Netherlands 2014

By | December 1, 2021

Machiavelli in the Republic of the United Provinces. Between the end of the 16th century. and the middle of the 18th there is a phase of intense activity of authors, translators and editors interested in the Machiavelli ‘phenomenon’. This phase coincides with the liberation from the Spanish crown, the consolidation of a republican regime and the rapid rise of the Netherlands to a great commercial, artistic and cultural center. From the end of the sixteenth century M. is known, in the role of astute adviser to sovereigns, in the intellectual circles who read him in Latin, French or Italian. Witness the accusation of immorality leveled against him by the humanist Joost Lips (Justus Lipsius), who in his Politicorum sive civilis doctrinae libri sex, quid ad Principatum maxime spectant (1589) takes up the widespread attitude among academics and writers of criticizing the opportunism of M. while drawing inspiration from his works. Kaspar van Baerle (Caspar Barlaeus) in Dissertatio, de bono principe, adversus N. Machiavelli Florentini scriptoris suasorias dates back to 1633 […]: M. is accused of putting prudentia before virtus, and of drawing lessons from examples of nefarious government; van Baerle denies that M. wanted to indirectly denounce the sins of the bad rulers, since the text would have a clear prescriptive intent (van Heck 2002).

The vulgar translations make the Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius and the Prince accessible to a wide audience, opening the way to different readings. The first translation of M. into Dutch (De discoursen van Nicolaes Machiavel Florentyn […], 1615), by Adam van Nievelt (van Heck 1996), is probably based on a French edition of 1571 which brings together in a volume i Discorsi e il Principe (Les discours de l’estat de paix et de guerre, de Messire Nicolas Macchiavelli, Secretaire & citoyen Florentin sur la premiere decade de Tite Live, traduict d’Italien en François. Plus un livre du mesme aucteur intitulé the Prince), favoring an anti-monarchical interpretation of the major political writings as a whole. Symptomatic is its appearance in the years in which in the Netherlands the clash between the statolder (lit. Terrenato 2010). Further on, in the 17th century, M. decisively influenced the republican thought of the brothers Johan and Pieter de La Court, in particular their Politike discoursen […] (1662). The numerous references especially to the Discourses contained in this treatise (van Heck 2000), which calls for the end of the state of the state and a wider religious tolerance, are not separated, according to a recent study (Weststeijn 2012), from a critique of fraudulent M. Reader in a republican key of M. in the wake of the de la Court is Baruch Spinoza (→), as can be deduced from the Tractatus politicus […] (1677). Briefly mention should be made of the appearance of a translation of the short story Belfagor in the second edition (1668) of the anonymous volume of 1644 Spiegel der quade vrouwen […] (Mirror of bad women), and a Latin translation of the Prince (Nicolai Machiavelli Florentini Princeps […], 1699) by the philosopher Caspar Langenhert. For Netherlands religion, please check

The climate of open political and religious debate and the presence of innumerable publishers not subject to censorship create in the Netherlands a favorable environment for the diffusion of M.’s writings also in other languages ​​(Procacci 1995). In 1683 the French translation of the Prince was published, by the Frenchman Abraham-Nicolas Amelot de la Houssaye (→). The reading of anti-absolutist orientation collects consensus in the Republic threatened by French expansionism. And the version of Amelot, translated by Daniel Ghys, comes out in a Dutch edition which also includes minor writings by M. (De historische en politique werken, van Nicolaas Machiavel, 5 vols., 1703-1705). A new French translation follows, published anonymously, but attributed to the Huguenot refugee François Tétard, of the Discorsi e del Principe, with Florentine Histories and the Art of War (6 vols., 1691-1696). The translator’s preface to the Prince clears the field of the prejudices generated by the aversion of the Catholic Church towards the author. This edition, reprinted several times, will remain the most complete in French for over a century. Another Huguenot refugee, Pierre Bayle (→), is responsible for the first biographical profile of M., contained in the entry Machiavel of the Dictionnaire historique et critique (1697), which takes up the arguments of Amelot and Tétard.

In 1741 the Dutch translation of Frederick I King of Prussia ‘s Anti-Machiavel was published, a book which, edited by Voltaire, had appeared in French the previous year in the Netherlands. The two opposing interpretations of the Prince continue to confront each other within the borders of the Republic: an anonymous author from the Netherlands is responsible for the French pamphlet Machiavel republicain (1741). On the whole, however, the interest in the work of M. dei patrioti appears rather limited, with rare exceptions, who at the end of the 18th century. they fight for democratic ideals (Haitsma Mulier 1993).

Machiavelli in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In the 19th century. the attention towards the work of M. in the Netherlands, which became a monarchy in 1813, sees a sharp decline compared to previous centuries. A moment of renewed interest is recorded with the appearance of a work in Latin by the philosopher Cornelis Star Numan, Diatribe academica in Nicolai Machiavelli opusculum Del Principe inscriptum (1833), and of a Dutch translation of the Prince (1834) and of the book I dei Discorsi (1836), based on the Italian original, edited by the journalist and politician Theodorus Marinus Roest van Limburg.

In 1940, the year in which the Netherlands was occupied by Germany, a new translation of the Prince by the anti-fascist writer Jo Otten came out (Machiavelli: sleutel van onzen tijd, Machiavelli: key of our time). Frans van Dooren is responsible for translations of the Prince (De heerser, 1976) and of the Mandragola (La Mandragola-De alruin, 1986), while Paul van Heck, a scholar of Italian literature and an expert on M., edited the most recent editions in Dutch, with introduction, notes and bibliography: Discourses. Gedachten over staat en politiek (Speeches on the state and politics, 1997), Het leven van Castruccio Castracani (La vita di Castruccio Castracani, 1993), Il Principe en andere politieke geschriften (Il Principe e altri scritti politici, 2006), Toneel en verhalend prose (Theater and narrative prose, 2010).

Bibliography: EOG Haitsma Mulier, Het Nederlandse gezicht van Machiavelli (The Dutch Face of Machiavelli), Hilversum 1989; EOG Haitsma Mulier, A controversial republican: Dutch views on Machiavelli in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in Machiavelli and republicanism, ed. G. Bock, Q. Skinner, M. Viroli, Cambridge 1993, pp. 247-63; G. Procacci, Machiavelli in the European culture of the modern age, Rome-Bari 1995; Netherlands van Heck, La prima traduzione in olandese dei Discorsi e del Principe, in Niccolò Machiavelli politico, storico, letterato, Atti del Convegno, Lausanne 27-30 sett. 1995, edited by J.-J. Marchand, Rome 1996, pp. 411-24; Netherlands van Heck, In het spoor van Machiavelli: de Politike Discoursen, 1662, van Johan en Pieter de la Court (Sulle orme di Machiavelli: i Politike Discoursen, 1662, di Johan e Pieter de la Court), «LIAS», 2000, 2, pp. 277-318; Netherlands van Heck, Cymbalum politicorum, consultor dolosus. Two Dutch academics on Niccolò Machiavelli, in On the edge of truth and honesty. Principles and strat egies of fraud and deceit in the early modern period, ed. T. van Houdt, J.L. de Jong, Z. Kwak, M. Spies, M. van Vaeck, Leiden-Boston 2002, pp. 47-64; F. Terrenato, The first Dutch translation, in The first translations of Machiavelli’s Prince. From the sixteenth to the first half of the nineteenth century, ed. R. De Pol, Amsterdam-New York 2010, pp. 188-226; A. Weststeijn, Commercial republicanism in the Dutch golden age. The political thought of Johan and Pieter de la Court, Leiden-Boston 2012.

Netherlands 2014