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Happy Birthday Jan de Hartog

Contemporary Literature
Jan de Hartog, University of Houston, 1962

Jan de Hartog, University of Houston, 1962

Jan de Hartog (1914-2002) was born in Haarlem, Netherlands on this day in 1914 and, while he passed away from us nearly eleven years ago, we would like to offer our warmest birthday wishes here at the University of Houston Special Collections.

A prolific novelist and playwright, de Hartog may best be known for his play “The Fourposter” (winning the Tony for Best Play in 1952), his historical novel The Peaceable Kingdom:  An American Saga, but his connection with Houston will be forever cemented with his non-fiction memoir The Hospital, a work that helped transform healthcare in Houston.

with Red Cross volunteers

Marjorie and Jan de Hartog with Red Cross Volunteers

Having recently moved to the United States, Jan began the work of his residency at the University of Houston while Marjorie de Hartog began volunteering at the old Jefferson Davis County Hospital.  Realizing the enormity of the hospital’s challenge as it tried in vain to serve those with nowhere else to turn, she shared with her husband her exasperation over the demand that seemed to dwarf the resources.  This became the impetus for the writing and publication of The Hospital.  The book, giving voice to the frustrations of some of the city’s most vulnerable and needy, certainly had a national impact, but its influence on local involvement in healthcare policy and funding in Houston was immediate and lasting.  As a result, Jan de Hartog’s  connection to the city would be permanent.  He passed away in Houston in 2002 at the age of 88.

Here in Special Collections we are happy to have the papers of Jan de Hartog available for study.  These papers include correspondence, press, and materials directly related to the writing and publication of The Hospital as well as the reaction and support of the community following its publication.  While this transformative work is sadly out of print, it is available for checkout in the M.D. Anderson Library (among others) and we are also pleased to offer for study a publisher’s proof copy of The Hospital inscribed by the author.

The Hospital: Proof Copy

Publisher’s Proof Copy of The Hospital (with inscription)

We invite you to celebrate the legacy of Jan de Hartog.  Take a look at the detailed finding aid outlining the materials in the collection, take a look at our catalog of his works, and stop by and wish him a happy birthday (belated or not) when you have the time.

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