Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe

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Tollens, Hendrik

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    Literature (fictional prose/drama)Literature (poetry/verse)
    Tollens, Hendrik
    Tollens, Hendrik

    Hendrik Tollens (Rotterdam 1780 – Rijswijk 1856) is considered the most important national poet of the Netherlands in the 19th century. In his work he addressed national-historical themes as well as everyday matters. This combination of heroic and domestic topics made his poetry immensely popular.

    Tollens made his debut in 1799 with a collection of sentimental prose and poetry. In the following years he dedicated himself to the writing of amorous and pastoral poems (often translated from French or German) as well as drama, translated several French tragedies (Voltaire, Racine) and wrote one national-historical play, De Hoekschen en Kabeljaauwschen (1806). His real breakthrough came when he started writing heroic poems glorifying the national past. Many of these poems were awarded prizes: Huig de Groot (1804), De dood van Egmond en Hoorne (1806), Willem de Eerste (1807) and Tafereel van den Vierdaagschen Zeeslag (1807). He also gained much popularity with a series of national-historical “romances” in the style of medieval ballads, featuring Dutch national heroes such as Jan van Schaffelaar (1807), Albrecht Beiling (1807) and Kenau Hasselaar (1811). These and other poems gave him the reputation of a poetical leader of resistance against the country’s incorporation into imperial France (1810-13). Most of his early poems were collected in Gedichten (3 vols, 1808-1815), the fourth edition of which (1822) had an unprecedented print run of 10,000 copies.

    In 1815, Tollens was knighted, and in 1816 his composition Wien Neêrlandsch bloed in de aders vloeit (“Who has Netherlandic blood flowing in his veins”) was elected as the country’s national anthem (which it remained until 1932). Tollens achieved one of his greatest successes with Tafereel van de overwintering der Hollanders op Nova Zembla in de jaren 1596 en 1597 (1821), about an episode in the search for an Arctic sea route. Frequently reprinted, it became a classic in Dutch literature. Tollens died in 1856, just before the completion of his collected works (12 vols, 1855-57). In Rotterdam a statue to him was unveiled by King William III in 1860.

    Word Count: 314

    Article version
  • Blaas, Piet; “Tollens en de vaderlandse herinnering”, in Blaas, Piet (ed.); De burgerlijke eeuw: Over eeuwwenden, liberale burgerij en geschiedschrijving (Hilversum: Verloren, 2000), 46-58.

    Huygens, G.W.; Hendrik Tollens, de dichter van de burgerij (Rotterdam: Nijgh & Van Ditmar, 1972).

    Jensen, Lotte; Verzet tegen Napoleon (Nijmegen: Vantilt, 2013).

    Mathijsen, Marita; Nederlandse literatuur in de romantiek, 1820-1880 (Nijmegen: Vantilt, 2004).

    Schotel, G.D.J.; Tollens en zijn tijd: Eene proeve van levensbeschrijving (Tiel: n.pub., 1860).

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    All articles in the Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe edited by Joep Leerssen are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://www.spinnet.eu.

    © the author and SPIN. Cite as follows (or as adapted to your stylesheet of choice): Jensen, Lotte, 2022. "Tollens, Hendrik", Encyclopedia of Romantic Nationalism in Europe, ed. Joep Leerssen (electronic version; Amsterdam: Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms, https://ernie.uva.nl/), article version, last changed 20-04-2022, consulted 22-02-2024.