« AnteriorContinuar »
A Word by way of preface is requisite, if only to explain to the reader, who may take up this volume without recalling its place in a series, why there is no chapter on Spain in a history of European literature during the first half of the seventeenth century. The present writer undertook his task on the understanding that the Spanish literature of the epoch was covered by Mr Hannay's chapters in The Later Henaissance. It was explained there that the principle of overlapping, which must be admitted in any attempt to divide European literature into epochs, is specially applicable to the case of Spain; and the six chapters devoted to the literature of Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in that volume preclude the necessity of treatment in this.
The same principle has been applied, to a certain extent, in the chapters on Dutch literature, with which this volume opens. Some passing references there have been to the literature of the Low Countries in previous volumes, but it has. been thought well to give something of a connected sketch of the earlier literature at this point, when that literature forms an important and independent ganglion in the general European system. The mediaeval literature of the Low Countries is doubtless sufficiently interesting to deserve fuller treatment; but it is, in the main, a literature of translation and imitation from the French, with some notable exceptions. This fact may serve as an excuse for the slight sketch of the subject given here—a sketch which, to be intelligible, should be read in close connection with what has been written about mediaeval and fifteenth-century literature in earlier volumes of the series. I have reserved the larger portion of the space at my disposal for the period in which the Dutch, having shaken off the Spanish yoke, created for themselves a national literature and a national art.
My work in these chapters, as in those on other foreign literatures, is based on the researches of native scholars, whose results I have endeavoured to present in the light which seemed to me likely to prove most useful and interesting to the reader for whom this series is principally intended—the English student of comparative literature. I had begun my work before I realised that Dutch literature deserved a fuller treatment than had been given to it in other volumes, and it was perhaps rash to venture on the task. I felt tempted to undertake it from an interest in the Dutch people dating back to earliest years, when the harbour of my native town was crowded with Dutch fishing - boats every summer, and its narrow streets thronged with their picturesque costumes. If my chapters fail to satisfy a specialist, perhaps a less critical and exacting reader may derive interest from what, in its preparation, ha3 given myself great pleasure. Holland has no Dante or Shakespeare or Goethe, for the sake of whom alone it would be worth while to study the language in which he wrote, but to the lover of lyrical poetry the work of Hooft and Vondel will give some fresh and intense experiences.
I have indicated in the bibliographical notes the authors on whose work mine is based. But I have received in addition personal encouragement and advice. On the occasion of two short calls, Professor Te Winkel of Amsterdam spoke to me regarding books that would be useful. But my chief debt is to Professor Kalff of Leyden. During two visits to Leyden —one of a fortnight's and one of a month's duration— he introduced me to the University library, in which are stored the books of the Maatschaapij van Nederlandsche Letterkunde, gave me the benefit of his advice on any point regarding which I consulted him, and every possible assistance. He has added to his kindness by reading my pages when in proof, and correcting some errors into which I had fallen. Imperfect as my chapters are, they would have been much more so without his advice and correction. My debt to his written work is clear from the notes. I only regret that the first volume of his new Gesckiedenis der Nederlandsche Letterkunde did not reach me until my work was in type.
At the same time, Professor Kalff is not to be held in any way responsible either for the manner in which I have treated the subject, for my generalisations, or for my criticisms of individual authors and works, with which he would not always be in agreement. These, be they right or wrong, are the fruit of my own reading, at any rate in the case of the principal authors dealt with. When I have not had time or opportunity to make an independent study of lesser authors, I have tried to indicate in the text the source of any criticism passed upon them. As regards quotation, my plan has been to keep to the original when metre was what I wished to draw attention to. When the sentiment is of importance, I have ventured to translate, believing it would be merely pedantic to assume any such general knowledge of the Dutch language as of French and German, or even Italian. The translations are as close as I could make them, while endeavouring to retain something of the spirit and movement of the original.
As to other literatures, I have indicated in the notes my guides and authorities, and need here only mention some personal aiders. My debt to my teacher, the late Professor Minto, is not covered by the references to his printed work. I have known no one with saner views of the aim and methods of literary history. In him the aesthetic, the historical, and the philosophical critic were happily blended, no one usurping upon the other. In studying the Italian literature of the period, I received much assistance, and advice as to recent work on the subject, from Professor John Purves of the Technical Institute, Johannesburg, formerly English Assistant in the University of Aberdeen, who came to Aberdeen straight from Italy,