Dirck Volckertszoon Coornhert  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Dirck Volckertszoon Coornhert (born in Amsterdam, 1522-died October 29, 1590 in Gouda) was a Dutch writer, philosopher, translator, politician and theologian, the youngest son of Volckert Coornhert, cloth merchant. As a child he spent some years in Spain and Portugal. Returning home, he was disinherited by his father's will, for his marriage with Cornelia (Neeltje) Simons, a portionless gentlewoman. He took for a time the post of major-domo to Reginald (Reinoud), count of Brederode. Soon he settled in Haarlem, as engraver on copper, and produced works which retain high values. Learning Latin, he published Dutch translations from Cicero, Seneca and Boethius. Coornhert is often considered the Father of Dutch Renaissance scholarship. His 1562 translation of the first twelve books of Homer's Odyssey is one of the first great works of Dutch Renaissance poetry. He was appointed secretary to the city (1562) and secretary to the burgomasters (1564). Throwing himself into the struggle with Spanish rule, he drew up the manifesto of William the Silent, Prince of Orange (1566). Imprisoned at the Hague in 1568, he escaped to Cleves, where he maintained himself by his art. Recalled in 1572, he was secretary of state for a short time; his aversion to military violence led him to return to Cleves, where William continued to employ his services and his pen. As a religious man, he wrote and strove in favor of tolerance, being decidedly against capital punishment for heretics. He had no party views; he criticized the Heidelberg Catechism, which was authoritative in Holland. The great Jacobus Arminius, employed to refute him, was won over by his arguments.

Upon his death in 1590, his Dutch version of the New Testament, following the Latin of Erasmus, was never completed. His works, in prose and verse, were published in 1630 in 3 volumes.

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