- A Short History of the Beginnings and Origins of These Present Wars in Moscow under the Reign of Various Sovereigns down to the Year 1610 by Isaac Abrahamszoon Massa (review)
- University of Toronto Quarterly
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 52, Number 4, Summer 1983
- pp. 560-561
- View Citation
- Additional Information
560 UTTERS IN CANADA 1982 Isaac Abrahamszoon Massa. A Short History of tile Beginnings and Origins of These Present Wars in Moscow under the Reign of Variolls Sovereigns down to the Year 1610 Translated and with an introduction by G. Edward Orchard. University of Toronto Press. xvi, 235, illus. $37.50 This is the first published translation into English of the remarkable account written by the Dutch merchant and diplomat Isaac Abrahamsz. Massa (1586-1643) of the extraordinary, tumultuous events encompassed by the so-called Times of Troubles as experienced by the author at first hand during his llioo-<) sojourn in the Muscovite capital. Professor Orchard of the Department of History of the University of Lethbridge has produced a very readable translation of the manuscript now in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, that should be welcomed in a variety of disciplines. Massa wrote up his 'short account of ... these present wars and troubles' in 1610 and presented it, with the proclaimed hope of diplomatic employment, to Prince Maurice, Stadholder of the United Provinces. Massa would subsequently return to Moscow five times before 1635, and included here as well are selected letters to the States General dated 1614, 1618, and 1619 relating events and commentaries pertinent to the expansion of Dutch trade. Orchard's straightforward, informative introduction is devoted essentially to establishing a corrected biography of this enterprising Haarlem merchant within the context of contemporary events. In addition he establishes the author's probable sources and characterizes previous, not readily available editions of this manuscript which was in fact only brought to light in the 1860s. While the editor intimates greater interest in the Russian language and history than in the Dutch, it is surely an oversight that the manuscript's title - Een cart Verhael van Begin en Oorspronck deser tegenwoordighe Oorloogen en Troebelen in Moscovia totten Jahre 1610 onder 't Gouvernement van diverse varsten aldaer - is only to be learned by consulting the literature cited. Could not Verhael have been more precisely translated as 'account" or 'narrative' rather than 'history'? Rather different expectations are attached to the latter. Beyond the spirited narration of events in Moscow, valuable as this has been recognized as being, one is struck, most especially in the letters of 1618 and 1619, by the faScinating observations pertaining to the circumstances , nature, and motivations of Dutch commercial interests. Though Orchard's concerns apparently lay elsewhere, this could have provided an excellent opportunity to explore the related issues raised in a more general sense in such works as V. Barbour, Capitalismin Amsterdam (1950), D.W. Davies, A Primar of Dutch Overseas Trade (1961), or even A. Attman, The Struggle for Baltic Markets: Powers in Conflict 155S-1618 (1979). Neither is there any mention of I. Lubimenko's The Struggle of the Dutch HUMANITIES 561 with the English for the Russian Market in the Seventeenth Century (1924), a theme behind many of Massa's declarations. Finally for historians of seventeenth-century art, the new accessibility of these texts offers real insight into the personality of this man destined to be known perhaps as much as anything for the three and almost certainly four important portraits (three are illustrated) commissioned from his friend the famous Haarlem painter Frans Hals. It is quite wonderful to recognize how this extremely sensitive artist has introduced a distinctly new vocabulary of gesture and body language - definite innovations in the history of art- all evidently in seeking to give expression to the vigour and real boldness of character that start from these pages. The most famous portrait of Massa, painted in 1626 shortly after the sitler's return from his fifth and penultimate journey to Moscow, hangs in the Art Gallery of Ontario. (J. SPICER) Lise-Lone Marker and Frederick J. Marker. Ingmar Bergman: Four Decades in the Theater 'Directors in Perspective.' Cambridge University Press. xviii, 262, mus. $37.50 Such a study is long overdue. Bergman's enormous artistic output is remarkable for its diversity, but the English-speaking world, while it has acclaimed his films, has generally neglected his work in other media, especially the live theatre. Faced with his more than seventy professional stage productions, the Markers have an impossible task and have wisely opted for selectivity, devoting three long chapters to his responses to Strindberg, Moliere, and Ibsen. While this strategy successfully gives the book a unity and organization, it is admittedly at the cost of other important facets of his art. One would certainly like to hear more about, for example, his Woyzeck, his Twelfth Night, and his Ur-Faust, though skilful cross-connections enable them to include his innovative 1980 production of Gombrowicz's Yvonne in the chapter on Moliere. Of the three playwrights selected, Strindberg is given first place, as the one to whom Bergman himself feels closest. The book not only examines their spiritual and artistic consanguinity, but adroitly uses specific productions to establish some of his general theatrical principles and tendencies: his progressive abandonment of representational scenery , in favour of a more 'scenographic' approach; his emphasis on theme and characters; his bold disregard for mere 'word-fidelity' in handling the printed text. Meanwhile, major productions, such as the early Pelican and Crown Bride, the three versions of The Ghost Sonata, and the recent Dreamplay and To Damascus, are reconstructed in such detail (aided by a profusion of photographs) that important scenes come vividly alive. OccaSionally, the authors' explanations of Bergman's innovations leave ...