Jacob Cats

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Portrait of Cats, painted by Michiel Jansz van Mierevelt .

Cats' signature:
Signature Jacob Cats.PNG

Jacob Cats (born November 10, 1577 in Brouwershaven on the island of Schouwen-Duiveland , † September 12, 1660 in The Hague ) was a Dutch poet and politician .

Politician Cats

After studying law at the University of Leiden and in Orléans , France , he settled as a lawyer in Middelburg , where he married Elisabeth van Valckenburgh in 1605 . During the Twaalfjarig Period - a twelve-year armistice in the Eighty Years' War - Cats and his brother Cornelis made a name for themselves by helping to drain the land that had been flooded during the war by damaging the dikes .

After that, Cats received important administrative offices - first in Middelburg and later in Dordrecht . In 1636 he was appointed raadpensionaris (council pensioner ), the highest administrative officer in the province of Holland and West Friesland. He held this office for 15 years, but without putting his stamp on him. Cats turned out to be a pretty colorless statesman. During his tenure, Andries Bicker and his cousin Cornelis de Graeff took over the leadership of the republican-minded Dutch regents . He stayed in Sorghvliet, today's Catshuis near The Hague, until his death .

Poet cats

Emblem from Cats' Monita amoris virginei (1620)

As a poet, Cats enjoyed great popularity. His wife profoundly influenced his moral outlook. Long after his death, his texts were widely read by ordinary people and without exception are of a moralizing nature. Cats' work was steeped in Christian norms and values. Many painters of the 17th century settled by Cats' moral messages inspired. In Germany, too, it was extremely popular at the time and was translated into German by many Baroque poets during his lifetime .

Even today, cats' rhymes are sometimes quoted in the Netherlands. One of them is:

  • Prevent children from taking children - children are a nuisance.


From Cats comes the oldest known literary description and moralizing interpretation of a guillotine , a forerunner of the French guillotine . His poem Op een vallende Byl, in eenige landen gebruykelyk ("On a falling ax, common in some countries"), published in the Doodkiste collection (coffin) from 1656, describes the technical setup of the ax held by a wire or cord, which, when the cord is cut, descends in the bare neck of the condemned man bent over a block, and he links the motif of the severed cord with a general consideration of the mortality of man whose life is only hanging by a thread ( Het leven van de mens hangd maar aan eenen draat ).

Works (selection)

  • Carmen in laudem doctissimi & eximij juvenis Iohannis Antonii Amstelrodamensis (1593)
  • Ode epithalamia in nuptias nobilissimi iuvenis Galeni van-der-Laen ac generosae virginis Franciscae from Hemstede (1595)
  • Disputatio de actionibus, compilata quasi per Saturam ex. Tit. Inst. De Actionibus (1598)
  • Self-stryt (1620)
  • Monita Amoris Virginei , or Maedchensplicht ofte Ampt der Jonck-Vrouwen in eerbaer Abschiedden (1622), German edition from around 1720: Newly opened school in front of the still single woman ( digitized version )
  • Houwelick (1625)
  • Proteus of Minne-beelden changed into meaning-beelden (1627)
  • Spiegel van den ouden ende nieuwen tijdt. Bestaende uyt spreeck-woorden ende sin-spreucken ... ('s-Gravenhage 1632); Reprinted Amsterdam 1968
  • Trouringh (1637)
  • First edition: Alle de wercken van Jacob Cats (1655)
  • Koningklyke herderinne, Aspasia (1655)
  • Doodkiste voor den levendige (1656)
  • Ouderdom, buytenleven en hofgedachten op Sorghvliet (1658)
  • Twee- en tachtig-jarig leeven (1659)

Individual evidence

  1. Adolphe Bloeme: Notice sur la guillotine , Hazebrouck: Imprimé chez L. Guermonprez, Libraire, 1865, esp. P. 12ff.

Web links

Commons : Jacob Cats  - collection of images, videos and audio files
predecessor Office successor
Anthonie Duyck Council pensioner of Holland
1629 - 1631
Adriaan Pauw
predecessor Office successor
Adriaan Pauw Council pensioner of Holland
1636 - 1651
Adriaan Pauw