683 as part of a biographical sketch of Balthasar Bekker (1634-1698), minister of the Reformed Church in Amsterdam. The first text is Bekker’s Ondersoek van de betekeninge der kometen (‘Investigation in the meaning of comets’), written after the appearance of a few comets, followed by panic and the raise of superstition within his congregation. He is quite sceptical about various contemporary philosophical and scientific explanations for the appearance of comets. Since, according to the Holy Scripture, comets are not omens given by God, neither as warnings nor as exhortations to repentance. A comparison with Pierre Bayle’s Pensées diverses sur la comètes, a book on the same issue published in the same year 1683, shows that Bekker wrote his book in his capacity as minister, in order to eliminate superstition and to strengthen the true belief in the real God.
The second text is the diary of the journey Bekker made in the summer of 1683. Accompanied by three friends Bekker travelled in a two-month-trip to England and France. The recently published diary shows that this was a holiday-trip. However, the text also shows that Bekker could be as critical of the things he saw and persons he met while on holiday as he was of superstition and of common prejudices about comets. Both in the daily practice as a minister and in his role as traveller his attitude reflects the ideas of the Early Enlightenment.
Edwina Hagen, Anti-Catholicism, National consciousness and the Dutch spectatorial weeklies in the second half of the eighteenth century.
On the basis of spectatorial weeklies published between 1750 and 1800, about fifty in total, this article examines the development of Dutch anti-Catholicism under the influence of nascent representations of the nation-state.
As elsewhere, modern Dutch nationalism spread successfully because of the emergence of a periodical press. The spectatorial weeklies contributed to the creation of a national ‘communication society’ in which a new image developed of an enlightened Dutch society, an ‘imagined community’ in the phrase of Benedict Anderson. In literature they are characterised as typical representers of the Dutch Christian Enlightenment who in religious matters followed a moderate course. Nevertheless, their interdenominational views did not stop them from making antipapist remarks and comments. Not that they attacked Catholics in an extreme or radical way. Their anti-Catholicism could be described as a natural part of their religious attitude which largely manifested itself only in the form of metaphorical expressions, cliches and casual remarks.
In the spectatorials the battle against superstition was an important one. Superstition was regarded as something that undermined the religious moral of the citizens. Roman Catholicism served as the ultimate example of superstition. Most spectatorial journalists argued that popish superstition belonged to the past but it is perhaps significant that they did not actively state that it no longer existed. A small number of them cited popish superstition as a valid reason for the political exclusion of Catholics, while others merely implied that such superstitious practices were the domain of other countries, not those of enlightened Dutch.
Within the spectatorial articles examples of popish superstitious excrescences nearly only appeared within the context of underlining the importance of reason in religion. A second frequently appearing counterimage was the inquisition represented as the opposite of what Protestants regarded as their most important achievements, freedom of press, thought and of investigation. A third counterimage was monasticism. Even though there were hardly any monasteries in the country, monks were depicted as exactly what virtuous individual citizens were not supposed to be: lazy, economically unproductive and hedonistic.
In conclusion, the spectatorial picture of Catholicism is highly stereotypical. It offered a negative mirror image which reflected the specific nature of what the spectatorial authors believed was the core of their own religion: Reason. With that, the spectatorial portrayal of Catholicism does not say so much about the ‘Catholic other’ but much more about the spectatorial definition of Dutch national self-esteem and of religion.
Finally, the analysis of the Dutch spectatorials threw new light on the current opinion that anti-Catholicism was just a traditional phenomenon that only played a role within the pursuit of for the unity of the nation. The spectatorials illustrated that under the influence of the rise of the nation-state, the age-old religious prejudices of anti-Catholicism, adopted other, more modern forms.