'De almanak en de courant brengen de leugens in het land' [The almanac and the newspaper fill the country with lies]. Almanacs did not enjoy the most pristine reputation. Despite their popularity within large segments of the population, their predictions, their Catholic elements and their shabby appearance made for at least as much criticism as praise. Clergymen, doctors, reviewers and other made almanacs a frequent target.
But the almanacs that brought down the wrath of the political establishment were the hardest hit: they were banned. They were removed from the bookshops because they had violated a privilege or because they had criticized those in power. Those guilty of the latter offence were not to be tolerated, especially in times of war or crisis. During the Second World War many calendars were printed illegally, conveying the message that the days of the German occupation were also numbered. An example is the Turkenkalender of H.N. Werkman, printed in 1941.
Fourth war with England
The end of the eighteenth century was another period in which almanacs met with censure. The Henry Quatre almanach was banned in The Hague on 17 September 1782. This little book, whose attention-getting gimmick consisted of cartoons of people pictured as monkeys, appeared during the fourth war with England. The war was not going well, mainly because of the deplorable state of the Dutch fleet. The patriots blamed the governor William V of laxity, of being neither able nor willing to resist the English. The title of the book refers to the French King Henry IV, who was known for his dissipated lifestyle.
The label 'Henry Quatre' can also be found in other satirical writings from this period, meaning young men who tried to capture as many female hearts as possible and boasted about it in public.
The Henry Quatre almanach opens by naming the three principle virtues of the Dutch: gaming, whoring and drunkenness. At first glance the book could be taken as a libertine almanac, one that propagates debauchery. But that is only a surface observation. The other 'virtues' named are deception, extortion, blaspheming and collaborating with the enemy. This is where the book's hidden meaning comes to light. The almanac is an indictment of the governor and other corrupt leaders who give themselves over to these vices without fear of punishment while the country totters on the brink of disaster. Illustrative of this is the text 'Hedendaagsche dievery' [Modern thievery]: 'Commit theft and treason, in spite of the gallows, But first look sharp, that is, steal with cunning. Make sure that you rise in honour and prestige, That you are given a dignified post, Then everyone will trust you.' It is no wonder that the country's ruling elite were eager to have this almanac removed from circulation as fast as possible.
Henry Quatre almanachfor 1783