THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
"age of prose and reason", it is more that poetry so lamentably declined from the lofty Vondelian Standard than that there was produced a period of severe, organizing discipline, an appraisement of the past, a saving of "the sum of things" for treatment in fresh and witty prose. To be blunt about it, the literature produced was almost entirely imitated from French and English sources. England it was that provided most of the prose models — for "De Hollandsche Spectator" of Justus van Effen and all the provincial "Robinson Crusoes" that arose, on Walcheren island, in The Hague city, and across in Friesland, and for the sentimental, Richardsonian roman in brieven. What poetry there was came through France, exposing the pseudo-classic nature of the entire movement.
Faced with the wholesale declinature of Dutch poetry there should be consolation in Professor Oliver Elton's remark that "the literary glory of Flolland during this period is to be found in her hospitalities; her intellectual glory in her men of sceince".1 But it can be no more than of a negative kind. It clearly meant for literature that French classicism, already growing, received an incalculable accession of strength from the exodus of Huguenots consequent upon the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. It almost meant that with the passing of the patriotic stroomgedicht, "De Ystroom", there was nowhere left for the native springs of Dutch poetry to flow, so that they must inevitably lose themselves in conflict with the spreading sands of Gallic influence and taste. For this sad fate, however, it will not do to lay the full blame on the French, visiting or otherwise. The plain, unvarnished fact is that the poets of Holland at this time seemed themselves suicidally determined to suppress all national forces and inspirations, to sacrifice their very birth-right on the altar of the misunderstood classical Unities.
1 "The Augustan Ages" — "Periods of European Literature", Vol. VIII, p. 374.