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Eduard Douwes Dekker, also known as Multatuli
Born Eduard Douwes Dekker Schaap
(1820-03-02)2 March 1820
Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands
Died 19 February 1887(1887-02-19) (aged 66)
Nieder Ingelheim, Rhine, Germany
Occupation Writer

Eduard Douwes Dekker (2 March 1820 – 19 February 1887), better known by his pen name Multatuli (from Latin multa tuli, "I have suffered much"), was a Dutch writer famous for his satirical novel Max Havelaar (1860), which denounced the abuses of colonialism in the Dutch East Indies (today's Indonesia).


Douwes Dekker was born in Amsterdam. His father was a ship's captain and intended for his son to have a career in trade. This humdrum prospect disgusted Douwes Dekker and in 1838 he obtained a post as a civil servant on the island of Java. During the period between 1848 and 1851 Douwes Dekker eventually rose to serve as assistant resident in various regencies in the Indonesian archipelago including Natal, North Sumatra, Manado in Sulawesi and Ambon in the Moluccas.[1] In 1857 he was transferred to Lebak, in the Bantam residency of Java (now Banten province). By this time, however, all the secrets of Dutch administration were known to him, and he had begun to openly protest about the abuses of the colonial system. Consequently, he was threatened with dismissal from his office for his openness of speech. Douwes Dekker resigned his appointment and returned to the Netherlands.

Statue of Multatuli on a square over the Singel canal in Amsterdam.

He was determined to expose in detail the scandals he had witnessed, and he began to do so in newspaper articles and pamphlets. Little notice, however, was taken of his protestations until, in 1860, he published his novel Max Havelaar under the pseudonym of Multatuli. Douwes Dekker's new pseudonym, which is derived from Latin, means, "I have suffered much", or, more literally "I have borne much" referring to himself, as well as, it is thought, to the victims of the injustices he saw. An attempt was made to suppress the inflammatory book, but in vain; it was read all over Europe. Apologists for colonialism accused Douwes Dekker's horrific depictions of being exaggerated. Multatuli now began his literary career, and published Love Letters (1861), which, in spite of their mild title, were mordant, unsparing satires.

Although Multatuli's work was widely criticized as lacking literary merit, he received an unexpected and most valuable ally in Carel Vosmaer who published a book (The Sower 1874) praising him.[2] He continued to write prolifically and to publish his miscellanies in uniform volumes called Ideas, of which seven appeared between 1862 and 1877 (his novel Woutertje Pieterse (Little Walter Pieterse) was also first printed in Ideas).

Douwes Dekker left the Netherlands, and went to live in Ingelheim am Rhein near Mainz, where he made several attempts to write for the stage. One of his pieces, The School for Princes (published in 1875 in the fourth volume of Ideas), expresses his non-conformist views on politics, society and religion. He moved his residence to Nieder Ingelheim, on the Rhine, where he died in 1887.

Douwes Dekker was one of Sigmund Freud's favorite writers. He heads the list of 'ten good books' which Freud drew up in 1907.[3]

In June 2002, the Dutch Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde (Society of Dutch Literature) proclaimed Multatuli the most important Dutch writer of all time.[4]

Multatuli's brother, Jan Douwes Dekker, was the grandfather of Ernest Douwes Dekker (also known as Danudirja Setiabudi, a National Hero of Indonesia).

Douwes is commonly thought, wrongly, to be his middle name. Douwes Dekker is the combined form of both of his grandparents' last names, chosen after they couldn't decide which of their names they should give him.

Bibliography (selection)[edit]

Works which appeared during Multatuli's lifetime[edit]

  • 1859 - Geloofsbelydenis (Profession of faith) (published in the freethinkers Magazine "De Dageraad") ('The Dawn')
  • 1859 - Brief aan de kiezers te Amsterdam omtrent de keuze van een afgevaardigde in verband met Indische specialiteiten en batige Saldo's (Letter to the voters in Amsterdam about the choice of a Deputy related to Indian specialties and discretion determines Balances), Amsterdam, J. de Ruyter
  • 1860 - Indrukken van den dag (Impressions of the day)
  • 1860 - Max Havelaar (boek)|Max Havelaar of de koffij-veilingen der Nederlandsche Handel-Maatschappy (Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company)
  • 1860 - Brief aan Ds. W. Francken Azn. (Letter to Ds. W. Francken Azn)
  • 1860 - Brief aan den Gouverneur-Generaal in ruste (Letter to the retired Governor-General)
  • 1860 - Aan de stemgerechtigden in het kiesdistrikt Tiel (To the voters in the electoral district of Tiel)
  • 1860 - Max Havelaar aan Multatuli (Max Havelaar to Multatuli)
  • 1861 - Het gebed van den onwetende (The prayer of the ignorant)
  • 1861 - Wys my de plaats waar ik gezaaid heb (Show me the place where I have sown)
  • 1861 - Minnebrieven (Love letters)
  • 1862 - Over vrijen arbeid in Nederlandsch Indië en de tegenwoordige koloniale agitatie (About free labour in The Dutch Indies and the present colonial agitation) (brochure)
  • 1862 - Brief aan Quintillianus (letter to Quintillianus)
  • 1862 - IDEËN I (Ideas 1) (includes the start of the novel Woutertje Pieterse)
  • 1862 - Japansche gesprekken (Japanese conversations)
  • 1863 - De school des levens (The school of life)
  • 1864-1865 - IDEËN II
  • 1864 - De bruid daarboven. Tooneelspel in vijf bedrijven (The bride up there. Play in five acts)
  • 1865 - Bloemlezing door Multatuli, (Anthology by Multatuli) Amsterdam, R.C. Meijer, p. 1-296
  • 1865 - De zegen Gods door Waterloo (The blessing of God by Waterloo)
  • 1865 - Franse rymen (French rhymes)
  • 1865 - Herdrukken (Reprints)
  • 1865 - Verspreide stukken (Scattered pieces taken from Reprints)
  • 1867 - Een en ander naar aanleiding van Bosscha's Pruisen en Nederland
  • 1869-1870 - Causerieën (Seminars)
  • 1869 - De maatschappij tot Nut van den Javaan (The society usefull for the Javanese)
  • 1870-1871 - IDEËN III
  • 1870-1873 - Millioenen-studiën (Millions studies)
  • 1870 - Divagatiën over zeker soort van Liberalismus (Deliberations about a certain kind of liberals)
  • 1870 - Nog eens: Vrye arbeid in Nederlandsch Indië (Again: free labour in Dutch East Indies)
  • 1871 - Duizend en eenige hoofdstukken over specialiteiten (Thousand and some more chapters on specialties)
  • 1872 - Brief aan den koning (nl) (Letter to the King)
  • 1872 - IDEËN IV (contains the play Vorstenschool (School of Princes)
  • 1873 - IDEËN V
  • 1873 - IDEËN VI
  • 1874-1877 - IDEËN VII
  • 1875 - Vorstenschool, drama in 5 bedrijven (School of princes, 4 editions in 1875)
  • 1876 - Bloemlezing door Heloïse (= Mimi Hamminck Schepel), (Anthology by Heloise) Amsterdam, G.L. Funke

Published after his death[edit]

  • 1887 - Onafgewerkte blaadjes (Unfinished leaves)
  • 1891 - Aleid. Twee fragmenten uit een onafgewerkt blyspel (Aleid. Two excerpts from an unfinished comedy) (play)


  • 1880 - De geschiedenis van Woutertje Pieterse. Uit zijn Ideën (nl) verzameld door zijne Weduwe, 2 parts (The history of Woutertje Pieterse. From his Ideas collected by his Widow)
  • 1888-1889 - Multatuli, Verzamelde Werken Eerste naar tijdorde gerangschikte uitgave bezorgd door zijne weduwe (ten parts)

(Multatuli, collected works, first edition ranked to time order by his widow)

  • 1919 - Bloemlezing uit Multatuli's werken (Anthology of Multatuli's work (a selection from his works, introduced by J. van den Berg)
  • 1937 - Bloemlezing (verzameld en ingeleid door Julius Pée) (Anthology, collected and introduced by Julius Pée)
  • 1950-1995 - Volledige Werken van Multatuli (25 parts) (Complete works of Multatuli)(redaction: Garmt Stuiveling and Hans van den Bergh) (two editions)
  • 1955 - Barbertje moet hangen, Verhalen, parabelen, aforismen (collected and explained by Garmt Stuiveling)

Letters and other publications[edit]

  • 1890-1896 - Brieven van Multatuli. Bijdragen tot de kennis van zijn leven. Gerangschikt en toegelicht door M. Douwes Dekker geb. Hamminck Schepel, 10 delen, Amsterdam, W. Versluys (uitgeverij) (Letters by Multatuli. Contributions to the knowledge of his life. Ranked and explained by M. Douwes Dekker born Hamminck S.) (second edition: 1912)
  • 1905 - Multatuli, Frauenbrevier, Anthology and translation to German by Wilhelm Spohr. Ruetten & Loening, Frankfurt am Main, DM 55.
  • 1948 - Multatuli-literatuur. Lijst der geschriften van en over Eduard Douwes Dekker (door A.J. de Mare) (Multatuli-literature. List of the writings of and about Eduard Douwes Dekker)
  • 1949 - Max Havelaar, according to the manuscript, by Prof. dr. Garmt Stuiveling, Amsterdam, G. A. van Oorschot.
  • 1987 - Max Havelaar (edition W.F. Hermans after the fifth edition. The last edition edited by the author)
  • 1987 - Multatuli-literatuur 1948-1977. Lijst der geschriften van en over Eduard Douwes Dekker (by P.C. van der Plank)
  • 1992 - Multatuli, Max Havelaar of de Koffiveilingen der Nederlansche Handelsmaatschappij uitgegeven en toegelicht door Annemarie Kets-Vree, Uitgeverij Prometheus / Bert Bakker Amsterdam, ISBN 90-351-1955 X (scientific edition)
  • 1995 - Multatuli, Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company, 1995, ISBN 0-14-044516-1.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "MULTATULI (EDUARD DOUWES DEKKER) (Western Colonialism)". 
  2. ^ Een Zaaier: studiën over Multatuli's werken Carel Vosmaer, Amsterdam : G.L. Funke, 1874
  3. ^ Freud, S. (1907). Contribution to a Questionnaire on Reading. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume IX (1906–1908), 245–247.
  4. ^ accessed on 30 November 2005


External links[edit]