Latin Spring. Essays and notes

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Description

In 1918 the Dutch poet and journalist Jan Greshoff compiled his newspaper articles and literary reviews in Latin Spring. Essays and Notes. These pieces had all been originally published in the virulently anti-German Dutch newspaper De TelegraafLatin Spring was part of the series Fransche Kunst. Bibliotheek van Fransche Letterkunde, Schilderkunst, Muziek (French Art. Collection of French Literature, Painting, Music) edited by Pieter Valkhoff, a Romance scholar who worked for the official French propaganda services in the Netherlands. To read a selection of the original pieces in Dutch, please click on the sources above.

Context

The Dutch author Jan Greshoff longed for a stronger Dutch nationalist culture. As a pro-French intellectual, he used the French civilisation, 'Latin culture', as a model for the Dutch. Greshoff belonged to anti-German, conservative, and nationalist Dutch circles that promoted French military victories, French war poetry, and the rise of the right-wing political party Action Française to debunk tenacious stereotypes about a supposedly decadent French culture. Action Française wished to demonstrate how the war had regenerated the French nation. Greshoff wanted to promote the salutary effect of Latin culture in the Netherlands, to counteract what was seen as a dangerous influence from German Kultur. This cultural policy was closely linked to political ambitions, as anti-German intellectuals such as Greshoff feared the political and cultural expansion of Germany and also considered the Allies, and above all France, as the only side able to support the continuation of Dutch autonomy. In the first extract 'De twee beschavingen' ['The two civilisations'], Greshoff interprets the war primarily as a clash between cultures and not as a political or economic conflict. He portrayed the German Kultur as a degenerate, materialistic, and young phenomenon in comparison to the centuries-old, traditional Latin culture of France. In the second fragment 'Religion in France', Greshoff discusses the regeneration of French patriotism by analysing the compilation Foi en la France [Belief in France] by the mobilised French author Henri Ghéon. The 'resurrection' of traditional French patriotism expressed in the essays of Maurice Barrès and Charles Maurras was, as Greshoff argued, equally visible in the more classic and rational verses of the war poets who rejected their former symbolist work as frivolous and decadent. In the third fragment, Greshoff analyses the French soldier’s psychology to demonstrate the value of war culture to a neutral readership. As the neutrals were cut off from the so-called regenerative power of war, Greshoff urged the Dutch to read the French war poets in order to be part of this cultural purification.