Jacqueline van der Waals

Jacqueline (Lien/Lina/Line) van der Waals (The Hague, 26 June 1868 – Amsterdam, 29 April 1922) was a Dutch poet, writer, translator and teacher.

Lien’s mother died when Lien was only 13 years old. In the following years she suffered greatly from the sorrow of her father. The curtains of their house remained closed for several years.

Lien attended the HBS and studied at home for a teaching certificate for history. She was a teacher in Doorn, Bloemendaal (‘t Kopje), Baarn (ladies’ cost school Erica) and Amsterdam.

Lien can be described as modest, honest, faithful, possessed with a sense of duty, sensitive, intelligent and gloomy. Lien did play the piano, she practiced various sports like tennis, cycling, hiking and mountain climbing. She created a herbarium and did some needlework. She participated in study groups where she discussed philosophers such as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.

Lien was fond of nature and during the summer months, the family fled the city to stay in the woods. Lien rented the country estate Ewijkshoeve in Lage Vuursche. It was the family residence of the Witsen family. It must have been a wonderful place for Lien to write her poetry.

Recurring themes in her work concern, nature, death, sincerity and God. Her relationship with death is remarkable. There is a longing for death, also in moments of happiness. Her godly descent – she was a protestant- and the early death of her mother may have been the reason for this longing. It is described in many of her poems. Fortunately her great sense of duty prevents suicide. Unlike Anna Witsen who drowned herself in the pond in front of the Ewijkshoeve house in 1889, an emotional event that Lien must have heard of. After all, she played tennis with Herman Gorter en the Loman sisters who knew Anna well. It can’t be a coincidence that Lien came in touch with this country residence.

A number of Lien’s poems are originated and inspired on Ewijckshoeve and some of them even refer to Anna Witsen’s death.

In 1921 Lien is affected by stomach cancer and bounded to bed. In these last months she writes and dictates her twelve ‘death poems’ that are generally seen as her best. She finally embraces life and there is an acceptance of death. On april 29, 1922 Jacqueline van der Walls dies at the age of 53.

None of her works were reprinted during her lifetime. Literature critics respond particularly divided to her work. In the 1990s, Vrij Nederland wrote: “A single enthusiast may still find her work of refreshing simplicity, but she has never come to the height and depth of what is called real literature.” The NRC, on the other hand, wrote: “No poet has been harmed more than Jacqueline van der Waals.” as her entire oeuvre was equated with the quality of that one childishly simple poem about a little goat she wrote. Among protestants her work is more widely known.