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The Multilingualism of Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687)

The Multilingualism of Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687)

Christopher Joby
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    The Multilingualism of Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687)
    Book Description:

    Dutch, French, Latin, Greek, Italian, English, Spanish, and German: those are the eight languages that Dutch Golden Age poet Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687) used to write his poetry and correspondence. He also knew a bit of Hebrew and Portuguese. Examining a wide range of Huygens's writings-including personal letters, state correspondence, and poetry-Christopher Joby explores how Huygens tested the boundaries of language with his virtuosity as a polyglot. From Huygens's multilingual code switching to his writings on architecture, music, and natural science, this comprehensive account is a must-read for anyone interested in this Dutch statesman and man of letters.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-2409-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 13-14)
    Christopher Joby
  2. Prologue
    (pp. 15-18)

    The aim of this book is to provide a comprehensive account of the multilingualism of the Dutch statesman and man of letters, Constantijn Huygens (1596–1687). He used eight languages – Dutch, French, Latin, Greek, Italian, English, Spanish, and (High) German – in the majority of his correspondence and poetry, although he also engaged with other languages, including Hebrew and Portuguese, to a lesser extent. During his long life he wrote and received a vast number of letters in these languages both in a private capacity and in the various functions he carried out for the House of Orange, including that of...

  3. 1. Multilingualism: An Introduction
    (pp. 19-48)

    In this introductory chapter I want to set the scene for the rest of this book. The principal subject of this volume is the multilingualism of Constantijn Huygens, so, in order to provide the necessary background for this study, consideration will be given to what multilingualism is. I shall begin by exploring how the term can be applied to an individual, such as Huygens, and then discuss how it can be applied to the nation or society. In regard to the latter, an account will be provided of various aspects of multilingualism in Huygens’s native country, the United Provinces, in...

  4. 2. Huygens’s Language Acquisition
    (pp. 49-82)

    In Chapter 1 we learnt that the eight languages forming the core of Huygens’s multilingualism were Dutch, French, Latin, Greek, Italian, English, Spanish, and German. The first language he learnt was doubtless Dutch, hisvernaculus, although he picked up words and phrases from other languages, in particular French, at a very young age. Before his tenth birthday, he had begun to receive formal tuition in French and in Latin, and by his early teenage years he had learnt the rudiments of Greek, in which he was instructed by one of his Latin tutors. In relation to Huygens’s acquisition of languages,...

  5. 3. The ‘Multidimensionality’ of Huygens’s Multilingualism
    (pp. 83-136)

    In this chapter the various ways in which Huygens employed his multilingualism will be discussed. We saw in the last chapter that at its core this multilingualism consisted of eight languages: Dutch, French, Latin, Greek, Italian, English, Spanish, and German. Others in the Dutch Republic knew more languages, such as his correspondent, Anna Maria van Schurman (see Chapter 1), or knew different languages, such as Theodore Rodenburgh, who could write in Portuguese (Chapter 2). However, what marks Huygens out is first that a vast amount of material survives, including two significant autobiographical texts, which allows us to study his multilingualism;...

  6. 4. Huygens’s Multilingualism in Music, Science, and Architecture
    (pp. 137-176)

    In this chapter we pick up one of the threads from Chapter 3: namely, that one of the ways in which Huygens used his multilingual skills was to engage in various spheres of cultural and intellectual activity. Consideration will be given to how he did this in three of these spheres; music, science, and architecture. In relation to music he corresponded with composers and musicians across Western Europe in a range of languages. He also composed music himself, although unfortunately many of his compositions are now lost. Those that survive give us a flavour of how he used a number...

  7. 5. Huygens and Translation
    (pp. 177-220)

    In part as a result of the rise of vernacular languages in the early modern period, there was an increase in the amount of material being translated at this time (Burke 2004: 113). Translation was clearly a discipline of particular interest to Huygens. He wrote about it on a number of occasions and produced many translations himself. Most of what Huygens translated was poetry, and the translations he produced were primarily in verse form. However, he also translated extracts from a number of plays and collections of prose works, such as the apothegms of the English court jester Archie Armstrong,...

  8. 6. Code Switching in Huygens’s work
    (pp. 221-272)

    It is in code switching that we see the multilingualism of Constantijn Huygens at its most dynamic and creative. In the previous chapter we concluded with a number of examples of groups of poems on the same theme, each written in a different language, which could be described as instances of code switching. In this chapter, consideration will be given to further examples of this phenomenon in Huygens’s work, but before this we need to ask what code switching is. Here, though we are in danger of falling at the first hurdle, for scholars have so far failed to produce...

  9. 7. The Multilingualism of Huygens’s Children
    (pp. 273-308)

    In this chapter, in some sense we come full circle as we consider the acquisition and use of languages by Constantijn Huygens Sr.’s children. Just as his own father, Christiaen, had given the learning of languages a central role in the young Constantijn’s education, so too Constantijn recognized that the acquisition of languages would be vital for the future careers of his own children. He had four sons, Constantijn Jr., Christiaan, Lodewijck, and Philips, and one daughter, Susanna. Shortly after her birth in 1637, Constantijn’s wife, Susanna van Baerle, hisSterre, died. The first two sons, Constantijn Jr. (1628–1697)...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 309-316)

    In their recent study of multilingualism Larissa Aronin and David Singleton write that ‘despite the fact that a single term is used to denote multilingual individuals and groups, we know that multilinguals differ in all kinds of ways’ (Aronin and Singleton: 118). Although their study is very much focussed on contemporary multilingualism, what they say holds true for historical individuals, such as Constantijn Huygens. In the present study, we have seen that some aspects of Huygens’s multilingualism coincided with that of other individuals with whom he engaged. However, what has also become clear is that, taken as a whole, there...