Louis Couperus

Louis Couperus books and biography


Louis Couperus

Louis Couperus in 1917

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 Netherlands 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 wealthy Governor General of the Dutch East Indies and many of his relatives were employed in the local govenment. After returning to The Hague in the Netherlands in 1878, he published some early volumes of poetry and prose which garnered little success or critical attention. Couperus came to fame with the publication of his 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, and many have noted stylistic similarities between Noodlot and Wilde's 1890 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Couperus' later works include De Stille Kracht (The Hidden Force, 1900) and De Berg van Licht (The Mountain of Light, 1906), a decadent and seamy 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 very popular in Germany . Couperus' books sold better abroad than in the narrow-minded calvinistic Netherlands of his days.

As a child in a large family Couperus was not rich. He had to make ends meet by writing an astonishing volume of work. Fifty novels and volumes of collected stories have been published. Couperus and his wife lived most of his life in boarding houses and rented villas in France and Italy. All their worldly goods and his large library were endlessly moved about in huge trunks and crates. Couperus was married to his niece and it seems likely that they chose not to have children. Couperus himself was most probably homosexual but the strong conventions of his time and his shy nature seem to have kept him from choosing a life that would have suited his nature.

Contemporary gossip and his often homoerotic choice of subjects (Oscar Wilde, Heliogabalus, wrestlers on the Riviera) suggest that Couperus was gay. His wife went to great pains to ensure that all the letters and other insights into Couperus' private life disappeared after his death.

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


Statue of Louis Couperus (Kees Verkade 1998), Lange Voorhout, The Hague
Statue of Louis Couperus (Kees Verkade 1998), Lange Voorhout, The Hague
  • Een lent van vaerzen (1884)
  • Orchideeën (1886)
  • Eline Vere (1889)
  • Noodlot (1890)
  • Extaze. Een boek van geluk (1892)
  • Eene illuzie (1892)
  • Majesteit (1893)
  • Reis-impressies (1894)
  • Wereldvrede (1895)
  • Williswinde (1895)
  • Hooge troeven (1896)
  • De verzoeking van den H. Antonius (1896)
  • Metamorfoze (1897)
  • Psyche (1898)
  • Fidessa (1899)
  • Langs lijnen van geleidelijkheid (1900)
  • De stille kracht (1900)
  • Babel (1901)
  • De boeken der kleine zielen. De kleine zielen (1901)
  • De boeken der kleine zielen. Het late leven (1902)
  • De boeken der kleine zielen. Zielenschemering (1902)
  • De boeken der kleine zielen. Het heilige weten (1903)
  • Over lichtende drempels (1902)
  • God en goden (1903)
  • Dionyzos (1904)
  • De berg van licht (1905/6)
  • Van oude menschen, de dingen, die voorbij gaan... (1906)
  • Aan den weg der vreugde (1908)
  • Van en over mijzelf en anderen. Eerste bundel (1910)
  • Van en over mijzelf en anderen. Tweede bundel (1914)
  • Van en over mijzelf en anderen. Derde bundel (1916)
  • Van en over mijzelf en anderen. Vierde bundel (1917)
  • Antieke verhalen, van goden en keizers, van dichters en hetaeren (1911)
  • Korte arabesken (1911)
  • Antiek toerisme. Roman uit Oud-Egypte (1911)
  • De zwaluwen neêr gestreken... (1911)
  • Schimmen van schoonheid (1912)
  • Uit blanke steden onder blauwe lucht. Eerste bundel (1912)
  • Uit blanke steden onder blauwe lucht. Tweede bundel (1913)
  • Herakles (1913)
  • Van en over alles en iedereen (1915)
  • De ongelukkige (1915)
  • De komedianten (1917)
  • Jan en Florence (1917)
  • Wreede portretten (1917)
  • Der dingen ziel (1918)
  • Brieven van den nutteloozen toeschouwer (1918)
  • Legende, mythe en fantazie (1918)
  • De verliefde ezel (1918)
  • De ode (1919)
  • Xerxes of de hoogmoed (1919)
  • Iskander. De roman van Alexander den Groote (1920)
  • Lucrezia (1920)
  • Met Louis Couperus in Afrika (1921)
  • Het zwevende schaakbord (1922)
  • Oostwaarts (1923)
  • Proza. Eerste bundel (1923)
  • Proza. Tweede bundel (1924)
  • Proza. Derde bundel (1925)
  • Het snoer der ontferming (1924)
  • Nippon (1925)

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