Over doornen en distels. Het gebruik van brieven als een bron voor historisch onderzoek naar aanleiding van de biografie over Hugo Grotius

Henk J.M. Nellen


The correspondence of the Dutch humanist Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) is used here in a cautious attempt to characterize the status of the letter written as mail - and non-fictional in character - in the first half of the seventeenth century. It is demonstrated that, at the time, the letter played a specific role in the communication process. It served as a personal, multifaceted and almost chameleonic document because, as a rule, the writer adapted subject matter, style, length and the use of polite phrases to match the relationship linking him to his correspondent. The level of confidentiality expressed in the letter varied as well, fluctuating between the strict intimacy of private conversation and the openness of an official publication. Furthermore, the current article argues that the ephemeral, lapidary and often veiled information conveyed by the letter calls for an inter-textual approach, i.e. a continuous confrontation with other relevant sources, particularly contemporary letters.

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© Tijdschrift voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde | ISSN (print): 0040-7550 | eISSN (online): 2212-0521