Do you ever feel that you can talk to your ancestors?
I do. I didn’t think I ever would when I was young. But once your life progresses and you become more aware of life’s fate of family and close friends passing, you begin to think about where they went. They can’t just have gone away when you still feel their presence.
This happens to me with several people who have been instrumental or influential in my life. You still feel their heartbeat, you hear their speech, you know they’re in your room as if listening in, wanting to continue partaking in your life. My grandmother, my mother, Fioen, the girl who gave me my first kiss and died in a dreadful accident when she was 16 years old; and my dear cousin intended co-writer, Anne van der Laan.
It happened again when I dwelled in the library and workroom of my great-uncle Joost, or Joshua van der Poorten Schwartz, alias Maarten Maartens – the once-famous Dutch writer who wrote primarily in English at the turn of the 19th and 20th century – in his splendid house in Doorn, a small town in the Netherlands. I had visited this workroom many times before, always impressed by its serenity and literary wealth, with the many old books in French, English, German and even Latin and Greek, filling the shelves along the walls.
In 2002. I sat at his writing desk and suddenly felt Uncle Joost “speaking” to me. “Pick up your pen and write. Do as I did and feel fulfilled.” To my regret, I did not follow his gentle push right away as I was still fully absorbed by my consulting demands. However, a cousin, who had also been in that room at that time, and felt the same way, agreed with me to outline our first book together, entitling it Some Women We Have Known after the title of our uncle’s first volume of published short stories. Then he passed away before we could finish it and again on my next visit to Maarten Maartens’ desk I felt his strong urge, “John, you go on. Don’t let this fail.”
I started with short stories in English about each woman I had selected for this purpose. Audrey Hepburn, whom I had known when we were kids, she 13 and I 7, was the first. Eventually, these stories became a coming-of-age and early-adult memoir, ending with my marriage, this time keeping the same title as Maarten Maartens’ first short story volume, Some Women I Have Known.
After I climbed that first hurdle – everyone who writes knows that a first book is a hurdle – I wrote my first novel, Enchanting The Swan, about a musician couple whose love goes wrong before it gets right. It’s quite a dramatic tale, starting at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and from there to Brussels, Geneva and New York. Even though it is written in the first person, it is pure fiction, except for the description of the hall of Baron Maconville’s house in Waterloo: as close a description as possible of the antiques in the hall of Uncle Joost’s house. It had to be based on memory: when I went back to the house to verify my memory, all the antiques had disappeared (harnasses, musquet rifles fixed to the ceiling in a perfect circle, little canons, and other collections from North Africa where the Maartens traveled – see the picture below in Th. M. Gorissen’s book Maarten Maartens, 1992). For some sad reason and madness, they had been removed. Nobody could tell me how that happened and where they went, but it had to have had the approval of the then managing committee (including family) responsible for the upkeep of Maartens’ library. Shame. If I had still been in Holland, that would never have occurred.
At the stage of writing Swan, I strongly believed Uncle Joost communicated with me. In 2013, my sister Mary Kranendonk and I and a small group of family members decided to celebrate Maarten Maartens’ one-hundred-year passing in 1915. I heard this voice in me to write a summarization of his 13 novels and his 4 volumes of published short stories. By reading his work, often twice, to enable me to commingle my summarizations with passages of his own writing, I bonded with this long-gone family member-writer and now feel that I’ve known him all my life. When I am in his workroom, I don’t feel like an outsider. I am part of him. Other learned people may have studied his work and life, and analyzed it, but nobody ever made his works available in a contemporary format that allows family and interested readers to enjoy Maarten Maartens’ writing without having to read his sometimes lengthy 19th century style in full, that is, if they can still find them in antique bookstores or libraries.
The One-Hundred-Year Commemoration of Maarten Maartens in September 2015 became a very successful event, thanks to the hard work of a small dedicated group of family members who spent many months preparing it (see a previous blog in November 2015, describing the festivity). It gave us a feeling we had revived his memory and done him right.
Living in the US, I wanted to go back to Uncle Joost’s house once more. My sister and I decided to celebrate our 80th birthday there in July 2017 (she a half-year ahead and I a half-year past). This scribbler went “home” to the Maarten Maartens House to pay his respect and express his gratitude while at the same time celebrating a life with many family members and friends (the subject of a next blog). For me, as a modest scribbler with no fame, it was also a day of reconnecting with an uncle who had instilled in me the joy of authoring stories.
Soon to come:
Francine – Dazzling Daughter of the Mountain State: She rises to the top of a mining conglomerate, demobilizes the anti-mining lobby, but will she save the company and find love in the meantime?
On July 5, 2016, Dr. Taru Spiegel, Reference Specialist of the European Division of the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., received John Schwartz to transmit two recent books with love stories written by Maarten Maartens, a nineteenth-century Dutch author writing in English. Maarten Maartens, alias Joost Marius Willem van der Poorten Schwartz (1858-1915) – a great-uncle of John Schwartz – wrote 13 novels and four volumes of short stories in English and became very famous with it. Ted Roosevelt received him – and his daughter – at the White House in 1907. He received an honorary degree at Western University in Pittsburg in 1907 and a similar award together with Thomas Hardy at Aberdeen University in Scotland in 1905. He lived in Doorn in the center of The Netherlands but frequently traveled to England to mingle with other well-known literary authors and critics, who became close friends.
The books transmitted were entitled “At Home and Abroad – Stories of Love”, a collection of 33 short stories Maarten Maartens published in various reputable magazines and compiled by Dr. Bouwe Postmus on behalf of the Maarten Maartens Foundation in Doorn, and “Maarten Maartens Rediscovered – Part II – His Best Short Stories” by John Schwartz. The latter is a summarization of the four volumes of short stories which Maarten Maartens published with various reputable English, American, and German publishing houses.
In November 2015, the LOC formally received “Maarten Maartens Rediscovered – Part I,” by John Schwartz, which is a summarization of Maarten Maartens’ 13 novels.
These summarizations contain much of Maarten Maartens’ own writing to give readers a flavor of the author’s outstanding talent. The same method was followed in the summarization of the short stories, although a few were so well written that they are fully reproduced. The LOC was particularly pleased to add the book by Bouwe Postmus to their Maarten Maartens collection because it was new material.
Above: Maarten Maartens 13 novels and 4 volumes of short stories, and “Letters by Maarten Maartens,” compiled by his daughter Ada van der Poorten Schwartz. Of course, at the top of the photo, the word “No” is missing from the “Food or Drink permitted.”
The Library of Congress, formally The Thomas Jefferson Building, is a very special place characterized by its famous Dome. First of all, it is the solemn silence that reigns in the reading and working rooms and that constitutes the prominent atmosphere in which researchers and readers can work productively, and “Forgotten Writers” such as Maarten Maartens can be studied and reside in peace. No cell phones, no picture taking, except in the public areas. Here follow a few pictures I could take as a “privileged visitor” of the areas where the public can’t go.
First, a few murals painted by the Brazilian painter Cândido Portinari in the Hispanic Reading Room, showing the arrival of Hispanic peoples in America, and the poster indicating we are in the European Division where Maarten Maartens’ books are kept.
Following are pictures of the main reading room, taken from inside the Valhalla of the LOC through a glass wall looking out.
Below the magnificently sculptured clock “Flight of Time” by John Flanagan that took seven years to complete and was shipped in parts from Paris before being installed in the Library when the reading room was finally finished in 1902. It is not unlikely that Maarten Maartens when visiting the White House in 1907 also visited this building.
Below a few pictures of the Hall of the LOC where tourists dwell and make numerous photographs.
We end with a view of the Washington Monument and the Capitol seen from the LOC.
All in all, a nice place for Maarten Maartens to be interred: in quiet and with friends who appreciate him.
You think today’s poet’s hardship, suffering and publishing ordeal is any different from 100 years ago? Maarten Maarten’s short story (from The Women’s Victory and Other Stories–1906, London Archibald Constable & Co Ltd) about “A Drop of Blood” proves it was just the same. This is how the story starts:
He was very poor. Shade of the man, with the ass’s ears, how poor he was! Yet everything he touched, with that wonderful touch of his, turned to gold. Only it was not the kind of gold you buy bread for.
It was of the kind in which the sun pays his tribute to the Almighty. We all pay our tribute: the sun pays in gold and the nightingale in notes. And the potentates of the earth pay in blood–their brothers’; and the poets pay in blood–their own.
He had married Celestine Michelet because he worshipped the very ground she trod on. So he came to the conclusion that they might as well tread it together. He was too poor himself to notice how poor she was.
His name is Anastase; an impossible name, Maarten Maartens writes. Anastase and Celestine, a beautiful girl he married at the age of 19, live in Paris, in a cheaply rented
“dingy barrack, close to the Grand’rue de Passy. Their street still stands; it is broad, banal, a cul-de sac. Children Play and shriek in it. Thank God for that…From the little stucco balcony you could catch a glimpse, by craning, of a dozen trees of the Bois de Boulogne, at La Muette, and on your other side the glittering needles of the Trocadero soared, gaunt, into the sky. Said Anastase, “Nature to the left of me, Paris to the right of me, God overhead.”
(A left click on the pictures will enlarge most except those taken from internet sources, then click the back space at the top left and you are back in the blog).
Anastase works in a bookshop, selling paper and pens, and for the rest reads books from its library section, and buys copybooks to scribble his verses in the evening. His wages are a hundred francs a month which was not much one hundred years ago. The bookstore owner says:
“You should compose songs such as I sang in my youthful days, about springtide, and kisses, and pretty women…Or Mon premier Crime, it’s torn to tatters. Write a book like that and you will have to sweep out shops no more…It’s twenty-seven years since I began this library. If you look down the lists and find that poetry hasn’t been asked for twice during all that period, will you sit down, like a good boy, to-night and try to write a story?”
“I am not a novelist,” replied Anastase.
“Bonheur qui passe!
Amour qui lasse!
Rien ne nous reste que notre douleur.
Mais dan la vie,
Qui pleure prie
Tout ce qui prie a des larmes au Coeur.”
The couple gets a daughter, named Lina, and she is underfed because of the couple’s poverty. But Anastase shall write poetry because he is not a novelist; he insists.
“I am a poet, a poet only, a poet by the grace of God. It is not arrogance to say that, for the gift is God’s, not mine. Celestine, do not desert me. Let us have a little patience! Let us wait for the answer from Pinard. This time perhaps, he will take the ‘Chants de Bataille.’ He ought to take them; they are beautiful.”
And a little bit later when they are arguing about the scarce money, how to feed the baby and make ends meet, and Celestine tries to make him write prose, he exclaims: “I am a poet. I cannot help it. I speak in verse.”
Anastase writing and Celestine looking on
Anastase has sent his new manuscript of poetry entitled “Estrelle” to a renowned publisher, the Revue, and waits day by day for the postman to bring a favorable response, but nothing comes. Celestine spurs him to write romances; are those writers not millionaires? Anastase considers them rascals, but the delay in hearing something positive gnaws at his nerves day and night. Then finally the answer comes: the publisher writes he accepts ‘Estrelle’ but on a condition:
“Up to the last few pages you run on without a flaw, but there, at the end, comes your fatal mistake. Virtue triumphs, and your heroine is good, and prude, as a charity-schoolgirl. That for our public, is a little too–how shall I say?–unfresh. Consider–you whose literary taste is manifest–how much more ‘seizing’ would be the finale, if you sent down Estrelle to her husband, guilty and smiling, as he! Besides, a woman, to repent in literature, must first have actually sinned…Will you have the story back to alter it, or will you leave the matter to me?…
The publisher has his limits: “the popular taste.” He offers Anastase 250 francs, which is more than twice his monthly salary, earned in one evening writing, if he rewrites the end. But Anastase does not want to prostitute his “child.”
Then their daughter Lina falls ill of undernourishment and might well die if she does not get better food. Anastase sits in front of his manuscript, which the publisher has returned. He can’t change it and hands it to Celestine.
“Take it,” he said, in a whisper. “Send it. But to-night. And tell him to do it. One life for another. It is just.”
She took the papers in her hand, without a word, and, holding them tightly clenched against her breast, she went away into the inner room. To the child.
She had carried the lamp in yonder. They had only one. And he remained sitting by the table, with his face sunk forward upon both hands. In the dark.
So Anastase felt forced to heed the popular taste, but did not have the courage nor the spirit to do it himself, and sent Celestine on her mission to the mailbox. It reminds me of a Writers Digest Conference where we were discussing whether writers should write for the market. I had asked Jeff Klein, a well-known literary agent in New York, who presided over the work group, and he said “No! You write what you must write and write the best book (or poetry, I presume) you can.” It was not really a true answer. I am afraid, nothing has changed since Anastase saw the light in the dark. Literary agents must live from your royalty and find a publisher who wants to buy your book or poems, publishers must recoup the cost of printing in the hope to make some money, and “the audience” – well they, whoever they are, have nothing to lose and only buy what they want to read and when–at a discount. If it’s you, lucky you!!!
Yes, indeed. That’s him at 18, then and now, 79. It feels like a hundred! Just got back from The Netherlands where we commemorated the writing life of The Most Popular Dutch Author Abroad, Maarten Maartens, alias Joost van der Poorten Schwartz, who passed away 100 years ago.
Will I be commemorated in one hundred years? You? He or she? Maybe some great-grandchildren may vaguely remember John Schwartz. But I don’t count on being talked about, let alone celebrated.
Well, Maarten Maartens was, on September 26-27, in Doorn, a small but elite village near Utrecht in the center of Holland.
Some 150 people came to listen to several speakers who spoke about the writer’s life and vision, his religious background and the sense of moral conflict in his oeuvre, his care for his sickly wife Anna and love for his daughter Ada, his many friends in England and the United States, and the strange rebuke of his native land. His keen sense for art, languages and the written word pictured a remarkable man, a poet, playwright and philosopher. So many things combined in one person to admire. Few of us achieve what he did.
His former residence, “Zonheuvel” (Sun Hill), designed by himself according to similar old stately mansions in the Netherlands he had lived in, was full with people, taking a glimpse of how he lived, at the dining room with the grand, the salon, card room, and his famous library with the many ancient books he acquired.
In succession, the residence, the dining room with the grand piano, the library and the garden, which used to be a French garden inspired by the Chateau de Versailles. Unfortunately, some of the old furniture and curios, especially in the dining room and the hall, which contained a wonderful collection of old rifles, swords and harnesses, are not there anymore, as they were removed from the premises. I still remember them when I visited the house as a kid. I used this memory to describe the residence of Baron de Maconville in my novel Enchanting The Swan. Pictures in a little book put together by Th. M. Gorissen, show how it was, originally. I am still mad as hell these items were sold or taken away after I had left the Netherlands in 1969, but the Maartens Library is kept in tact by the Slotemaker De Bruine Institute (SBI)
Reception Committee (Lucie Wessels, left, and Itje Verhagen, right, both of SBI) at the Poort House, entrance to the Maarten Maartens House.
Mr. Jurriaan Röntgen, chairman of the organizing committee who put together the MM Symposium weekend, with next to him Dr. Bouwe Postmus, President of the Maarten Maartens Foundation, and Mr. Jan Willem van Dongen, Mayor of Doorn and the Utrecht Hills Region, at the inauguration of the Maarten Maartens Allée, underneath the Poort House at the entrance of the Maarten Maartens House.
Next, a glimpse of the author’s writing desk in his library full of valuable ancient books, with some interesting people taking seat behind it.
Dr. Hendrik Breuls, who wrote his doctoral dissertation about Maarten Maartens, and his wife, Anna-Christina; both spoke at the Symposium.
Two of Maarten Maartens’ great grand nieces, Marinke Kranendonk and Lily Gabizon. “Some Women!”
First left: Marie Kranendonk-Schwartz, grand-niece of Maarten Maartens. Second photograph, right, Dr. Bouwe Postmus, who collected Maarten Maartens’ short stories (which I consider his greatest strengths), published in English and American magazines, in a new volume At Home and Abroad, Stories of Love (2015 – Stichting Maarten Maartens, The Netherlands; ISBN 978 90 9029026 3).
Maaren Maartens’ quotes displayed in his library
An old organ in the house
The oldest living “Schwartz” in the Salon, Mrs. Hans Wichers Hoedt – van der Laan, daughter of Marietje Schwartz, a sister of Maarten Maartens.
Pianist Shuann Chai, who performed during the evening concert in the “Maartenskerk” (Maartens Church) in Doorn, with narrator Huib Ramaer, who linked together the various sonnets and poems by Maarten Maartens and others, put to music by among others Dutch composer René Samson.
Mattijs van de Woerd, baritone, right, who performed the MM sonnets, as well as other songs by Edward Elgar, Frank Bridge, Ralph Vaughan Williams and William Walton, written by English authors such as John Keats, William Thackeray, Thomas Hardy and Rudyard Kipling, with whom Maarten Maartens entertained regular contacts during his life.
Dutch composer René Samson, with pianist Shuann Chai and baritone Mattijs van de Woerd, enjoying warm applause for their marvelous performance.
Painter Michiel Kranendonk explaining how he constructed the wall-painting of the Maarten Maartens Huis, which is displayed in the nearby Paviljoen building (Zonheuvel Hotel) on the grounds.
Maarten Maartenshuis painted by Michiel Kranendonk
Eymert van Manen, co-founder of the Foundation of the Crowned Falcon, the former trademark of Van Vollenhoven’s Beer, during the MM-luncheon, savoring recipes from Maarten Maartens’ cookbook. The Foundation recreated the Crowned Falcon’s famous Stout in 2006, and re-established the Falcon on its pillar in Amsterdam at the previous location of the brewery, which was the main source of wealth of Maarten Maartens and his wife Anna van Vollenhoven at the turn of the 20th century (see related blogs under tags Van Vollenhoven’s Stout and Eymert van Manen). The Stout, which has been renewed each year since its inauguration, will be commercially produced shortly by a renewed Van Vollenhoven’s Beer brewery.
Mrs. van Manen, Junte Schwartz and cousin Hans Wichers Hoedt,
Anne van Delft, narrator, presents the writings of Maarten Maartens in one of the stately rooms of the Maarten Maartens House.
Jurriaan Röntgen, chairman of the MM-Commemoration Committee, left with his wife Aleid on a baclony of the Maarten Maartens House, and right, in conversation with painter Michiel Kranendonk and Henriette van Zwet- de Savornin Lohman, member of the Organizing Committee.
Showcases with curios related to Maarten Maartens, his life, his work. Middle photo on the right, Mrs Henriette van Zwet-de Savornin Lohman, member of the Organizing Committee, explaining the contents.
Mrs. Marie Kranendonk-Schwartz, grand niece of Maarten Maartens, and member of the MM Organizing Committee, giving her speech on the occasion of the Maarten Maartens Symposium, with her daughter Sascha Gabizon in the background, smiling.
Mr. Jan Nierman, spouse of Alexandra Röntgen, sister of the organizer of the MM commemoration, Jurriaan Röntgen, inspecting the Schwartz Family Tree; what a job to put that one together!
John Schwartz, grand nephew of Maarten Maartens, author of Maarten Maartens Rediscovered (2015, WillowManorPublishing.com). Part Two, His Best Short Stories, a summarization of his four collections of published short stories, will appear in 2016.
On September 25, 2015, a great forgotten writer will be remembered in Holland at this historic mansion in Doorn, in the province of Utrecht. Maarten Maartens, alias Jozua van der Poorten Schwartz, who between 1889 and 1912 published 13 novels and four volumes of short stories, authoring them directly in English even though he was a born Dutchman, died 100 years ago, in 1915, just after his whole oeuvre was reissued by Constable & Co. in London in 2014, an honor few authors befalls.
Flying to Amsterdam from Washington Dulles last night, I saw a British-American 2015 movie, Far From the Madding Crowd, based on the 1874 novel by the British author Thomas Harding. Thomas Harding and Maarten Maartens were friends. Both were honored in 1905 at the same time with honorary doctorates bestowed on them by Aberdeen University. I was struck by how well Harding’s novel was adapted and acted out. A gripping movie. Go see it and you will agree.
At the same time I thought how well some of Maarten Maartens novels could be worth a movie. In particular his novel Dorothea, about a pristine young woman, whose mother died giving her birth. She leaves Dorothea most of her substantial estate and money because her husband Captain Sandring is a gambling soldier and womanizer. The Captain leaves Dorothea in the hands of two strict Protestant aunts0, who immerse her in Bible texts. When she reaches the age of twenty, her estranged father commands her to join him Paris. He exposes her to the decadent world of Nice, Cannes and Monte Carlo in the hope to marry her out for money so he can gamble with hers. This does not work out the way he planned and the ensuing story, especially Dorothea’s wretched marriage, is most engaging.
Another novel good for a movie is The Price of Lis Doris, about a gifted painter like Van Gogh, whose work is stolen by his drawing master Odo Pareys. Odo threatens to do harm to Yetta, Otto’s wife and Lis’s protector in their early youth. If Lis ever tells anybody it was not Odo but Lis who painted these masterworks, Yetta will suffer. The whole plot is worth a thrilling movie.
I felt lucky that the Higher Powers pushed me to make summarizations of his novels, often long in the style of the nineteenth-century, to lift his work out of oblivion, so that people studying 19th century authors, or even my own off-spring and their future generations, could enjoy his original stories and taste his fluent writing style and sharp dialogues. After reading his novels, I began to understand his deserved acclaim in the USA, UK and Germany at his time.
His first book was a detective story, The Black-box Murder, written anonymously by “The Man Who Discovered the Murder.” He wrote and self-published it after he read a then popular detective story while sojourning in Paris, The Mystery of a Hanson Cab, just to show he could write as well as anybody else. And he proved right. The Black-box Murder is still sold by Print On Demand companies through among others Abebooks.com. It is a lightly written mystery thriller, and several of his next books retain a mystery murder twist as in The Sin of Joost Avelingh and God’s Fool.
Maarten Maartens Rediscovered – The Most Popular Dutch Author Abroad was published in August 2015.
Kirkus Reviews gave it a commendable critique which was published in the Kirkus Magazine of September of the same year, something that only happens to less than 10 % of their reviews.
Part II, The Short Stories, which are summarizations of his four volumes of collected short stories, will appear in November/December of 2015.
A great writer not to be forgotten!