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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Maarten Maartens (J. M. W. van der Poorten Schwartz) (1858–1915)
Critical and Biographical Introduction by William Sharp (1855–1905)
THERE are few authors of the day more widely popular with the English-reading public all over the world than the now celebrated Anglo-Dutch romancist, Maarten Maartens. It is interesting to note that the testimony of many of the leading librarians, both in America and Great Britain, is to the effect that few if any novels are in such steady demand throughout the year as those of the able writer just named.  1
  This is the more interesting from the fact that Mr. Maartens is, as his name applies, a foreigner; and the more remarkable because that he, a Hollander, does not (as commonly supposed) translate his original Dutch MS. into English, but writes at first hand in his adopted language. Naturally, after he had first won reputation, there was a general idea that his books were successful romances in Holland itself, and that they had been translated into English as a venture, and as it proved, a successful venture. As a matter of fact, it is only quite recently that Maarten Maartens’s novels have appeared in the Dutch language in Holland. For long his own countrymen, curious as to his writings, had to procure his books from the Tauchnitz Library, or else to purchase English copies. One might well wonder why a novelist should have so little heed for reputation in his own country. Perhaps it is because of too keen a recognition of the fact that a prophet is not without honor save in his own land; perhaps it is because the small Dutch public in little Holland is infinitesimal in comparison with that in America and Great Britain, to say nothing of Australia and Canada; perhaps—and indeed, here we have the real cause, I understand—it is because Maarten Maartens has depicted certain aspects of Dutch life only too vividly and exactly,—written them, in fact, with all the verve and detachment from parochial partialities which might be expected of a foreigner rather than of a native. It is said that Mr. Maartens would not have agreed to a Dutch reissue of his books at all, were it not for the fact that in the absence of a copyright law to protect his interests, translations might well appear, and of course be wholly unsatisfactory to him from every point of view. It is commonly understood that the accomplished wife of the popular novelist, who is as notable a linguist as he is himself, and indeed born with the gift of tongues, is responsible for the translation into Dutch of those several romances which have won so much recognition among the English-speaking peoples. The author, of course, has revised them; but to all intents and purposes we have the strange, and perhaps unexampled, instance of a romancist choosing to write wholly for the foreign public.  2
  Not that any one meeting Mr. Maartens for the first time would consider him a foreigner. Both in appearance and in manner, as well as in speech, he suggests an Englishman of a very recognizable type; and when he and his wife, as frequently happens, are in London, there is nothing outwardly to distinguish them from scores of their friends and acquaintances. Recently I saw a so-called authentic account of this writer. It stated that Mr. Maartens was the son of a Dutch peasant of that name, and that his books had long enjoyed a remarkable popularity in Holland. The latter misapprehension has already been set right. As to the first misstatement, that too is easily corrected; for “Maarten Maartens” is merely a pen-name, and belongs, so far as Mr. Maartens himself knows, to no industrious peasant or to anybody else in particular—though of course a fairly common name in Holland. How wise the adoption of a good pseudonym was, is at once evident when we know the real name of the novelist. It is only his intimate friends, however, who know the novelist as Mynheer van der Poorten Schwartz. To correspondents in general, as well as to the outer world, he is invariably Maarten Maartens.  3
  J. M. W. van der Poorten Schwartz, to give him his native name once more, was born in Amsterdam on the 15th of August, 1858. He has, with his wife, traveled much; and this is perhaps one reason why they both speak Dutch, German, French, Italian, and English with facility and intimate knowledge. Although so English in his tastes, and so largely English by his interests, Mr. Maartens in his private life is primarily a Dutch gentleman. True, he has incurred a good deal of dislike, and even given serious offense, to many of his compatriots by what they consider his undue or disproportionate representation of Dutch life; but his neighbors at least do not hesitate to be glad that he is one of their number, and that he takes part in the busy communal life which is the general ideal in Holland. Maarten Maartens, who is now in the prime of life, lives for the greater part of the year—that is, when he is not traveling abroad—in a beautiful house near the ancient city of Utrecht.  4
  The first of his books to attract wide public attention—and I understand, the first that he wrote—is the moving story entitled ‘The Sin of Joost Avelingh.’ Almost at once this clever and fascinating study of human motives working out towards an inevitable end attracted the notice both of the critics and of the reading world. ‘The Sin of Joost Avelingh’ was successful from the first; and every one was asking who the new novelist with a foreign-sounding name was, and what else he was going to give us. This book was followed by ‘An Old Maid’s Love,’ which had for sub-title ‘A Dutch Tale told in English.’ In actual craft of writing, this reserved and almost austere romance displays a marked advance upon its predecessor in certain points of style; it had not, however, the same success. This was reserved for ‘God’s Fool,’ which both serially and in volume form was read and admired everywhere. The novelist’s growing reputation was still further enhanced by what many people consider his best book, ‘The Greater Glory.’ This “story of high life” was actually written in 1891, and revised in 1892, though it did not appear in an English magazine—Temple Bar—until the winter of 1893–4. Early in 1894 it appeared in the then conventional three-volume form, and in the autumn was issued in a popular one-volume series. Serially, it appeared in America in the Outlook; and besides the authorized edition there have been several pirated issues. So early as 1894 also it was added, in two volumes, to the famous Continental Series of Baron Tauchnitz.  5
  Mr. Maartens has written several other romances than these; and indeed we have come to look for at least one book yearly from him. But in those named the reader will find all his characteristics adequately represented. He is a writer with a grave sense of his responsibility to the public. Conscientious both as to the matter expressed and as to the manner of that expression, scrupulous in his effort to maintain a high standard of purity and distinction in the use of English, and eager to permeate all his work with the afflatus of a dominant moral idea, he may broadly be ranked with two such representative writers as George Eliot in England and Édouard Rod in France. With the deep and subtle author of ‘La Vie de Michel Tessier’ he has in fact much in common. Some time ago an American gentleman asked one of the chief librarians in London which would be the best books by living writers, that would at once interest the attention and improve the minds of young readers in country districts in the States. Among the two or three names that were specified in particular was that of Maarten Maartens; and this indeed is a verdict that can honestly be indorsed. His work is strong, virile, reserved, dignified, and true to life; while at the same time it is profoundly interesting, pictorial, dramatic, and with unmistakable qualities of style and distinction. It is more than probable that his best work will survive that of writers of much greater temporary vogue; and if so, that happy result will be to the credit of the always sane, and in the long run generally wise, judgment of the reading public at large.  6
  Of his first six books—‘The Sin of Joost Avelingh’ (1890), ‘An Old Maid’s Love’ (1891), ‘A Question of Taste’ (1891), ‘God’s Fool’ (1892), ‘The Greater Glory’ (1894), ‘My Lady Nobody’ (1895)—Mr. Maarten Maartens considers the chef d’œuvre to be ‘God’s Fool’; and “the fool of God,” Elias Lossel, is his favorite character. Undoubtedly, however, his first book and ‘The Greater Glory’ are those for which the public care most. There is one often quoted sentence in the latter book which I may give here:—“This is a true story. It is what they call a story of high life. It is also a story of the life which is higher still. There be climbings which descend to depths of infamy; there be also—God is merciful—most infamous fallings into heaven.”  7
  The following extracts are as fairly representative as is possible, both as to style and subject-matter. The reader must bear in mind that they are excerpts, and allow for an apparent haziness in atmosphere, of necessity an evasive quality when what should be given intact has to be presented fragmentarily. Perhaps however they may send yet more readers to the always instructive, stimulating, and deeply interesting romances of Maarten Maartens.  8
  EDITORIAL NOTE.—The foregoing article has been allowed to stand just as it was written by William Sharp (Fiona MacLeod) because of its personal nature and because of its interest as a commentary by one author on another exactly his contemporary, and written when both were at the height of their powers. The later work of Maarten Maartens maintained both its careful workmanship and its popular appeal, but did not develop qualities distinctive from those which won him his early reputation. It includes ‘Her Memory’ (1898), ‘My Poor Relations’ (1903), ‘The Woman’s Victory’ (1906), ‘Brothers All’ (1909), ‘Eve’ (1912). Van der Poorten Schwartz died in 1915.  9

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