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Alberdingk Thijm, Josephus Albertus


Dutch poet and pioneer of Catholic emancipation; b. Amsterdam, Aug. 13, 1820; d. Amsterdam, March 17, 1889. He grew up in a middle-class family and embarked on a business career, but he soon started to write romantic poems with a mystical tinge. He later developed a theory that the connection of art and beauty with religion should be an intrinsic part of human life and of society. A militant Catholic, he combatted the mediocrity and narrow-mindedness of many fellow Catholics. Against them he defended the necessity of good theater and a friendship with non-Catholic authors, in whose periodicals he wrote essays and poetry. He equally contested growing agnostic materialism, for example, in Het Voorgeborchte (1851) and Magdalena van Vaernewijck (1851). In this respect he followed his admired master, Willem Bilderdijk (17561831), Holland's first romantic poet and the protagonist of a Protestantism based on sentiment. The poet E. J. Potgieter (180875) gave his friend Thijm the title of Catholic romantic and encouraged him to elevate Catholic culture.

Under this impulse, Thijm began to understand the greatness of Holland's 17th-century "golden age," a period he had considered pagan and heretical. He became the enthusiastic admirer of Vondel, Holland's greatest poet. Thijm's Portretten van Joost van den Vondel (1876) inaugurated a long series of studies of Vondel by Catholic scholars. Prior to his interest in the 17th century, Thijm had seen in the Middle Ages, then generally thought of as "dark," support for his ideals of Catholic unity and harmony. Several of his short stories recapture medieval life and thought, e.g., De klok van Delft (1846), Legenden en Fantasien (1847), De organist van de Dom (1849), Karolingische verhalen (1851, Carolingian Tales), and Geertrude van Oosten (1853). He was also active in the field of art, especially in architecture. One of his best essays, De heilige Linie (1875, The Holy Line), discusses the symbolism of church architecture. In 1876 he was appointed professor in art history at the Academy of Arts in Amsterdam. He was unable to understand younger authors, however, including his own son, Karel (pseudonym, Lodewijk van Deyssel), and lost contact with the young painters, who, like the authors, tended toward naturalism. They in their turn respected him, but considered him the representative of an era that had lost its reason for existence.

Bibliography: Werken, ed. j. f. m. sterck, 7 v. (The Hague 190820). A. J. (pseud.), J. A. Alberdingk Thijm (Amsterdam 1893), biog. by his son. w. bennink, Alberdingk Thijm: Kunst en Karakter (Nijmegen 1952). g. brom, Alberdingk Thym (Utrecht 1956).

[j. i. mendels]

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