Holland's Influence on English Language and Literature

Tiemen de Vries


IN the following pages an endeavor is made to contribute to the knowledge of English language and literature by telling the part which Holland played in their development during several centuries. This contribution to English language and literature I make with especial delight, since the English language is that of the American people, and consequently the literature, written in that language, is of the greatest educational importance to the United States. In doing this, I have tried to reconcile my allegiance and faithfulness to the ‘stars and stripes’ with my imperishable love for the country of my ancestors. My endeavor has been to portray so much of Dutch national life and activity as has been useful and is still useful for our present American life. The life of every American citizen is rooted in the life of one or the other European nation and there is none living that does not feel some hidden love in the bottom of his heart for that country from which either he himself or his ancestors came. He that would deny it would give a poor compliment to his own character, education and feelings. We are always standing between the future and the past; and the love for our ancestors, for the country of their activities, for the places where they are resting after their labors, is as natural as our love for our children and grandchildren.

So the problem of the twofold sympathy must present itself more or less to every American, and the way I have tried to solve it, as I hope to the honor of both my old country and our new world, may possibly give a hint to those who apparently were not able to find the right equilibrium in their love as divided between the country of their ancestors and that of their offspring in the future. Those who are too much attached to the old country will never become really faithful to the new, and will themselves remain strangers in this country. Those that boast of their indifference about the land of their ancestors are depriving their own character of one of the noblest and most charming qualities: love and honor for their ancestors. The solution is in finding, honoring and remembering the best of what the old country has produced in civilization, in learning, in art and literature, in heroism and martyrdom, and in offering that as a contribution to the national life of the new world, giving honor to the past and blessing to the future. Not in preferring the old world to the new, but in making the best results of European life useful for the American nation, in combining what is beautiful and useful in both of them, lies the solution that alone can satisfy our noblest feelings in this tender question. That is what, as far as Holland's influence on English and American language and literature is concerned, I have tried to do.

It is only an endeavor, and as such I hope that it may find appreciation.
Finally, I may not omit here the expression of my cordial thanks to Dr. W. Lichtenstein, librarian of Northwestern University, for the kindness and helpfulness with which he and his staff have assisted me in getting the books which I needed, and for the special freedom which he has given me in the use of the library.

T. de Vries.

Evanston, Ill., May, 1916.