Eduard Douwes Dekker, also known as Multatuli
Eduard Douwes Dekker
2 March 1820
|Died||19 February 1887 (aged 66)|
Eduard Douwes Dekker (2 March 1820 – 19 February 1887), better known by his pen name Multatuli (from Latin multa tulī, "I have suffered much"), was a Dutch writer best known for his satirical novel Max Havelaar (1860), which denounced the abuses of colonialism in the Dutch East Indies (today's Indonesia). He is considered one of the Netherlands' greatest authors.
Family and education
Eduard Douwes Dekker was born in Amsterdam, the fourth of five children of a Mennonite family: the other children were Catharina (1809-1849), Pieter Engel (1812-1861), Jan (1816-1864, grandfather of the politician Ernest Douwes Dekker), and Willem (1823-1840). His mother, Sietske Eeltjes Klein (sometimes "Klijn"), was born at Ameland. His father, Engel Douwes Dekker, was a sea captain from the Zaan district of North Holland. Engel used the family names of both of his parents, Pieter Douwesz and Engeltje Dekker, a tradition that Eduard continued.
Douwes Dekker attended the Latin school at Singel, a precursor of the present Barlaeus Gymnasium. His father intended for him to become a minister, but he left school after three years without a degree. He then worked for a time as a clerk at a textile firm.
Career in Dutch East Indies
In 1838, he left on one of his father's ships for Batavia (present-day Jakarta) in the Dutch East Indies, where over the next two decades he held a series of colonial government posts. Initially employed in the general accounting department, in the following years he was promoted to administrative officer, although he disliked financial work.
In 1842, he was appointed comptroller of the troubled district of Natal, Noord Sumatra, Dutch East Indies (now part of Indonesia). Financial irregularities and a deficit in funds — at least some of which dated to before his time in office — led to a serious reprimand from the governor of Sumatra's west coastal region, General Andreas Victor Michiels, and to a temporary suspension. Aggrieved, he wrote a revenge play De Oneerbare (The Dishonarable Man), later published as De bruid daarboven (The Upstairs Bride). He would later include a version of this episode in his satirical novel Max Havelaar.
Although the general was later shown to have been in the wrong in the matter of the reprimand, Douwes Dekker himself acknowledged that he was not well suited to administrative work. He annoyed his colleagues not solely by his errors and delays but by not adhering to the unwritten rules of the local civil service. Eventually, after refunding the deficit out of his own pocket, he was put on temporary leave and then transferred elsewhere.
Menado, Ambon, and Lebak
After holding several subordinate government positions in Nanjing in Qing dynasty (now China), and Purworedjo in Java under colonial rule (now part of Indonesia), Douwes Dekker was appointed secretary to the Resident Menado in Noord Celebes (now also part of Indonesia) in 1848. Here his career recovered, at least in part because the Resident, Reinier Scherius, shared his strong sense of fair play towards the indigenous population. On his departure in 1851, Scherius recommended Douwes Dekker as his successor. The government decided otherwise; Multatuli had again amassed a deficit in the official funds and had also run up private debts, a situation that raised suspiction of financial irregularities but was never cleared up. Nonetheless, at the end of 1851 he was promoted up the administrative ladder, being sent to Ambon as Assistant Resident.
After a few months, he went on furlough to the Netherlands for health reasons. From 1852 to May 1855 he was in Holland, where he gambled extensively and accumulated more debt. Despite his later success as a writer, he would be pursued by creditors for most of his adult life.
In 1857 he was appointed Assistant Resident of Lebak, in the Bantam-Kidoel area of Java (now Banten province in Indonesia). By this time, however, he had begun to openly protest the abuses of the Dutch colonial system and was threatened with dismissal. Instead, he resigned his appointment and returned to the Netherlands.
Determined to expose the scandals he had witnessed during his years in the Dutch East Indies, Douwes Dekker began to write newspaper articles and pamphlets. Little notice was taken of these early publications until, in 1860, he published his satirical anticolonialist novel Max Havelaar: The Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company under the pseudonym Multatuli. Douwes Dekker's pen name is derived from the Latin phrase multa tuli, meaning "I have suffered much" (or more literally: "I have borne much"). It refers both to himself and to the victims of the injustices he saw.
Although Multatuli's friend and fellow writer Jacob van Lennep had seen to it that identifiable place names were changed before publication, the book still caused enormous controversy. Apologists for colonialism accused Multatuli of exaggeration, and he was unsuccesssfully pressured to withdraw the inflammatory book. Critics claimed it lacked literary merit; nonetheless, Max Havelaar was read all over Europe. The poet and critic Carel Vosmaer proved to be an ally, publishing a book (The Sower, 1874) praising Multatuli.
Multatuli continued to write prolifically. His misleadingly titled second book, Minnebrieven (Love Letters, 1861), is actually another mordant satire, this time in the form of a fictitious correspondence. The following year, he began to publish a wide range of miscellaneous writings in a series of uniform volumes called Ideën (Ideas), of which seven appeared between 1862 and 1877. His semi-autobiographical novel Woutertje Pieterse (Little Walter Pieterse) was first printed in the Ideas series.
Multatuli made several attempts to write for the stage. One of his plays, Vorstenschool (The School for Princes, published in 1872 in the fourth volume of Ideën), expresses his nonconformist views on politics, society, and religion. Out of fear of offending the Dutch king, it was three years before the play was first staged. The premiere and subsequent tour were a great success, forming one of the highlights of Multatuli's career as a writer.
Multatuli married Everdine Hubertine van Wijnbergen on April 10, 1846. They had two children, their son Edu (b. 1854) and their daughter Nonni (b. 1857). Multatuli's relationship with Edu remained difficult throughout his life.
Multatuli eventually separated from his wife, in large part due to his gambling addiction and related financial problems. She died in 1874 and Multatuli not long afterwards married a woman named Maria Hamminck Schepel.
The annual Multatuli Prize, a Dutch literary prize, is named in his honor. The literary award Woutertje Pieterse Prijs is named after the character Woutertje Pieterse in Multatuli's De geschiedenis van Woutertje Pieterse.
The Mutatuli Museum is located in Amsterdam at Korsjespoortsteeg 20, where Eduard Douwes Dekker was born.
Works which appeared during Multatuli's lifetime
- 1859 - Geloofsbelydenis (Profession of Faith; in De Dageraad magazine)
- 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 Positive Balances)
- 1860 - Indrukken van den dag (Impressions of the Day)
- 1860 - 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 beginning of the novel Woutertje Pieterse)
- 1862 - Japansche gesprekken (Japanese Conversations)
- 1863 - De school des levens (The School of Life)
- 1864-65 - Ideën II (Ideas II)
- 1864 - De bruid daarboven (The Bride Up There)
- 1865 - Bloemlezing door Multatuli (Anthology by Multatuli)
- 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 (All This in Response to Bosscha's Prussia and the Netherlands)
- 1869-70 - Causerieën (Seminars)
- 1869 - De maatschappij tot Nut van den Javaan (A Society Useful for the Javanese)
- 1870-71 - Ideën III (Ideas III)
- 1870-73 - Millioenen-studiën (Millions of Studies)
- 1870 - Divagatiën over zeker soort van Liberalismus (Deliberations about a Certain Kind of Liberalism)
- 1870 - Nog eens: Vrye arbeid in Nederlandsch Indië (Again: Free Labour in the Dutch East Indies)
- 1871 - Duizend en eenige hoofdstukken over specialiteiten (A Thousand and One Chapters on Specialties)
- 1872 - Brief aan den koning| (Letter to the King)
- 1872 - Ideën IV (contains the play Vorstenschool) (School for Princes)
- 1873 - Ideën V (Ideas V)
- 1873 - Ideën VI (Ideas VI)
- 1874-1877 - Ideën VII (Ideas VII)
- 1875 - Vorstenschool (School for Princes, 4th ed.)
- 1876 - Bloemlezing door Heloïse (Anthology by Heloise)
- 1880 - De geschiedenis van Woutertje Pieterse. Uit zijn verzameld door zijne Weduwe (The History of Woutertje Pieterse, from His Ideas As Collected by his Widow)
- 1887 - Onafgewerkte blaadjes (Unfinished Pages)
- 1888-1889 - Multatuli, Verzamelde Werken Eerste naar tijdorde gerangschikte uitgave bezorgd door zijne weduwe (Multatuli's Collected Works; first edition, selected and organized by his widow)
- 1890-1896 - Brieven van Multatuli. Bijdragen tot de kennis van zijn leven. Gerangschikt en toegelicht door M. Douwes Dekker geb. Hamminck Schepel, (Letters by Multatuli; Contributions to the Knowledge of His Life Ranked and Explained by M. Douwes Dekker born Hamminck Schepel)
- 1891 - Aleid. Twee fragmenten uit een onafgewerkt blyspel (Aleid: Two Excerpts from an Unfinished Comedy) (play)
- 1919 - Bloemlezing uit Multatuli's werken (Anthology of Multatuli's Work )
- 1937 - Bloemlezing (verzameld en ingeleid door Julius Pée) (Anthology)
- 1950-1995 - Volledige Werken van Multatuli (Complete Works of Multatuli)
- 1955 - Barbertje moet hangen, Verhalen, parabelen, aforismen (Barbertje Must Hang: Stories, Parables, Aphorisms)
- "Multatuli". Encyclopedia Britannica.
- "Pamphlets and offprints from the Multatuli Museum: Biography". Memory of the Netherlands, National Library of the Netherlands.
- "Youth". Multatuli Museum.
- Dik van der Meulen (2002): Multatuli. Leven en werk van Eduard Douwes Dekker. Nijmegen, Sun, ISBN 9789058750549, pp. 34-36.
- "Multatuli, Jeugd". Multatuli Museum website.
- De raadselachtige Multatuli, W.F. Hermans; pagina 17
- Stuiveling (1985), p. 401.
- "Dutch East Indies". Multatuli Museum.
- "Max Havelaar". Multatuli Museum.
- Een Zaaier: studiën over Multatuli's werken Carel Vosmaer, Amsterdam : G.L. Funke, 1874
- 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.
- accessed on 30 November 2005
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Dekker, Edward Douwes". Encyclopædia Britannica. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 938.
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|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Multatuli Museum
- Works by Multatuli at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Multatuli at Internet Archive
- Works by Multatuli at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
- hear the first pages of the Max Havelaar in Dutch and read a rough English translation
- Newspaper clippings about Multatuli in the 20th Century Press Archives of the German National Library of Economics (ZBW)