THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
the credit due to an early pioneer. And if Van Alphen did go outside, it was not because he had overlooked anything that Holland itself might be capable of giving him; in fact, for the first time it might be said that even that mighty duality, Vondel and Hooft, had been looked at in something like true perspective. High praise he did not withhold from these pioneering spirits in turn — "eerste ijsbrekers", as he termed them — but not all their genius could stay the criticism that "hun theorie was gebrekkig", their taste simply "niet fijn en kiesch genoeg": there was but one drastic conclusion to be drawn, and Van Alphen did not hesitate to announce that "wij tot hiertoe in het stuk van poëzy die vordering niet gemaakt hebben, die wij bij onze naburen aantreffen".1 In face of this perspicacious judgment, it seems to me that his translating Riedel's "Theorie der schonen Künsten und Wissenschaften" must be allowed to carry its own justification; nor can this opinion be seriously disturbed even by the acceptance of Ten Brink's view that "het boek van Riedel heeft als aesthetisch geschrift uit de school van Baumgarten in het geheel geene waarde." 2
A man, for the most part, of exact, judicial temper, Van Alphen found in the work of translation an exercise in discipline not unsuited to his taste. But, while allowing that to be so, it was surely nothing short of a stroke of genius that prompted him to provide his translation with a long and informal Introduction — one, indeed, so personally subscribed to as fully to entitle him to a place alongside Potgieter, Busken Huet, Verwey, Kloos, in Holland's short calendar of critics.3 And when one includes with this work the complementary "Digtkundige Verhandelingen", it all begins to assume for Holland
1 "Theorie," Introduction, XI.
2 "Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Letterkunde," p. 571.
3 He is himself at considerable pains to make clear that "hij hier een omwerking geeft en geen vertaling".