Estella Hijmans-Hertzveld
(The Hague 14-7-1837/ Arnhem 4-11-1881)

a talented poetress

Names of Dutch Jewish genealogical relevance mentioned in the article:
Estella Dorothea Salomea Hijmans-Hertzveld, Hartog Joshua Hertzveld, Henriette Loewenstam, Salomon Hartog Hertzveld, Devora Halberstamm, Joseph H.S. Halberstamm, S.J. Mulder, Abraham Capadoce, Isaac da Costa, A.D. Lutomirski, Jacobus Hijmans, Jacobus Salomon Hijmans, Nanette Vrouwtje Salomons, , Leon Hertzveld, Saartje Salomonson, Maria Hertzveld, George Belinfante, Joseph Israels, Eduard van Biema.
[The list contains only the names when mentioned with their surname]

In the course of the research about the Jews in Arnhem, the author of this article was confronted with the poetess Estella Hijmans-Hertzveld, who died on November 4, 1881 in Arnhem. It appeared that she was not buried in the Jewish cemetery ‘Moscowa’. Her beautiful tomb was found in the totally disorderly, old, Jewish cemetery in the built-up area of the town of Wageningen. On this tomb there are chiseled the words”
‘Wake, wake Deborah, sing a song’
a quotation from one of the oldest songs of Hebrew literature, the Song of Deborah. Although the Jewish poetess Estella Dorothea Salome Hijmans-Hertzveld is much closer in time to us, the biblical Deborah is far more known. Hopefully this short life-story will help changing this.
Estella Dorothea Salomea Herzveld, who was born on July 14, 1837 in The Hague, is a descendant of a well- known and honored Jewish family. Her grandfather, Hartog Joshua Hertzveld came from Silesia and he was born on November 19, 1781 in Slogau.
A descendant of a family of famous rabbi’s, he functioned from 1808 till 1864 as chief rabbi of the provinces Overijssel and Drenthe.
He married the daughter of the Rabbi of Amsterdam, Henriette Loewenstam. He cherised enlightened ideas for his time. The couple had four sons and two daughters, of which for our story only Salomon and Leon are of importance. Salomon Hartog Hertzveld, Estella’s father, was born on May 14, 1805 in Zwolle (some sources mention Amsterdam as his town of birth). He married Devora Halberstamm, who was born in Warsaw on September/October 18, 1814; sources mention her as belonging to an enlightened family. (Her gravestone, as well as that of her father, is still in existence in the Jewish cemetery of Delft).
Estella’s father was not close to religion: -the couple had no kosher household, nor did he visit the synagogue frequently.
In educating their six children, they put much weight on the general values of Jewish culture.
Both parents would outlive their daughter Estella. Father Salomon was a senior civil servant of the Ministry of Finance, the department of Direct Taxes and in 1870 he published the National Code of Law of Direct Taxes in the Netherlands, which earned him the recognition as a great authority in this field. As a soldier he took part in the 10 days campaign of 1830 against the Belgians. The couple, which lived in The Hague, had four daughters and two sons. With the family also lived the father of Devora, Joseph H.S. Halberstamm. So it was a busy family, in which Estella, as well as her sister Maria, had to unfold their creativity. With her sister Maria, two years younger, Estella had a special relationship. They worked closely together in literary affairs. Estella earned her first marks as a 15-year-old poetess with the poem ‘Saul’s death’, which was first read by Mr. Jacob van Gigh, at an evening of the department of the Society for Jewish Benefit in The Hague. The public reacted with much enthusiasm.

‘There is an ocean of glow and rays.
A stream of purely twinkling fire;
The marvelous sight that nature;
Has landed on somber earth;
Those fireworks in the bow of sky;
Pull spirit and senses up above;
Only in Saul’s soul it is dark;
Whatever great picture nature offers him;
The beauty he does not recognize;
No lovely twinkling of stars will caress him;
A feeling of incurable sadness; creates shadows in his heart’.

By the way, it should be mentioned that the Jews had this special society of their own, as they could not be members of the ‘Society for the Benefit of All’.
It is striking, that the two sisters, then 14 and 15 years old, could publish in the ‘Vader-
landsche Letteroefening’ (National Letter-exercise), a journal which was not overly Jewish-friendly. To the contrary, this journal still adhered to the old fake theory of the damned Jewry. In this journal for example, when they discussed the work of Grace Aquilar, they put forward the thesis that she could never be of Jewish origin, as she was so learned and could reach her female readers so accurately. But apparently the poet Withuys, also the mentor of Estella, who was for a period head-editor of Vaderlandsche Letteroefeningen, has given admittance to both sisters Hertzveld.
It was this publication that gave her instant fame. Above-mentioned reading before the Society for Jewish Benefit in The Hague was a reaction to this publication.
Later on van Gigh added “Saul’s death’ to the ‘Yearbook for Jews’ of 1852. In this poem, Estella’s high level of literacy can be felt. Except for the modern languages, English, German, French and Danish, she was proficient in Hebrew and in general and Jewish history. Apparently she studied the Jewish subjects in the school for Jewish religion, founded in 1849 for paying pupils where boys and girls between the age 5 and 14 got lessons for about five to six hours a week beyond school-time. A year later her poem ‘Elias in the desert’ was included in the Yearbook for Jews of 1853. It is known that she had written this poem even before the poem ‘Saul’s death’, which she composed at the age of 14.
Biblical subjects continued holding her attention. In the Jewish Yearbooks appeared ‘the journey of the Jewish people through the Red Sea’, ‘Moses the shepherd’ and the oratorio of Dr. Philipson, translated from German, titled ‘Moses on the mountain of Nevo’. In 1856 the scholar Delaville translated her poem ‘The Prayer’ even into Hebrew. Her poem ‘Abram’ was published, in addition to the Jewish Yearbook of 1860 /1861, also in the ‘Anthology of the poetry by Dutch poetesses’, published by the pharmacist /author Samuel Johannes van den Bergh.In the context of the history of Arnhem it is interesting to mention that he was friendly with the painter /author from Arnhem, Johannes Jan Cremer. Estella also contributed the poem ‘Esther’to the Bible translation for Jewish youth by S.J. Mulder :
‘So G’d had chosen a woman for rescue,
And we look on moved, to the lovely image.
Which compels us to respect, enthralls and caresses us in turn.
We women, children of Judea, born in any class,
We feel inspired, we have strength and courage;
Let us try and pursue what Esther did,
Let us for the eternal G’d, live his holy doctrine,
And may that doctrine stay to us, the highest and dearest good.

She was a guest of honor at the inauguration of the synagogues of Hardenberg (1855) and Delft (1862).
Besides biblical subjects, she wrote poetry about national history. She even wrote a poem about the dog of William of Orange, which was not published. After the catastrophe of the floods in 1856 she wrote ‘God rescues’ and after the one of 1861, ‘January 1861’. One of Estella’s most detailed poems is dedicated to Empress Maria Theresia of Austria (1740-1780), whom she idolized as a sovereign and a woman, but whose joining the advocates of the division of Poland she would never forgive.
By writing about Maria Theresia in 1861 she showed, that she was also fluent in writing epic poems:
‘Who knows Theresia and dares to brake the staff,
Where severe religion made the woman fail;
Where she forgets in her religious delusion in the darkish track
That for the master Lord, no church shall speak first,
That G’d calls his children in all form and dress…
Who knows Theresia, and does not grieve that the luster
Of her reign was faded in the eve,
Because she did not close her ears for lure and angry whispering,
As she as well robs the people, from its rights, its life….’

Her ‘Triumph-song of Civilization’, written in July 1866 during the Prussian-Austrian War, proved her involvement with humanity best. It started as a hymn to the century of civilization, but it described halfway the horrors of the war. This poem showed, how she was touched by human fate. Same can be said, when she wrote the poem “Song of the
Negress, a day of liberty” (1863), when slavery in the Dutch colonies was abolished.
That part of her nature was transformed into deeds, when in later years she was chosen as the chairwoman of the society ‘Work bestows dignity’. The goals of this society were the improvement of the fate of the poor and the civilized Dutch woman. As the only Dutch voice, she condemned in her poem ‘Voices and Songs’ the brutal invasion of Denmark by the Prussians in the year 1864. Her father Salomon Hartog gave this poem, which was published in the ‘Yearbook for the Rederijkers’ of 1865, as a present to the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, during his second visit to the Netherlands in 1866.
‘Oh people that could be proud of liberty and courage,
Oh people of courageous Danish,
They trampled on your courage into your blood!
Your glow has vanished into eternity!’

Estella was already known to the Dutch readers-public for being pugnacious, at least on paper, because as a person she made a very modest impression. An annoying incident happened to her, when she was a young poetess. A certain Abraham Capadoce (1795-1874), a Jew baptized in 1822, and friend of the writer Isaac da Costa, considered dedicating to her, the book he translated from English, ’Leila Ada or the striking history and death of a young Jewish daughter’, a story about conversion. Without asking her permission, he wrote in it the following dedication: “to the young Jewish poetess of ‘Elias in the desert’ this little book, with the prayer, that she as Leila Ada, will know in the thunder and storm-wind of the Sinai justness, and in the sigh of the soft stillness of the Gospel, the mercy of the God our Fathers, is dedicated kindly by the friend of her tribe, Dr. A Capadoce”. Although she was then only 15 years old, she parried this un-asked for dedication on the 28th of February with the words:
‘As it is not common, and even against politeness, to dedicate a book to someone, without the dedication having been accepted, and as the subject of the book is not of interest for me, so that I would never have accepted this dedication, I am sending the work back to you’.
Of course her father helped her drawing up this answer, but not only the Hertzveld-family was indignant about such insolence; also from Christian quarters the conduct of the baptized Jew was condemned. As the magazine ‘Mirror of time’ (Tijdspiegel) puts it in the April 1853 edition: “what understanding should the Jew expect from the Christians, if one tries in such smuggle-manners to bring him to other views”.
Some years afterwards, she approved the dedication in the Jewish prayer book of the head-teacher of Rotterdam, A.D. Lutomirski.
Estella’s career as an author was at the beginning much influenced by the novelist A.L.G. Bosboom Toussaint (1812-1886), who contributed much to the establishment of Estella’s position in the circle of men of literature. She mentioned the then 15-year-old Estella as ‘a nice Jewish girl, with beautiful black eyes and much spirit, who makes poems which have in my opinion much promise’. She herself mentioned Karel Godfried Withuys (1794-1865) as influential on her literary molding. For us Estella’s work seems quite inaccessible, because of the old-fashioned and rhetoric language. She herself said about poetry:
‘Poetry is everywhere
Where beauty is and glows.
On mountain and lake,
In forest and valley
In the deepest of ones feelings.
She smiles out of the azure bow,
She sighs in the evening-wind;
She has a mirror in each eye,
Which looks for beauty and which loves;
An echo she has in every heart,
Which encloses her with love,
Although it does not unburden
Its wealth or sorrow in full chords’.

The work of Estella can be found, besides in the Jewish yearbook, in literary luxury yearbooks of that period, like Amora, Castalia, National Letter-exercises, Almanac for the Beauty and the Nice (of which Geertruida Bosboom-Toussaint was the editor), yearbook for Tesselschade and the yearbook for Rederijkers. The so-called muse-almanacs were literary yearbooks, which enjoyed a short prosperity in the Netherlands between 1830 and 1850. The regular almanac was a book or a tabular sheet with a calendar of days, weeks and months, filled with a variety of themes like the position of the sun, the moon, holidays, memorial-days and market-days, times of low tide and high tide, sometimes weather forecasts and astrological facts etc. The muse-almanacs were mainly addressed to women and they had a didactic character. In the second half of the 19th century, the almanacs were pushed aside more and more by a large supply of cheap, small books. Besides in Dutch, Estella also wrote poetry, although not much, in French, German and English. Later on she made a hobby of it, to write in Italian and Danish.
She also translated from foreign languages into Dutch, even a work from Norwegian.
On December 16, 1863 she married in her home-town The Hague Jacobus Hijmans originating from Veenendaal, and whose family had their domicile in Tiel, Veenendaal, Wageningen and the Dutch Indies. There he established a trading company and he returned as a successful businessman.
He was 20 years older than she was.
That same afternoon the ‘chupah’ took place in the synagogue of Delft, founded a year before, and for which at that time Estella had written an inauguration-poem. The ‘Weekly for Jews’ of August 1862 reports about this:
‘That the wonderful goal of this serious celebration, had been reached through the combined cooperation of so many noble forces, among which certainly, and not the least, must be reckoned that of the dedicated poetry, of which the beautiful text bears witness and which stands in the rank of Dutch poetry, with real prophetic fire, and that was composed for this day by the richly talented, young poetess, Miss Estella Hertzveld from The Hague’.
The couple Hijmans- Hertzveld moved to Arnhem, first to the Velper Square (Velperplein), as is proven by the registration of the birth of their daughter, Hanna, born on October 15th, 1864. When on December 23, 1865 their daughter, Dorothea Dina Estella was born; the family lived at the Utrecht Road (Utrechtseweg). Jacobus proved then to be 49 years of age. Estella herself was then at the age of 28. On April 8, 1867 Hugo Siegfried Johan came to the world and a year after him, on September 5th, 1868, Willem Dagobert George Marie, who died as an infant, on March 22, 1872, only 3 ½ years old. On April 29, 1870 the son Leopold Maurits Bernard was born and on May 29 1871, Maria Sophia Elisabeth. As a witness for this birth, officiated Mr. Jacobus Salomon Hijmans, councilor in the provincial court of justice. Three years before, on July 29, 1868, this Jacobus married Nanette Vrouwtje Salomons and both lived in Arnhem already. Estella’s uncle, Leon Hertzveld, who already earned a degree of doctor in law and old languages, when he was only 21, and practiced law in Zwolle till 1874, came to Arnhem in 1875, where he became a member of the court of justice. He was married to Saartje Salomonson and they had three daughters. Estelle called them the ‘Nieuwe Pleiners’ (New squarers), so they probably lived over there.
So family of herself, as well as of her husband, surrounded Estella.
After her marriage Estella concentrated on her task as a mother and hardly published anything new. Nevertheless she remained known and was called upon at various occasions.
From her personal correspondence – Jacobus and she wrote each other almost daily if one of them was away from home – (this correspondence is preserved in the Literary Museum in The Hague), we learn that she enjoyed the passing by of people of the ‘Buitensociëteit’ (outside-club), now is the Municipality-museum of Arnhem, on warm summer-evenings. She also very much enjoyed drinking tea at some place or the other. It is nice to read about her spending the day, how she went out, to ride in a carriage, first, round the town, to the Reimans-family, he then head of the Jewish community in Arnhem, and when it appeared, that there was nobody home, how she continued to Mrs Prins. So, though she was surrounded by a big family and many relatives, she liked to travel and
among that, as much as possible to her hometown, The Hague where, besides her parents also her dearest sister Maria lived. Maria published at an even younger age than Estella and in addition to that, took upon herself, together with her sister, the translation of the English-Jewish author they so admired, Grace Aquilar, who was read quite much in the Netherlands. This author is a forerunner of the emancipation of women, with which she succeeded with her books to impress the average housewife. To her fellow-believers she conveyed the message that they themselves are guilty of the blame that the first feminists put on Jewry as to the discrimination of the woman. Grace advised the women ‘Instead of repairing socks, they should immerse themselves in their own culture and literature, by this they will get a better education and they will free themselves from only doing the household ’. Particularly Estella has been compared from time to time with this author, so well known in her time. She even wrote an essay about her, which became the foreword for the translation of the prayer book, composed by Grace Aquilar. This prayer book inspired Estella and Maria to write a prayer of their own, which was added to the translation. She also translated a poem of her, which was published in the Dutch Jewish yearbook of 1858 / 1859 under the title:

‘Look up to G’d’
‘Preserve, o G’d, what surrounds us on earth with love, faithfully and tenderly
But teach us that up above, dearest love will save us best.
Descend, descent in blessing! Send, send o Lord, Your light in the lonely hours!’

Maria Hertzveld wrote prose, in which her religious and national-Jewish feelings found expression. Although Estella, later on, despite her big family and the death of her son Willem (William), still continued to publish somewhat, Maria Hertzveld slipped into oblivion. She married on September 5th, 1866 the judge George Belinfante from The Hague. After her marriage, she stopped writing.
As the family of Belifante were owners of a book firm and a printing enterprise, this marriage was of great importance for Estella.
Two sisters of her, Rosalie and Hermine, also took husbands from the Belifante family.
From the archive of ‘Work bestows dignity’ and of ‘Tesselschade 1872-1952’, which can be found in the municipality-archive of Arnhem, it can be learned that Estella was chairwoman of the department Arnhem of the General Women’s Society ‘Work bestows dignity’ in 1872. On May 23, 1872, a month after the death of her son William, she resigned her position because of the situation at home. But she agreed to be chosen, as a representative to the executive committee, as this, as she said, requires less time. The death of her son affected her so much, that, according her family, she never again was what she used to be. She was obliviously more quiet and retired. The effects of the lunge-disease slowly creeping upon her touched her memory and she became more and more tired. She still had many ideas for poems, but she was too tired to put them on paper.. Her brother in law, the husband of her sister Maria, George Belinfante, advised her in 1877 to publish her poems. But in her modesty, she considers this too big an honor. She spent the winter of 1880-1881 in the South of France, in the year 1880 also at a recuperation home in Reichenthal in Austria, in the hope to recover overthere from her tuberculosis. In July 1881 she decided finally to collect and publish the best parts of her work; “My days may be short”, she said to her brother in law, George. “It is better that I decide myself which poems will be in the collection, than that later another immodest hand will mix ripe and green.” While doing this she paid attention to the truth of thoughts and the purification of form. From the poems, which appeared among the Jewish yearbooks, she wants to choose only a few for her collection. She saw them more as a poetry-exercise than as a poem. The book was published a few weeks after her death on November 4th 1881, after she had, on her deathbed, still checked the proofs. It is a red album with an in gold printed woman’s bust, made by Joseph Israels and her portrait, based on a steel-engraving of D.J.Sluyter, inside.
One of the critics called her ‘a daughter of the South, lost at the Western beaches, who loved her native-ground dearly’. She was only 44 years of age when she was buried on a Monday-morning at 11 o’clock in Wageningen. Her brother in law said at her grave:
‘Her, whom we took to the grave, she had exceptional gifts, of soul and of heart. Her passing away, you know it, leaves an emptiness in the literature of the Netherlands; because, although the accomplishment of her life-work, the devotion to her family and the society, forbade her to express her feelings as a poetess constantly, she delivered much in her blooming years’.
The inscription made by Jacobus on her marble tomb at the Jewish cemetery of Wageningen says:-
“Wake up, wake up, Devora, sing a song”.
To her children he said: “Her book is her creed, for you a school”. Her oldest daughter Hanna, who despite a big handicap started to play an important part in the Women’s-society, married an official of the municipality-archive in Amsterdam, Eduard van Biema. She stepped into the footsteps of her mother, when as a woman; she wanted to uplift the stature women. She was chosen in 1911 as president of the National Women’s Council and between 1917-1920, she was the head of the Dutch society for housewives. She took a large part in the international peace-movement as well. In honor of her 70th birthday in 1935 the poem of her mother Estella most known, was again recited
‘The Triumph-song of Civilization’:
‘It’s no delusion, it is not a dream;
From the workshop of the steam,
From its smithies, from its rooms,
Sounds the restless thumping and hammering, far and wide.
The psalm of civilization
The song of progress, fraternization, none-slavery,
The rumbling triumph-song of our time’.

Original article written in Dutch by: Nechamah Mayer-Hirsch
Amended with his permission with excerpts from the article of Daniel Metz (version 07 April 2008) the full article in Dutch:

Literature in Dutch:
  • M. Kayserling, Die Jüdischen Frauenin der Geschichte, Literatur und Kunst (Leipzig 1879) 298.(In German)
  • George Belinfante, Oordeel van de pers. Gedichten van Estella Hijmans-Hertzveld (Den Haag 1881) [Beperkte oplage, coll. auteur].
  • M.H. Gans, Memorboek. Platenatlas van het leven der joden in Nederland van de middeleeuwen tot 1940 (Baarn 1971; 6 dr. 1988) 344, 405 en 499.
  • H. Reeser, ‘H.C. Andersen en de dichteres Estella Hijmans-Hertzveld’, Studia Rosenthaliana 5 (1971) 2, 213-218.
  • J. Wijnberg-Stroz, Een dichteres in de familie! Estella Hertzveld (1837-1881); een Nederlands joodse vrouw als vroeg voorbeeld van acculturatie (Leiden 1992).
  • D. Dekkers, Jozef Israëls 1824-1911 (Zwolle 1999) 184-185.
  • J. Michman e.a., Pinkas. Geschiedenis van de joodse gemeenschap in Nederland (Amsterdam/Antwerpen 1999) 315, 372, 410, 587.
  • N. Mayer-Hirsch:
  • A. van der Woud, Een nieuwe wereld (Amsterdam 2006) 111-112.

Translated and slightly revised: Yael Benlev, Trudi Asscher, Ben Noach

Portrait of Estella Hijmans Hertzveld
by Jozef Israels, ca. 1872

Tombstone of Estella Hijmans Hertzveld
Jewish Cemetery at Wageningen