Jan de Hartog

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Jan de Hartog
De Hartog in 1943
De Hartog in 1943
Born(1914-04-22)April 22, 1914
Haarlem, Netherlands
DiedSeptember 22, 2002(2002-09-22) (aged 88)
Houston, Texas
Pen name"F. R. Eckmar" (used infrequently)
OccupationNovelist and playwright
GenreNon-fiction, Creative non-fiction, and fiction
Subject(primarily) Seafaring stories
Notable works
Notable awards
  • Tony Award
    1952 For "The Fourposter" (best play)
  • Nominated for Nobel Prize
    1972 For "The Peaceable Kingdom"
  • Cross of Merit
    1945 For wartime Merchant Marine activities[1]: 152
SpouseMarjorie de Hartog

Jan de Hartog (April 22, 1914 – September 22, 2002) was a Dutch playwright, novelist and occasional social critic who moved to the United States in the early 1960s and became a Quaker.

Early life[edit]

In 1914, Jan de Hartog was born to a Dutch Calvinist minister and professor of theology, Arnold Hendrik, and his wife, Lucretia de Hartog, who was a lecturer in medieval mysticism. He was raised in Haarlem in the Netherlands.[1]

When he was 10 year old, de Hartog ran away to become a cabin boy on board a Dutch fishing boat. Despite his father having returned de Hartog home, when he was 12 years old, de Hartog ran away to a steamer in the Baltic.[2]

At 16, he attended the Kweekschool voor de Zeevaart in Amsterdam, a training college for the Dutch merchant marine.[3]

De Hartog shoveled coal at night with the Amsterdam Harbour Police until 1932.

While employed as skipper of a tour boat on the Amsterdam Canals, he wrote mysteries featuring Inspector Gregor Boyarski of the Amsterdam Harbor Police. He used the pseudonym "F. R. Eckmar."

His theater career began in the 1930s at the Amsterdam Municipal Theater, where he acted in and wrote a play.[2]

World War II[edit]

In May 1940, 10 days before Nazi Germany invaded and occupied the Netherlands, de Hartog published his book Hollands Glorie (Holland's Glory, translated into English as Captain Jan).

The novel described the life of sailors on ocean-going tugboats rescuing ocean liners. The book became a bestseller in the Netherlands. De Hartog joined the Dutch resistance, and was pursued by the Nazis, forcing him to go into hiding in Amsterdam in 1943.[2] He escaped to England.[4] His book became the best selling novel of the war years in the Netherlands.[5]

De Hartog in 1984

He joined the Netherlands merchant navy as a correspondent in 1943 and served as a ship's captain for which he received the Netherlands' "Cross of Merit."[1]

De Hartog's experience served as the background for books such as The Captain and Stella [de]. Stella was made into a movie called The Key, starring Sophia Loren, Trevor Howard, and William Holden.


In 1947, De Hartog's book Hollands Glorie was translated into English and was called Captain Jan. Remaining in the United Kingdom, de Hartog began writing his books in English, beginning with The Lost Sea (1951), which was a fictional account of his experiences working aboard ship.[6]

In 1952, while visiting New York, he encountered a play that he had written while he had still been in hiding during the war and had sold the rights to while he was in England.[4][6] The play was called The Fourposter, for which de Hartog received a Tony Award for Best Play at the 6th annual Tony Awards Show.[6] Columbia Pictures made The Fourposter into a partially animated movie, starring Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer. The film was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for its cinematography. In 1966, The Fourposter became the musical I Do! I Do! The play appeared under its original name at the Theatre New Brunswick in 1974.

De Hartog and his wife transformed a 90-foot Dutch ship into a houseboat, which they made their home. During the floods in the Netherlands of 1953, The Rival was transformed into a floating hospital about which de Hartog wrote in The Little Ark.[1]

Move to America[edit]

In the 1950s, de Hartog took The Rival to Houston, Texas on the deck of a freighter.[6]

While de Hartog was lecturing at the University of Houston on playwriting,[7] he and his wife volunteered at Jefferson Davis County Hospital.[1]

De Hartog wrote about the bad conditions at the hospital in his non-fiction memoir The Hospital (1964).[8] The book received a national response but also a local response in which, within a week of the book's release, nearly four hundred citizens volunteered at the hospital.[1] It led to reforms of the city's indigent healthcare system through the creation of the Harris County Hospital District. Despite national success, some of Houston's citizens reacted to the book with hostility, forcing de Hartog and his wife to return to Europe.[9]

In 1967, de Hartog wrote The Captain, which revisited his love of the sea and featured a central character based loosely on himself called Martinus Harinxma, who had first appeared in The Lost Sea (1951). The book was a success, and Martinus would live on as a central character in several sequels.

Before starting work on the second in the Martinus series, de Hartog wrote of the experience of adopting his two daughters, who were Korean War orphans, in The Children, which appeared in 1969. He wrote a fictionalized account of the origin of the Religious Society of Friends, The Peaceable Kingdom: An American Saga, in 1972. It was nominated for the Nobel Prize and was followed eight years later by a Quaker novel, The Lamb's War (1980).

In 1985, de Hartog was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) degree from Whittier College.[10]

He published the next book in the Martinus series, The Commodore, in 1986 while he was living in The Walled Garden in Somerset, England, and it was followed by The Centurion (1989), which explored an interest in which he and his wife had become involved, dowsing.

In 1993, de Hartog and his wife returned to Houston. He returned to the Quaker theme to write the last in the series, The Peculiar People, in 1992.[9]

De Hartog's last fully completed novel was The Outer Buoy: A Story of the Ultimate Voyage in 1994.

In 1996, de Hartog was honored as the annual "Special Guest" at the Netherlands Film Festival.

In 2002, de Hartog died at the age of 88. His ashes were taken to sea on a tugboat, the SMITWIJS SINGAPORE, and were scattered on the surface of the sea at position 52.02.5 N – 04.05.0 E at 13.10 hrs LT by his wife, Marjorie, and his son, Nick, while other family members spread flowers at the site.[11]

In 2007, Marjorie de Hartog edited a short story that her husband had begun, A View of the Ocean.








The Four Poster (1952) – 1hr 43min – Directed by Irving G. Reis

The Key (1958) – 2hrs 1 min – Directed by Carol Reed

The Spiral Road (1962) – 2hrs 25min – Directed by Robert Mulligan

Lisa (1962) – 1hr 52min – Directed by Philip Dunne

The Little Ark (1972) – 1hr 40min – Directed by James B. Clark


  • The Fourposter (Play on TV) (1955) – 1hr 30min – Directed by Clark Jones and aired on NBC, July 25, 1955, as an episode of the 'Producers' Showcase Series' whose tagline reads "Bringing the best of Broadway to the 21-inch screen".
  • The Four Poster, 1964 Australian TV play directed by James Upshaw


  1. ^ a b c d e f — (1 April 2003). ""New Mexico 1973" from The Lamb's War". In Bill, J. Brent; Curtis, C. Michael (eds.). Imagination & Spirit: A Contemporary Quaker Reader (1st ed.). Friends United Press. pp. 151–164. ISBN 978-0944350614. LCCN 2002029953. OCLC 50560748. OL 8447171M – via Internet Archive.
  2. ^ a b c Mel Gussow (September 24, 2002). "Jan de Hartog, 88, Author of His Own Life". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. OCLC 1645522. Retrieved June 30, 2023.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ DBNL. "Hartog, Jan de, Schrijvers en dichters (dbnl biografieënproject I), G.J. van Bork". DBNL (in Dutch). Retrieved June 30, 2023.
  4. ^ a b "WeberStudies Volume 4.1 - Spring 1987". Archived from the original on February 12, 2012. Retrieved July 9, 2008.
  5. ^ "Welk boek verkocht het best in de oorlog?" [Which book sold the best during the war?] (in Dutch). 17 March 2011. Archived from the original on 16 August 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2021. De naam van de schrijver luidde Jan de Hartog, het boek heette Hollands Glorie en om een paar redenen werd het een enorme bestseller – in totaal verschenen er bij uitgeverij Elsevier ongeveer 500.000 exemplaren van en het verscheen uiteindelijk in 17 talen. In 1976 kwam er een televisieserie van, met Hugo Metsers als de hoofdpersoon Jan Wandelaar. [The author's name was Jan de Hartog, the book was called Hollands Glorie and for a few reasons it became a huge bestseller - in total about 500,000 copies were published by Elsevier publishers and it eventually appeared in 17 languages. In 1976 there was a television series, with Hugo Metsers as the main character Jan Wandelaar.]
  6. ^ a b c d Gussow, Mel (24 September 2002). "Jan de Hartog, 88, Author of His Own Life". The New York Times (National ed.). p. 7. eISSN 1553-8095. ISSN 0362-4331. OCLC 1645522. Archived from the original on 10 December 2019. Retrieved 13 December 2021. Jan de Hartog, the Dutch novelist and playwright, the author of the 1951 Broadway hit The Fourposter, died Sunday in Houston. He was 88 and lived in Houston.
  7. ^ Lanham, Fritz (24 September 2002). "Deaths: Jan de Hartog, controversial Dutch-born author". Houston Chronicle. Hearst Communications. ISSN 1074-7109. OCLC 30348909. Archived from the original on 13 May 2021. Retrieved 13 December 2021. In Houston, he will also be remembered for his controversial nonfiction book The Hospital (1964). In 1962, de Hartog and wife Marjorie became volunteer orderlies at Jeff Davis, Houston's hospital for the indigent. His descriptions of its shocking conditions pricked the conscience of the electorate, which had rejected four referendums to create an adequately funded hospital district. In November 1965, voters approved the district.
  8. ^ Gonzales, J. R. "The Hospital". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  9. ^ a b The Quaker Liar Archived 2007-07-15 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ "Honorary Degrees | Whittier College". www.whittier.edu. Retrieved February 20, 2020.
  11. ^ Biography of Jan de Hartog Archived 2006-06-21 at the Wayback Machine in the Daily Shipping Newsletter

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