‘Now as for the Faint Rumours of Fame Attached to My Name…’

The Eukleria as autobiography
  • Mirjam De Baar
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire Des Idées / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 146)


In the Eukleria seu Melioris Partis Electio Anna Maria van Schurman unequivocally states that she is turning her back on her former work.2 She actually repudiates all her earlier writings ‘which are redolent of such superficiality of mind, or an empty and worldly spirit’ and no longer wishes to acknowledge them as her own.3 Thus Van Schurman’s decision to choose a new life with Jean de Labadie’s community appears to mark the definitive break with her earlier life of scholarship. It is this choice that she wants to define in her last work — the ‘account of the truth’.4


Seventeenth Century Life Story United Province Evangelical Church Definitive Break 
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  1. 1.
    Eucleria (1684/1978) pp. 43–44: ‘Zeker ik heb my onlangs verwondert over mijn onmatigheit in de studien, daar ik eertijts krank aan gelegen heb: als ik by deze gelegentheit, niet zonder root worden mijn redenvertoog, aangaande de studien van een Christelijke Vrouwspersoon aan den H. Andreas Rivet geschreven, doorzag, (…) hoe verre mijn gedachten doen geweest zijn van de vermaninge onzes Zaligmakers.’Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The full title is Eukleria seu Melioris Partis Electio. Tractatus Brevem Vitae ejus Delineationem Exhibens. Altonae ad Albim. Ex Officina Cornelii vander Meulen, 1673. The Dutch edition Eucleria, of Uitkiezing van HetBeste Deel (1684,facsimile edition 1978), published by Jacob van de Velde of Amsterdam, was used for this article. For Van de Velde, see Van Eeghen, Amsterdamse boekhandel (1967) IV, p. 152. In 1685 Van de Velde also published the sequel to the Eukleria in Latin. A Dutch translation of the first three chapters of this second volume (under the title ‘Continuatie van de Eucleria’) is printed at the end of [Yvon], Oprecht verhaal (1754). This second volume has not been considered here.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Eucleria (1684/1978) pp. 13–14. Cf. also p. 1 (’new way of life’), p. 2 (‘this excellent change in my state’), p. 9 (‘the previous state of my life’).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ibid., p. 10.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    On Jean de Labadie, see Saxby, Quest for the New Jerusalem (1987).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Eucleria (1684/1978) pp. 244–245, 251 and Koelman, Historisch verhaal (1683; 2nd impression 1770) p. 25. The friend was Catharina Martiny of The Hague. She later married Pierre Yvon, Jean de Labadie’s successor. The young cousin for whom Van Schurman had evidently taken responsibility was probably a second cousin, one of the sons of her cousin Abraham van Schurman and his wife, Aemilia van der Haer. According to Schotel, the couple had two sons: Johan Abraham (born 1655) and Frederik (born 1660), see Schotel, Anna Maria van Schurman (1853), notes pp. 49–51. The cousin in question would therefore have been nine or thirteen years old in 1669, not eleven.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Elizabeth of the Palatinate (1616–1680) was an old friend of Van Schurman’s. In 1661 she was elected Abbess of the Reformed convent in Herford, see Guhrauer, ‘Elisabeth’ (1850/1851) and Goslings-Lijsen, ‘Uit het leven’ (1936).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    See her last will and testament, an undated copy of which can be found in the manuscript collection of the Provinciale Bibliotheek Friesland, no. 1559, Anna Maria van Schurman, s.l. and s.a. Cf. Greebe, ‘Het testament’ (1878).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    There are no data on the size of the edition or the price of the book, but it may be assumed that it must have had a fairly wide circulation. The work found its way to various religious groups, not just among German Pietists but also Dutch Quakers. See Wallmann, Philipp Jakob Spener(1986) pp. 307–310 and the Bibliotheca Furliana (1714). Benjamin Furly, one of the leading Quakers in Rotterdam, owned two copies of the Latin edition and one copy of the Dutch translation.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    The translator was the former minister Petrus Dittelbach who joined Jean de Labadie’ s community in 1684, see Dittelbach, Verval en val der Labadisten (1692) p. 13.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    S. van der Linde alone has devoted an article to the Eukleria, see Van der Linde, ‘Anna Maria van Schurman’ (1978). See further the unpublished M.A. thesis by Anne-Marie Korte, Een gemeenschap waarin te geloven valt (1985) and Graafland, ‘De Nadere Reformatie en het Labadisme’ [1989] pp. 315–322.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    See among others Schotel, Anna Maria van Schurman (1853); Birch, Anna van Schurman (1909); Ghijsen, ‘Anna Maria van Schurman 1607–1678’ (1926); Irwin, ‘From feminism to pietism’ (1977); Van der Stighelen, Anna Maria van Schurman (1987) pp. 10, 13–35; Biografisch lexicon II (1983), pp. 396–398. For the reception of the Eukleria see also the introductory chapter in this book by Brita Rang and Mirjam de Baar.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    See Schotel, Anna Maria van Schurman (1853) p. 81; Wieland, ‘Zum Bildniss der Anna Maria von Schurmann’ (1777); Birch, Anna van Schurman (1909) p. 10.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Van Schurman almost never refers to years. It is not possible to establish the precise date of her mother’s death from what she writes in the Eukleria, although it is clear that she took on the task of caring for her two aunts in about 1642. According to Van der Stighelen, who bases her assertion on a letter that Van Schurman wrote to Crucius on 3 January 1638, Eva von Harff died in 1637 (Anna Maria van Schurman (1987) pp. 22 and 41, note 111). If this date is correct, it means that for the first five years after the death of her mother Van Schurman was not entirely occupied by more domestic pursuits. The years 1638 to 1641 are precisely the period during which she devoted herself wholly to art and scholar-.ship, see the chapters by Brita Rang and Katlijne Van der Stighelen in this book.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Luke chapter 10, verses 41, 42.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    The letter is dated 13–9–1673. Museum ‘t Coopmanshûs Franeker, manuscript collection. There is a transcription in Van Beek, Verbastertchristendom (1992) pp. 163–165. Aemilia van der Haer was the widow of Anna Maria’s cousin Abraham van Schurman (d. 1671).Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    For the origins of the autobiography, see Georg Misch, ‘Begriff und Ursprung der Autobiographie’ (1907/1949), in: Niggl, Autobiographie [1989] pp. 33–54; see also Voisine, Naissance et évolution’ (1963) for the history of the word ‘autobiography’ in French, German and English.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    See Crawford, ‘Women’s published writings 1600–1700’ (1985) pp. 211–282; Graham et al. (ed.), Her Own Life [1989]; Pomerleau, ‘The emergence of women’s autobiography in England’ [1980] pp. 21–38; Ebner, Autobiography in Seventeenth-Century England (1971).Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    This form of ‘conversion history’ owes its existence primarily to August Hermann Francke in Halle, see Niggl, ‘Zur Säkularisation der pietistischen Autobiographie im 18. Jahrhundert’, in: Niggl, Autobiographie [1989] pp. 367–391.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    See for example Freccero, ‘Autobiography and narrative’ (1986).Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Peter Spigt, who has devoted a study to the origins of the autobiography in the Netherlands, only discusses autobiographical writings by men, see Spigt, Het ontstaan van de autobiografie in Nederland [1985]. Fred van Lieburg has looked at Pietist ego-documents by Dutch women, but this is material dating from the eighteenth century, see Van Lieburg, Levens van vromen (1991). Herman Roodenburg has focused on the remarkable work by the seventeenth-century Isabella de Moerloose, entitled Vrede Tractaet, Gegeven van den Hemel door Vrouwen Zaet, see Roodenburg, ‘The autobiography of Isabella de Moerloose’ (1985). Lastly, Florence Koorn and Marit Monteiro have drawn attention to the (auto)biographical writings of seventeenth-century semi-religious women, see Koorn, ‘Elizabeth Strouven’ (1992) and Monteiro, ‘Den middelen staet’ (1993).Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    The term ‘ego-documents’ refers to texts in which the author tells the reader something about his or her personal life and feelings (autobiographies, memoirs, diaries, travel journals and personal letters), see Dekker, ‘Ego-documents in the Netherlands’ (1989) p. 61. The findings of the ego-documents project set up by Rudolf Dekker, Ruud Lindeman and Yvonne Scherf (Erasmus University, Rotterdam) reveal that the number of ego-documents by women in the seventeenth-century Republic of the United Provinces makes up no more than a tiny percentage (12 titles, including the Eukleria) of all the Dutch ego-documents in the period 1500–1814 (630 titles) that they listed, see Lindeman et al. (ed.), Egodocumenten van Noord-Nederlanders (1993).Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Jelinek traces a specific tradition of women’ s autobiography, see The Tradition of Women’s Autobiography [1986] pp. 1–8.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Conversely the Eukleria may well have had an influence on the development of German Pietist autobiographies, cf. the chapter by Erica Scheenstra in this book.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    See also Van der Linde, ‘Anna Maria van Schurman’ (1978) p. 120.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Eucleria (1684/1978) pp. 1–2: Nadien het nu een iegelijk uit de openbare schriften van enige ver-maarde Mannen, die my voortijts met bezondere goetguustigheit (sic) genegen zijn geweest, heel be-kent is, dat haar mijn nieuwe maniere van leven zeer mishaegt, dewijl ‘t ook niemant in dese tijt onbe-kent kan zijn, hoe swaren oordeel en vooröordeel van zommige Kerkelijke tegens de goede zake Gods, voor welke ik my openbaer verklaert hebbe, gegeven is: zo verheug ik my dat my deze bequame ge-legentheit in de hand valt, (…) dat nu ook mijn oogemerk (…) gelukkig kan bereiken: te weten, dat ik voor dezelve hemelze waarheit en Godvrugtigheit, welke zy voorvegten [De Labadie et al., MdB] (…) enig behoorlijk en opentlijk getuigenis mag afleggen, en dat ik te gelijk eens voor al aan alle die het recht en de waarheit beminnen, kortelijk en opregtiglijk reden moge geven van deze uitnemende veran-deringe van mijn stant’.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Ibid., p. 2.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Allart Pieter Jonxtal or van Jongestall (1612–1676) studied arts and law in Franeker (1631–1634). As justice of the Court of Friesland he had been involved in important diplomatic missions. During his residence in Friesland he usually lived at Ondersma-state near Hallum, see Van der Aa, Biographisch woordenboekIV (reprinted 1969) pp. 61–62.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Letter dated 13–9–1673, Museum ‘t Coopmanshûs Franeker, manuscript collection; transcription in Van Beek, Verbastert christendom (1992) pp. 163–165.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Eucleria (1684/1978) pp. 2–3: ‘en indien veelligt enig leugenagtig indruksel (…) in het brein van vroome mannen nog mogt hangen, ik ‘t zelve door het beelt der oprechte waarheit mag overstrijken, of zeker ik zal het waarachtige tegen het valsche getrouwlijk tegenstellen’.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    For the reaction to Van Schurman’s choice and the image of the Labadists that was created, see De Baar, ‘En onder ‘t hennerot’ (1987) pp. 20–24 and 37–41 and the same author, ‘Verleid of verkozen?’ (1993) pp. 123–125.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    This is a persistent myth that even rears its head again in Schama, when he says that Van Schurman married De Labadie secretly in 1661 (sic!). In 1661 she had probably never even heard of De Labadie, let alone ever met him. See Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches (1987) p. 411.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Eucleria (1684/1978) p. 334.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Ibid., p. 17.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Ibid., pp. 17–18.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Ibid., p 18: ‘geschiedenissen der Bloetgetuigen’. Van Schurman provides no further details, but she may be referring to Protestant books of martyrs such as those by Adriaan C. van Haemstede, De Gheschiedenisse ende den doodt der vromer martelaren (1559).Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Ibid., pp. 219–221.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Ibid., p. 333.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Cf. for example Graham et al. (ed.) Her Own Life [1989] p. 17.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Cf. Huygens, Briefwisseling VI (1917) pp. 253–254. Van Schurman’s letter is the reply to his letter of 9–9–1669. For the various items that Huygens had sent, see Van der Stighelen, ‘Constantijn Huygens’ (1987) p. 143.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    ‘Ars longa, vita brevis’, Latin translation of the first aphorism of Hippocrates; cf. Seneca, De brevitate vitae 1, 1.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Protagoras, Greek sophist from Abdera (5th century BC). Thesis: ‘Man is the measure of all things’.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Apelles, Greek painter, 4th century BC. He was personal portrait painter to Alexander the Great. See Kris and Kurz, Die Legende von Künstler (1980).Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Eucleria (1684/1978) pp. 32–33: ‘Mijn hert houd zich nu met een ander slag van schilderyen op, om zo het hemels beeld der goddelijke deugden onzes oppersten en heerlijksten Konings en Zaligmakers Iezu, indien niet door de pen op ‘t papier (’t welk ik al lang te vergeefs onderstaan heb) voorzeker eeniger wijze in mijn ziele uit te schilderen en na te beelden. Ik zie hoe langer hoe meer dat deze konst lang, en het leven kort, en de gelegentheit moeylijk is; en dat evenwel niemant tot het hemels hof toe-gang heeft, indien niet eenig straaltje van dit godlijk teken in hem uitblinkt; maar ook die op dit paneel ook maar de kleinste linien gelukkig heeft leeren halen, die zal zonder moeite alle Protagoraas en Apellen oneindelijke schreden voor-by lopen. En ik, die in deze oeffening mijn leven begeer te eindigen, sluice met dezen wensch, dat den alleen grooten en goeden God, den eenigsten Onderwijzer in deze Konst, U, my en alle de zijne moge leeren, tot zijn heerlijkheit en reformatie der warer Kerke.’Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Cf. plates 1, 3, 5, 7 and 8 in this book; for self-portraits by Van Schurman, who used a variety of techniques, see further Van der Stighelen, Anna Maria van Schurman (1987) plates 2, 4, 15, 16, 17, 18; see also her chapter in this book.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Eucleria (1684/1978) p. 339.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Ibid., pp. 222–223.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Ibid., p. 19. For the appreciation of Van Schurman in literary circles in the Republic, see the chapter by A. Agnes Sneller in this book.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Ibid., p. 13: ‘(…) de leugenagtige Lofredenaars, welke zig door onderlinge loftuiterye betooverende, zig tot regte Eer-dieren veranderen; aan welke verre-gaande zonde ik my door de uitbasuiners van mijn uitmatigen lof so ver schuldig bevinde, als, wanneer men my (…) ten hemel verhief, en my niet alleen seer reukeloos in den rang der Heidensche Goden stelde, maar ook als men my met de eigenschappen van den waaragtigen God, als daar is de Alwetenheit, en ik weet niet met wat al voor hatelijke eertijtelen godslasterlijk overlied’. (‘(…) the lying Eulogists, who entrancing themselves with mutual praise, transform themselves into Beasts of Flattery; of which far-reaching sin I find myself guilty through the trumpeters of overblown eulogy in so far as, when men praised me (…) to the skies, and not only placed me without ado in the ranks of the Heathen Gods, but also when they blasphemously imbued me with the qualities of the true God, the All-knowing, and I know not what other hateful honours’). See also p. 36. She had already spoken out against excessive praise earlier in her life, see the chapter by Brita Rang in this book. This could also have to do with a modesty topos.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Ibid., p. 11Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Ibid., p. 342.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Ibid., p. 343.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Ibid.: ‘(…) zo besluit ik met de Kerke van Christus op de woorden van haar Bruidegom Openb.xxii. 20. Ja ik kome haastelijk, Amen: met de woorden van sijn Bruid,ja komt Heere JESUS!’ (‘(…) so I close with the Church of Christ in response to the words of her Bridegroom Revelation xxii. 20. Surely I come quickly. Amen: with the words of his Bride, Even so, come, Lord J E S U S!’)Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Compare the copper engraving after a self-portrait by Van Schurman which is reproduced in the Eukleria (plate 12 in this book). The model was probably a painted self-portrait, an eighteenth-century copy of which is in the Centraal Museum in Utrecht, see Van der Stighelen, Anna Maria van Schurman (1987) p. 132.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Cf. her ‘Publyk en Solemneel Getuigenisse’ (Public and Solemn Testimony’) dated 28–5–1672 in: Verklaringe van de suiverheid des geloofs (1672) pp. 134 [+11] ff. She is already pointing ahead to her Eukleria: ‘En dewijl God, de Almachtige, door sijne oneindige Genade my niet alleen in dit Gevoelen heeft bewaart, maar ook de liefde tot dit sijn heilig werk, in het oprechten en herstellen van sijne Kerke; na het voorbeeld en exempel der eerste Kerke to Jerusalem, die sonder tegen-spreken de beste is geweest, dageliks meer en meer in my bevestigt; soo heb ik grotelijks begeert, dit door een bysonder en wijdlopiger Geschrift, ‘t welk ik tot dien einde heb gemaakt, opentlijk to betuigen’. (‘And while God, the Almighty, through his unending Mercy has not only preserved me in this Feeling, but also daily confirms in me more and more the love of this his holy work, in the establishment and reformation of his Church; after the pattern and example of the first Church in Jerusalem, which has without contradiction been the best; so I have longed to bear witness to this openly through a particular and more far-reaching work which I have written to this end’).Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Cf. the criticism expressed by Verwey, a minister in Dordrecht, of N.G. van Kampen’s opinion. In his Beknopte geschiedenis I (1821), p. 138, Van Kampen numbered Van Schurman among the learned theologians of the seventeenth century. Verwey, ‘Anna Maria van Schurman’ (1827) pp. 454–455.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Cf. her method of argumentation in the Dissertatio (1641), which is discussed in this book by Caroline van Eck.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Eucleria (1684/1978) pp. 150–219. See also Korte, Een gemeenschap waarin to geloven valt (1985) pp. 46–48. The extent to which she departed from Jean de Labadie’s ideas on certain points requires further study, see Erica Scheenstra’s chapter in this book.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    See among others Petroff, Medieval Women’s Visionary Literature (1986); Graham et al. (ed.), Her Own Life [1989] p. 14; cf. the chapter by Erica Scheenstra in this book.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    The Eukleria is the only work from Van Schurman’s ‘Labadist’ period (autumn 1669–1678) that she published under her own name. Although her ‘Bedenkingen over de Toekomst van Christi Koningryk’ (‘Reflections on the Future of Christ’ s Kingdom’) was printed in 1675 at the back of her translation from the French of the HeyligeLof-Sangen (reprinted 1683), Van Schurman had probably already written this poem in the sixteen-sixties (cf. the manuscript collection in the university library, Utrecht, correspondence from and to Joa. van Almeloveen, minister in Mijdrecht, VI.K.II, no. 107 ‘sung in Mijdrecht 15 Sept. 1668’). I venture to doubt that she is the anonymous author and translator of the theological treatises referred to by Ute Brandes, see Brandes, ‘Studierstube [1988], ‘Anmerkungen’, p. 527. In the case of none of these works can it be stated with certainty on the grounds of the title page or the text of the publication that Van Schurman was the (co-)author or translator. Only in the treatise entitled Verklaringe van de suyverheit des geloofs (1671/1672; Latin edition Veritas sui vindex (1672), published under the names of De Labadie, Yvon, Dulignon and the Schlüter brothers, is a declaration of support by Anna Maria van Schurman appended after the text, dated Herford 14–2–1671 (pp. 167168) and dated 28–5–1672 (3 pp.).Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    See her correspondence with the Lutheran Pietist Johann Jakob Schütz (in the years 1674–1678) from which it can be seen that he regarded Van Schurman as an authority, see Wallmann, Philipp Jakob Spener (1986) pp. 307–324. See also her correspondence with Samuel Rachelius, Johannus Owenus and Daniel Meyerus, incorporated in the second volume of the Eukleria (1685).Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Cf. Roothaan and Van Eck, ‘Anna Maria van Schurman’s verhouding tot de wetenschap’ (1990) pp. 208–210.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    For a more detailed analysis of the philosophical and theological content of the Eukleria,see the chapters by Angela Roothaan and Erica Scheenstra in this book.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    Cf. the chapter by Erica Scheenstra in this book.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    See among others Labalme (ed.), Beyond their Sex (1980) p. 4. Cf. also the article by Davis in the same collection: ‘Gender and genre: women as historical writers, 1400–1820’, pp. 153–182.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    See Korte, ‘Verandering en continuïteit’ (1987) p. 37. In the Dissertatio Van Schurman was after all concerned to demonstrate that women (among them herself through this work) had a ‘fit mind’ for scholarship. See also the chapter by Caroline van Eck in this book.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    See Korte, Een gemeenschap waarin te geloven valt (1985) p. 76; Letter from Rivet, dated 18–31638, in: Question celebre (1648), pp. 51–53. For the correspondence between Van Schurman and Rivet in 1637 and 1638 see also the chapter by Brita Rang in this book.Google Scholar

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

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  • Mirjam De Baar

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