Willem Kloos

Willem Kloos

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Willem Johannes Theodorus (Willem) Kloos (6 May 1859, Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

 – 31 March 1938, The Hague
The Hague
The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants , it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam...

) was a Dutch
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

 and literary critic, and is widely considered one of the great writers of the Dutch language
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...


Kloos (kloːs) was one of the leaders, along with the poet Herman Gorter
Herman Gorter
Herman Gorter was a Dutch poet and socialist. He was a leading member of the Tachtigers, a highly influential group of Dutch writers who worked together in Amsterdam in the 1880s, centered around De Nieuwe Gids .Gorter's first book, a 4,000 verse epic poem called "Mei" , sealed his reputation...

, the critic Lodewijk van Deyssel
Lodewijk van Deyssel
Lodewijk van Deyssel was the pseudonym of Karel Joan Lodewijk Alberdingk Thijm , a Dutch novelist, prose-poet and literary critic and a leading member of the Tachtigers.- External links :...

, and the prolific writer and psychiatrist Frederik van Eeden
Frederik van Eeden
Frederik Willem van Eeden was a late 19th century and early 20th century Dutch writer and psychiatrist...

, of the influential group of Dutch writers known as the Movement of Eighty (Beweging van Tachtig), otherwise known simply as the Tachtigers, who interacted and worked with each other in Amsterdam in the 1880s. As part of this movement, Kloos criticized mainstream literary style as bookish and overly wrought, and instead sought to write poetry in which the form matched the content, so that intimate experiences should be conveyed with a natural intimacy of expression. Kloos also rejected art that sought to express widely shared experiences or emotions. Instead, he demanded that art must be "the most individualistic expression of the most individualistic emotion" ("de allerindividueelste expressie van de allerindividueelste emotie"). Along with the other Tachtigers, Kloos took inspiration in this effort both from Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 and from the then recent Impressionist
Impressionism was a 19th-century art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s...

 painters and Naturalist
Naturalism (literature)
Naturalism was a literary movement taking place from the 1880s to 1940s that used detailed realism to suggest that social conditions, heredity, and environment had inescapable force in shaping human character...


The Tachtigers' primary literary vehicle was a journal co-founded by Kloos called De Nieuwe Gids
De Nieuwe Gids
De Nieuwe Gids was a Dutch illustrated literary periodical which was published from 1885 to 1943. It played an important role in promoting the literary movement of 1880s...

(The New Guide), first published in October 1885. The title was intended as a sarcastic anti-tribute to the prevailing literary journal in Amsterdam, De Gids (The Guide), which had usually rejected submissions by Kloos and other Tachtigers. Many pieces by Kloos and others that are still very highly regarded first appeared in the early editions of De Nieuwe Gids, including most of Kloos's sonnets, his most important idiom. However, the Tachtigers had one falling out after another, until Kloos was left in 1893 as the only remaining editor from among the original five editors of De Nieuwe Gids.

Although he published most of his material over several years starting in 1885 in De Nieuwe Gids, Kloos had actually written most prolifically between 1880 and 1885, and had held onto most of his poems for years before publishing them. He claimed to have lost inspiration to write later in life, and indeed almost all the writings for which he is remembered today were written during that period from 1880 to 1885, even if published later.

Starting in 1888 Kloos sought psychiatric treatment from his Tachtiger friend and fellow editor at The New Guide, and psychiatrist, Frederik van Eeden
Frederik van Eeden
Frederik Willem van Eeden was a late 19th century and early 20th century Dutch writer and psychiatrist...

. However, Kloos's mental condition deteriorated, at least partly due to his persistent effort to conceal his homosexuality
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

, and to his increasing alcoholism
Alcoholism is a broad term for problems with alcohol, and is generally used to mean compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages, usually to the detriment of the drinker's health, personal relationships, and social standing...

. He reached his nadir in 1895 when he was picked up in a delirious state and placed temporarily in a sanitarium. He continued trying to write thereafter, although his efforts consisted of little more than ramblings of self-pity and bitter diatribes against one-time friends turned traitors.

However, even while Kloos's ongoing efforts were largely ignored, his early works continued to gain an ever-wider appreciation, eventually earning him several literary honors and prizes. Kloos died in The Hague
The Hague
The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants , it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam...

 in 1938 at 79, after watching his early writings become part of the canon of Dutch literature
Dutch literature
Dutch literature comprises all writings of literary merit written through the ages in the Dutch language, a language which currently has around 23 million native speakers...


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