De Achttiende Eeuw 33 (2001) nr.1

Danny Beckers, Pieter Nieuwland (1764-1794): natural philosopher, mathematician and poet
It has been said that the eighteenth-century Dutch societies could exist because the ideal of the Homo Universalis was no longer tenable. This article modifies this view by showing that the mathematical societies in the Netherlands in fact believed that through a thorough knowledge of mathematics the old ideal could be achieved after all. They did not have the traditional eighteenth-century mathematics in mind, but rather a new form which paid more attention to abstract matters and mathematical proof and was thus seen as more apt for forming the human mind. The ideals of the >new= mathematics find their expression in the works of Pieter Nieuwland.

Jan Schillings, Format and realization of Bibliothèque germanique and Journal littéraire d’Allemagne: a quantitative approach
For those interested in Bibliothèque germanique or Journal littéraire d’Allemagne, the policy statement which was first set up by its editors in 1721 and then elaborated in the next year, is an important document. Two decades later the policy was again endorsed by a new group of editors. It would be wrong, however, to conclude that all the plans that had been formulated actually materialized. My research shows that the editors managed to stick to their main purpose throughout. All efforts were geared to alerting the European Republic of Letters to the achievements of German scholars, which had remained unknown abroad. Editors and contributors were very much aware that their audience consisted of readers outside Germany, and they provided them with an uncharacteristically rich supply of academic and literary news. In some fields, however, the implementation of the policy remained unsatisfactory. Thus in spite of their promises the magazine never showed any special interest in legal sciences, which was one of the crown jewels of German scholarship. In this article a detailed description is given of the implementation of the editorial policy. This quantitative approach leads to a clearer picture of the periodical as well as a more precise idea of its place in the contemporary scholarly press.

Thomas von der Dunk, Travels to the East: Jacob Otten Husly and other Dutchmen in Bentheim and Burgsteinfurt by the end of the eighteenth century
Tourism is one of the areas of eighteenth-century cultural history which so far has received little attention. The German towns of Bentheim and Burgsteinfurt used to be some of the most popular holiday destinations for Dutch people abroad. One of them was the well-known Amsterdam architect Jacob Otten Husly (1738-1796), who visited both towns, probably in 1792. He used his travel experiences for two lectures he gave at home, in the societies Concordia et Libertate and Felix Meritis. His texts have not survived, but travel reports by contemporaries like the medical doctor and zoölogist Petrus Camper, a friend of Husly’s, make it possible to reconstruct his journey. Burgsteinfurt, a haven of enlightenment in backward Catholic Westphalia, was important to Husly for two reasons. In the first place, this small town functioned in those years as a refuge for Patriots in exile, whose political ideals Husly had championed before 1787. The former law professor Van der Marck of Groningen university, who had been appointed to the local grammar school by Count Ludwig Wilhelm Gelricus of Burgsteinfurt, had become the centre of a club of intellectual exiles. Secondly, as an architect Husly must have been interested in the so-called Bagno, a park recently laid out by the Count with numerous fantastical follies and other attractions. In the summer, a special band gave public concerts which attracted many vistors from the Republic=s eastern provinces. Husly later used his impressions when drawing up designs for the estate of Joachim Plettenberg at Windesheim near Zwolle.

Matthijs van Otegem, The reception of Descartes in Italy 1700-1720
This article discusses the reception of Descartes in Italy between 1700 and 1720. It was thought until recently that the first Italian edition of Descartes dates from 1724: an Italian translation of Principia by Giuseppa Barbapiccola. Elsewhere in Europe, Descartes was known much earlier, and several translations had been published in French, Dutch, English and other languages. The apparently sudden introduction of Descartes in Italy in the vernacular is a anomaly in the European Descartes reception as a whole and can be explained only partly by the strong position of the Catholic church, which had included Descartes’ works in the Index. In Naples, some Cartesian influences may be discerned by the end of the seventeenth century. In the private library of Giuseppe Valletta (1636-1714) forbidden books were available, but it was as yet impossible to publish anything on them. This changed shortly after the turn of the century. Bibliographical research in some libraries in Rome has shown that the translation of Principia was in fact not the first Italian Descartes edition, for even though in both Opuscula (1704) and Meditationes (1709) Amsterdam is given as the place of publication, both were actually printed in Italy. Contrary to what happened in other European countries Cartesian philosophy was introduced in Italy in an opposite direction: not from within the universities to society, but vice versa. The two editions with a false titlepage bear witness to this development, which, until now, we knew little about.


De Achttiende Eeuw 33 (2001) nr.2
Themanummer ‘Zelfmoord in de achttiende eeuw’

René Bosch, Suicide in the eighteenth century: Something about English research by way of introduction
In this introductory piece I will place the articles published in this special issue as well as some earlier comments on suicide in the Dutch republic in the context of the pioneering study by Michael MacDonald and Terence Murphy, Sleepless Souls – Suicide in Early Modern England. In spite of some disagreement about the actual pace of change in the Netherlands, historians tend to agree that both thinking about suicide and the practice of prosecution appear to have developed in the Netherlands in a similar way as in England. Increasingly, during the eighteenth century, authors began to look upon suicides committed by others than indicted criminals as the consequences of mental illness, rather than those of accumulated sin or a lack of religious determination. The state of research in the Netherlands does not allow for a comparison with the findings of MacDonald and Murphy on the prevalence of suicide in terms of gender, age and social class, let alone with those on the motives for suicide. I will touch on suicides in novels and tragedies, suggesting the usefulness of these types of sources.

Peter Buijs, May you blush inwardly about your argument: A 1774 polemic on infanticide and suicide between Petrus Camper and Augustus Sterk
The history of Dutch ideas on suicide between 1660 and 1839 shows a development towards a milder judgement. In this article I will argue that this development is connected with a shift in emphasis, from the moral aspects of suicide to its social consequences, to the practical question of how suicide could be prevented, and to medical aspects. I will concentrate on the first of these three shifts by exploring a polemic about infanticide and suicide that was conducted in 1774 between the medical doctor and professor Petrus Camper and the Lutheran minister Augustus Sterk, in which the social aspect was dealt with for the first time. Camper=s judgement of infanticide was remarkably mild whereas he pleaded for the posthumous dishonouring punishment of suicides to be reintroduced. His opponent Sterk on the other hand was mild toward suicides but less so regarding infantici­de. The uncertainties in their discussion B about the question of whether suicide was or was not punished more mildly, and the question whether punishment would or would not prevent the crime – give evidence of the fact that in the 1770s the general attitude towards suicide was undergoing changes. It is clear, however, that in spite of Camper=s arguments suicide was judged increasingly mildly.

Machiel Bosman, The last suicides to be punished in Amsterdam
Throughout Europe, suicide was considered a serious crime which was punished accordin­gly: after committing suicide people could be burnt, drowned, hung or buried beneath the gallows. Their possessions would often be confiscated. In many European countries this situation changed in the course of the eighteenth century. The penalization of suicide came under discussion during the Enlightenment, and gradually suicides were judged by the spirit rather than the letter of the law. Several historians, however, have pointed out that the Netherlands formed an exception to this rule since the treatment of suicides was never questioned here and as late as 1792, just before French ideals took over, the last person who had killed himself was hung in Amsterdam. All this may be true, but in fact the Republic was at the forefront of decriminalizing suicide in Europe. The Republic distinguished between criminals who killed themselves and other suicides. While the former were still prosecuted in the eighteenth century, the latter, as far as we know, got off. The last conviction of a suicide without a criminal past in Amsterdam took place in 1668. Since the mid-seventeenth century the impunity of suicides without a criminal record was presented by legal scholars in the Republic as a right. They based this judgement on the Romans, who left suicides unpunished unless they were suspected of a crime, in which case their suicide was regarded as a confession and their assets could be confiscated. The Dutch legal scholars= point of view is unique for seventeenth-century Europe: while their colleagues in other countries did not question the penalization of suicide, the practice in this country had already changed. This contribution to the decriminalization of suicide in Europe has as yet been paid too little attention to.

Roel Bosch, ‘Tightrope walkers seldom die in bed…’: Suicide and the Dutch Protestant church
If suicide was a topic in eighteenth-century church practice, it hardly left any traces. Texts by Gisbertus Voetius make it clear that he strongly condemned the act, yet had compassion with the perpetrator, showing understanding for what we would call ‘psychiatric illnesses’. His texts in Dutch, intended to be read by ‘ordinary people’, contain serious warnings against suicide, while his publications in Latin, meant for colleagues, are far more understanding. Roman catholic ethics have a similar moral: suicide that originates in ‘insane mens’ is not regarded as a cardinal sin. By the end of the eighteenth century death is given a place of its own in philosophy and theology, and becomes a loved fiend rather than the fearful, almost devilish figure of the earlier christian tradition. In poems the dying individual is compared to a lark or a butterfly. Such images may diminish the fear of suicide; yet melancholic people will nonetheless be scared of any form of dying. The taboo of death by one’s own hand and the subsequently limited number of sources on this topic make it difficult to formulate any clear conclusions. By gathering seemingly disconnected details regarding suicide from research on other topics we may obtain the beginnings of further investigations.

Anna de Haas, Death in the theatre: the dramatic suicide
This article explores the role of suicide in neo-classicist tragedy in the Netherlands. Dramatic suicides may be divided into two categories according to the way they were judged and presented: (1) altruists, who B nobly B commit suicide for suprapersonal (patriotic) reasons, e.g. Cato of Utica; and (2) egoists, who kill themselves for personal reasons such as thwarted love or ambition. The second category may be subdivided into morally bad egoists B villains, whose suicide is presented as a just punishment, and morally good egoists who are usually only would-be suicides: misled people who merely threaten to commit suicide or whose suicide is prevented just in time. Only good egoists who unwittingly committed a crime were considered to have killed themselves justifiably (e.g. Jocasta). Suicide for reasons of love (e.g. Pyramus and Thisbe) was regarded as outrageous. Although it was assumed that Christian audiences would not mistake the many heathen, mostly Roman suicides for worthy examples, many playtexts included explicit passages about the immorality of suicide. Of the various ways of staging a suicide Bact and death on stage; act and death off stage; act on stage, death off stage; or act off stage, death on stage B the first was rare, the second frequent, the third fairly frequent. The fourth was preferred for altruistic suicides: it allowed for moralistic last words. Around 1760 altruistic suicide came to be viewed as an act of cowardice or madness, while the introduction of new kinds of protagonists B British, Chinese, Peruvians B did not affect the egoists= suicide rate: they were as suicidal as their Roman counterparts. Only Dutch characters never committed suicide on the eighteenth-century Dutch stage.