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Even a quick glance at J.A. Worp’s six-volume edition of the Correspondence suffices to get a grasp of the impressive epistolary network that the Dutch diplomat-poet Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687) managed to build up in the course of his long life and career.

The numerous letters he exchanged with politicians, fellow writers, philosophers and scientists provide us with a broad view of the culture of the seventeenth century, both in the Netherlands and in Europe.

Return to Sender takes as its starting point Huygens’ letters and shows us the author in his different guises: intimus of René Descartes, collector of art, writer of flirtatious love letters and the author of a long consolatory letter-poem for an ailing friend who threatened to go blind. In his letters, Huygens emerges as an often playful yet always ambitious fashioner of his own social image.

Return to Sender gives us Huygens as ‘a man of letters’ in a very literal way: conceiving and construing his texts with an addressee in mind, but also with the distinct intention to fashion for that reader a persona that could be represented by means of the text at hand. This volume brings together eight chapters on as many facets of this singularly prototypical Renaissance individual.

Lise Gosseye, Frans Blom, Ad Leerintveld (eds.), Return to Sender. Constantijn Huygens as a Man of Letters (Gent: Academia Press, 2013) 160 pagina's, geïllustreerd, ISBN 9789038220154.

Dr. F.R.E. (Frans) Blom

dr. Frans Blom