of Colerus comes from an appendix to Frederick Pollock’s nineteenth-century biography [Spinoza: His Life and Philosophy (1880)]. I also used
Pollock for the story of Spinoza’s stabbing.
The line from Samuel Beckett is from The Unnamable [Three Novels
(1965)]; the Einstein anecdote is from Walter Isaacson’s Einstein: His Life
and Universe (2007). For Spinoza’s background and influence I relied
upon Yirmiyahu Yovel’s two-volume study [Spinoza and Other Heretics
(1989)]; I learned about the early reception of Spinoza’s thought from
H. J. Siebrand [Spinoza and the Netherlanders (1988)] and especially from
Jonathan Israel’s magisterial survey [Radical Enlightenment (2001)]. Israel is also the source for the letter to Leibniz describing the Tractatus
as a liber pestilentissimus. For Spinoza and the Collegiants I turned to
Andrew Fix [Prophecy and Reason (1991)]; for his ties to Quakers I used
Richard Popkin’s Spinoza (2004) and his 1984 article, “Spinoza’s Relations with the Quakers in Amsterdam.” The biographer who urged a
“homoerotic component” in Spinoza’s friendship with De Vries is Margaret Gullan-Whur [Within Reason (1998)].
The low estimates of the Van der Spycks and Spinoza’s Collegiant
friends come from these same works. Israel notes the “seclusion” of his
life, Rebecca Goldstein’s Betraying Spinoza (2006) calls his aloofness
“absolute,” Fix describes him as a “lonely figure,” and Yovel characterizes him as “unique to the point of solitariness.” The Van der Spycks as
members of the “great unwashed” is from Stewart, Spinoza’s comments
to Ida Margarete are understood as aimed at one “not suited for philosophical reason” by Goldstein, and Nadler reads his positive comments
about the Van der Spycks’s Lutheran faith as mere “politeness.” Balling
as a mouse in comparison to Spinoza’s elephant comes from Siebrand, as
does the expulsion of Jelles from the “intellectual elites,” while Yovel is
the source for the notion that the philosopher “was not properly understood” by the Collegiant circle.
I incurred multiple debts to all these works but owed most in this
essay’s initiating moments to Goldstein’s wonderful Betraying Spinoza.
I found in her reaction to the young Spinoza’s careful observance of
mourning rites for his father a parallel to match my own response to
his attendance upon his landlady’s maternity confinements. Goldstein
was a schoolgirl when her teacher’s disparaging accounts of Spinoza’s
intellectual arrogance were overwhelmed by the image of the dutiful son
suppressing expression of his own doubts out of respect for his parent.