High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands


High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands

Bridging Two Cultures. The Story of the Huygens Family
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Bridging Two Cultures. The Story of the Huygens Family

(M.A. Schenkeveld-van der Dussen) The Low Countries - 1997, № 5, pp. 178-186

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The Dutch Golden Age in the seventeenth century was a period which saw a quite extraordinary convergence of talent, not just in society as a whole, but also within the confines of a single family. There is no doubt that on the international stage Christian Huygens has become the best known member of this family. The language of mathematics and physics is international by nature and knowledge of Christians's observations on light and his invention of the pendulum clock spread all over the world. But within the Netherlands it could well be that Christian's father Constantine is better known than his son. Constantine used his mother tongue rather than the international language of Latin for his poetry, and as a result sacrificed fame throughout Europe to his love of his own country. He did this quite deliberately, judging that his own mission and that of his generation was to raise the quality of Dutch literature to match European standards. He became an important Dutch poet — but this only made him a big fish in a small pond. So father and son united science and literature in one family. (with a translation of ‘On the Frontispiece of “Cornflowers”' by Constantine Huygens).

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