Biography

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 354

Jan de Hartog was born on April 22, 1914, in Haarlem, the Netherlands. His father, Arnold Hen-drik, was a minister and theology professor, and his mother, Lucretia (maiden name Meijjes), was a lecturer in medieval mysticism. De Hartog left home at the age of ten to work as a sailor...

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Jan de Hartog was born on April 22, 1914, in Haarlem, the Netherlands. His father, Arnold Hen-drik, was a minister and theology professor, and his mother, Lucretia (maiden name Meijjes), was a lecturer in medieval mysticism. De Hartog left home at the age of ten to work as a sailor on fishing boats, steamers and tugboats, becoming an adjunct inspector with the Amsterdam Harbor Police. He attended the Amsterdam Naval College from 1930 to 1931. From 1932 to 1937, he worked at the Amsterdam Municipal Theatre. During this period, de Hartog wrote a number of popular detective novels under the pseudonym F. R. Eckmar. From the late 1930s through the 1960s, de Hartog worked steadily as a successful playwright and novelist.

His 1940 novel Hollands Glorie was based on de Hartog's own experiences as a sailor, but it became a symbol of Dutch resistance against the Nazi occupation of World War II and was banned. Wanted by the Nazis, De Hartog hid in an Amsterdam home for senior citizens, disguised as an old woman. The Fourposter, his most successful play, was written during this period of hiding. Escaping to England, he became a correspondent for the Netherlands Merchant Marines in 1943. In 1946, he married the daughter of the English writer J. B. Priestly, Angela Priestly, with whom he had four children. The Fourposter opened on Broadway in 1951, earning de Hartog the 1952 Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award.

In 1961, he married Marjorie Eleanor Mein, with whom he adopted two children. De Hartog and his second wife became known for their many humanitarian efforts throughout the world. In 1962, he was writer-in-residence and lecturer in playwrit-ing at the University of Houston. While there, he published a nonfiction book, The Hospital, based on his and his wife's volunteer work at the hospital in Houston, which attracted national attention to the quality of hospital care. In 1963, he and his wife aided survivors of a flood in Holland, out of which came his book The Little Ark. In 1966, they advocated the adoption of Vietnamese and Korean orphans, adopting two children themselves. De Hartog's book, The Children: A Personal Record for the Use of Adoptive Parents, was based on this experience.

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