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Louis Couperus

Couperus in 1917
Born Louis Marie-Anne Couperus
June 10, 1863(1863-06-10)
The Hague, Netherlands
Died July 16, 1923 (aged 60)
Occupation Novelist
Years active 1878–1923

Louis Marie-Anne Couperus (June 10, 1863 – July 16, 1923) was a Dutch novelist and poet of the late 19th and early 20th century. He is usually considered one of the foremost figures in Dutch literature.



Born in The Hague in 1863, Couperus grew up in a wealthy patrician family, spending part of his youth in the Dutch East Indies and going to school in Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia). Couperus was the grandson of a Governor General of the Dutch East Indies and many of his relatives were employed in the local government. The Dutch literary historian Rob Nieuwenhuys has observed that Couperus "must have known that his family was of mixed (i.e. Dutch-Javanese) descent".[1] After returning to The Hague in 1878, he published some early volumes of poetry which garnered little success or critical attention. Couperus came to fame with the publication of his first novel Eline Vere (1888), a naturalist work influenced by French novelists like Emile Zola and Gustave Flaubert. Couperus' 1891 novel Noodlot ('Footsteps of Fate') was much admired by Oscar Wilde,[2] and many have noted stylistic similarities between Noodlot and Wilde's 1890 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Later works

Cover of Metamorfoze designed by Jan Toorop

Couperus attained popularity with his novels Majesteit ('Majesty', 1893) and Wereldvrede ('World Peace', 1895), both set among royals in modern Europe, threatened with anarchism. Also his fairy tale Psyche (1898) has often been reprinted. A veiled autobiography, Metamorfoze (1897), with a bookbinding design by Jan Toorop, did not sell well.

Couperus' later works include De Stille Kracht ('The Hidden Force', 1900) and De Berg van Licht ('The Mountain of Light', 1906), a decadent novel set at the height of the Roman Empire. His psychological novels, such as De Boeken der Kleine Zielen (1901-1902; translated as 'The Books of the Small Souls') en Van Oude Menschen, de Dingen, die Voorbij gaan... (1906: translated as 'Of old people and the Things that Pass') enjoyed much success in the English speaking countries after the First World War. His historical novels were popular in Germany. His books have been translated in many other languages, like French and Italian, Scandinavian languages, Hungarian, Czech, Esperanto and in recent years even in Urdu. Couperus's books received as much attention abroad as in the calvinistic Netherlands of his days.

Personal life

Fifty novels and volumes of collected stories by Couperus have been published. The famous author and his wife lived most of their life in boarding houses and rented villas in France and Italy. All their worldly goods and his library were moved about in huge trunks and crates.

In 1891, Couperus married his niece Elisabeth Baud (1867-1960), who in 1893 translated Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray in Dutch. It seems likely that they chose not to have children. Settling in Florence and Nice until 1910, they then began travelling more broadly throughout Italy. Couperus himself is believed to have been homosexual but the conventions of his time and his shy nature seem to have kept his sexuality private, a case of repression that looks remarkably similar to that of his contemporary and near-lookalike Henry James, whose complex, experimental writing style and penchant for psychological portraits would have appealed to Couperus. Contemporary gossip and certain homoerotic choice of subjects (Oscar Wilde, Heliogabalus, wrestlers on the Riviera) may suggest that Couperus was gay, although there is no biographical evidence of any consummated relationships.

A renowned wit, raconteur and commentator, Couperus continued to publish critically and commercially successful work until his death of sepsis in 1923.


Statue of Louis Couperus (Kees Verkade 1998), Lange Voorhout, The Hague
Louis Couperus was born in The Hague
  • Een lent van vaerzen (1884) (A Ribbon of Poems)
  • Orchideeën (1886) (Orchids)
  • Eline Vere (1889) (to be published in 2009 by Holland Park Press)
  • Noodlot (1890) (Destiny)
  • Extaze. Een boek van geluk (1892) (Ecstasy, a book of happiness)
  • Eene illuzie (1892) (An illusion)
  • Majesteit (1893) (Majesty)
  • Reis-impressies (1894) (Travel impressions)
  • Wereldvrede (1895) (World peace)
  • Williswinde (1895)
  • Hooge troeven (1896) (High Trumps)
  • De verzoeking van den H. Antonius (1896) (The Temptation of St. Anthony)
  • Metamorfoze (1897) (Metamorphosis)
  • Psyche (1898)
  • Fidessa (1899)
  • Langs lijnen van geleidelijkheid (Translated into English as Inevitable, The Inevitable and The Law Inevitable) (1900)
  • De stille kracht (1900) (translated as The Hidden Force)
  • Babel (1901)
  • De boeken der kleine zielen. De kleine zielen (1901) (translated as The books of small souls. Small Souls)
  • De boeken der kleine zielen. Het late leven (1902) (The books of small souls. The Later Life)
  • De boeken der kleine zielen. Zielenschemering (1902) (The books of small souls. The Twilight of the Souls)
  • De boeken der kleine zielen. Het heilige weten (1903) (The books of small souls. Dr. Adriaan)
  • Over lichtende drempels (1902) (Shining Doorsteps)
  • God en goden (1903) (God and gods)
  • Dionyzos (1904)
  • De berg van licht (1905/6) (The mountain of light)
  • Van oude menschen, de dingen, die voorbij gaan... (1906) (Of old people, the things that pass)
  • Aan den weg der vreugde (1908) (On the road to happiness)
  • Van en over mijzelf en anderen. Eerste bundel (1910) (About me and others)
  • Van en over mijzelf en anderen. Tweede bundel (1914) (About me and others II)
  • Van en over mijzelf en anderen. Derde bundel (1916) (About me and others III)
  • Van en over mijzelf en anderen. Vierde bundel (1917) (About me and others IV)
  • Antieke verhalen, van goden en keizers, van dichters en hetaeren (1911) (Antique Stories, about gods and emperors, of poets and hetaeras)
  • Korte arabesken (1911) (Short Arabesques)
  • Antiek toerisme. Roman uit Oud-Egypte (1911) (translated as The Tour. A Story of Ancient Egypt)
  • De zwaluwen neêr gestreken... (1911) (The Swallows Landed)
  • Schimmen van schoonheid (1912) (Shadows of Beauty)
  • Uit blanke steden onder blauwe lucht. Eerste bundel (1912) (From White Cities under Blue Air)
  • Uit blanke steden onder blauwe lucht. Tweede bundel (1913)
  • Herakles (1913)
  • Van en over alles en iedereen (1915) (About everything and everyone)
  • De ongelukkige (1915) (The unhappy one)
  • De komedianten (1917) (translated as The Comedians. A Story of Ancient Rome)
  • Jan en Florence (1917) (Jan and Florence)
  • Wreede portretten (1917) (Cruel portraits)
  • Der dingen ziel (1918) (Soul's things)
  • Brieven van den nutteloozen toeschouwer (1918) (Letters of the Useless Spectator)
  • Legende, mythe en fantazie (1918) (Legend, myth and fantasy)
  • De verliefde ezel (1918) (The donkey in love)
  • De ode (1919) (The Ode)
  • Xerxes of de hoogmoed (1919)
  • Iskander. De roman van Alexander den Groote (1920)
  • Lucrezia (1920)
  • Met Louis Couperus in Afrika (1921) (With Louis Couperus in Africa)
  • Het zwevende schaakbord (1922) (The floating chessboard)
  • Oostwaarts (1923) (Towards the East)
  • Proza. Eerste bundel (1923) (Prose)
  • Proza. Tweede bundel (1924)
  • Proza. Derde bundel (1925)
  • Het snoer der ontferming (1924) (The String of Compassion)
  • Nippon (1925)


External links



Several books have been recently published in translation, including Ecstasy ISBN 1-901285-02-2, Psyche ISBN 1-901-285-21-9.


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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