Harper's New Monthly Magazine/Vol. XLIV/No. 260/January 1872/Holland and the Hollanders
Such a land as Holland exists nowhere else. It is not merely the most singular of kingdoms ― it is the only one of its kind. You may travel the world over, and yet be unable to form any conception of the Netherlands. You may live there your life long, and have no adequate idea of the remainder of the globe. Nature is responsible for the planet, but man created Holland; and the Hollander might almost be excused for substituting anthropology for theology in his creed.
Nearly the whole region is below the level of the sea, which is striving constantly but fruitlessly to recover its ravished domain. The keels of its ships arc above the chimneys of its buildings, and the frogs that croak in the bulrushes of its ditches look down upon the swallows twittering on its house-tops. The entire country swarms with incongruities. Canals are employed in the place of roads; windmills are used instead of steam-engines; and people live as much on the water as on land. What is commonly known as scenery hardly exists in Holland; and yet the kingdom is picturesque from its peculiarity, having furnished to Paul Potter, Ruysdael, Vanderheyden, Backhuysen, and other of its painters subjects without end. Holland, indeed, compared to other countries, is like a cabinet-picture by one of its native artists. It is wonderfully exact, highly finished, thoroughly worked up ― nothing left to be done that labor can supply. Go where you will, the canals and barges, windmills and quaint gable-ended houses, the tree-planted quays, and comfortable but stolid-looking people, follow you remorselessly. Be you in Delft, Leyden, Enkhuysen, or Nimeguen, it is much the same. Looking out of your window, or walking in the street, or floating on the water, you find it difficult to determine in which of the twelve provinces you are. Still, as you tarry in the Netherlands, and become acquainted with its phenomenal character, you find variety in its monotony and novelty in its regularity.
The best way to enter Holland is by Rotterdam, between which city and London steamers ply regularly. It is not easy to conceive a more marked difference than exists between the British metropolis and the Dutch sea-port. Situated on the Meuse, or Mans ― there an estuary through which a large part of the combined waters of the Rhine and Meuse find their outlet ― you are gradually prepared for the coming change by your journey up the river. You pass on the right the little fortified sea-port of Brielle, on the island of Voorne, the birth-place of Admirals Van Tromp and De Witt, and remarkable in history as the first place taken from the Spaniards by William de la Marck, in 1572, and worthy to be considered the nucleus of the Dutch Republic. Eight miles further on is Vlaardingen, the head-quarters of the herring fishery. About the middle of June the officers of the herring fleet repair to the town-hall, take an oath to obey the laws of the fishery, pray in the church for a prosperous season, and, with flags flying, set sail, amidst the general rejoicing of the towns-people, who observe the occasion as a holiday. The fishery usually lasts about five months. The first fish caught are sent in swift-sailing yachts to Holland, where their arrival is awaited with such anxious expectation that a watchman is placed in the tallest spire to announce their earliest approach. The first kegs of herring caught are sent to the king and his ministers, who pay a handsome premium for them.
In the vicinity of Rotterdam, though not directly on the river, is Schiedam, famous for its gin distilleries, some two hundred in number. Until I visited one of the largest distilleries it never occurred to me ― so ignorant was I of spirituous etymology ― that the word gin is a contraction and corruption from geneva, or genèvre, meaning juniper-berry. I have no means of knowing the exact amount of schnapps, as the natives call it, manufactured in the little town. I was told, however, that it reaches nearly ten millions of gallons annually, and that fifty millions of guilders will scarcely represent the capital employed. The gin, the purest and by far the best in the world, is made from rye and barley, a few juniper-berries, and sometimes hops, being added in the rectification to impart to the spirit its peculiar terebinthine flavor. The process of manufacture is not materially different from that of other distilleries. As a stranger and an American, I was, of course, asked to taste the schnapps. It was very good for gin, which, however grateful to the English or Dutch palate, is not pleasant to mine. My only object in tasting the spirit was to form some notion of the flavor of the pure article, which is not likely to be had out of Holland. I seriously question if any body who has not been there has had an experience similar to mine. Over forty thousand swine are fed upon the refuse grain of the distilleries after the spirit has been extracted, and become very fat, as they do in this country, upon such nutriment.
Schiedam is a flourishing town of seven teen or eighteen thousand souls, with little to be seen, and less opportunity to see it, as it is always enveloped in smoke, pouring out in great black volumes from its hundreds of chimneys.
Rotterdam now comes suddenly into sight, and very soon you land at the fine quay, called the Boompjes, extending along the river for nearly a mile and a half. The quay is planted with elms, from which it takes its name (boompjes means little elms, though they have now grown to large size). It will probably recall Cheyne Walk, at Chelsea, which is, however, on a smaller scale. The principal hotels and some of the best houses are on the Boompjes, a favorite promenade with the inhabitants. The city has grown rapidly of late, having a population at present of about one hundred and twenty thousand, and is in size and importance the second town in the kingdom. In the form of a triangle, one side running parallel with the Maas, it consists of as many canals as streets, the three principal havens (harbors) opening into the river, of which they are merely branches or creeks. They communicate with each other, and with the various intersecting canals, affording not only a constant supply of water, but preventing stagnation by the ebb and flow of the tide. Communication between different parts of the city is maintained by draw-bridges, but across some of the widest havens ferry-boats ply. The canals, deep enough to admit large vessels to the very doors of the warehouses, serve the purpose of docks, and greatly facilitate the receiving and discharging of cargoes.
If a stranger to Holland, Rotterdam will interest and entertain you vastly. You will be struck by the odd combination of canals, bridges, trees, and shipping in the heart of the town; with the tall, quaint buildings, whose gables face the street and overhang the foundation; by the numerous sledges ― used instead of wagons—which are often facilitated in their motion by jets of water from barrels carried in front. Why these sledges are employed, when wheeled vehicles would be so much better, is something an American can hardly comprehend. The reason is their cheapness ― a very serious consideration there. A sledge can be made by any body who has the wood and a few nails, while a wagon could not be bought for less than a hundred guilders, which to many a Dutch laborer is a sum he never dreams of possessing. The horses and the common people are shod so clumsily—the latter with wood—and make such a clumping and clattering noise over the pavements, that, with the grating sound of the sledges, the nerves of a sensitive person are apt to be disturbed. The natives are too phlegmatic to notice such trifles. You might walk up behind them and fire a pistol within an inch of their ear without discomposing their oleaginous equanimity, or causing them to look round to see what had happened.
A great dike, or dam, erected at the junction of the Rotte (a small stream) with the Maas, passes through the centre of the town, and gives it the name Rotterdam. Upon this dike stands Hoog Straat, or High Street, and on the ground between it and the Boompjes—which has been gained from the river since the erection of the dam—the modern part of the city has been built.
On a wide bridge over a canal, answering for a market-place, is a bronze statue of Gerrit Gerritz, better known as Desiderius Erasmus—the name into which he translated, according to the then custom of the learned, his homely original title. The natural son of Gerard Praët, though living in stormy times, was a lover of peace and quiet—preferred a good dinner to wrangling, and a Greek thesis to objurgation. With all his rationalistic tendencies, he was superstitious and timid to the last degree, proving that timidity may co-exist with independence and nobleness of heart. The dwelling in which the eminent scholar first saw the light, more than four centuries ago, still stands in the Breede Kerk Straat, bearing a Latin inscription: "Hæc est parva domus magnus quâ natus Erasmus" (this is the small house in which the great Erasmus was born). The spirit of practicality enters every where in this busy century, and the home of the reformer is now a gin-shop.
The Church of St. Laurence contains the monuments of Admirals Van Brakel, Cortenaer, and De Witt, erected to their memory by the States-General, and an excellent organ, quite equal, in my opinion, to the more famous organ at Haarlem. The architecture of the church, though much neglected, is curious and interesting.
You should not quit Rotterdam without visiting the Exchange. The best hour to go is three o'clock, when the hall is crowded with merchants and speculators of numerous nationalities. You will see there Germans, Flemings, French, Italians, Spaniards, Armenians, Greeks, Poles, Russians, English, and Americans; and as all of them speak at times in their native tongue, and get greatly excited over advancing or declining prices, the scene is one of polyglot confusion. All those varieties of people have business interests there, so that Rotterdam, intensely Dutch as it is, is also extremely cosmopolitan. I had always found the Hollanders so staid and taciturn that when I first stepped into the Exchange ― there was what we should call a corner in grain at the time ― I imagined the members had been endeavoring to put up the price of gin by consuming it in large quantities. The most conservative citizens, who, under ordinary circumstances, looked as unemotional as a clam, were heated and florid, swinging their arms about like windmills, and screaming at the top of their voices. These Dutch solos, duets, trios, and quartettes, with a many-tongued chorus of all the other European countries, impressed me like the roaring absurdities of the opera bouffe. It was hard to distinguish sounds in such a hubbub, but I am confident I heard the ordinary commercial phrases in at least twelve languages. The greed of money appears to inspire every body with a passionate intensity. The Rotterdam Exchange can be as noisy and turbulent as the Paris Bourse or the New York Gold Room.
A foreigner will not fail to notice the little mirrors at each side of the windows of nearly all the better class of dwellings. These are placed at an angle of forty-five degrees to each other, and reflect in opposite directions, thus enabling the inmates to see whoever and whatever is passing in the street without themselves being visible. It might be supposed from this that the Dutch are unusually curious; but the arrangement of the mirrors is, I infer, quite as much to save time as to facilitate observation. The Holland maiden or housewife can sit in her chamber with her knitting or sewing ― to be idle in Holland is deemed the blackest of sins ― without losing precious moments in looking out of the window. All the towns of any size have these reflecting conveniences, and I have often wondered that they have not been introduced into this country. Water-drinkers will find in Rotterdam, as in all the lower part of Holland, that nature's beverage is neither good nor abundant. The water of the Maas, commonly drank there, is far from pure or sweet, and is very likely to disagree with those unaccustomed to it. Water of a drinkable sort is so scarce as to be an article of traffic in Holland. Great pains is taken to catch all the rain which falls, and the contrivances to this end are many and ingenious. Most of the dwellings are provided with tanks, and the water collected is used for all culinary purposes. The quantity is not sufficient, however; and in the large cities, like Amsterdam, water is brought in stone bottles from Utrecht, which is comparatively high, and where there are flowing streams. But the main supply of the metropolis and of adjoining towns is from the river Vecht, above Weesp. It is carried twelve miles in large barges, and the poor who have no cisterns buy it at so much a gallon; the price, as may be supposed, being very low, but enough to pay a fair profit on the transportation.
I have often noticed in Amsterdam how these barges rose out of the canal as the water was pumped from them and distributed to customers. When they first reached their landing they would be on a level with the quay, and after they had discharged their cargo they would be eight or ten feet above it. The rates of water vary with the season and with the weather. What we should call a drought is hardly known in such a moist climate, but there are frequently periods of absence of rain. Then, and in winter, when every thing is frozen up, quotations advance. It frequently happens that a passage has to be cut through the ice of the canals, at a heavy expense, to allow the water barges to pass.
Dort, or Dordrecht, ten miles southeast of Rotterdam, is interesting as the place where the first Assembly of the States of Holland was held after their revolt from the yoke of Spain, in 1572. It was there also that the famous Synod of Dort sat for six months, discussing air-drawn absurdities touching Divine election, original sin, and fore-ordination, to which the musty members attached so much consequence that their president declared at the end of the session that its miraculous labors had made hell tremble. Whether they did or not has never been satisfactorily ascertained, though they were tedious and dreary enough to have affected even that unimpressible region.
Dort, with about twenty-five thousand people, and one of the oldest towns in Holland, is a haven for the gigantic floats of wood, from the remote districts of the Black Forest and Switzerland, which, brought down the Rhine by crews of four or five hundred men each, are there broken up and sold ― a single raft sometimes yielding as much as $150,000. The city is on an island formed by a terrible inundation in 1421, when the tide in the estuary of the river, excited by a violent tempest, burst through the dike, swallowed up seventy-two villages, and destroyed more than one hundred thousand lives. Thirty-five of the villages were irretrievably lost, and no vestige even of the ruins has been discovered down to this day. Not many years ago most of the traveling in Holland was done by the canals on trekschuiten (drag-boats), which conveyed passengers and goods to every part of the kingdom. These boats are still largely used in carrying freight, and passengers who have not the means to travel on the railway, by which all the important points of the country are now connected. The trekschuit has a fore-cabin (ruim) appropriated to servants and peasants, and an after-cabin (roef) set apart for the better classes, who, by-the-bye, even before the railways were built, very seldom patronized this kind of vessel. It is a very slow and tedious mode of journeying, but yet so well adapted, as it would seem, to the Dutch nature, that I have often wondered it felt the need of any other. No one can be said to have seen Holland properly who has not been somewhere on a trekschuit. I have made a number of short journeys on those singular barges, and would have gone all over the kingdom on them, could I have been assured that I had five hundred years of life to spare. The trekschuit is usually drawn by only one horse, and the distance made averages about four miles an hour. This is very exciting, of course, especially to a man addicted to express trains; but it is questionable if the nervous tension and cerebral agitation caused by such extraordinary speed be not a reckless waste of the vital forces.
I have seen lame geese pass a trekschuit at its greatest celerity as a hare passes a hedgehog; and several times, when I got off the boat to walk a little, I fancied it was moving rapidly in the opposite direction. I have stated that the average movement of the national barge is four miles an hour. I have said this on information; but I think it must be a mistake arising from my imperfect acquaintance with the language. The statement must have been a mile in four hours; and, now that I reflect, I am convinced that the two phrases in classic Dutch are exactly synonymous.
This species of travel rarely ends in bankruptcy to the traveler, as the general fare is hardly a stiver (two cents) a mile. If time, however, be money, as we Columbians believe, no Amsterdam banker can, with all his wealth, afford the luxury of a snail-rivaling trekschuit. The lad (het jagertie) who rides the towing horse enjoys himself exceedingly on these lightning-like expeditions. He receives at each stage a few cents (a Dutch cent is less than two-fifths of the American cent), and at the end of the journey is blessed with a stiver, which so elates the youth that he immediately rushes into prodigality. A rumor was current in Breda when I was last there that one of the horse-riding lads had stirred his companions to their depths by amassing a fortune of forty stivers. The story was so marvelous that I inquired into it, and discovered that it had been grossly exaggerated. The boy had been working steadily for several mouths, and had accumulated in that time the sum of four stivers. He had nothing in the world besides, and this nothing had been added by rumor to the original figure in the form of a zero, swelling the amount beyond all ordinary bounds, and accidentally but shamefully abusing the public credulity.
If any of your ancestors, beloved reader, came over in the Mayflower, or had any thing to do with the ill-fated Speedwell ― and they must have done both if you have a drop of New England blood in your veins ― you will go to Delft, and imagine the precise spot where Robert Cushman, John Carver, William Brewster, and their associates embarked from the haven in their little vessel on the memorable July 22, 1620. You remember what ill fortune they had: if you don't, you had better read up on the subject, in order to do full honor to the memo of the Pilgrim Fathers, about whom we have concerned ourselves much more than they ever concerned themselves about us.
While you are gazing in puritanic admiration and enthusiasm at the identical spot where they went aboard, we, who are not pilgrim-descended, will walk around the old town.
Delft is as dull and drowsy as any place of twenty thousand inhabitants comfortably can be. Once known for its pottery ― Delftware ― it has even lost distinction in that branch of manufacture. Hardly any one is to be met in the streets, and you marvel where people enough can be found to occupy the spacious and often handsome houses you see around you. But Delft has two or three objects of interest, the first of which is the New Church, containing the costly but tawdry monument erected by the United Provinces to William I., Prince of Orange. His figure in marble reclines upon the tomb, an at his feet is a carving of the little dog that saved his life from the Spanish assassins near Mechlin by jumping on the bed, arousing his master, and giving him time to escape. When William was finally murdered (after eight fruitless attempts) by the Burgundian fanatic, Balthazar Gérard, the faithful beast refused food, pined, and died; and the inscription mentions the dumb creature's devoted attachment. The second and better statue of the prince is in a sitting posture under the arch at the head of the tomb. The house in which he was assassinated, not far from the church, is called the Prinssenhof, and is now used as a barrack. After crossing the court a small door leads to the staircase which William the Silent was about to ascend after dinner, and to the passage where Balthazar stood, so near his victim that the fatal pistol must almost have touched his body. (In the museum at the Hague the dress worn by the prince at the time of the assassination is still preserved; it is a plain gray leathern doublet, sprinkled with blood, pierced by balls, and slightly burned by the powder.) An inscription on a stone in the wall of the building records the tragic event, and three holes ― they are of very questionable authenticity ― in another stone near by are pointed out as having been made by the bullets. The noble patriot expired in the arms of his sister and his wife, the latter the daughter of Coligny, who had been similarly murdered before her very eyes in the terrible massacre of St. Bartholomew. The last words of the hero were, "My God, my God, have pity on me and this poor people!" (Mon Dieu, mon Dieu, ayez pitié de moi et ce pauvre peuple!)
Hugo Grotius (De Groot), the celebrated jurist and writer, is also buried in the New Church ― he was a native of Delft ― and a simple monument marks the spot. While there the story of his imprisonment and romantic escape came vividly to mind. For the defense of religions toleration he was imprisoned in the castle of Loevenstein, and so closely guarded that even his father was denied the privilege of seeing him. His devoted wife, by persevering petitions, at last obtained permission to share his captivity, and with her society and that of books the rigors of confinement were greatly mitigated. His favorite study was theology, and to aid him in it he borrowed many different volumes. After he had been in prison nearly two years his wife discovered that he was less strictly watched than at first, and that the chest containing his linen and the books he returned was often allowed to go out without examination. She perceived in this the means of escape, and, boring some holes in the chest for the admission of air, prevailed upon her husband to get into it; having previously confided the secret to her maid, and having induced her to accompany the concealed theologian. The chest, which, as usual, was sent by boat from the prison to Gorkum, was, when taken out by the guards, complained of as unusually heavy. The maid said it was the Arminian books, and one of the soldiers jestingly remarked, "Perhaps it is the Arminian himself." Without more words the precious freight was placed upon the vessel, and, once afloat, the attendant made the signal with a handkerchief, as agreed upon, to her mistress, anxiously watching from a window of the castle. The chest safely reached its destination, and was deposited in the house of Jacob Daatzelaar, one of Grotius's most intimate friends. The author was soon released, and disguised as a mason, with a rule and trowel in his hand, he made his way to Waalwyk in North Brabant, where he was free once more. His wife was rigorously confined for a while, but was soon liberated on petition made to the States-General, and rejoined her husband in Paris.
In the Old Church of Delft, notable for its leaning tower, is the monument of Admiral Van Tromp, who took part in thirty-two naval engagements, overcame in 1652 the British fleet under Blake in the Downs, and afterward defied the English by sailing up and down the Channel with a broom at his masthead. The veteran hero fell at last on his own deck in a battle with the English near the mouth of the Maas. In the same church are buried Admiral Piet Hein (who captured
the Spanish silver fleet) and Leuwenhoek, the naturalist, both of them natives of the ancient town.
The distance from Delft to the Hague, barely five miles, may be made on a trekschuit to advantage. The country thereabout is even more thickly covered with cottages, country-seats, and gardens than the region on the other side of Delft, and has the same prosperous and monotonous display of rural life.
There is nothing a Dutchman who has achieved any thing like independence sets more value on than a country-seat. He always has connected with it a garden laid out with much more care than taste ― which is not, by any means, as the tourist very soon perceives, one of the national defects. The country-seat, called a zomerhuis (summer-house), or tuinhuis (garden-house), is ordinarily a wooden box brightly painted, and situated at the end of a narrow strip of ground, inclosed on three sides by slimy ditches bordered by hedges, and on the fourth side overlooking a canal. The strip of land is laid out in flower beds, the flowers of one kind and color being confined to particular beds, with the method and regularity characterizing every thing in Holland. There are meandering walks, with shrubbery cut in fantastic patterns, and at the extremity of the inclosure is an iron gateway, over which is inscribed in gilt letters the sentimental or pastoral title of the rustic retreat. I remember some of these, as, for instance, Myn Lust en Leven (my pleasure and life), Gerustelyk en Wel te Vreden (be tranquil and content), Yriendschap en Gezelschap (friendship and sociability), Lust en Rust (pleasure and ease), Wel te Vreden (well contented), Myn Genegentheid is Voldaan (my desire is to satisfy), Niet zoo Kwaalyk (not so bad), and many others of a similarly quaint sort.
Some opening is always left in the garden, either opposite the gate or through the hedge, that the passer-by may feast his eyes on the parterres, pyramids of flower-pots, primly and stiffly cut trees, and every right-angled, circular, or conical-shaped object in the mathematically exact and superlatively monotonous garden.
The Dutchman seldom owns an acre of land without having a fish-pond. He so delights in still and semi-stagnant water that, not content to be surrounded on every side by canals, ditches, and sluices, he must have an additional pool as impure as odorous under his very nose. In the neighborhood of all the large towns the tradesmen and merchants, having their shops and counting-houses in narrow streets, own a little garden in the outskirts, where, if they have no house, they can at least retire after business and spend a few hours with their families. In town they are to a certain extent shut away from the direct effluvium of the canals; but when they go into the suburbs they enjoy the full benefit of all the canals and ditches for miles around, and are happy in proportion to the number of distinct miasmata they are permitted to inhale.
There is no accounting for taste any where, and certainly there is no accounting for the sense of smell in Holland. During cool weather the country is very endurable; but when the mercury gets above seventy or eighty, the atmosphere is not as balmy as I should desire. Not to put too fine a point upon it, it is extremely obnoxious, and at times almost overpowering. How could it be otherwise, with the whole land intersected by standing water, covered half the year with a luxuriant crop of emerald duck-weed! Often wondering how Dutchmen could live during the summer, I have questioned them as to their nasal resisting power when the native stenches were unusually vigorous. To my amazement they always answered that they did not perceive the atmosphere was tainted in the least ― which forced me to the conclusion that the Dutch nose was designed by nature for ornament instead of use.
I should like to know what possible advantage there can be in having a nose in Holland, unless it is capable of recognizing at least sixty separate smells every minute of the night, and fully twice as many every minute of the day. We seldom notice what we have long been accustomed to, and the Hollander, born and reared amidst his superabundant sweets, never learns how delicious they are to the proboscis of a stranger. I have been told that nothing affects the average Dutchman but fresh air, that, when brought into a full current of it, he immediately faints away, and that the application of a decayed herring to his nostrils is necessary to his restoration.
I don't vouch for the truth of the story: indeed, I think it doubtful; for no such experiment could possibly be made in any part of Holland.
On spring and summer afternoons the Hollander repairs with the members of his family to his garden-house; reads his paper over his pipe, his tea., coffee, beer, or gin; discusses trade, or indulges in gossip with the friend or friends he has invited there while his wife chats and sews, and his daughters amuse themselves with watching the pleasure-boats that glide over the canals with their freight of merry-makers. The climate is so moist that soon after sundown it is neither pleasant nor wholesome to remain out-of-doors. The garden is then abandoned to the croaking frogs, and time smoking, talking, and drinking are continued under the roof.
Malt and spirituous liquors are freely used in Holland, but generally with moderation, even by the peasantry, who are very seldom seen intoxicated. It is an article of belief in the amphibious kingdom that water, taken internally, is not healthful, and the kind of water one gets there certainly is not. Hence very little of it is used, except for washing and navigation. A very common substitute is Seltzer and other mineral waters, mixed with Bordeaux or other light wines, or flavored with the strong, rich cordials so abundant throughout the country. Holland is so moist, and the air is so dense, that men can drink a great deal of liquor without being injured or even affected by it. I have seen staid and venerable merchants swallow gin or brandy enough at a single draught to make an American decidedly tipsy, though it had no more effect on them, with their well-protected nerves and phlegmatic robustness, than so much tea or milk.
The Dutchman is unquestionably peculiar. He isn't like any body else, and not very much like himself if we take his variations and incongruities into account. With strong will, sterling character, and undaunted courage ― with intense patriotism, quick sympathies, and generous impulses ― he seems in his every-day life to be selfish, indifferent, and stolid. This is because, under ordinary circumstances, he is in no wise demonstrative, and not a whit romantic or sentimental. He is very conservative, is attached to peace, and cleaves to established order; but when his rights are in any way invaded, or his love of country appealed to, he forgets his interests and himself, and is prepared to make any sacrifice.
What he does he does thoroughly, and, above every thing else, he is methodical and systematic. He is trained from his earliest years to some kind of calling or occupation. The formation and history of the land, as well as his daily experience, show him in the clearest light the benefit of money-getting and the value of independence. By a series of transmissions and long-continued temperamental inheritance he is industrious, persevering, and thrifty. These qualities grow and strengthen with his age, until he appears the impersonation of routine and business. Domesticity is an essential element in his character. Hardly any Hollander remains a bachelor, unless by accident or necessity; and as soon as he arrives at maturity he seeks a wife, and is anxious to be surrounded by a family. In the new relation he has an additional stimulus to the acquisition of wealth; and so he divides his time between his home and his shop, office, or counting-house. His tastes are simple and his wants are few; but yet he takes substantial comfort, and enjoys himself much more in his quiet manner than men of a different nationality would under circumstances far more favorable.
By the mere surface-seer the Hollander is apt to be misjudged. His rotund, unctuous form, his full, round face, his small, rather sleepy-looking eyes, and his imperturbable manner, make him appear stupid to a person more vivacious and nervous in organization. Hans or Dietrich to an Italian, Frenchman, or American, seems a species of money-making oyster, satisfied in the water and contented on land, who feeds well, drinks often, thinks never, and is ready always to turn a stiver into a guilder. He has none of the passionate unrest or evanescent enthusiasm, none of the unsettled longings or haunting fancies, which are so much a part of the more southern nations. He does not wear his heart upon his sleeve, nor does his tongue babble to the wind. He is not graceful, nor magnetic, nor picturesque; but with a wise economy of his mental and moral forces he adapts means to ends, and by a careful study and use of little things builds for himself a firmness of purpose and a strength of character which time can not change and adversity will not shake.
The Hague ― called by the natives S' Gravenhage, meaning the Count's Hedge, or Grove ― is only four miles from the North Sea. It has risen to importance within the last seventy years, mainly from the fact that it is the residence of the court and foreign ministers, and the seat of the government and the States-General. Louis Bonaparte conferred upon it the privileges of a city, and it ranks as the political capital of the kingdom. The Hague is one of the best built and least Dutch towns in Holland. Paris has sensibly influenced it, as can be seen by the manners and customs, the arrangements of the shops, and the style of living among the upper classes. French is extensively spoken, as you will observe if you frequent the pleasant promenade of the Voorhout, the Vyverberg (a well-shaded square), or the animated quarters known as Prinssengracht, Kneuterdyk, and Noordeende. Many of the streets are broad, brick-paved, and bordered with trees. The city has grown and is growing rapidly. Forty years ago it had not more than fifty thousand, and can now boast of nearly one hundred thousand inhabitants.
The principal lion is the collection of paintings in the National Museum, the former palace of Prince Maurice. The pictures, almost entirely Dutch, have a combined excellence which can be found nowhere else. The most remarkable painting is Paul Potter's masterpiece, "The Young Bull," which, with the cow lying on the grass in the fore ground, the sheep standing near, and the farmer looking over the fence ― the figures are all life-size ― is as perfect an imitation of nature as I have ever seen on canvas. Rembrandt's "Anatomical Lesson," representing a corpse on a dissecting-table, a surgeon, and a number of medical students standing about it, is a very vivid and striking, though ghastly and unpleasant picture. The dead body, which is a little foreshortened, is finely drawn, and the cadaverous hue exactly imitated. It has been cut only at the wrist, and the professor is supposed to be explaining the laws of anatomy before the dissection begins. The figures are all portraits, and the counterfeit presentment of death is so accurate a study that physicians have asserted it is evident the corpse is that of a person who has died of inflammation of the lungs.
Both of these paintings are, of course, very valuable. When Napoleon carried the "Young Bull" to the Louvre, the Dutch government, it is stated, offered him $100,000 if he would allow it to remain at the Hague. The King of Holland paid $15,000 for the "Anatomical Lesson" many years ago, and five times that sum has been offered since and refused. At present, like most great pictures in Europe, money could not purchase it.
Rubens's portraits of his two wives, Elizabeth Brants and Helena Forman; Vandyck's portrait of Simon, an Antwerp painter; Gerard Dou's "Woman and Child," illustrating his admirable arrangement of different lights; Poussin's "Venus Asleep," with some of Wouverman's landscapes, Snyders's hunting pieces, and Teniers's genre pictures, are among the very best specimens of their particular kind of art.
On one side of the Vyverberg (this means Hill of the Pond, and shows how very slight an elevation is regarded as a hill in Holland) stands the Binnenhof so called because it formed the inner court of the count's palace, which is the only remaining fragment of the original building. The Gothic hall in the centre, somewhat resembling in style Westminster Hall, is the oldest architecture in the city, and possesses much historical interest. Upon a scaffold erected opposite the door the venerable patriot Jan van Olden Barneveldt was beheaded in 1619, on account of the false accusations of Prince Maurice, who is said to have stationed himself at the window of an octagon tower overlooking the spot to feast his eyes upon the execution of the man he had so cruelly persecuted and so bitterly detested.
Barneveldt's crime, it will be remembered, was his success in securing an honorable peace with Spain, which the prince violently opposed, knowing that his own talents fitted him solely for the field. Determined on revenge, he basely charged the Grand Pensionary with plotting to deliver his country into the hands of the Spaniards, and on this calumny he was tried, and, without any valid evidence, put to death.
He died as he had lived ― grandly and bravely. Before he laid his head upon the block, he turned to the people and said, "Remember that I am no traitor;" and then repeating, as if to himself, the words of his religious teacher, Arminius, "A good conscience is paradise," he resigned himself to the executioner. The people, many of whom had at first believed him guilty, were touched by the tragic spectacle, and looked on the aged hero with weeping eyes. When the axe fell, a great sob, as though the heart of the crowd were breaking, burst forth; and when the noble head was severed by the shining steel, the people ran and gathered the sand, wet with the martyr's blood, and preserved it in vials as something too sacred for mortal touch. How like the people in all ages was this! They demand the life of the hero today, and mourn the dead martyr to-morrow.
Between the Buitenhof (outer court) and the Vyverberg is the Gevangepoort (prison gate), memorable as the place where Cornelius De Witt was confined in 1672 on a malicious charge of conspiring to assassinate the Prince of Orange, afterward King of England. Jan De Witt, having become unpopular on account of his unconstitutional method of forming the alliance with Sweden and England ― his haste in the matter seems to have been justified by the emergency ― had resigned his office of Grand Pensionary, and gone to visit his brother at the Hague. While with him in the prison a popular tumult, which had been long brewing, broke out; the mob forced an entrance, and, incited to fury by the calumnies circulated against the De Witts, dragged them forth, and tore them literally limb from limb.
At the Hague the water is more stagnant than in almost any other part of the country. Though the sea is so near, the canals and streams, instead of flowing to, flow from it. To remedy this there are two large windmills in the vicinity of Scheveningen, which raise water from the Dunes (sand hills extending along the coast from Dunkirk to the Helder), and convey it to the town, displacing the stagnant water in the canals and effecting a feeble current.
On the outskirts of the city is the House in the Wood, built by the grandmother of William III. of England, and now the residence of the Queen of Holland. The House is externally plain, but finely furnished and decorated with numerous paintings and works of art. The Wood (Bosch) is a beautiful park nearly two miles long, with pleasant walks and pretty lakes, and, what is very noticeable in Holland, abounds in forest trees that have been allowed to grow as nature intended. These trees are an ocular treat after the training, clipping, and methodical tormenting to which almost every hedge, grove, and bit of foliage is subjected by the Dutch. Nature has had so little to do with the making of their country that it is not strange they have little reverence for her. They can not be persuaded that she understands what is best; and so in whatever shape she reveals herself, they set to work to improve her, persuaded she needs to be confined and limited by mathematical curves and lines.
If Cytherea were to rise again from the foam of the sea, and were to select the Zuyder-Zee as the place of her birth (she wouldn't be very apt to do this if she is the woman I take her for), the Dutch, I fancy, would drag her ashore in a net, and failing to sell her for a colossal herring, they would shear off the golden glory of her hair, pad her waist, broaden her oval face in a cheese-press, deck her lovely limbs with galligaskins, and set her to scrubbing floors. After they had done this, and after she had served an apprenticeship for ten years as a kitchen quean, they might accept her as a type of utilitarian excellence, but they would never recognize her pretensions to be considered the goddess of beauty.
A number of tame storks are kept in a small house in the fish-market of the Hague, and strut about there with an apparent consciousness that they are honored and revered. What the ibis was to the ancient Egyptians, what bears are to the Bernese, and pigeons to the Venetians, the stork is to the Hollander. The arms of the Hague are represented by a stork, which, throughout the country, especially by the peasantry, is held in a sort of veneration. This bird (ooyevaar) is never disturbed or injured, and to kill one is reckoned little less than a crime. The storks are encouraged to abide in Holland; and as it is thought a good omen for them to select any dwelling for their habitation, great pains is taken to induce them to build their nests on the roofs of farm-houses, and on the edge of a gable or near the chimney of a dwelling in town. An old cart-wheel, cheese-box, or some other contrivance is often placed on the roof as a temptation to nest-building, and a farmhouse is hardly considered complete that has not a stork or two in or about it.
The dwellings of the poor, scattered all over the kingdom, with their steep thatched roofs, low walls, patches of carefully tilled land girt by ditches, answering the place of walls or fences, with a troop of ruddy and robust children playing about the door, and the clatter of storks overhead, are prominent features in every Dutch landscape. The great army of storks migrate to the South about the middle of August, taking with them the young they have reared; return usually early in May, and always seek their old nests.
In 1536 a large part of the town of Delft was destroyed by fire. During its progress the storks were seen carrying their little ones from their nests through the flames; and when they could not save them, refusing to desert their young, they perished in the same fiery death.
Scheveningen, on the sea-shore, three miles from the Hague, has long been a fishing village, and is now a very fashionable bathing-place. The sand hills thrown up along the beach so hide the ocean that I had no idea of its proximity until I was at its very rim. Like every fishing population, the Scheveningeners are original and peculiar, not only in their habits, but in their customs and costumes. The fish-women wear a short, highly colored petticoat, a gay waist cut low, with a white inner neckerchief, sleeves coming to the elbow, a large cape lined with red, a huge fantastic bonnet closely resembling a coal-scuttle, and carry their wares in a basket on their head.
The fishermen convey their fish to the Hague in carts drawn by dogs (the animals are large and strong); and when they have completed their sales, return home in the empty carts drawn by their canine steeds. It is amusing to see with what a grand air they go trundling along, as self-satisfied apparently as one of our Celtic aldermen parading at the public expense in an open carriage on some highly important occasion, which he assists to illumine with a very red face and very yellow gloves.
As all tourists in Holland are anxious to reach Amsterdam, justly regarding it as the most interesting and most representative city of the kingdom, you and I, reader, will, at least for the present, skip the quaint and curious towns of Leyden and Haarlem, and enter the Dutch metropolis, whose foundations are said to have been built on herring bones.
Amsterdam (once called Amsteldamme, meaning the dike, or dam, of the Amstel) is the constitutional capital of the country, the ceremony of coronation being performed there. Situated at the confluence of the river Amstel with the Y, an arm of the Zuyder-Zee, it is shaped somewhat like a crescent or bow, the string representing the Y, and the curve the boundary on the land side. Though of much less commercial importance than it was two centuries ago, it is still a great centre of traffic and trade, and its population, which is constantly growing, is now over two hundred and seventy thousand. Amsterdam is built on piles driven into the sand, which lies about fifty feet below the morass the city stands on. It has often been styled the Venice of the North, and resembles it in point of situation; but in its history, traditions, and the character of its people it is extremely unlike the Cybele of the Sea. Venice, in her days of splendor, was as mysterious and romantic as Amsterdam has always been direct and practical.
The principal outlet of the Amstel, entering the city on the southeast, winds through and divides it into the old and new sides (Oude en Nienwe Zijde), and falls into the Y by numerous courses. The ramparts have been demolished, and on the twenty-eight bastions are as many windmills ― the outward symbol of every thing Dutch. The town is surrounded by a broad canal or fosse, and in the interior are four other large canals, running in curves, and parallel with the outer one, called Prinssen Gracht, Keizer's Gracht, Heeren Gracht, and the Cingel ― the last being the innermost. These are lined with spacious and handsome buildings, and three of them are at least two miles long. The small canals, intersecting the town in every direction, divide it into as many as a hundred islands, and are crossed by some three hundred bridges.
Toward the sea, on both sides of the Amstel, the streets are narrow and crooked; but, in the new part of the city, are broad and well paved. The houses are of brick, four, five, and six stories high, with their gables to the street, and generally entered by flights of steps in front. The principal shops are in Kalvers Straat, Warmois Straat, and the Nieuwendyk, and are remarkable for their large plate-glass windows, as well as the excellence, extent, and variety of their stocks. There are few things which may not be had in Amsterdam for money. Loans of millions, and diamonds worth a small fortune, may be obtained, with every gradation down to a pound of choice butter or a bottle of the best Curaçoa.
The buildings of the city, so tall and narrow, and with such fantastic gables, generally rounded at the top or running off to a point, and often terminating in a carved white marble slab, look queerly enough to a stranger during the first few days of his sojourn on the Amstel. He is impressed with their universal determination against ranking an angle of ninety degrees. If there be a straight structure in the whole town, I have never seen it. The houses have declared eternal hostility to the perpendicular. They lean forward, and lean backward; they lean to the right, and lean to the left ― conveying the impression to an unfamiliar eye that the only reason they do not tumble down is that they haven't made up their mind which way to fall.
I have observed nervous foreigners walking along the edges of the canals, and constantly looking up at the monotonous brick piles, as if expecting to see them momentarily topple over.
I remember an Englishman who was so occupied in the Heeren Gracht one morning with watching the stately buildings that he walked into the canal. A burly native in a small boat rowed to the spot where the noble Briton had disappeared, and tried to drag him out when he rose to the surface. His intentions were excellent; but he was so short and fleshy that when he caught hold of the Englishman he lost his equilibrium, went over the side, and fell upon the struggling fellow in the water, very much after the manner of an enormous meal-sack. John Bull sank as if he had swallowed twenty gallons of boiled lead, and, coming up again, his broad face was purple. He couldn't swim a stroke, and would have drowned inevitably if the Dutchman hadn't gotten back into his skiff, and, seizing a boat-hook, fastened it in the seat of the poor mans trowsers, and rescued him in the shape of a dripping clothes-pin. As soon as Bull discharged some of the unsavory water he had absorbed, he began to denounce Holland and everything in it. He threatened to bring suit against his burly preserver for assault and battery; abused the city for having dangerous houses which no sane man would walk near; and finally anathematized his optics if he didn't write to the Times. That is the last resort of your true Briton; but as it had no influence on the sturdy waterman, who didn't understand a word of English, Queen Victoria's outraged subject went off as wrathful as he was wet.
The order of architecture in Amsterdam, for want of a better name, might be styled the inebriated and staggering order; for the buildings look as if they had been trying drink out all the Schiedam distilleries, and were a good deal worse for their effort. Their example must be a bad one. How can plain Jan or humble Marten hope to keep sober with such architectural irregularities ever before their eyes? This leaning of the houses is caused by the sinking of the piles on which they are built. They get out of the perpendicular, but they very rarely fall, so that their perilous condition is more apparent than real.
The most conspicuous and the finest building in Amsterdam—indeed, in all Holland ― is the Palace, formerly the Town-hall. It is of stone, in a parallelogrammatic form, two hundred and sixty feet long and two hundred broad, and rests on some fourteen thousand piles. It contains a spacious hall, nearly a hundred feet high, lined with white marble, and really quite handsome. The Palace would not be remarkable any where else, but the Dutch regard it as an incomparable edifice ― much as the ancient Greeks did the Temple of Ephesus or the Parthenon. A view from the tower is much more remunerative than a ramble through the interior of the building, as from that elevated position you get at a single glance a correct view of the wonderful city, with its wilderness of narrow streets, its countless canals bordered with trees, its crooked houses with projecting gables, its crowded shipping, and thronged and bustling quays. Your range of vision takes in miles of the to surrounding country, the great ship-canal, fifty miles long, leading to the Helder, the many little towns in the neighborhood, and the broad expanse of the Zuyder-Zee.
The main entrance to the Palace ― every thing is inverted in Holland—is in the rear. The treasures of the once celebrated Bank of Amsterdam, now no more (described by Adam Smith in his "Wealth of Nations"), which used to regulate the exchanges of Europe, were kept in the vaults of this building. Most of the best pictures have been removed to the Museum; but one of the most interesting portrays Van Speyk blowing up his ship to prevent its falling into the hands of the Belgians.
In February, 1831, during the war between them and the Dutch, a gun-boat of the latter, in sailing up the Scheldt from Fort Austruweel to the Citadel during a heavy gale, to use a nautical phrase, twice missed stays. All the exertions of her officers and crew did not prevent her from getting aground under the very guns of the fort, an within a few yards of the docks. The helpless situation of the boat having been perceived from the shore, a body of Belgian volunteers boarded her to make her a prize, and ordered her commander, a young officer named Van Speyk, to surrender. Seeing that resistance against overwhelming numbers was useless, and having frequently expressed his determination never to yield his vessel, he rushed to the magazine, laid a lighted cigar upon an open barrel of gunpowder, fell upon his knees in prayer, and in less than a minute the terrible explosion took place, blowing all of the crew but three, and every one of the boarders, to atoms. Van Speyk, an orphan, had been educated at the public expense, and most nobly did he repay the debt due to his country. In turn it remembered him by rearing a monument to his memory beside that of De Ruyter, and decreeing that there should always be a vessel in the national navy bearing his honored name.
The Museum, in the Trippenhuis, has among the notable paintings Van der Helst's "City Guard of Amsterdam" celebrating at a banquet the treaty of Westphalia, which confirmed the independence of the Dutch. The figures, twenty-five in number, are all portraits; and though none of them are of distinguished persons, they are so correctly drawn, are so well colored, and have such a marked individuality and life-like expression, that the picture has been called a miracle of the Dutch school.
Rembrandt's "Nightwatch," as it is called, though it is now thought to represent a company of archers going out to shoot at the butts, and his "Five Masters of the Drapers' Company;" Gerard Dou's "Evening School," with its marvelous management of different lights Teniers's "Temptation of St. Anthony;" Backhuysen's "Embarkation of the Pensionary De Witt," and other paintings by Potter, Vandervelde, and Jan Steen ― are all well deserving of long and careful study.
The churches of the city, like those of the country at large, are plain on the outside and bare in the interior; but they are grotesquely built, with six, seven, and eight gables, and often so entirely surrounded by shops that it is very difficult for a stranger to find their entrance. I have wasted a number of hours going round and round the damms, or open spaces, of the metropolis in the vain search for church doors.
The Dutch, as a people (the national creed is Calvinism), are extremely orthodox, and very regular in their attendance upon religious service. If they were not guided by unusual theological zeal, I question if they would not often fail to discover how to get into what they consider their temples of Divine worship. In respect to church-going, and the rigid observance of forms, the Dutch are the Scotch of the Continent. They recognize the Deity in every thing, especially in the thing that happens to fall out as they desire, and all matters of moment they associate with special providences. They are most vehement Protestants ― their Protestantism often being a sectarian form of anti-Catholicism, as is natural after their long and bitter contests with the Spaniards, and their heroic defense of their political and religious rights. Service is held in the churches three or four times of a Sunday, and they who fail to attend at least twice are presumed to be dallying with Satan, and circumvented by his iniquitous snares. Sermons are announced in placards posted on the walls of the ecclesiastic edifices several days before they are preached, so that the public, as well as the congregations, may know what rare entertainment is in store for them. The clergymen still wear the puritanic costume of Charles I.'s time ― a long black cloak, with a ruff about the neck ― and generally confine their discourses to doctrinal points, spinning metaphysical webs, about total depravity, eternal reprobation, vicarious atonement, and the sin against the Holy Ghost, between the pulpit and their hearers, which the latter are constantly struggling to walk on.
The Old Church, styled St. Nicholas in the days of Romanism, has some beautifully stained windows, several tombs of Dutch admirals, a fine set of chimes, and a very sweet-toned organ.
The New Church ― termed new, I suppose, because it is only four hundred and sixty-three years of age ― contains a number of historic monuments; among them one to Admiral De Ruyter, who sailed up the Medway and burned the English fleet at Chatham; another to Captain Bentinck, killed in the battle of Doggerbank a third to the dramatic poet Vondel, called the Dutch Shakespeare; and a fourth to the heroic Van Speyk.
Though the greater part of the educated Dutch are Calvinists, and extremely earnest in their belief, they understand the wisdom and policy of the largest toleration. The Evangelical Lutherans, the Scotch Presbyterians, the Moravians, the English Episcopalians, the Baptists, Friends, Greeks, Jews, and Roman Catholics, have their places of worship. The Jews and Romanists are the most numerous: the former about twenty thousand, and the latter close upon fifty thousand.
Almost every body is disappointed in the activity and hustle of Amsterdam. Its quays are thronged, its streets are crowded, its shops are full, and its warehouses are always busy. It bears on every hand the marks of industry, perseverance, and prosperity. No man, woman, or child seems to be idle. Whatever it may be in theology, idleness is socially the unpardonable sin in Holland; and though the thing in which they are engaged may seem trifling to foreigners, it is followed, whatever its nature, with entire devotion. Neither loungers nor beggars are visible there; and yet to the Anglo-Saxon mind a vast deal of precious time is wasted for the want of mechanical contrivances, and of what New Englanders style faculty.
You see there, as in Rotterdam, any number of sledges for carrying purposes. One reason of this, in addition to economy, is that the conveyance of freight or goods of any kind by land is for a very short distance, nearly all the vessels being loaded and unloaded by and from the warehouses by means of blocks projecting over the borders of the canals. Very heavy burdens are frequently borne upon the sledges, without regard to the poor horses, which, though heavy and strong, after the national pattern, can not fail to be overtaxed.
The Exchange at half past three in time afternoon ― the hour of high change presents a supremely animated scene. Fewer nationalities are represented than at Rotterdam; but the transactions are very large and important, a single one sometimes embracing millions of guilders. The Dutchman has the profoundest sympathy with trade, which answers to a large part of his being directly and copiously. However calm and sluggish he may seen during much of the day, the hour of change rouses him, as a defiance of the Spaniards roused his ancestors. His nerves tingle then; his small eyes sparkle; his somewhat severe nature is simultaneously softened and hardened at time prospect of increasing his worldly goods, and of being enabled to expend still more upon his garden-house, which, if he were sentimental, he would term the home of his love, the Vaucluse of his heart.
Until you get acquainted within Amsterdam you believe that paupers are not reckoned among its inhabitants. There are many of them, albeit they are not allowed to offend the public eye. I have heard it estimated that twenty thousand poor are fed and lodged at the expense of the city; and if this include the afflicted as well as the unfortunate, the number can not be far from correct. The benevolent institutions of the city ― as many as sixty ― embrace asylums for the aged and infirm, the insane, widows, foundlings, and almost all persons suffering from ailments of mind, body, or circumstance.
There used to be, I have been informed, a hospital for fools; but there was so much contention as to who should occupy it ― so many who ought to have been, and so few who were willing to go there ― that the charitable enterprise was finally abandoned. Some waggish citizens urged the building up of the old walls of the town, and covering them with a great roof, as the most convenient and least discriminating asylum which could be erected. And this jest had much to do with the extinction of an institution which is so much needed that it can never be established any where.
A considerable portion of the poorer citizens live in the basements or cellars of the houses whose upper apartments are occupied by persons in comfortable circumstances. Such residences are damp and unwholesome, and yet their occupants seem generally to be active and robust. The Dutch, as a people, inherit excellent constitutions, which their very moist and trying climate ― the thermometer varies from twenty degrees below zero to one hundred and five above ― their impure air, and noisome exhalations from ditches and canals, are not sufficient to injure to any permanent degree.
A large part of the people, from motives of economy, have, like the Chinese, their homes upon the water. They build, buy, or hire a boat slender enough to pass through all the canals, stock it with poultry, hogs, and cows, construct a cabin for their families and so become independent of the outer world. It seems a little odd to have children and cattle, wives and pigs, infants and ducks, with barn-yards and household furniture, all under one roof; but the Dutch don't mind such things, and, on the whole, manage their domestic affairs very adroitly. They keep their live stock in one part of the boat, and their family stock in another. Those get fat, and these are content, and both contribute to the profit and comfort of the heads of the family. Among the peasantry and working people in Holland, the women labor quite as much as, if not more than the men. In addition to rearing children, they perform such menial service as working in the field, driving carts, digging peat, and unloading vessels.
In this boat life the women do all the domestic offices, and garnish their cabins with tulips, hyacinths, and dahlias ― for which the Dutch in all grades of society have an unconquerable passion ― giving an appearance of refinement and comfort to what would otherwise seem a narrow, sordid, and dreary existence. All the members of the family, without regard to age or sex, take part in the management of their floating dwelling. When they are too poor to buy a horse, as frequently happens, not only the men but the women and children drag the boat along from one village or town to another, or to different quarters of the city, as suits their convenience or their interests. These amphibious families generally support themselves by trading or exchanging of some sort. They carry vegetables, poultry, butter, eggs, and cheese to the cities, and, after selling them, make excursions to the country to purchase more.
A Dutchman with his variegated goods and chattels is an odd sight. I have noticed him and his wife, with four, six, eight, and even ten children, hardly more than a year between their ages, driving their poultry, pigs, and cattle on board the boat, and, after distributing themselves as pilots, draggers, feeders, cooks, cleaners, and general directors, glide off on the canals as if they were sailing on purple seas to the Islands of the Blessed.
The foundations of Amsterdam no longer rest on herring bones. Two thousand vessels were once annually sent out from Holland on the herring fisheries, and now two hundred would cover the entire number engaged in the trade. Holland, like Amsterdam, has changed, but changed with the spirit of the time, and has now a new growth. Holland no longer regulates the exchanges of the world; no longer controls the commerce of the ocean; no longer, with her brave and sturdy sailors, rules the sea; no longer sets financial fashions to all Europe; no longer holds the mighty purse which kings must win before declaring war; no longer from her sluices and canals sends out her golden argosies that stretched her power and fame to every quarter of the globe. But still she is great in her dwarfed proportions; great in the industry, perseverance, and spirit of her people, whom all the surges of the sea can not daunt, and all the strength of the Spaniards in the height of their pride could not overcome. She is small, but she is firm and free, and has taught both hemispheres by her example what earnestness and determination may accomplish. She has no dreams of glory in these days; but she steadily pushes her conquest of work in every direction, and girds, as she has ever girt, her honest brow with the unfading laurels of unfailing labor and unfaltering heart.