holland returned hague
CATS, JACOB (1577-1660), one of the oldest, and long the most popular, of Dutch poets and humourists, was born at Brouwershaven in Zeeland. Deprived of his mother at an early age, and adopted with his three brothers by an uncle, Cats was sent to school at Zierikzee. At school he was an idle boy, and learned but little ; removed, however, to the young and thriving university of Leyden, he seems to have read hard, and to have acquired a respectable knowledge of Greek and jurisprudence. After a visit to France to learn the language, and a turn in Italy with the same object, he returned to Holland, and settled at the Hague, where he began to practise as an advocate. His pleading in defence of a wretched creature accused of witchcraft got him many clients and some reputation. As Cats so far anticipated the common sense line of argument afterwards adopted in eases of the sort as to be often referred to later as an authority his success was by no means undeserved. A serious love affair occurred about this tune, which was broken off on the very eve of marriage by a tertian fever in the bridegroom. The fever defied all attempts at cure for some two years. For medical advice and change of air Cats betook himself to England, where he consulted the highest authorities, and exhausted their pharmacopoeia in vain. He resigned himself to his fate, returned to Zeeland to die, and was cured mysteriously by a strolling quack. He then went to Middleburgh, where (1602) be married a lady named Valkenburg, who bore him five children. At Middleburgh he devoted himself to farming and poetry, retiring gradually from the exercise of his profession, and producing his first great works - the Emblems of Fancy and Love, the Galatea (a pastoral romance), the Mirror of Past and Present, the Marriage, and others. In 1621, on the expiration of the twelve years' truce with Spain, the breaking of the dykes drove him from his farm. He was made pensionary (stipendiary magistrate) of Middleburgh ; and two years afterwards he received the same distinction from the larger city of Dort. His illiuptial Bing was the result of his leisure during this part of his career. In 1627 Cats came to England on a mission to Charles I. ; that prince made him a knight, but otherwise the poet's success as au ambassador was not indicated by any result. In 1635 he was made grand pensionary of Holland ; and in 1652, a year after his resignation of this office, the second in the commonwealth, he again figured in England as an unsuccessful envoy. His long Latin oration left Cromwell absolutely unmoved; and Cats returned to Holland altogether to relinquish the practice of state affairs, In the seclusion of his villa of Sorgvliet (Fly-from-Care), near the Hague, he resided till his death, occupied in the composition of his autobiography (Eighty-two Years of My Life) and of many poems (01c1 Age and Country Life, Coffins for the Living, &c.) He was buried by torchlight, and with great ceremony, in the Klooster-Kerk at the Hague, and is still spoken of as " Father Cats " by his countrymen.
Cats, who lived and reigned with Hoeft and Vondel in the golden age of Flemish literature, was an exceedingly prolific writer. His versification is smooth and regular ; although somewhat monotonous ; his style is homely and familiar ; and the naivete and simplicity of most of that he says, and of his manner of saying it, are peculiarly attractive. He never soared, or tried to soar ; he was content to plod on, scattering round him as he went the blunt straight maxims, the shrewd little moralities, the excellent pieces of advice, which his countrymen - of whose practical and prosaic genius he is the highest literary representative - have found so pleasant and so full of profit. Hardly known outside of Holland, among his own people for nearly two centuries he enjoyed an enormous popularity, - his Book of Emblems, a great favourite with Sir Joshua Reynolds in his childhood, being often styled "The Household Bible." Of late years, however, his diffuseness and the antiquated character of his matter and diction have come to be regarded as difficulties in the way of study, and he is perhaps rather more renowned than read. A statue to him was erected at Ghent in 1829.
See Jacob Cats, Complete Works, 1790-1800, 19 vols. ; Pigott, Moral Emblems, with Aphorisms, &c., from Jacob Cats, 1860; and Octave Delepierre, Sketch of the History of Flemish Literature, 1860. Southey has a very complimentary reference to Cats in his "Epistle to Allan Cunningham."