MAARTEN MAARTENS (1858-1915)
This month, 100 years ago, Maarten Maartens, the pen-name of Jozua Marius Willem van der Poorten Schwartz, died, on August 3, after a most productive life as a novel writer, playwright and poet. He is mostly known for his 13 novels and 4 short story collections, published by renowned publishing houses in America and England, as well as in Germany.
His legacy is impressive. A Dutchman writing directly in English, he received honorary degrees for his work from Aberdeen University in 1905, and Western University (now Pitt University) in Pennsylvania in 1907. On that occasion he also made a speech to inaugurate the extension of the Carnegy Institute in Pittsburg, on invitation by Andrew Carnegy himself. President Roosevelt received him – and his daughter Ada – for a private conversation about his work at the White House. A picture of the partial Carnegy Institute List of Visiting Guests in 1907 is below.
Maarten Maartens features as the only representative from Holland at this memorable occasion. He and Andrew Carnegy had become close friends while sojourning in the UK.
A copy of his Honorary Degree from Western University is shown hereunder:
The New York Times of Appril 14, 1907 devoted an article with a long interview of Maarten Maartens that particularly referred to his novels as representative of the modern literary instinct moving to realism.
His books are in many libraries – these pictures are of his novels kept in the Library of Congress – and at the time of his writing life it was said that they were always “out” in the libraries of his days.
His life and oeuvre will be commemorated in the Netherlands at his former home, the Maarten Maartens House in Doorn, on September 26. A Symposium will be held where several reputable speakers will remember his works, among others Dr. Hendrik Breuls, who in 2005 received his doctorate at the Technical University of Dresden in Germany, writing his dissertation entitled A Comparative Evaluation of Selected Prose by Maarten Maartens.
The Maarten Maartens House, which he designed himself, still exists and is now owned by a Foundation, The Slotemaker De Bruine Institute, a business training center. Maarten Maartens’ library, which contains his many valuable books collected over his life time, is kept in tact.
The Maarten Maartens House (picture by the Slotemaker de Bruine Institute) is used for functions and meetings. It’s original name, as Maarten Maartens baptized it, was “Zonheuvel” (“Sun hill”)
It is also used for family reunions of the Schwartz family and its many descendants. A picture below is of a family reunion in 1939 or there about. The little boy at the bottom, sitting behind his cousin, with one hand before his eyes, cuddled by two lovely aunts, is me; the three of us on that picture that are the only ones still alive.
Maarten Maartens’ nephew and Dutch painter Michiel Kranendonk ( www.michielkranendonk.nl/)made a wall painting of the house – as it looked like in Maarten Maartens’ days – that hangs in the hall. Part of it is reproduced below:
The Symposium organizers have produced a flyer for the commemoration part of which is shown below.
The aim is to bring Maarten Maartens back to life for a short while. He died with the great satisfaction that his whole oeuvre was reproduced by Constable & Co in London in 1914, an honor few writers befalls. But he also said at that time that he knew quite well that people would not give “a twopence ” if he started writing more. Writers come and go, but at least you can look them up in a library.
To make his writings more accessible, I have summarized his 13 novels in one book, entitled Maarten Maartens Rediscovered – The Most Popular Dutch Author Abroad, using his own writings in the summaries to give a flavor of his style. 19th Century authors used to write longhand, by the petroleum lamp, maybe using a prehistoric typewriter, and their books were often long and sometimes longwinded, which was the style of the day. This meant distilling close to 2 million words to some 164,000 words, while keeping his writing style alive. It got good reviews, fortunately, and is now available on Amazon.com in paperback and hardcover, published by Willow Manor Publishing, Fredericksburg, Virginia (www. willowmanorpublishing.com).
Part II of Maarten Maartens Rediscovered, summarizing his first 1889 self-published novel, an amusing detective-story, reportedly the first of its kind in The Netherlands, and his 4 short story collections, will appear later in 2015.
When we return from the Symposium in Holland, we will produce a full report.
All my best,
SOME WOMEN I HAVE KNOWN – MEMOIR AND ROMANCE
KIRKUS REVIEW; “A WISTFUL MEMOIR…“
AMAZON.COM AND PAPERBACK
ENCHANTING THE SWAN -ROMANCE
KIRKUS REVIEW: “A LIVELY SYMPHONY”
KINDLE AND NOOK, AND IN PAPERBACK
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MAARTEN MAARTENS REDISCOVERED – NON-FICTION: MOST POPULAR DUTCH AUTHOR ABROAD
KIRKUS REVIEW: An…alluring retelling of the works of an obscure author.
Order at Amazon: http://amzn.to/1J51uw7 (paperback and hardcover)
Why I am writing?
To join a masterful Great-Uncle, Joseph M.W. van der Poorten-Schwartz (1858-1915), a Dutchman who wrote bestsellers in the English language one hundred years ago, most of them under the pseudonym “Maarten Maartens.”
His 20 odd books are all stored in the Library of Congress (see picture below) and were widely read in the USA, England and Germany.
Even though born in Amsterdam, Joseph wrote in English because he spent his early youth in London where his father, Carl August Ferdinand Schwartz – my great-grandfather – was appointed reverend of the Free Church of Scotland. English became Joseph’s second language.
Maarten Maartens’s novels were popular in the USA and England because they dealt with “the psychological and moral questions of conscience…as at the time there was a growing tendency to devote attention to the psychological problem play and novel” (quoted from Hendrik Breuls in his Doctoral Thesis “Author in Double Exile, The Literary Appreciation of Maarten Maartens” – 1985, later completed as his 2005 Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Dresden, Germany, entitled “A comparative Evaluation of Selected Prose by Maarten Maartens”). Maarten Maartens is especially known for his sharp characterizations and caricatures of certain professions.
Hendrik Breuls starts his 1985 thesis with one of many worthy Maarten Maartens quotes, which are as good a perception of the needed writing skill as we find in today’s essays on good writing: “If you want to be heard by your own generation” (and that is his, one hundred years ago) “never say in three words what you can say in six, and if you want to be listened to by all future generations, never say in six words what you can say in three.”
Uncle Joe made tons of money from his books and built a huge mansion for himself, his wife and one daughter in a wooded area near Utrecht, not far from Amsterdam, baptized “De Zonheuvel” (The Sunny Hill). A nephew of mine, Michiel Kranendonk, a currently renowned Dutch painter in Holland whose mother is Marie Kranendonk-Schwartz, created a mural painting of the “Maarten Maartens House” in the hall (see partial picture below). At the back of the house featured a meticulously maintained “French Garden” with remembrances of the Chateau “Versailles”. The house is currently a Foundation and occupied by the Institute “Slotemaker de Bruine Institute” (SBI).
In 2015, Maarten Maartens’ one hundred year anniversary will be remembered to revive interest in the works of this forgotten prolific author.
More on this – and on painter Michiel Kranendonk – in a future Blog.