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Jan de Hartog Papers

Identifier: 1967-002

The Jan de Hartog Papers, 1943-2005, consist of manuscript material, correspondence, scrapbooks, photos and other material documenting the life and career of Jan de Hartog (1914-2002). The papers are divided into six series: (1) Works, (2) The Hospital Materials, (3) Career, (4) Personal, (5) Personal Correspondence, and (6) Photographs.

The Works series contains manuscript material, including notes, manuscript and typescript drafts, galley proofs, play scripts, television scripts and dictation tapes for "The Captain," "The Hospital," "William and Mary," and various other works. "The Captain" sub-series includes notes, various typescript drafts of the work, the publisher's copy of the work, galley proofs, tape recordings, and page proofs. Many of these items are heavily edited by either the author or the copy editor. "The Hospital"  sub-series contains notes, outlines, drafts, and galley proofs of the work. Additional documents relating to the response to The Hospital and to Jan and Marjorie de Hartog's  work at Jefferson Davis Hospital is included in The Hospital Materials series.

Materials series includes notes, clippings, speeches, correspondence, photos and scrapbooks related to the de Hartogs' hospital volunteer work at Jefferson Davis Hospital as well as the publication of and response to de Hartog's 1964 book, "The Hospital." Outgoing correspondence is arranged by date; incoming correspondence is arranged alphabetically. An index of correspondents is available; contact Special Collections for more information.

The career series contains clippings, correspondence and commemorative material related to de Hartog's writing, teaching, and theatrical productions.

The personal correspondence series contains correspondence between de Hartog and several friends and colleagues including: Herman Wouk, Colin Wilson, Joel Gross, Connie Bessie, Simon Michael Bessie, and correspondence between Marjorie de Hartog, Herman Wouk, and Larry McMurtry.

The photographs series contains photographs of de Hartog at various stages of his life.  It includes photographs from the play "Four Posters," de Hartog as a professor at the University of Houston, Marjorie de Hartog, photographs from Jefferson Davis Hospital, and miscellaneous photographs.

The personal series has obituary information and clippings.

Books, personal effects, and sound and video recordings have been removed from the papers and cataloged separately. They are accessible through the UH Libraries online catalog under the series heading "Jan De Hartog Papers."


  • 1943-2005


Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Special Collections owns the physical items in our collections, but copyright normally belongs to the creator of the materials or their heirs. The researcher has full responsibility for determining copyright status, obtaining permission to publish from copyright holders, and abiding by current copyright laws when publishing or displaying copies of Special Collections material in print or electronic form. For more information, consult the appropriate librarian. Reproduction decisions will be made by Special Collections staff on a case-by-case basis.


9.00 linear feet

Biographical Information:

Jan de Hartog was born in Haarlem, Netherlands on April 22, 1914. His father, Arnold Hendrik, was a theologian; his mother, Lucretia Meijjes de Hartog, a scholar of medieval mysticism. He attended Amsterdam Naval College, and worked as a sailor, war correspondent, and naval inspector before achieving success as an author and playwright.

Although de Hartog published five detective novels under the pseudonym F. R. Eckmar in the 1930s, his first noteworthy work was the novel "Holland's Glorie" (1940). Published in Dutch 10 days before the outbreak of the Second World War, the work sold over one million copies. The book made him a public figure in the Netherlands, and he used this platform to speak out against German occupation. In early 1942, de Hartog was forced to go into hiding and eventually fled the Netherlands under threat of arrest. After a lengthy journey across Western Europe, he arrived in England in July, 1943.

De Hartog spent the next decade in England, writing novels and plays in English. In 1946, he married Angela Priestly, daughter of English writer J.B. Priestly. One of his first English language works was the play "Skipper Next to God," about a captain carrying European Jews to the United States. It debuted in London in 1945 and was later performed on Broadway. The 1951 comedy "The Four Poster" brought de Hartog his broadest and most enduring success. After runs in London and American repertory theater, its Broadway run, starring Hume Cronin and Jessica Tandy, earned the 1952 Tony award for Best Play. De Hartog collaborated on a French adaptation with the writer Collette, and the work was later adapted as a musical, "I Do I Do!," and a television play. His novels of this period included "The Lost Sea" (1951), "The Little Ark" (1951), and "A Sailor's Life" (1955).

His marriage to Marjorie Mein in 1961 led de Hartog to become a Quaker. The couple lived on a 146-ton houseboat for several years before marrying, and first came to Houston on boat travel. In 1962, Jan assumed a residency in playwriting at the University of Houston, during which time the couple volunteered at Jefferson Davis Hospital. As a volunteer, de Hartog was exposed to the horrible conditions facing patients and staff at Harris County's charity hospital. His work, "The Hospital," exposes the conditions and treatment received by patients at Jefferson Davis Hospital (later renamed Ben Taub Hospital). His book received national acclaim, drawing attention to needed changes in the charity hospital system in Houston. In the wake of the publication of "The Hospital," the de Hartogs became a target of threats and unwanted harassment which ultimately led to the couple leaving Houston in 1964.

The de Hartogs remained active in progressive social causes, using the proceeds from "The Hospital" to finance aide programs. Further involvement in peace and social justice efforts lead the couple to become advocates of charity to Korean and Vietnamese war orphans, and in the process they adopted two Korean children. He chronicled these events in the 1969 work, "The Children."

De Hartog's long and varied career also included having several works adapted for the screen. His novel, "Stella" (1951), was adapted for the screen with Sophia Loren and William Holden, as was "The Spiral Road" (1957), which starred Rock Hudson. His other notable works included novels "The Captain" (1967), "The Commodore" (1986), a trilogy fictionalizing the history of the Society of Friends -- including "The Peaceable Kingdom" (1972), "The Lamb's War" (1980) and "The Peculiar People" (1992) -- "The Centurion" (1989), and "The Outer Buoy" (1994).

The de Hartogs returned to Houston in 1993. In 2002, Jan was presented with an Hononary Doctor of Humane Letters at the University of Houston. Jan de Hartog died September 22, 2002.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was donated to the University of Houston Libraries by Jan and Marjorie DeHartog in 1967, with additional accessions in 1970, 1999, and 2005.


Other Information:

Uploaded to TARO, 2006.

Additional information may be found at

Processing Information

Debbie Hernandez, 1993, Andrea Bean Hough, 1997, Amelia Abreu, 2006, Lisa Tafoya, 2010

Note on Harmful Language

In describing archival materials, Special Collections aims to respect individuals and communities represented in the collections in our care. In the 2021 Special Collections reparative description project, staff decided to maintain potentially harmful language from original folder descriptions or titles in this finding aid to preserve the historical context of materials.

Guide to the Jan de Hartog Papers
Amelia Abreu and Lisa Tafoya
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2021-12-16: As a part of the 2021 Special Collections reparative description project, Brooks Whittaker revised this finding aid’s biographical/historical note for relevance and brevity per current best practices.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections Repository

University of Houston Libraries Special Collections
MD Anderson Library
4333 University Drive
Houston TX 77204-2000 USA