De Achttiende Eeuw 31 (1999) nr.1
Annemieke Meijer, The Dutch discussion on sentimentalism, 1750-1800
When the first sentimental titles were published in the 1780s the Dutch critics praised them as ‘virtue-promoting’. Soon, however, came irritation about the relative abundance of such works, and doubt about the true intentions of many of their authors. Sentimentalism was investigated in painstaking detail by Rhijnvis Feith and W. E. de Perponcher between 1784 and 1786. Their contemporaries’ comments, however, remain on a superficial level, with similar points being repeated over and over again, and, in particular, very few attempts being made to place the phenomenon in a social or politico-cultural context (which German and English critics did do). Dutch sentimental writings, too, without exception ignore party-politics: if some vague reference is made at all, it is always conciliatory in tone, if there is any social comment, it is either of a pious and conservative kind. All the more attention, however, was given to morals and religion, which also formed the touchstone of the critics’ judgements. It appears that literature on the one hand and politics on the other were regarded as clearly separate entities, and the Dutch debate over Sentimentalism is determined by tacit consensus about the fact that in literary discourse socio-political themes should not explicitly be touched upon. In the Dutch literary scene, in short, a ‘politico-sentimental journal’ such as appeared in England in the 1790s would be an impossibility. The characterization of ‘theological-sentimental’ however whichVaderlandsche letteroefeningen gave the genre in 1794 remains a very apt one: both in the novels and in the critical reactions they evoked, the individual’s salvation in this life and hereafter was the main concern.
Ans J. Veltman-van den Bos, Petronella Moens (1762-1843) and her circle of friends
In her time, Petronella Moens was a well-known writer of poems, novels, children’s books and magazines. From her early childhood she was blind, due to the effects of small-pox. Her father, the clergyman Petrus Moens, educated her by reading aloud the work of Dutch writers. Her two sisters were very helpful in the beginning of her career, while later on she relied on a secretary. Her large circle of friends was of great influence during her literary life, which started in 1785 when she won a gold medal for her poem De waare christen (The authentic christian) and ended with her death in 1843. Her liber amicorum shows that she knew how to handle people. Among the contributors were clergymen, men and women of the Dutch literary world, men of learning and Flemish poets. Contemporary poets and personal friends were impressed by the never-ending stream of her novels, poems and articles. In her youth the radical patriotic clergyman Bernardus Bosch was her mentor in politics. In 1798 she founded her own periodical De Vriendin van ’t Vaderland (The Friend of the Nation). As a member of several literary societies, she was able to publish her poems and to move among the best of literary Holland. In 1843 her close friends, W. H. Warnsinck and J. Decker Zimmerman wrote a biography of this remarkable woman.
Rietje van Vliet, The Bibliothèque Impartiale (1750-1758): a scholarly and book trade journal
In retrospect the Leiden bookseller Elie Luzac (1723-1796) should never have begun his Bibliothèque Impartiale. A management conflict with his uncle Johan Luzac, his partner in this enterprise, and constant squabbles with author Samuel Formey (1711-1797) about the latter’s salary and autonomy as a journalist, caused Luzac a lot of worries. But it was the disappointing sales figures which made him decide to put a stop to the journal and to look for other ways to communicate with his clients. After eight years the Bibliothèque Impartiale had proven to be an outdated concept.
The Bibliothèque Impartiale was a scholarly journal: it offered reviews of various scholarly works and acted as a discussion platform for the international learned community. The impartiality of both journal and author had been expressly stipulated, which, however, did not prevent both from becoming engaged in several polemics. Voltaire was one of the correspondents, but also the clergy of the Eglise Wallon in Amsterdam severely criticized the journal. In addition the publisher became involved in a paper war pro and contra the Nederlandsche Spectator, in which even arguments with regard to the Dutch government were not spared. As such the Bibliothèque Impartiale in its last year of publication also participated in the so-called ‘Witten war’.
Yet it was not Formey, perpetual secretary of the Acadamy of Sciences in Berlin, who made a stand in this issue, but – presumably – Elie Luzac himself. Their surviving correspondence provides an excellent opportunity to reconstruct their relationship as author and publisher. It is clear that from the beginning Luzac carried much weight where it concerned the choice of books to be reviewed and even Formey’s writing style, and this in spite of previous agreements. Already after a year Luzac managed to convince Formey to enlist the cooperation of more authors for the journal, a measure intended to boost the quality and the sales of the journal. But Formey did not like sharing with others. Did he think the publisher wielded too much influence? After all Luzac wanted more and more to advertise his own publisher’s list and the books he had in stock, as a result of which the journal gradually took on the appearance of a book trade periodical.
The disappointing sales figures caused Luzac great problems. Every year he lost some two to three hundred guilders on the journal. He may have thought that Formey’s salary was too high (he earned seven guilders per sheet, in addition receiving twenty author’s copies), and that Formey was hard to manage. Already earlier Luzac had threatened to stop the enterprise altogether and to start with a new, Dutch-language journal; – this was to become the Nederlandsche Letter-Courant, the book trade journal which Luzac put on the market immediately after ending the Bibliothèque Impartiale.
At the end of 1758 Luzac told Formey that he wanted to put a definite stop to the project. The concept ‘bibliothèque’ had outlived itself. The public’s interests had changed and books in the national language were coming into vogue. Also because of growing competition with France and Germany the book trade in the Republic had obviously entered a new era.
Thomas H. von der Dunk, The Maandelykse Nederlandsche Mercurius and the importance of its engravings for the spread of knowledge of Dutch architecture
Until the 1840s Dutch architects did not have a technical periodical of their own. In the second half of the 18th century their main source of knowledge of the architectural developments in their own country consisted of engravings of the most prominent modern buildings in cultural journals and more general magazines. One of these magazines was the Maandelykse Nederlandsche Mercurius, which appeared almost every month in Amsterdam from 1756 until 1807. It was edited by the famous bookseller Bernardus Mourik (1709-1791) and continued by his colleague Jan Augustijn Swalm (1762-1807). After his death, no successor could be found.
From an early stage, several issues a year the magazine would contain engravings, so-called ‘Kunstplaaten’. A whole range of subjects could be used for such a print: earthquakes and executions, calamities and solemnities, unveilings of royal statues and exploding powder-magazines, and especially all kinds of festivities connected with the baptisms, weddings and funerals inside the Orange-dynasty would stir up the interest of the illustrators. But from 1766 on as (a more restrained and intellectual) neo-classicism began to replace the exuberant rococo as the dominant style in art, building activities were pictured increasingly often. Although it was never announced as such, these engravings in the end made up a gallery of modern Dutch edifices, because within a decade it became customary for the Mercurius to present its readers with prints of three or four of these each year. When the Mercurius had ceased to appear, faithful subscribers possessed some sixty pictures of the facades of interesting buildings, most of them in the new style. Their characteristic soberness was repeatedly praised in the sometimes lengthy descriptions which accompanied the prints.
The first buildings to be pictured were a few Lutheran churches, because from the start the Mercuriuscontained a special column with news from inside this religious community. These news columns included reports about the many newly built Lutheran churches, and to illustrate these was a logical next step. From here, this gesture to the reader quickly spread as engravings of for the most part public buildings such as town-halls and town-gates, churches and theatres, club-houses and charitable institutions filled the pages.
Most striking, perhaps, is the fact that ample room was allotted to new edifices in the Roman Catholic sphere. Until 1795, the Roman Catholic Church was not officially recognised. Many in the dominant Calvinist Church, to which Mourik belonged, considered it an illegal conspiracy of superstitious papists and, as such, a threat to Dutch identity and independence. That was why for nearly two centuries after the Reformation, Roman Catholics were forced to celebrate mass in attics and other hiding-places. During the latter years of the ancien régime, however, they were allowed to (re)construct their own orphanages and churches in a more representative style within the more open-minded city of Amsterdam, which of course could not be ignored by the Mercurius.
Simpler topics such as hydraulic engineering, or private housing were not thought fit for a place in the gallery of Dutch architectural highlights. The only townhouse pictured during the life time of the magazine was a big Amsterdam housing complex at the central Dam square, the only countryhouse was the famous Paviljoen Welgelegen of the wealthy English banker Henry Hope at Haarlem, built between 1786 and 1789. This last choice was inevitable in a selection of the best and most modern buildings of the Netherlands.
Not only did the Mercurius concentrate on public buildings, it also focused on Amsterdam and its immediate neighbourhood. The bulk of the illustrated edifices was to be found in Amsterdam itself, where the modern classicist style flowered most: no important specimen is lacking and nearly the whole oeuvre of Jacob Eduard de Witte and Abraham van der Hart, who were the official town architects during the period, is pictured. The rest of the engravings showed buildings from the nearby city of Haarlem and some smaller towns around Amsterdam. Very few buildings in the rest of the Netherlands were pictured, and the engraving of the megalomaniac Pyramid of Austerlitz in the province of Utrecht, which was chosen for one of the last volumes of the Mercurius in 1805, was an exception. The fact that illustrations of buildings in The Hague, the residence of the stadtholder, are almost complete absent, is remarkable. It may be that the conservative character of The Hague architecture made it less suitable for illustrations, at least in the eyes of the Amsterdam editors.
Not all illustrations showed new buildings. When no interesting modern material was at hand, older buildings in Amsterdam could also be chosen. In the 1790s a few seventeenth-century buildings were pictured, which according to the new editor, Swalm, was intended to make up for the biggest gaps in the existing printbooks of Amsterdam. After the Batavian Revolution of 1795, however, the lack of interesting contemporary architecture was no longer compensated this way, as Swalm looked to other themes for his illustrations, like the new national flag, the official robes of the members of the government, and a stage-curtain inside the theatre of Amsterdam. The gallery of national architectural pride ended ten years later with an engraving of a range of collapsing old-fashioned gables at the Leidseplein: a symbolic choice reflecting on both the Mercurius and the Dutch nation in 1806.
De Achttiende Eeuw 31 (1999) nr.2
Anke Gilleir, The individuality of femininity or the gender of the universal: Johanna Schopenhauer and the Weimarer Klassik
In the introduction to her art history ‘Jan van Eyck und seine Nachfolger’ (1822) the German author Johanna Schopenhauer refers to her individuality as a quality indicator for her work. However, as the semantic evolution of the word ‘individuality’ had not yet reached its final stage by the end of the eighteenth century the question arises how the author’s self-reference should be interpreted. The qualification Schopenhauer gives to her work and thus to her status as an author cannot be understood without considering the specific historical environment in which she lived and worked. As a member of Goethe’s and Schiller’s cultural movement ‘Weimarische Kunstfreunde’, her use of the concept of ‘individuality’ implies a rather negative self-image. On the other hand a careful analysis of Johanna Schopenhauer’s oeuvre reveals an ambiguous attitude towards the German classicists and their lack of openness towards the participation of women in the field of cultural production. The modern and positive meaning of the concept ‘individuality’ proves to be a means to escape the classicists’ naturalist determination of women and of their intellectual capacity for art and literature.
Tom Verschaffel, Historiography in the first person singular.
The historian as an author in eighteenth-century Belgium
In the eighteenth century the focus of Belgian historiography shifted from writing history and collectinghistorical data to studying history. At first, historians would write histories in which as many data as possible concerning the past of a subject (a province, a city, a diocese, a religious institution) were gathered. The typical ‘new’ historian would write a dissertation (a treatise, a memoire) the subject of which was not so much the past of a certain geographical or historical entity, but some historical or historiographical issue. A dissertation would present research results in the form of an account of the activities of the historian rather than historical events. What the new historian wanted to do was to show the answer to a certain problem, and explain how he had reached this solution. The value of his text therefore depended on its specificity, since the answer the historian proposed was only hisanswer. He had to discuss any arguments he rejected and to stress the differences between his conclusions and those accepted by others. All this becomes clear through an elaborate study of Belgian historical texts published during (the last decades of) the eighteenth century. In these texts the historian ‘shows’ himself, using the first person singular and appearing in person before his audience: ‘I’ have found this, ‘I’ think that, ‘I’ am addressing ‘my’ readers. This development can be seen as an indication of the growing self-confidence of the historian both as an author and as an individual.
Gerard Schulte Nordholt, Are all Men Created to be Universal? Dutch Cultural and Scientific Societies in the Decades around 1800.
In this lecture, given at the ASECS Annual Meeting in 1996, I discuss the hypothesis that the accumulation of knowledge and information in the last couple of centuries and especially in the eighteenth century was an important factor in the rise and emergence of all sort of cultural and scientific societies. As universal knowledge was no longer possible for an individual, people became more and more dependent on each other and hence needed institutions to exchange their knowledge. Even more important was the extensive and ever expanding landscape of practical, technical and day-to-day information. Based on extensive research of the members of all sort of organisations (see: http://people.a2000.nl/nordholt/Socmainpage.htm) and some characteristics of the reading public in the Netherlands around 1800, my hypothesis is that the rise of societies was not so much connected with a new, larger public as with a more comprehensive knowledge. The cultural or informational public remained small, but the need for information grew. Without a certain exchange of information no nation could ever hope to become a modern nation in the 19th century sense. Ideologies were not only altruistic ideals, but did much to provide arguments for the development and maintenance of the informational infrastructure. (e.g. the sociability ideal: together is better). The public of the societies did not need, nor wished to know everything, they just needed a little universal knowledge (‘Bildung’), enough to know how to select, how to choose, how to behave in an emerging multi-optional society. They became mini-Homines Universales.
Willeke Los, John Locke in the Netherlands: the influence of his views concerning individuality and education on P. A. Verwer (1696-1757) and K. van der Palm (1730-1789)
This article traces the influence of Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) in the eighteenth-century Netherlands, especially with regard to his notion of individuality. Although Locke’s educational treatise was essentially meant for the gentry, from the start his views were valued for their general usefulness and met with great approval both in the Netherlands and in other European countries.
However, as educationalists turned their attention towards the middle and lower classes in the second half of the eighteenth century, Locke’s views and especially those on individuality and private education needed to be adapted in order to fit the needs of the intended audience. In this process, Pieter Adriaan Verwer and Kornelis van der Palm played a key role. Verwer, who had already translated several English theological and literary publications into Dutch, provided the second Dutch annotated translation of Some Thoughts Concerning Education, published in 1753. Van der Palm wrote two price-winning treatises on education which were to a large extent inspired by Locke’s ideas.
In spite of their general approval of Locke’s educational opinions, both Verwer and Van der Palm disagreed with Locke’s view that children should receive a private education. While Verwer pointed at the unfavourable social consequences and argued that Dutch schools were better than English ones, Van der Palm designed a plan to reform education in schools in order to make it meet the individual needs of children. Thus, a new system of education was born in which schools were divided in three classes and every class in three successive grades. This new system was the beginning of the large-scale reform of schools which took place in the Batavian Republic at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Marleen de Vries, Writing is silver, silence is golden. Women in literary societies 1772-1800
Eighteenth-century Dutch literary societies were typical male strongholds. Between 1772 and 1800 only 45 women were members, against some 1700 men. The Dutch Republic had around 60 societies, which are usually divided into so-called reflective and poetic ones, two types which differed strongly. There are several reasons, why women were only allowed as members in poetic societies. First of all, while members of reflective societies concentrated on delivering lectures to a very small male public, poetic societies worked on publishing poems for the benefit of the whole country. Most of the members, whether male or female, sent in their poems by post. Women could therefore join these public societies without having to leave their homes. Secondly, the poetic societies organised competitions, answers to which had to be sent in anonymously. This condition favoured the participation of women, who indeed turned out to be winners sometimes. Finally, the poetic societies’ professed aims to improve the level of Dutch poetry and to help the country out of its moral and economic misery helped women integrate in this literary circuit. In the 1780s the societies developed into places of serious debate. Every good writer, whether male or female, was welcome. In fact, the political upheavals of the ‘patriottentijd’ were most favourable to women. During these years their membership more than doubled. Three patriotic poetic societies, all founded in the mid-eighties, were especially ‘friendly’ to women. Not only did they bring in relatively many female members, they also adjusted their laws to suit women. Two women writers, Petronella Moens (1762-1843) and Adriana van Overstraten (1756-1828), who were passionate poets and patriots, profited as much as they could from this situation, joining eight poetic societies and contributing to many of the societies’ volumes. Still, very few women actually went to the meetings. One exception is Maria Petronella Woesthoven (1760-1830) who joined as a member both the ‘Amsteldamsch dicht- en letteroefenend genootschap’ and ‘Kunst wordt door arbeid verkreegen’ in Leiden. Occasionally she showed up in both societies, but she also managed to get involved in a committee of literary judges. All female contributions to the societies’ volumes show that women did not limit their writings to typically female topics (housekeeping, children, kitchen), as they were advised to by literary critics, but instead wrote about public affairs (religion, nation, morals). Apparently, the societies formed one Enlightenment movement that did not push back women out of public life, but encouraged their integration.