Authors: Hendrik Conscience

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Last reviewed: June 2018

Flemish novelist and short-story writer

December 3, 1812

Antwerp, Belgium

September 10, 1883

Brussels, Belgium

Biography

A leader in the revival of the Flemish vernacular as a vehicle of the literary art, Hendrik Conscience (kawns-YAHN-suh), son of a French father and a Flemish mother, was born in Antwerp on December 3, 1812. During his childhood, the family lived for a time in Antwerp and then moved to a flat, desolate stretch of land between Antwerp and Venloo, the setting for much of his later fiction. When he was seventeen, Conscience was sent to Antwerp to study; he supported himself in part by tutoring. In 1830, at the time of the Belgian revolution, he volunteered for the army and served in the ranks until 1837. {$I[AN]9810000260} {$I[A]Conscience, Hendrik} {$I[geo]BELGIUM;Conscience, Hendrik} {$I[tim]1812;Conscience, Hendrik}

Hendrik Conscience.

By Jean Portaels, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Conscience had written some poetry in French while in the army, but when he turned to writing fiction, he decided to write in Flemish, a dialect considered by all educated Belgians as too vulgar for literary use. His first book, In’t Wonderjaar 1566 (in the year of marvels, 1566), was well received in 1837; King Leopold I of Belgium gave the book his personal praise. Conscience’s father was so angry that his son should write a book in Flemish, however, that he turned the young man out of the family home. A collection of stories and tales, Phantazy (fantasy), appeared in the same year, under royal patronage. Later novels of Belgian life include The Poor Nobleman and Benjamin van Vlaanderen.

A congress meeting at Ghent in 1841 mentioned Conscience’s work as the beginnings of a true national literature, but for many years his novels about homely life, written in Flemish, did not achieve popularity. In the 1850s, however, his popularity rose, and his novels were translated into German, French, and English. In later life, Conscience held the title of keeper of the Royal Belgian Museum. When he died in Brussels on September 10, 1883, he was given the state funeral of an important government official.

Author Works Long Fiction: In’t Wonderjaar 1566, 1837 De leeuw van Vlaanderen, 1838 (The Lion of Flanders, 1857) Hoe men schilder wordt, 1843 Siska van Roosemael, 1844 Wat een Moeder lijden kan, 1844 Geschiedenis van graaf Hugo van Craenhove en van zijnen vriend Abulfaragus, 1845 Geschiedenis van België, 1845 Eenige bladzyden uit het boek der natuer, 1846 Lambrecht Hensmans, 1847 Jacob van Artevelde, 1849 De Loteling, 1850 (The Conscript, 1856) Baes Gansendonck, 1850 Houten Clara, 1850 Blinde Rosa, 1850 Rikke-tikke-tak, 1851 De arme edelman, 1851 (The Poor Nobleman, 1856) De Gierigaard, 1852 De Grootmoeder, 1852 Hlodwig en Clothildis, 1854 Het geluk van ryk te zyn, 1855 (The Happiness of Being Rich, 1867) De Plaeg der Dorpen, 1855 De geldduivel, 1856 Moeder Job, 1856 Batavia, 1858 De omwenteling van 1830, 1858 Simon Turchi, 1859 Het Ijzeren Graf, 1860 Das Leid der Zeit, 1860; De Kwaal des Tijds, 1879 De Jonge Dokter, 1860 Bella Stock, 1861 De burgers van Darlingen, 1861 Het Goudland, 1862 Moederliefde, 1862 De Koopman van Antwerpen, 1863 Een Uitvinding des Duivels, 1864 De Ziekte der Verbeelding, 1865 Bavo en Lieveken, 1865 De Burgemeester van Luik, 1866 Levenslust, 1868 De Kerels van Vlaanderen, 1870 Koning Oriand, 1872 Een Goed Hart, 1872 De Dichter en zijn Droombeeld, 1872 Eene O te veel, 1872 De Twee Vrienden, 1872 De Baanwachter, 1872 Een zeemanshuisgezin, 1872 The Amulet, 1873 De Minnezanger, 1873 De Keus des Harten, 1873 Schandevrees, 1875 Gerechtigheid van Hertog Karel, 1876 De Oom van Felix Roobeek, 1878 De Schat van Felix Roobeek, 1878 Eene welopgevoede dochter, 1879 Het Wonderjaar; Eene Gekkenwereld, 1879 Benjamin van Vlaanderen, 1880 Geld en Adel, 1881 Short Fiction: Phantazy, 1837 Avondstonden, 1846 Tales of Flemish Life, 1855 Short Tales, 1867 (5 volumes) Nonfiction: Jubelfeesten, 1856 Redevoeringen, 1858 Geschiedenis mijner jeugd, 1888 Miscellaneous: Œuvres complètes, 1868–86 (30 volumes) Bibliography Bruyne, Michiel de. Hendrik Conscience en Roeselare: Relaties, bezoeken, brieven. Antwerp: Stichting Mercator-Plantijn, 1983. In Dutch. Biography of the author. Examines Conscience’s relationships, visits, and letters. Goris, Jean-Albert, and Paul Van Aken. “Belgian Literature in Flemish.” Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature, 1980, pp. 62–66. Literary Reference Center Plus, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lkh&AN=24749893&site=lrc-plus. Accessed 19 Sept. 2017. Presents information on the interruption of Flemish literary expression in the sixteenth century and Conscience’s part in its revival after Belgian independence in 1830. Hageland, Albert van. Hendrik Conscience en ons volksleven. Aartselaar, Belgium: Vlaams Boekenfonds, 1984. In Dutch. A biography of the author. Smits, Fran. Henri Conscience et le romantisme flamand. Brussels: Office de Publicité, 1943. English translation of the French. Examines Conscience and Flemish romanticism. Westerlinck, Albert. Wie was Hendrik Conscience? Leuven, Belgium: Acco, 1983. In Dutch. A biography of the author.

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