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.