A Wanderer in Holland
With Twenty Illustrations in Colour By
And Thirty-Four Illustrations After Old Dutch Masters
Preface I Rotterdam II The Dutch in English Literature III Dordrecht and Utrecht IV Delft V The Hague VI Scheveningen and Katwyk VII Leyden VIII Leyden's Painters, a Fanatic and a Hero IX Haarlem X Amsterdam XI Amsterdam's Pictures XII Around Amsterdam; South and South-East XIII Around Amsterdam: North XIV Alkmaar and Hoorn, The Helder and Enkhuisen XV Friesland: Stavoren to Leeuwarden XVI Friesland (continued): Leeuwarden and Neighbourhood XVII Groningen to Zutphen XVIII Arnheim to Bergen-op-Zoom XIX Middelburg XX Flushing
List of Illustrations
Sunrise on the Maas Rotterdam Gouda The Great Church, Dort Utrecht On the Beach, Scheveningen Leyden The Turf Market, Haarlem St. Nicolas Church, Amsterdam Canal in the Jews' Quarter, Amsterdam Volendam Cheese Market, Alkmaar The Harbour Tower, Hoorn Market Place, Weigh-house, Hoorn The Dromedaris Tower, Enkhuisen Harlingen Kampen Arnheim The Market Place, Nymwegen Middelburg
Girl's Head. Jan Vermeer of Delft (Mauritshuis) The Store Cupboard. Peter de Hooch (Ryks) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl Portrait of a Youth. Jan van Scorel (Boymans Museum, Rotterdam) The Sick Woman. Jan Steen (Ryks) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl The Anxious Family. Josef Israels View of Dort. Albert Cuyp (Ryks) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl The Never-Ending Prayer. Nicholas Maes (Ryks) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl A Lady. Paulus Moreelse (Ryks) Pilgrims to Jerusalem. Jan van Scorel (Kunstliefde Museum, Utrecht) View of Delft. Jan Vermeer (Mauritshuis) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl The School of Anatomy. Rembrandt (Mauritshuis) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl A Young Woman. Rembrandt (Mauritshuis) The Steen Family. Jan Steen (Mauritshuis) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl The Menagerie. Jan Steen (Mauritshuis) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl Portrait of G. Bicker, Landrichter of Muiden. Van der Heist (Ryks) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl The Syndics. Rembrandt (Ryks) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl The Oyster Feast. Jan Steen (Mauritshuis) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl The Young Housekeeper. Gerard Dou (Mauritshuis) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl Breakfast. Gabriel Metsu (Ryks) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl The Groote Kerk. Johannes Bosboom (Boymans Museum, Rotterdam) The Painter and His Wife (?). Frans Hals (Ryks) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl Group of Arquebusiers. Frans Hals (Haarlem) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl The Cat's Dancing Lesson. Jan Steen (Ryks) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl The "Night Watch". Rembrandt (Ryks) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl The Reader. Jan Vermeer (Ryks) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl Milking Time. Anton Mauve Paternal Advice. Gerard Terburg (Ryks) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl The Spinner. Nicholas Maes (Ryks) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl Clara Alewijn. Dirck Santvoort (Ryks) Family Scene. Jan Steen (Ryks) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl The Little Princess. Paulus Moreelse (Ryks) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl The Shepherd and His Flock. Anton Mauve Helene van der Schalke. Gerard Terburg (Ryks) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl Elizabeth Bas. Rembrandt (Ryks) From a Photograph by Franz Hanfstaengl
It would be useless to pretend that this book is authoritatively informing. It is a series of personal impressions of the Dutch country and the Dutch people, gathered during three visits, together with an accretion of matter, more or less pertinent, drawn from many sources, old and new, to which I hope I have given unity. For trustworthy information upon the more serious side of Dutch life and character I would recommend Mr. Meldrum's Holland and the Hollanders. My thanks are due to my friends, Mr. and Mrs. Emil Lueden, for saving me from many errors by reading this work in MS.
A WANDERER IN HOLLAND
To Rotterdam by water—To Rotterdam by rail—Holland's monotony of scenery—Holland in England—Rotterdam's few merits—The life of the river—The Rhine—Walt Whitman—Crowded canals—Barge life—The Dutch high-ways—A perfect holiday—The canal's influence on the national character—The florin and the franc—Lady Mary Wortley Montagu—The old and the poor—Holland's health—Funeral customs—The chemists' shops—Erasmus of Rotterdam—Latinised names—Peter de Hooch—True aristocracy—The Boymans treasures—Modern Dutch art—Matthew Maris—The Rotterdam Zoo—The herons—The stork's mission—The ourang-outang—An eighteenth-century miser—A successful merchant—The Queen-Mother—Tom Hood in Rotterdam—Gouda.
It was once possible to sail all the way to Rotterdam by either of the two lines of steamships from England—the Great Eastern, via Harwich, and the Batavier, direct from London. But that is possible now only by the Batavier, passengers by the better-known Harwich route being landed now and henceforward at the Hook at five A.M. I am sorry for this, because after a rough passage it was very pleasant to glide in the early morning steadily up the Maas and gradually acquire a sense of Dutch quietude and greyness. No longer, however, can this be done, as the Batavier boats reach Rotterdam at night; and one therefore misses the river, with the little villages on its banks, each with a tiny canal-harbour of its own; the groups of trees in the early mist; the gulls and herons; and the increasing traffic as one drew nearer Schiedam and at last reached that forest of masts which is known as Rotterdam.
But now that the only road to Rotterdam by daylight is the road of iron all that is past, and yet there is some compensation, for short as the journey is one may in its progress ground oneself very thoroughly in the characteristic scenery of Holland. No one who looks steadily out of the windows between the Hook and Rotterdam has much to learn thereafter. Only changing skies and atmospheric effects can provide him with novelty, for most of Holland is like that. He has the formula. Nor is it necessarily new to him if he knows England well, North Holland being merely the Norfolk Broads, the Essex marshlands about Burnham-on-Crouch, extended. Only in its peculiarity of light and in its towns has Holland anything that we have not at home.
England has even its canal life too, if one cared to investigate it; the Broads are populous with wherries and barges; cheese is manufactured in England in a score of districts; cows range our meadows as they range the meadows of the Dutch. We go to Holland to see the towns, the pictures and the people. We go also because so many of us are so constituted that we never use our eyes until we are on foreign soil. It is as though a Cook's ticket performed an operation for cataract.
But because one can learn the character of Dutch scenery so quickly—on a single railway journey—I do not wish to suggest that henceforward it becomes monotonous and trite. One may learn the character of a friend very quickly, and yet wish to be in his company continually. Holland is one of the most delightful countries to move about in: everything that happens in it is of interest. I have never quite lost the sense of excitement in crossing a canal in the train and getting a momentary glimpse of its receding straightness, perhaps broken by a brown sail. In a country where, between the towns, so little happens, even the slightest things make a heightened appeal to the observer; while one's eyes are continually kept bright and one's mind stimulated by the ever-present freshness and clearness of the land and its air.
Rotterdam, it should be said at once, is not a pleasant city. It must be approached as a centre of commerce and maritime industry, or not at all; if you do not like sailor men and sailor ways, noisy streets and hurrying people, leave Rotterdam behind, and let the train carry you to The Hague. It is not even particularly Dutch: it is cosmopolitan. The Dutch are quieter than this, and cleaner. And yet Rotterdam is unique—its church of St. Lawrence has a grey and sombre tower which has no equal in the country; there is a windmill on the Cool Singel which is essentially Holland; the Boymans Museum has a few admirable pictures; there is a curiously fascinating stork in the Zoological Gardens; and the river is a scene of romantic energy by day and night. I think you must go to Rotterdam, though it be only for a few hours.
At Rotterdam we see what the Londoner misses by having a river that is navigable in the larger sense only below his city. To see shipping at home we must make our tortuous way to the Pool; Rotterdam has the Pool in her midst. Great ships pass up and down all day. The Thames, once its bustling mercantile life is cut short by London Bridge, dwindles to a stream of pleasure; the Maas becomes the Rhine.
Walt Whitman is the only writer who has done justice to a great harbour, and he only by that sheer force of enumeration which in this connection rather stands for than is poetry. As a matter of fact it is the reader of such an inventory as we find in "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" that is the poet: Whitman is only the machinery. Whitman gives the suggestion and the reader's own memory or imagination does the rest. Many of the lines might as easily have been written of Rotterdam as of Brooklyn:—
The sailors at work in the rigging or out astride the spars, The round masts, the swinging motion of the hulls, the slender serpentine pennants, The large and small steamers in motion, the pilots in their pilot-houses, The white wake left by the passage, the quick tremulous whirl of the wheels, The flags of all nations, the falling of them at sunset, The scallop-edged waves in the twilight, the ladled cups, the frolicsome crests and glistening, The stretch afar growing dimmer and dimmer, the grey walls of the granite storehouses by the docks, On the river the shadowy group, the big steam-tug closely flank'd on each side by the barges, the hay-boat, the belated lighter, On the neighbouring shore the fires from the foundry chimneys burning high and glaringly into the night, Casting their flicker of black contrasted with wild red and yellow light over the tops of the houses, and down into the clefts of streets.
There is of course nothing odd in the description of one harbour fitting another, for harbours have no one nationality but all. Whitman was not otherwise very strong upon Holland. He writes in "Salut au Monde" of "the sail and steamships of the world" which in his mind's eye he beholds as they
Wait steam'd up ready to start in the ports of Australia, Wait at Liverpool, Glasgow, Dublin, Marseilles, Lisbon, Naples, Hamburg, Bremen, Bordeaux, The Hague, Copenhagen.
It is not easy for one of the "sail or steamships of the world" to wait steamed up at The Hague; because The Hague has no harbour except for small craft and barges. Shall we assume, with great charity, that Walt feared that the word Rotterdam might impair his rhythm?
Not only big shipping: I think one may see barges and canal boats in greater variety at Rotterdam than anywhere else. One curious thing to be noticed as they lie at rest in the canals is the absence of men. A woman is always there; her husband only rarely. The only visible captain is the fussy, shrewish little dog which, suspicious of the whole world, patrols the boat from stem to stern, and warns you that it is against the law even to look at his property. I hope his bite is not equal to his bark.
Every barge has its name. What the popular style was seven years ago, when I was here last, I cannot remember; but to-day it is "Wilhelmina". English suburban villas have not a greater variety of fantastic names than the canal craft of Holland; nor, with all our monopoly of the word "home," does the English suburban villa suggest more compact cosiness than one catches gleams of through their cabin windows or down their companions.
Spring cleaning goes on here, as in the Dutch houses, all the year round, and the domiciliary part of the vessels is spotless. Every bulwark has a washing tray that can be fixed or detached in a moment. "It's a fine day, let us kill something," says the Englishman; "Here's an odd moment, let us wash something," says the Dutch vrouw.
In some of the Rotterdam canals the barges are so packed that they lie touching each other, with their burgees flying all in the same direction, as the vanes of St. Sepulchre's in Holborn cannot do. How they ever get disentangled again and proceed on their free way to their distant homes is a mystery. But in the shipping world incredible things can happen at night.
One does not, perhaps, in Rotterdam realise all at once that every drop of water in these city-bound canals is related to every other drop of water in the other canals of Holland, however distant. From any one canal you can reach in time every other. The canal is really much more the high road of the country than the road itself. The barge is the Pickford van of Holland. Here we see some of the secret of the Dutch deliberateness. A country which must wait for its goods until a barge brings them has every opportunity of acquiring philosophic phlegm.
After a while one gets accustomed to the ever-present canal and the odd spectacle (to us) of masts in the streets and sails in the fields. All the Dutch towns are amphibious, but some are more watery than others.
The Dutch do not use their wealth of water as we should. They do not swim in it, they do not race on it, they do not row for pleasure at all. Water is their servant, never a light-hearted companion.
I can think of no more reposeful holiday than to step on board one of these barges wedged together in a Rotterdam canal, and never lifting a finger to alter the natural course of events—to accelerate or divert—be earned by it to, say, Harlingen, in Friesland: between the meadows; under the noses of the great black and white cows; past herons fishing in the rushes; through little villages with dazzling milk-cans being scoured on the banks, and the good-wives washing, and saturnine smokers in black velvet slippers passing the time of day; through big towns, by rows of sombre houses seen through a delicate screen of leaves; under low bridges crowded with children; through narrow locks; ever moving, moving, slowly and surely, sometimes sailing, sometimes quanting, sometimes being towed, with the wide Dutch sky overhead, and the plovers crying in it, and the clean west wind driving the windmills, and everything just as it was in Rembrandt's day and just as it will be five hundred years hence.
Holland when all is said is a country of canals. It may have cities and pictures, windmills and cows, quaint buildings, and quainter costumes, but it is a country of canals before all. The canals set the tune. The canals keep it deliberate and wise.
One can be in Rotterdam, or in whatever town one's travels really begin, but a very short time without discovering that the Dutch unit—the florin—is a very unsatisfactory servant. The dearness of Holland strikes one continually, but it does so with peculiar force if one has crossed the frontier from Belgium, where the unit is a franc. It is too much to say that a sovereign in Holland is worth only twelve shillings: the case is not quite so extreme as that; but a sovereign in Belgium is, for all practical purposes, worth twenty-five shillings, and the contrast after reaching Dutch soil is very striking. One has to recollect that the spidery letter "f," which in those friendly little restaurants in the Rue Hareng at Brussels had stood for a franc, now symbolises that far more serious item the florin; and f. 1.50, which used to be a trifle of one and threepence, is now half a crown.
Even in our own country, where we know something about the cost of things, we are continually conscious of the fallacy embodied in the statement that a sovereign is equal to twenty shillings. We know that in theory that is so; but we know also that it is so only as long as the sovereign remains unchanged. Change it and it is worth next to nothing—half a sovereign and a little loose silver. But in Holland the disparity is even more pathetic. To change a sovereign there strikes one as the most ridiculous business transaction of one's life.
Certain things in Holland are dear beyond all understanding. At The Hague, for example, we drank Eau d'Evian, a very popular bottled water for which in any French restaurant one expects to pay a few pence; and when the bill arrived this simple fluid cut such a dashing figure in it that at first I could not recognise it at all. When I put the matter to the landlord, he explained that the duty made it impossible for him to charge less than f. 1.50 (or half a crown) a bottle; but I am told that his excuse was too fanciful. None the less, half a crown was the charge, and apparently no one objects to pay it. The Dutch, on pleasure or eating bent, are prepared to pay anything. One would expect to get a reasonable claret for such a figure; but not in Holland. Wine is good there, but it is not cheap. Only in one hotel—and that in the unspoiled north, at Groningen—did I see wine placed automatically upon the table, as in France.
Rotterdam must have changed for the worse under modern conditions; for it is no longer as it was in Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's day. From Rotterdam in 1716 she sent the Countess of Mar a pretty account of the city: "All the streets are paved with broad stones, and before the meanest artificers' doors seats of various coloured marbles, and so neatly kept that, I will assure you, I walked all over the town yesterday, incognita, in my slippers, without receiving one spot of dirt; and you may see the Dutch maids washing the pavement of the street with more application than ours do our bed-chambers. The town seems so full of people, with such busy faces, all in motion, that I can hardly fancy that it is not some celebrated fair; but I see it is every day the same.
"The shops and warehouses are of a surprising neatness and magnificence, filled with an incredible quantity of fine merchandise, and so much cheaper than what we see in England, I have much ado to persuade myself I am still so near it. Here is neither dirt nor beggary to be seen. One is not shocked with those loathsome cripples, so common in London, nor teased with the importunities of idle fellows and wenches, that choose to be nasty and lazy. The common servants and the little shopwomen here are more nicely clean than most of our ladies; and the great variety of neat dresses (every woman dressing her head after her own fashion) is an additional pleasure in seeing the town."
The claims of business have now thrust aside many of the little refinements described by Lady Mary, her description of which has but to be transferred to some of the smaller Dutch towns to be however in the main still accurate. But what she says of the Dutch servants is true everywhere to this minute. There are none more fresh and capable; none who carry their lot with more quiet dignity. Not the least part of the very warm hospitality which is offered in Dutch houses is played by the friendliness of the servants.
Every one in Holland seems to have enough; no one too much. Great wealth there may be among the merchants, but it is not ostentatious. Holland still seems to have no poor in the extreme sense of the word, no rags. Doubtless the labourers that one sees are working at a low rate, but they are probably living comfortably at a lower, and are not to be pitied except by those who still cherish the illusion that riches mean happiness. The dirt and poverty that exist in every English town and village are very uncommon. Nor does one see maimed, infirm or very old people, except now and then—so rarely as at once to be reminded of their rarity.
One is struck, even in Rotterdam, which is a peculiarly strenuous town, by the ruddy health of the people in the streets. In England, as one walks about, one sees too often the shadow of Death on this face and that; but in Holland it is difficult to believe in his power, the people have so prosperous, so permanent, an air.
That the Dutch die there is no doubt, for a funeral is an almost daily object, and the aanspreker is continually hurrying by; but where are the dead? The cemeteries are minute, and the churches have no churchyards. Of Death, however, when he comes the nation is very proud. The mourning customs are severe and enduring. No expense is spared in spreading the interesting tidings. It is for this purpose that the aanspreker flourishes in his importance and pomp. Draped heavily in black, from house to house he moves, wherever the slightest ties of personal or business acquaintanceship exist, and announces his news. A lady of Hilversum tells me that she was once formally the recipient of the message, "Please, ma'am, the baker's compliments, and he's dead," the time and place of the interment following. I said draped in black, but the aanspreker is not so monotonous an official as that. He has his subtleties, his nuances. If the deceased is a child, he adds a white rosette; if a bachelor or a maid, he intimates the fact by degrees of trimming.
The aanspreker was once occasionally assisted by the huilebalk, but I am afraid his day is over. The huilebalk accompanied the aansprekers from house to house and wept on the completion of their sad message. He wore a wide-awake hat with a very large brim and a long-tailed coat. If properly paid, says my informant, real tears coursed down his cheeks; in any case his presence was a luxury possible only to the rich.
The aanspreker is called in also at the other end of life. Assuming a more jocund air, he trips from house to house announcing little strangers.
That the Dutch are a healthy people one might gather also from the character of their druggists. In this country, even in very remote towns, one may reveal one's symptoms to a chemist or his assistant feeling certain that he will know more or less what to prescribe. But in Holland the chemists are often young women, who preside over shops in which one cannot repose any confidence. One likes a chemist's shop at least to look as if it contained reasonable remedies. These do not. Either our shops contain too many drugs or these too few. The chemist's sign, a large comic head with its mouth wide open (known as the gaper), is also subversive of confidence. A chemist's shop is no place for jokes. In Holland one must in short do as the Dutch do, and remain well.
Rotterdam's first claim to consideration, apart from its commercial importance, is that it gave birth to Erasmus, a bronze statue of whom stands in the Groote Market, looking down on the stalls of fruit. Erasmus of Rotterdam—it sounds like a contradiction in terms. Gherardt Gherardts of Rotterdam is a not dishonourable cacophany—and that was the reformer's true name; but the fashion of the time led scholars to adopt a Hellenised, or Latinised, style. Erasmus Desiderius, his new name, means Beloved and long desired. Grotius, Barlaeus, Vossius, Arminius, all sacrificed local colour to smooth syllables. We should be very grateful that the fashion did not spread also to the painters. What a loss it would be had the magnificent rugged name of Rembrandt van Rhyn been exchanged for a smooth emasculated Latinism.
Rotterdam had another illustrious son whose work as little suggests his birthplace—the exquisite painter Peter de Hooch. According to the authorities he modelled his style upon Rembrandt and Fabritius, but the influence of Rembrandt is concealed from the superficial observer. De Hooch, whose pictures are very scarce, worked chiefly at Delft and Haarlem, and it was at Haarlem that he died in 1681. If one were put to it to find a new standard of aristocracy superior to accidents of blood or rank one might do worse than demand as the ultimate test the possession of either a Vermeer of Delft or a Peter de Hooch.
One only of Peter de Hooch's pictures is reproduced in this book—"The Store Cupboard". This is partly because there are, I think, better paintings of his in London than at Amsterdam. At least it seems to me that his picture in our National Gallery of the waiting maid is finer than anything by De Hooch in Holland. But in no other work of his that I know is his simple charm so apparent as in "The Store Cupboard". This is surely the Christmas supplement carried out to its highest power—and by its inventor. The thousands of domestic scenes which have proceeded from this one canvas make the memory reel; and yet nothing has staled the prototype. It remains a sweet and genuine and radiant thing. De Hooch had two fetishes—a rich crimson dress or jacket and an open door. His compatriot Vermeer, whom he sometimes resembles, was similarly addicted to a note of blue.
No one has managed direct sunlight so well as De Hooch. The light in his rooms is the light of day. One can almost understand how Rembrandt and Gerard Dou got their concentrated effects of illumination; but how this omnipresent radiance streamed from De Hooch's palette is one of the mysteries. It is as though he did not paint light but found light on his canvas and painted everything else in its midst.
Rotterdam has some excellent pictures in its Boymans Museum; but they are, I fancy, overlooked by many visitors. It seems no city in which to see pictures. It is a city for anything rather than art—a mercantile centre, a hive of bees, a shipping port of intense activity. And yet perhaps the quietest little Albert Cuyp in Holland is here, "De Oude Oostpoort te Rotterdam," a small evening scene, without cattle, suffused in a golden glow. But all the Cuyps, and there are six, are good—all inhabited by their own light.
Among the other Boymans treasures which I find I have marked (not necessarily because they are good—for I am no judge—but because I liked them) are Ferdinand Bols fine free portrait of Dirck van der Waeijen, a boy in a yellow coat; Erckhart's "Boaz and Ruth," a small sombre canvas with a suggestion of Velasquez in it; Hobbema's "Boomrijk Landschap," one of the few paintings of this artist that Holland possesses. The English, I might remark, always appreciative judges of Dutch art, have been particularly assiduous in the pursuit of Hobbema, with the result that his best work is in our country. Holland has nothing of his to compare with the "Avenue at Middelharnis," one of the gems of our National Gallery. And his feathery trees may be studied at the Wallace Collection in great comfort.
Other fine landscapes in the Boymans Museum are three by Johan van Kessel, who was a pupil of Hobbema, one by Jan van der Meer, one by Koninck, and, by Jacob van Ruisdael, a corafield in the sun and an Amsterdam canal with white sails upon it. The most notable head is that by Karel Fabritius; Hendrick Pot's "Het Lokstertje" is interesting for its large free manner and signs of the influence of Hals; and Emmanuel de Witte's Amsterdam fishmarket is curiously modern. But the figure picture which most attracted me was "Portret van een jongeling," by Jan van Scorel, of whom we shall learn more at Utrecht. This little portrait, which I reproduce on the opposite page, is wholly charming and vivid.
The Boymans Museum contains also modern Dutch paintings. Wherever modern Dutch paintings are to be seen, I look first for the delicate art of Matthew Maris, and next for Anton Mauve. Here there is no Matthew Maris, and but one James Maris. There is one Mauve. The modern Dutch painter for the most part paints the same picture so often. But Matthew Maris is full of surprises. If a new picture by any of his contemporaries stood with its face to the wall one would know what to expect. From Israels, a fisherman's wife; from Mesdag, a grey stretch of sea; from Bosboom, a superb church interior; from Mauve, a peasant with sheep or a peasant with a cow; from Weissenbruch, a stream and a willow; from Breitner, an Amsterdam street; from James Maris a masterly scene of boats and wet sky. Usually one would have guessed aright. But with Matthew Maris is no certainty. It may be a little dainty girl lying on her side and watching butterflies; it may be a sombre hillside at Montmartre; it may be a girl cooking; it may be scaffolding in Amsterdam, or a mere at evening, or a baby's head, or a village street. He has many moods, and he is always distinguished and subtle.
Rotterdam has a zoological garden which, although inferior to ours, is far better than that at Amsterdam, while it converts The Hague's Zoo into a travesty. Last spring the lions were in splendid condition. They are well housed, but fewer distractions are provided for them than in Regent's Park. I found myself fascinated by the herons, who were continually soaring out over the neighbouring houses and returning like darkening clouds. In England, although the heron is a native, we rarely seem to see him; while to study him is extremely difficult. In Holland he is ubiquitous: both wild and tame.
More interesting still was the stork, whose nest is set high on a pinnacle of the buffalo house. He was building in the leisurely style of the British working man. He would negligently descend from the heavens with a stick. This he would lay on the fabric and then carefully perform his toilet, looking round and down all the time to see that every one else was busy. Whenever his eye lighted upon a toddling child or a perambulator it visibly brightened. "My true work!" he seemed to say; "this nest building is a mere by-path of industry." After prinking and overlooking, and congratulating himself thus, for a few minutes, he would stroll off, over the housetops, for another stick. He was the unquestionable King of the Garden.
Why are there no heronries in the English public parks? And why is there no stork? The Dutch have a proverb, "Where the stork abides no mother dies in childbed". Still more, why are there no storks in France? The author of Fecondite should have imported them.
No Zoo, however well managed, can keep an ourang-outang long, and therefore one should always study that uncomfortably human creature whenever the opportunity occurs. I had great fortune at Rotterdam, for I chanced to be in the ourang-outang's house when his keeper came in. Entering the enclosure, he romped with him in a score of diverting ways. They embraced each other, fed each other, teased each other. The humanness of the creature was frightful. Perhaps our likeness to ourang-outangs (except for our ridiculously short arms, inadequate lower jaws and lack of hair) made him similarly uneasy.
Rotterdam, I have read somewhere, was famous at the end of the eighteenth century for a miser, the richest man in the city. He always did his own marketing, and once changed his butcher because he weighed the paper with the meat He bought his milk in farthingsworths, half of which had to be delivered at his front door and half at the back, "to gain the little advantage of extra measure". Different travellers note different things, and William Chambers, the publisher, in his Tour in Holland in 1839, selected for special notice another type of Rotterdam resident: "One of the most remarkable men of this [the merchant] class is Mr. Van Hoboken of Rhoon and Pendrecht, who lives on one of the havens. This individual began life as a merchant's porter, and has in process of time attained the highest rank among the Dutch mercantile aristocracy. He is at present the principal owner of twenty large ships in the East India trade, each, I was informed, worth about fourteen thousand pounds, besides a large landed estate, and much floating wealth of different descriptions. His establishment is of vast extent, and contains departments for the building of ships and manufacture of all their necessary equipments. This gentleman, until lately, was in the habit of giving a splendid fete once a year to his family and friends, at which was exhibited with modest pride the porter's truck which he drew at the outset of his career. One seldom hears of British merchants thus keeping alive the remembrance of early meanness of circumstances."
At one of Rotterdam's stations I saw the Queen-Mother, a smiling, maternal lady in a lavender silk dress, carrying a large bouquet, and saying pretty things to a deputation drawn up on the platform. Rotterdam had put out its best bunting, and laid six inches of sand on its roads, to do honour to this kindly royalty. The band played the tender national anthem, which is always so unlike what one expects it to be, as her train steamed away, and then all the grave bearded gentlemen in uniforms and frock coats who had attended her drove in their open carriages back to the town. Not even the presence of the mounted guard made it more formal than a family party. Everybody seemed on the best of friendly terms of equality with everybody else.
Tom Hood, who had it in him to be so good a poet, but living in a country where art and literature do not count, was permitted to coarsen his delicate genius in the hunt for bread, wrote one of his comic poems on Rotterdam. In it are many happy touches of description:—
Before me lie dark waters In broad canals and deep, Whereon the silver moonbeams Sleep, restless in their sleep; A sort of vulgar Venice Reminds me where I am; Yes, yes, you are in England, And I'm at Rotterdam.
Tall houses with quaint gables, Where frequent windows shine, And quays that lead to bridges, And trees in formal line, And masts of spicy vessels From western Surinam, All tell me you're in England, But I'm in Rotterdam.
With headquarters at Rotterdam one may make certain small journeys into the neighbourhood—to Dordrecht by river, to Delft by canal, to Gouda by canal; or one may take longer voyages, even to Cologne if one wishes. But I do not recommend it as a city to linger in. Better than Rotterdam's large hotels are, I think, the smaller, humbler and more Dutch inns of the less commercial towns. This indeed is the case all over Holland: the plain Dutch inn of the neighbouring small town is pleasanter than the large hotels of the city; and, as I have remarked in the chapter on Amsterdam, the distances are so short, and the trains so numerous, that one suffers no inconvenience from staying in the smaller places.
Gouda (pronounced Howda) it is well to visit from Rotterdam, for it has not enough to repay a sojourn in its midst. It has a Groote Kerk and a pretty isolated white stadhuis. But Gouda's fame rests on its stained glass—gigantic representations of myth, history and scripture, chiefly by the brothers Crabeth. The windows are interesting rather than beautiful. They lack the richness and mystery which one likes to find in old stained glass, and the church itself is bare and cold and unfriendly. Hemmed in by all this coloured glass, so able and so direct, one sighs for a momentary glimpse of the rose window at Chartres, or even of the too heavily kaleidoscopic patterns of Brussels Cathedral. No matter, the Gouda windows in their way are very fine, and in the sixth, depicting the story of Judith and Holofernes, there is a very fascinating little Duereresque tower on a rock under siege.
If one is taking Gouda on the way from Rotterdam to Amsterdam, the surrounding country should not be neglected from the carriage windows. Holland is rarely so luxuriant as here, and so peacefully beautiful.
The Dutch in English Literature
Hard things against the Dutch—Andrew Marvell's satire—The iniquity of living below sea-level—Historic sarcasms—"Invent a shovel and be a magistrate"—Heterogeneity—Foot warmers—A champion of the Hollow Land—The Dutch Drawn to the Life—Dutch suspicion—Sir William Temple's opinion—and Sir Thomas Overbury's—Dr. Johnson's project—Dutch courtesy—Dutch discourtesy—National manners—A few phrases—The origin of "Dutch News"—A vindication of Dutch courage.
To say hard things of the Dutch was once a recognised literary pastime. At the time of our war with Holland no poet of any pretensions refrained from writing at least one anti-Batavian satire, the classical example of which is Andrew Marvell's "Character of Holland" (following Samuel Butler's), a pasquinade that contains enough wit and fancy and contempt to stock a score of the nation's ordinary assailants. It begins perfectly:—
HOLLAND, that scarce deserves the name of land, As but th' off-scouring of the British sand, And so much earth as was contributed By English pilots when they heav'd the lead, Or what by the ocean's slow alluvion fell Of shipwrackt cockle and the muscle-shell: This indigested vomit of the sea Fell to the Dutch by just propriety. Glad then, as miners who have found the ore They, with mad labour, fish'd the land to shoar And div'd as desperately for each piece Of earth, as if't had been of ambergreece; Collecting anxiously small loads of clay, Less than what building swallows bear away; Or than those pills which sordid beetles roul, Transfusing into them their dunghil soul. How did they rivet, with gigantick piles, Thorough the center their new-catched miles; And to the stake a struggling country bound, Where barking waves still bait the forced ground; Building their wat'ry Babel far more high To reach the sea, than those to scale the sky! Yet still his claim the injur'd ocean laid, And oft at leap-frog ore their steeples plaid: As if on purpose it on land had come To show them what's their mare liberum. A daily deluge over them does boyl; The earth and water play at level-coyl. The fish oft times the burger dispossest, And sat, not as a meat, but as a guest, And oft the Tritons and the sea-nymphs saw Whole sholes of Dutch serv'd up for Cabillau; Or, as they over the new level rang'd For pickled herring, pickled heeren chang'd. Nature, it seem'd, asham'd of her mistake, Would throw their land away at duck and drake.
The poor Dutch were never forgiven for living below the sea-level and gaining their security by magnificent feats of engineering and persistence. Why the notion of a reclaimed land should have seemed so comic I cannot understand, but Marvell certainly justified the joke.
Later, Napoleon, who liked to sum up a nation in a phrase, accused Holland of being nothing but a deposit of German mud, thrown there by the Rhine: while the Duke of Alva remarked genially that the Dutch were of all peoples those that lived nighest to hell; but Marvell's sarcasms are the best. Indeed I doubt if the literature of droll exaggeration has anything to compare with "The Character of Holland".
The satirist, now thoroughly warmed to his congenial task, continues:—
Therefore Necessity, that first made kings, Something like government among them brings; For, as with pygmees, who best kills the crane, Among the hungry, he that treasures grain, Among the blind, the one-ey'd blinkard reigns, So rules among the drowned he that draines: Not who first sees the rising sun, commands, But who could first discern the rising lands; Who best could know to pump an earth so leak, Him they their Lord, and Country's Father, speak; To make a bank, was a great plot of State, Invent a shov'l, and be a magistrate.
So much for the conquest of Neptune, which in another nation were a laudable enough enterprise. Marvell then passes on to the national religion and the heterogeneity of Amsterdam:—
'Tis probable Religion, after this, Came next in order, which they could not miss, How could the Dutch but be converted, when Th' Apostles were so many fishermen? Besides, the waters of themselves did rise, And, as their land, so them did re-baptize. Though Herring for their God few voices mist, And Poor-John to have been th' Evangelist, Faith, that could never twins conceive before, Never so fertile, spawn'd upon this shore More pregnant than their Marg'ret, that laid down For Hans-in-Kelder of a whole Hans-Town. Sure when Religion did itself imbark, And from the East would Westward steer its ark, It struck, and splitting on this unknown ground, Each one thence pillag'd the first piece he found: Hence Amsterdam, Turk-Christian-Pagan-Jew, Staple of sects, and mint of schisme grew; That bank of conscience, where not one so strange Opinion but finds credit, and exchange. In vain for Catholicks ourselves we bear; The universal Church is only there. Nor can civility there want for tillage, Where wisely for their Court, they chose a village: How fit a title clothes their governours, Themselves the hogs, as all their subject bores! Let it suffice to give their country fame, That it had one Civilis call'd by name, Some fifteen hundred and more years ago, But surely never any that was so.
There is something rather splendid in the attitude of a man who can take a whole nation as his butt and bend every circumstance to his purpose of ridicule and attack. Our satirists to-day are contented to pillory individuals or possibly a sect or clique. Marvell's enjoyment in his own exuberance and ingenuity is so apparent and infectious that it matters nothing to us whether he was fair or unfair.
The end is inconclusive, being a happy recollection that he had omitted any reference to stoofjes, the footstools filled with burning peat which are used to keep the feet warm in church. Such a custom was of course not less reprehensible than the building of dykes to keep out the sea. Hence these eight lines, which, however, would have come better earlier in the poem:—
See but their mermaids, with their tails of fish, Reeking at church over the chafing-dish! A vestal turf, enshrin'd in earthen ware, Fumes through the loopholes of a wooden square; Each to the temple with these altars tend, But still does place it at her western end; While the fat steam of female sacrifice Fills the priest's nostrils, and puts out his eyes.
Not all the poets, however, abused the Dutch. John Hagthorpe, in his England's Exchequer in 1625 (written before the war: hence, perhaps, his kindness) thus addressed the "hollow land":—
Fair Holland, had'st thou England's chalky rocks, To gird thy watery waist; her healthful mounts, With tender grass to feed thy nibbling flocks: Her pleasant groves, and crystalline clear founts, Most happy should'st thou be by just accounts, That in thine age so fresh a youth do'st feel Though flesh of oak, and ribs of brass and steel.
But what hath prudent mother Nature held From thee—that she might equal shares impart Unto her other sons—that's not compell'd To be the guerdons of thy wit and art? And industry, that brings from every part Of every thing the fairest and the best, Like the Arabian bird to build thy nest?
Like the Arabian bird thy nest to build, With nimble wings thou flyest for Indian sweets, And incense which the Sabaan forests yield, And in thy nest the goods of each pole meets,— Which thy foes hope, shall serve thy funeral rites— But thou more wise, secur'd by thy deep skill, Dost build on waves, from fires more safe than hill.
To return to the severer critics—in 1664 was published a little book called The Dutch Drawn to the Life, a hostile work not improbably written with the intention of exciting English animosity to the point of war. A great deal was made of the success of the Dutch fisheries and the mismanagement of our own. The nation was criticised in all its aspects—"well nigh three millions of men, well-proportioned, great lovers of our English beer". The following passage on the drinking capacity of the Dutch would have to be modified to-day:—
By their Excise, which riseth with their charge, the more money they pay, the more they receive again, in that insensible but profitable way: what is exhaled up in clouds, falls back again in showers: what the souldier receives in pay, he payes in Drink: their very enemies, though they hate the State, yet love their liquor, and pay excise: the most idle, slothful, and most improvident, that selleth his blood for drink, and his flesh for bread, serves at his own charge, for every pay day he payeth his sutler, and he the common purse.
Here are other strokes assisting to the protraiture "to the life" of this people: "Their habitations are kept handsomer than their bodies, and their bodies than their soules".—"The Dutch man's building is not large, but neat; handsome on the outside, on the inside hung with pictures and tapestry. He that hath not bread to eat hath a picture."—"They are seldom deceived, for they will trust nobody. They may always deceive, for you must trust them, as for instance, if you travel, to ask a bill of Particulars is to purre in a wasp's nest, you must pay what they ask as sure as if it were the assessment of a Subsidy."
But the wittiest and shrewdest of the prose critics of Holland was Owen Feltham, from whom I quote later. His little book on the Low Countries is as packed with pointed phrase as a satire by Pope: the first half of it whimsically destructive, the second half eulogistic. It is he who charges the Dutch convivial spirits with drinking down the Evening Starre and drinking up the Morning Starre.
The old literature tells us also that the Dutch were not always clean. Indeed, their own painters prove this: Ostade pre-eminently. There are many allusions in Elizabethan and early Stuart literature to their dirt and rags. In Earle's Microcosmography, for example, a younger brother's last refuge is said to be the Low Countries, "where rags and linen are no scandal". But better testimony comes perhaps from The English Schole-Master, a seventeenth-century Dutch-English manual, from which I quote at some length later in this book. Here is a specimen scrap of dialogue:—
S. May it please you to give me leave to go out? M. Whither? S. Home. M. How is it that you goe so often home? S. My mother commanded that I and my brother should come to her this day. M. For what cause? S. That our mayd may beat out our clothes. M. What is that to say? Are you louzie? S. Yea, very louzie.
Sir William Temple, the patron of Swift, the husband of Dorothy Osborne, and our ambassador at The Hague—where he talked horticulture, cured his gout by the remedy known as Moxa, and collected materials for the leisurely essays and memoirs that were to be written at Moor Park—knew the Dutch well and wrote of them with much particularity. In his Observations upon the United Provinces he says this: "Holland is a country, where the earth is better than the air, and profit more in request than honour; where there is more sense than wit; more good nature than good humour, and more wealth than pleasure: where a man would chuse rather to travel than to live; shall find more things to observe than desire; and more persons to esteem than to love. But the same qualities and dispositions do not value a private man and a state, nor make a conversation agreeable, and a government great: nor is it unlikely, that some very great King might make but a very ordinary private gentleman, and some very extraordinary gentleman might be capable of making but a very mean Prince."
Among other travellers who have summed up the Dutch in a few phrases is Sir Thomas Overbury, the author of some witty characters, including that very charming one of a Happy Milk Maid. In 1609 he thus generalised upon the Netherlander: "Concerning the people: they are neither much devout, nor much wicked; given all to drink, and eminently to no other vice; hard in bargaining, but just; surly and respectless, as in all democracies; thirsty, industrious, and cleanly; disheartened upon the least ill-success, and insolent upon good; inventive in manufactures, and cunning in traffick: and generally, for matter of action, that natural slowness of theirs, suits better (by reason of the advisedness and perseverance it brings with it) than the rashness and changeableness of the French and Florentine wits; and the equality of spirits, which is among them and Switzers, renders them so fit for a democracy: which kind of government, nations of more stable wits, being once come to a consistent greatness, have seldom long endured."
Many Englishmen have travelled in Holland and have set down the record of their experiences, from Thomas Coryate downwards. But the country has not been inspiring, and Dutch travels are poor reading. Had Dr. Johnson lived to accompany Boswell on a projected journey we should be the richer, but I doubt if any very interesting narrative would have resulted. One of Johnson's contemporaries, Samuel Ireland, the engraver, and the father of the fraudulent author of Vortigern, wrote A Picturesque Tour through Holland, Brabant, and part of France, in 1789, while a few years later one of Charles Lamb's early "drunken companions," Fell, wrote A Tour through the Batavian Republic, 1801; and both of these books yield a few experiences not without interest. Fell's is the duller. I quote from them now and again throughout this volume, but I might mention here a few of their more general observations.
Fell, for example, was embarrassed by the very formal politeness of the nation. "The custom of bowing in Holland," he writes, "is extremely troublesome. It is not sufficient, as in England, that a person slightly moves his hat, but he must take it off his head, and continue uncovered till the man is past him to whom he pays the compliment. The ceremony of bowing is more strictly observed at Leyden and Haarlem, than at Rotterdam or The Hague. In either of the former cities, a stranger of decent appearance can scarcely walk in the streets without being obliged every minute to pull off his hat, to answer some civility of the same kind which he receives; and these compliments are paid him not only by opulent people, but by mechanics and labourers, who bow with all the gravity and politeness of their superiors."
Such civilities to strangers have become obsolete. So far from courtesy being the rule of the street, it is now, as I have hinted in the next chapter, impossible for an English-woman whose clothes chance to differ in any particular from those of the Dutch to escape embarrassing notice. Staring is carried to a point where it becomes almost a blow, and laughter and humorous sallies resound. I am told that the Boer war to a large extent broke down old habits of politeness to the English stranger.
When one thinks of it, the Dutch habit of staring at the visitor until he almost wishes the sea would roll in and submerge him, argues a want of confidence in their country, tantamount to a confession of failure. Had they a little more trust in the attractive qualities of their land, a little more imagination to realise that in other eyes its flatness and quaintness might be even alluring, they would accept and acknowledge the compliment by doing as little as possible to make their country's admirers uncomfortable.
"Dutch courage," to which I refer below, is not our only use of Dutch as a contemptuous adjective. We say "Dutch Gold" for pinchbeck, "Dutch Myrtle" for a weed. "I shall talk to you like a Dutch uncle" is another saying, not in this case contemptuous but rather complimentary—signifying "I'll dress you down to some purpose". One piece of slang we share with Holland: the reference to the pawnbroker as an uncle. In Holland the kindly friend at the three brass balls (which it may not be generally known are the ancient arms of Lombardy, the Lombards being the first money lenders,) is called Oom Jan or Uncle John.
There is still another phrase, "Dutch news," which might be explained. The term is given by printers to very difficult copy—Dean Stanley's manuscript, for example, was probably known as Dutch news, so terrible was his hand,—and also to "pie". The origin is to be found in the following paragraph from Notes and Queries. (The Sir Richard Phillips concerned was the vegetarian publisher so finely touched off by Borrow in Lavengro.)
In his youth Sir Richard Phillips edited and published a paper at Leicester, called the Herald. One day an article appeared in it headed 'Dutch Mail,' and added to it was an announcement that it had arrived too late for translation, and so had been cut up and printed in the original. This wondrous article drove half of England crazy, and for years the best Dutch scholars squabbled and pored over it without being able to arrive at any idea of what it meant. This famous 'Dutch Mail' was, in reality, merely a column of pie. The story Sir Richard tells of this particular pie he had a whole hand in is this:—
"One evening, before one of our publications, my men and a boy overturned two or three columns of the paper in type. We had to get ready in some way for the coaches, which, at four o'clock in the morning, required four or five hundred papers. After every exertion we were short nearly a column; but there stood on the galleys a tempting column of pie. It suddenly struck me that this might be thought Dutch. I made up the column, overcame the scruples of the foreman, and so away the country edition went with its philological puzzle, to worry the honest agricultural reader's head. There was plenty of time to set up a column of plain English for the local edition." Sir Richard tells of one man whom he met in Nottingham who for thirty-four years preserved a copy of the Leicester Herald, hoping that some day the matter would be explained.
I doubt if any one nation is braver than any other; and the fact that from Holland we get the contemptuous term "Dutch courage," meaning the courage which is dependent upon spirits (originally as supplied to malefactors about to mount the scaffold), is no indication that the Dutch lack bravery. To one who inquired as to the derivation of the phrase a poet unknown to me thus replied, somewhen in the reign of William IV. The retort, I think, was sound:—
Do you ask what is Dutch courage? Ask the Thames, and ask the fleet, That, in London's fire and plague years, With De Ruyter yards could mete: Ask Prince Robert and d'Estrees, Ask your Solebay and the Boyne, Ask the Duke, whose iron valour With our chivalry did join, Ask your Wellington, oh ask him, Of our Prince of Orange bold, And a tale of nobler spirit Will to wond'ring ears be told; And if ever foul invaders Threaten your King William's throne, If dark Papacy be running, Or if Chartists want your own, Or whatever may betide you, That needs rid of foreign will, Only ask of your Dutch neighbours, And you'll see Dutch courage still.
Dordrecht and Utrecht
By water to Dordrecht—Her four rivers—The milkmaid and the coat of arms—The Staple of Dort—Overhanging houses—Albert Cuyp—Nicolas Maes—Ferdinand Bol—Ary Scheffer—G.H. Breitner—A Dort carver—The Synod of Dort—"The exquisite rancour of theologians"—La Tulipe Noire—Bernard Mandeville—The exclusive Englishman—The Castle of Loevenstein—The escape of Grotius—Gorcum's taste outraged—By rail to Utrecht—A free church—The great storm of 1674—Utrecht Cathedral—Jan van Scorel—Paul Moreelse—A too hospitable museum.
Dordrecht must be approached by water, because then one sees her as she was seen so often, and painted so often, by her great son Albert Cuyp, and by countless artists since.
I steamed from Rotterdam to Dordrecht on a grey windy morning, on a passenger boat bound ultimately for Nymwegen. We carried a very mixed cargo. In a cage at the bows was a Friesland mare, while the whole of the deck at the stern was piled high with motor spirit. Between came myriad barrels of beer and other merchandise.
The course to Dordrecht (which it is simpler to call Dort) is up the Maas for some miles; past shipbuilding yards, at Sylverdyk (where is a great heronry) and Kinderdyk; past fishermen dropping their nets for salmon, which they may take only on certain days, to give their German brethren, higher up the river, a chance; past meadows golden with marsh marigolds; past every kind of craft, most attractive of all being the tjalcks with their brown or black sails and green-lined hulls, not unlike those from Rochester which swim so steadily in the reaches of the Thames about Greenwich. The journey takes an hour and a half, the last half-hour being spent in a canal leading south from the Maas and ultimately joining Dort's confluence of waters.
It is these rivers that give Dort her peculiar charm. There is a little cafe on the quay facing the sunset where one may sit and lose oneself in the eternally interesting movement of the shipping. I found the town distracting under the incessant clanging of the tram bell (yet grass grows among the paving-stones between the rails); but there is no distraction opposite the sunset. On the evening that I am remembering the sun left a sky of fiery orange barred by clouds of essential blackness.
Dort's rivers are the Maas and the Waal, the Linge and the Merwede; and when in 1549 Philip of Spain visited the city, she flourished this motto before him:—
Me Mosa, me Vahalis, me Linga Morvaque cingunt Biternam Batavae virginis ecce fidens.
The fidelity, at least to Philip and Spain, disappeared; but the four rivers still as of old surround Dort with a cincture.
I must give, in the words of the old writer who tells it, the pretty legend which explains the origin of the Dort coat of arms: "There is an admirable history concerning that beautiful and maiden city of Holland called Dort. The Spaniards had intended an onslaught against it, and so they had laid thousands of old soldiers in ambush. Not far from it there did live a rich farmer who did keep many cows in his ground, to furnish Dort with butter and milk. The milkmaid coming to milk saw all under the hedges soldiers lying; seemed to take no notice, but went singing to her cows; and having milked, went as merrily away. Coming to her master's house, she told what she had seen. The master wondering at it, took the maid with him and presently came to Dort, told it to the Burgomaster, who sent a spy immediately, found it true, and prepared for their safety; sent to the States, who presently sent soldiers into the city, and gave order that the river should be let in at such a sluice, to lay the country under water. It was done, and many Spaniards were drowned and utterly disappointed of their design, and the town saved. The States, in the memory of the merry milkmaid's good service to the country, ordered the farmer a large revenue for ever, to recompense his loss of house, land, and cattle; caused the coin of the city to have the milkmaid under her cow to be engraven, which is to be seen upon the Dort dollar, stivers, and doights to this day; and so she is set upon the water gate of Dort; and she had, during her life, and her's for ever, an allowance of fifty pounds per annum. A noble requital for a virtuous action."
Dort's great day of prosperity is over; but once she was the richest town in Holland—a result due to the privilege of the Staple. In other words, she obtained the right to act as intermediary between the rest of Holland and the outer world in connection with all the wine, corn, timber and whatever else might be imported by way of the Rhine. At Dort the cargoes were unloaded. For some centuries she enjoyed this privilege, and then in 1618 Rotterdam began to resent it so acutely as to take to arms, and the financial prosperity of the town, which would be tenable only by the maintenance of a fleet, steadily crumbled. To-day she is contented enough, but the cellars of Wyn Straat, once stored with the juices of Rhenish vineyards, are empty. The Staple is no more.
Dort is perhaps the most painted of all Dutch towns, and with reason; for certainly no other town sits with more calm dignity among the waters, nor has any other town so quaintly medieval a canal as that which extends from end to end, far below the level of the streets, crossed by a series of little bridges. Seen from these bridges it is the nearest thing to Venice in all Holland—nearer than anything in Amsterdam. One may see it not only from the bridges, but also from little flights of steps off the main street, and everywhere it is beautiful: the walls rising from its surface reflected in its depths, green paint splashed about with perfect effect, bright window boxes, here and there a woman washing clothes, odd gables above and bridges in the distance.
Dordrecht's converging facades, which incline towards each other like deaf people, are, I am told, the result not of age and sinking foundations, but of design. When they were built, very many years ago, the city had a law directing that its roofs should so far project beyond the perpendicular as to shed their water into the gutter, thus enabling the passers-by on the pavement to walk unharmed. I cannot give chapter or verse for this comfortable theory; which of course preceded the ingenious Jonas Hanway's invention of the umbrella. In a small and very imperfect degree the enactment anticipates the covered city of Mr. H.G. Wells's vision. A Dutch friend to whom I put the point tells me that more probably the preservation of bricks and mural carvings was intended, the dryness of the wayfarer being quite secondary or unforeseen.
Dort's greatest artist was Albert Cuyp, born in 1605. His body lies in the church of the Augustines in the same city, where he died in 1691—true to the Dutch painters' quiet gift of living and dying in their birthplaces. Cuyp has been called the Dutch Claude, but it is not a good description. He was more human, more simple, than Claude. The symbol for him is a scene of cows; but he had great versatility, and painted horses to perfection. I have also seen good portraits from his busy brush. Faithful to his native town, he painted many pictures of Dort. We have two in the National Gallery. I have reproduced opposite page 30 his beautiful quiet view of the town in the Ryks Museum. Dort has changed but little since then; the schooner would now be a steamer—that is almost all. The reproduction can give no adequate suggestion of Cuyp's gift of diffusing golden light, his most precious possession.
Another Dort painter, below Albert Cuyp in fame, but often above him, I think, in interest and power, is Nicolas Maes, born in 1632—a great year in Dutch art, for it saw the birth also of Vermeer of Delft and Peter de Hooch. Maes, who studied in Rembrandt's studio, was perhaps the greatest of all that master's pupils. England, as has been so often the case, appreciated Maes more wisely than Holland, with the result that some of his best pictures are here.
But one must go to the Ryks Museum in Amsterdam to see his finest work of all—"The Endless Prayer," No. 1501, reproduced on the opposite page. We have at the National Gallery or the Wallace Collection no Maes equal to this. His "Card players," however, at the National Gallery, a free bold canvas, more in the manner of Velasquez than of his immediate master, is in its way almost as interesting.
To "The Endless Prayer" one feels that Maes's master, Rembrandt, could have added nothing. It is even conceivable that he might have injured it by some touch of asperity. From this picture all Newlyn seems to have sprung.
According to Pilkington, Maes gave up his better and more Rembrandtesque manner on account of the objection of his sitters to be thus painted. Such are sitters!
Dordrecht claims also Ferdinand Bol, the pupil and friend of Rembrandt, and the painter of the Four Regents of the Leprosy Hospital in the Amsterdam stadhuis. He was born in 1611. For a while his pictures were considered by connoisseurs to be finer than those of his master. We are wiser to-day; yet Bol had a fine free way that is occasionally superb, often united, as in the portrait of Dirck van der Waeijen at Rotterdam, to a delicate charm for which Rembrandt cared little. His portrait of an astronomer in our National Gallery is a great work, and at the Ryks Museum at Amsterdam his "Roelof Meulenaer," No. 543, should not be missed. Bol's favourite sitter seems to have been Admiral de Ruyter—if one may judge by the number of his portraits of that sea ravener which Holland possesses.
By a perversity of judgment Dort seems to be more proud of Ary Scheffer than of any of her really great sons. It is Ary Scheffer's statue—not Albert Cuyp's or Nicolas Maes's—which rises in the centre of the town; and Ary Scheffer's sentimental and saccharine inventions fill three rooms in the museum. It is amusing in the midst of this riot of meek romanticism to remember that Scheffer painted Carlyle. Dort has no right to be so intoxicated with the excitement of having given birth to Scheffer, for his father was a German, a mere sojourner in the Dutch town.
The old museum of Dort has just been moved to a new building in the Lindengracht, and in honour of the event a loan exhibition of modern paintings and drawings was opened last summer. The exhibition gave peculiar opportunity for studying the work of G. H. Breitner, the painter of Amsterdam canals. The master of a fine sombre impressionism, Breitner has made such scenes his own. But he can do also more tender and subtle things. In this collection was a little oil sketch of a mere which would not have suffered had it been hung between a Corot and a Daubigny; and a water-colour drawing of a few cottages and a river that could not have been strengthened by any hand.
Another artist of Dort was Jan Terween Aertz, born in 1511, whose carvings in the choir of the Groote Kerk are among its chief glories. It is amazing that such spirit and movement can be suggested in wood. That the very semblance of life can be captured by a painter is wonderful enough; but there seems to me something more extraordinary in the successful conquest of the difficulties which confront an artist of such ambition as this Dort carver. His triumph is even more striking than that of the sculptor in marble. The sacristan of Dort's Groote Kerk seems more eager to show a brass screen and a gold christening bowl than these astounding choir stalls; but tastes always differ.
By the irony of fate it was Dort—the possessor of Terween's carving of the Triumph of Charles V. (a pendant to the Triumph of the Church and the Eucharist)—that, in 1572, only a few years after the carving was made, held the Congress which virtually decided the fate of Spain in the Netherlands. Brill had begun the revolution (as we shall see in our last chapter), Flushing was the first to follow suit, Enkhuisen then caught the fever; but these were individual efforts: it was the Congress of Dort that authorised and systematised the revolt.
The scheme of this book precludes a consecutive account of the great struggle between Holland and Spain—a struggle equal almost to that between Holland and her other implacable foe, the sea. I assume in the reader a sufficient knowledge of history to be able to follow the course of the contest as it moves backwards and forwards in these pages—the progress of the narrative being dictated by the sequence of towns in the itinerary rather than by the sequence of events in time. The death of William the Silent, for example, has to be set forth in the chapter on Delft, where the tragedy occurred, and where he lies buried, long before we reach the description of the siege of Haarlem and the capture of De Bossu off Hoorn, while for the insurrection of Brill, which was the first tangible token of Dutch independence, we have to wait until the last chapter of all. The reader who is endowed with sufficient history to reconcile these divagations should, I think, by the time the book is finished, have (with Motley's assistance) a vivid idea of this great war, so magnificently waged by Holland, which lowers in the background of almost every Dutch town.
A later congress at Dort was the famous Synod in 1618-19, in which a packed house of Gomarians or Contra-Remonstrants, pledged to carry out the wishes of Maurice, Prince of Orange, the Stadtholder, affected to subject the doctrines of the Arminians or Remonstrants to conscientious examination. These doctrines as contained in the five articles of the Arminians were as follows, in the words of Davies, the historian of Holland: "First, that God had resolved from the beginning to elect into eternal life those who through his grace believed in Jesus Christ, and continued stedfast in the faith; and, on the contrary, had resolved to leave the obstinate and unbelieving to eternal damnation; secondly, that Christ had died for the whole world, and obtained for all remission of sins and reconciliation with God, of which, nevertheless, the faithful only are made partakers; thirdly, that man cannot have a saving faith by his own free will, since while in a state of sin he cannot think or do good, but it is necessary that the grace of God, through Christ, should regenerate and renew the understanding and affections; fourthly, that this grace is the beginning, continuance, and end of salvation, and that all good works proceed from it, but that it is not irresistible; fifthly, that although the faithful receive by grace sufficient strength to resist Satan, sin, the world, and the flesh, yet man can by his own act fall away from this state of grace."
After seven months wrangling and bitterness, at a cost of a million guelders, the Synod came to no conclusion more Christian than that no punishment was too bad for the holder of such opinions, which were dangerous to the State and subversive of true religion. The result was that Holland's Calvinism was intensified; Barneveldt (who had been in prison all the time) was, as we shall see, beheaded; Grotius and Hoogenbeets were sentenced to imprisonment for life; and Episcopius, the Remonstrant leader at the Synod, was, together with many others, banished. Episcopius heard his sentence with composure, merely remarking, "God will require of you an account of your conduct at the great day of His judgment. There you and the whole Synod will appear. May you never meet with a judge such as the Synod has been to us."
Davies has a story of Episcopius which is too good to be omitted. On banishment he was given his expenses by the States. Among the dollars given to Episcopius was one, coined apparently in the Duchy of Brunswick, bearing on the one side the figure of Truth, with the motto, "Truth overcomes all things"; and on the reverse, "In well-doing fear no one". Episcopius was so struck with the coincidence that he had the coin set in gold and carefully preserved.
It is impossible for any one who has read La Tulipe Noire not to think of that story when wandering about Dort; but it is a mistake to read it in the town itself, for the Great Alexandre's fidelity to fact will not bear the strain. Dumas never wore his historical, botanical, geographical and ethnographical knowledge more like a flower than in this brave but breathless story. In Boxtel's envy we may perhaps believe; in Gryphon's savagery; and in the craft and duplicity of the Stadtholder; but if ever a French philosopher and a French grisette masqueraded as a Dutch horticulturist and a Frisian waiting-maid they are Cornelius van Baerle and his Rosa; and if ever a tulip grew by magic rather than by the laws of nature it was the tulipe noire. No matter; there is but one Dumas. According to Flotow the composer, William III. of Holland told Dumas the story of the black tulip at his coronation in 1849, remarking that it was time that the novelist turned his attention to Holland; but two arguments are urged against this origin, one being that Paul Lacroix—the "Bibliophile Jacob"—is said, on better authority, to have supplied the germ of the romance, and the other (which is even better evidence), that had the stimulus come from a monarch Dumas would hardly have refrained from saying so (and more) in the preface of the book.
Cornelius de Witt, whose tragedy is at the threshold of the romance, was apprehended at Dort, on his bed of sickness, and carried thence to the Hague, to be imprisoned in the Gevangenpoort, which we shall visit, and torn to pieces by the populace close by.
Another literary association. From Dort came the English cynical writer Bernard Mandeville, born in 1670, author of The Fable of the Bees, that very shrewd and advanced commentary upon national hypocrisies—so advanced, indeed, that several of the more revolutionary of the thinkers of the present day, whose ideas are thought peculiarly modern, have not really got beyond it. After leaving Leyden as a doctor of medicine, Mandeville settled in England, somewhen at the end of the seventeenth century, and became well known in the Coffee Houses as a wit and good fellow.
We are a curious people when we travel. At Dort I heard a young Englishman inquiring of the landlord how best to spend his Sunday. "One can hardly go on one of the river excursions," he remarked; "they are so mixed." And the landlord, with a lunch at two florins, fifty, in his mind, which it was desirable that as many persons as possible should eat and pay for, heartily agreed with him. None the less it seemed well to join the excursion to Gorinchem; and thence we steamed on a fine cloudy Sunday, the river whipped grey by a strong cross wind, and the little ships that beat up and passed us, all aslant. At Gorinchem (pronounced Gorcum) we changed at once into another steamer, a sorry tub, as wide as it was short, and steamed to Woudrichem (called Worcum) hoping to explore the fortress of Loevenstein. But Loevenstein is enisled and beyond the reach of the casual visitor, and we had therefore to sit in the upper room of the Bellevue inn, overlooking the river, and await the tub's deliberate return, while the tugs and the barges trailed past. Save for modifications brought about by steam, the scene can be now little different from that in the days when Hugo Grotius was imprisoned in the castle.
The philosopher's escape is one of the best things in the history of wives. Two ameliorations were permitted him by Maurice—the presence of the Vrouw Grotius and the solace of books. As it happened, this lenience could not have been less fortunately (or, for Grotius, more fortunately) framed. Books came continually to the prisoner, which, when read, were returned in the same chest that conveyed his linen to the Gorcum wash. At first the guard carefully examined each departing load; but after a while the form was omitted. Grotius's wife, a woman of no common order (when asked why she did not sue for her husband's pardon, she had replied, "I will not do it: if he have deserved it let them strike off his head"), was quick to notice the negligence of the guard, and giving out that her husband was bedridden, she concealed him in the chest, and he was dumped on a tjalck and earned over to Gorcum. While on his journey he had the shuddering experience of hearing some one remark that the box was heavy enough to have a man in it; but it was his only danger. A Gorcum friend extricated him; and, disguised as a carpenter armed with a footrule, he set forth on his travels to Antwerp. Once certain that Grotius was safe, his wife informed the guard, and the hue and cry was raised. But it was raised in vain. At first there was a suggestion that the lady should be retained in his stead, but all Holland applauded her deed and she was permitted to go free.
The river, as I have said, must be still much the same as in Grotius's day; while the two towns Gorcum and Worcum cluster about their noble church towers as of old. Worcum is hardly altered; but Gorcum's railway and factories have enlarged her borders. She has now twelve thousand inhabitants, some eleven thousand of whom were in the streets when, the tub having at length crawled back with us, we walked through them to the station.
Odd how one nation's prettiness is another's grotesque. My companion was wearing one of those comely straw hats trimmed with roses which we call Early Victorian, and which the hot summer of 1904 brought into fashion again on account of their peculiar suitability to keep off the sun. In England we think them becoming; upon certain heads they are charming. But no head must wear such a hat at Gorcum unless it would court disaster. The town is gay and spruce, bright as a new pin; the people are outrageous. I suppose that the hat turned down at the precise point at which, according to Gorcum's canons of taste, it should have turned up. Whatever it did was unpardonable, and we had to be informed of the solecism. We were informed in various ways; the men whistled, the women sniggered, the girls laughed, the children shouted and ran beside us. The same hat had been disregarded by the sweet-mannered friendly Middelburgians; it had raised no smile at Breda. At Dordrecht, it is true, eyes had been opened wide; at Bergen-op-Zoom mouths had opened too; but such attention was nothing compared with Gorcum's pains to make two strangers uncomfortable.
As it happened, we had philosophy, and the discomfort was very slight. Indeed, after a while, as we ran the gauntlet to the station, annoyance gave way to interest. We found ourselves looking ahead for distant wayfarers who had not yet tasted the rare joy which rippled like a ship's wake behind us. We waited for the ecstatic moment when their faces should light with the joke. Sometimes a mother standing at the door would see us and call to her family to come—and come quickly, if they would not be disappointed! Women, lurking behind Holland's blue gauze blinds, would be seen to break away with a hasty summoning movement. Children down side streets who had just realised their exceptional fortune would be heard shouting the glad tidings to their friends. The porter who wheeled our luggage was stopped again and again to answer questions concerning his fantastic employers.
In course of time—it is a long way to the station—we grew to feel a shade of pique if any one passed us and took no notice. To bulk so hugely in the public eye became a new pleasure. I had not known before what Britannia must feel like on the summit of the largest of the cars in a circus procession.
I am convinced that such costly and equivocal success as the British arms achieved over the Boers had nothing to do with Gorcum's feelings. The town's aesthetic ideals were honestly outraged, and it took the simplest means of making its protest.
We did not mean to wait at the station; having left our luggage there, we had intended to explore the town. But there is a limit even to the passion for notoriety, and we had reached it, passed it. We read and wrote letters in that waiting-room for nearly three hours.
At Gorcum was born, in 1637, Jan van der Heyden, a very attractive painter of street scenes, combining exactitude of detail with rich colour, who used to get Andreas van der Velde to put in the figures. He has a view of Cologne in the National Gallery which is exceedingly pleasing, and a second version in the Wallace Collection. I shall never forget his birthplace.
We came into Utrecht in the evening. At Culemberg the country begins to grow very green and rich: smooth meadows and vast woods as far as one can see: plovers all the way. The light transfiguring this scene was exactly the golden light which one sees in Albert Cuyp's most peaceful landscapes.
When I was last on this journey the time was spring, and the sliding, pointed roofs of the ricks were at their lowest, with their four poles high and naked above them, like scaffolding. But now, in August, they were all resting on the top pegs, a solid square tower of hay beneath each; looking in the evening light for all the world as if every farmer had his private Norman church.
The note of Utrecht is superior satisfaction. It has discreet verdant parks, a wonderful campanile, a University, large comfortable houses, carriages and pairs. Its cathedral is the only church in Holland (with the exception of the desecrated fane at Veere) for the privilege of entering which I was not asked to pay. I have an uneasy feeling that it was an oversight, and that if by any chance this statement meets an authoritative eye some one may be removed to one of the penal establishments and steps be taken to collect my debt. But so it was. And yet it is possible that the free right of entrance is intentional; since to charge for a building so unpardonably disfigured would be a hardy action. The Gothic arches have great beauty, but it is impossible from any point to get more than a broken view on account of the high painted wooden walls with which the pews have been enclosed.
The cathedral is only a fragment; the nave fell in, isolating the bell tower, during a tempest in 1674, and by that time all interest in churches as beautiful and sacred buildings having died out of Holland, never to return, no effort was made to restore it. But it must, before the storm, have been superb, and of a vastness superior to any in the country.
I find a very pleasant passage upon Holland's great churches, and indeed upon its best architecture in general, in an essay on Utrecht Cathedral by Mr. L.A. Corbeille. "Gothic churches on a grand scale are as abundant in the Netherlands as they are at home, but to find one of them drawn or described in any of the otherwise comprehensive architectural works, which appear from time to time, is the rarest of experiences. The Hollanders are accused of mere apishness in employing the Gothic style, and of downright dulness in apprehending its import and beauty. Yet a man who has found that bit of Rotterdam which beats Venice; who has seen, from under Delft's lindens on a summer evening, the image of the Oude Kerk's leaning tower in the still canal, and has gone to bed, perchance to awake in the moonlight while the Nieuwe Kerk's many bells are rippling a silver tune over the old roofs and gables; who has drunk his beer full opposite the stadhuis at Leyden, and seen Haarlem's huge church across magnificent miles of gaudy tulips, and watched from a brown-sailed boat on the Zuider Zee a buoy on the horizon grow into the water-gate of Hoorn; who knows his Gouda and Bois-le-duc and Alkmaar and Kampen and Utrecht: this man does not fret over wasted days."
Mr. Corbeille continues, later: "Looking down a side street of Rotterdam at the enormous flank of St. Lawrence's, and again at St. Peter's in Leyden, it seems as if all the bricks in the world have been built up in one place. Apart from their smaller size, bricks appear far more numerous in a wall than do blocks of stone, because they make a stronger contrast with the mortar. In the laborious articulation of these millions of clay blocks one first finds Egypt; then quickly remembers how indigenous it all is, and how characteristic of the untiring Hollander, who rules the waves even more proudly than the Briton, and has cheated them of the very ground beneath his feet. And if sermons may be found in bricks as well as stones, one has a thought while looking at them about Christianity itself. Certainly there is often pitiful littleness and short-comings in the individual believer, just as each separate brick of these millions is stained or worn or fractured; and yet the Christian Church, august and significant, still towers before men; even as these old blocks of clay compile vastly and undeniably in an overpowering whole."
Among a huddle of bad and indifferent pictures in the Kunstliefde Museum is a series of four long paintings by Jan van Scorel (whom we met at Rotterdam), representing a band of pilgrims who travelled from Utrecht to Jerusalem in the sixteenth century. Two of these pictures are reproduced on the opposite page, the principal figure in the lower one—in the middle, in white—being Jan van Scorel himself. The faces are all such as one can believe in; just so, we feel, did the pilgrims look, and what a thousand pities there was no Jan van Scorel to accompany Chaucer! These are the best pictures in Utrecht, which cannot have any great interest in art or it would not allow that tramway through its bell tower. In the reproduction the faces necessarily become very small, but they are still full of character, and one may see the sympathetic hand of a master in all.
Jan van Scorel was only a settler in Utrecht; the most illustrious citizen to whom it gave birth was Paulus Moreelse, but the city has, I think, only one of his pictures, and that not his best. He was born in 1571, and he died at Utrecht in 1638. His portraits are very rich: either he had interesting sitters or he imparted interest to them. Opposite page 40 I have reproduced his portrait of a lady in the Ryks Museum at Amsterdam, which amongst so many fine pictures one may perhaps at the outset treat with too little ceremony, but which undoubtedly will assert itself. It is a picture that, as we say, grows on one: the Unknown Lady becomes more and more mischievous, more and more necessary.
The little Archiepiscopal Museum at Utrecht is as small—or as large—as a museum should be: one can see it comfortably. It has many treasures, all ecclesiastical, and seventy different kinds of lace; but to me it is memorable for the panel portrait of a woman by Jan van Scorel, a very sweet sedate face, beautifully painted, which one would like to coax into a less religious mood.
Utrecht is very proud of a wide avenue of lime trees—a triple avenue, as one often sees in Holland—called the Maliebaan; but more beautiful are the semi-circular Oude and Nieuwe Grachts, with their moat-like canals laving the walls of serene dignified houses, each gained by its own bridge.
At the north end of the Maliebaan is the Hoogeland Park, with a fringe of spacious villas that might be in Kensington; and here is the Antiquarian Museum, notable among its very miscellaneous riches, which resemble the bankrupt stock of a curiosity dealer, for the most elaborate dolls' house in Holland—perhaps in the world. Its date is 1680, and it represents accurately the home of a wealthy aristocratic doll of that day. Nothing was forgotten by the designer of this miniature palace; special paintings, very nude, were made for its salon, and the humblest kitchen utensils are not missing. I thought the most interesting rooms the office where the Major Domo sits at his intricate labours, and the store closet. The museum has many very valuable treasures, but so many poor pictures and articles—all presents or legacies—that one feels that it must be the rule to accept whatever is offered, without any scrutiny of the horse's teeth.
To Delft by canal—House-cleaning by immersion—The New Church—William the Silent's tomb—His assassin—The story of the crime—The tomb of Grotius—Dutch justice—The Old Church—Admiral Tromp—The mission of the broom—The sexton's pipe—Vermeer of Delft—Lost masterpieces—The wooden petticoat—Modern Delft pottery and old breweries.
I travelled to Delft from Rotterdam in a little steam passenger barge, very long and narrow to fit it for navigating the locks; which, as it is, it scrapes. We should have started exactly at the hour were it not that a very small boy on the bank interrupted one of the crew who was unmooring the boat by asking for a light for his cigar, and the transaction delayed us a minute.
It rained dismally, and I sat in the stuffy cabin, either peering at the country through the window or talking with a young Dutchman, the only other traveller. At one village a boy was engaged in house-cleaning by immersing the furniture, piece by piece, bodily in the canal. Now and then we met a barge in full sail on its way to Rotterdam, or overtook one being towed towards Delft, the man at the rope bent double under what looked like an impossible task.
Little guides to the tombs in both the Old and the New Church of Delft have been prepared for the convenience of visitors by Dr. G. Morre, and translations in English have been made by D. Goslings, both gentlemen, I presume, being local savants. The New Church contains the more honoured dust, for there repose not only William the Silent, who was perhaps the greatest of modern patriots and rulers, but also Grotius.
The tomb of William the Silent is an elaborate erection, of stone and marble, statuary and ornamentation. Justice and Liberty, Religion and Valour, represented by female figures, guard the tomb. It seems to me to lack impressiveness: the man beneath was too fine to need all this display and talent. More imposing is the simplicity of the monument to the great scholar near by. Yet remembering the struggle of William the Silent against Spain and Rome, it is impossible to stand unmoved before the marble figure of the Prince, lying there for all time with his dog at his feet—the dog who, after the noble habit of the finest of such animals, refused food and drink when his master died, and so faded away rather than owe allegiance and affection to a lesser man.
There is an eloquent Latin epitaph in gold letters on the tomb; but a better epitaph is to be found in the last sentence of Motley's great history, perhaps the most perfect last sentence that any book ever had: "As long as he lived, he was the guiding-star of a whole brave nation, and when he died the little children cried in the streets".
Opposite the Old Church is the Gymnasium Publicum. Crossing the court-yard and entering the confronting doorway, one is instantly on the very spot where William the Silent, whose tomb we have just seen, met his death on July 10th, 1584.
The Prince had been living at Delft for a while, in this house, his purpose partly being to be in the city for the christening of his son Frederick Henry. To him on July 8th came a special messenger from the French Court with news of the death of the Duke of Anjou; the messenger, a protege of the Prince's, according to his own story being Francis Guion, a mild and pious Protestant, whose father had been martyred as a Calvinist. How far removed was the truth Motley shall tell: "Francis Guion, the Calvinist, son of the martyred Calvinist, was in reality Balthazar Gerard, a fanatical Catholic, whose father and mother were still living at Villefans in Burgundy. Before reaching man's estate, he had formed the design of murdering the Prince of Orange, 'who, so long as he lived, seemed like to remain a rebel against the Catholic King, and to make every effort to disturb the repose of the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion'. When but twenty years of age, he had struck his dagger with all his might into a door, exclaiming, as he did so, 'Would that the blow had been in the heart of Orange!'"
In 1582, however, the news had gone out that Jaureguy had killed the Prince at Antwerp, and Gerard felt that his mission was at an end. But when the Prince recovered, his murderous enthusiasm redoubled, and he offered himself formally and with matter-of-fact precision to the Prince of Parma as heaven's minister of vengeance. The Prince, who had long been seeking such an emissary, at first declined the alliance: he had become too much the prey of soldiers of fortune who represented themselves to be expert murders but in whom he could put no trust. In Motley's words: "Many unsatisfactory assassins had presented themselves from time to time, and Alexander had paid money in hand to various individuals—Italians, Spaniards, Lorrainers, Scotchmen, Englishmen, who had generally spent the sums received without attempting the job. Others were supposed to be still engaged in the enterprise, and at that moment there were four persons—each unknown to the others, and of different nations—in the city of Delft, seeking to compass the death of William the Silent. Shag-eared, military, hirsute ruffians, ex-captains of free companies and such marauders, were daily offering their services; there was no lack of them, and they had done but little. How should Parma, seeing this obscure, undersized, thin-bearded, runaway clerk before him, expect pith and energy from him? He thought him quite unfit for an enterprise of moment, and declared as much to his secret councillors and to the King."
Gerard, however, had supporters, and in time the Prince of Parma came to take a more favourable view of his qualifications and sincerity, but his confidence was insufficient to warrant him in advancing any money for the purpose. The result was that Gerard, whose dominating idea amounted to mania, proceeded in his own way. His first step was to ingratiate himself with the Prince of Orange. This he did by a series of misrepresentations and fraud, and was recommended by the Prince to the Signeur of Schoneval, who on leaving Delft on a mission to the Duke of Anjou, added him to his suite.
The death of the Duke gave Gerard his chance, and he obtained permission to carry despatches to the Prince of Orange, as we have seen. The Prince received him in his bedroom, after his wont. Motley now relates the tragedy: "Here was an opportunity such as he (Gerard) had never dared to hope for. The arch-enemy to the Church and to the human race, whose death would confer upon his destroyer wealth and nobility in this world, besides a crown of glory in the next, lay unarmed, alone, in bed, before the man who had thirsted seven long years for his blood.
"Balthazar could scarcely control his emotions sufficiently to answer the questions which the Prince addressed to him concerning the death of Anjou, but Orange, deeply engaged with the despatches, and with the reflections which their deeply important contents suggested, did not observe the countenance of the humble Calvinistic exile, who had been recently recommended to his patronage by Villiers. Gerard had, moreover, made no preparation for an interview so entirely unexpected, had come unarmed, and had formed no plan for escape. He was obliged to forego his prey most when within his reach, and after communicating all the information which the Prince required, he was dismissed from the chamber.
"It was Sunday morning, and the bells were tolling for church. Upon leaving the house he loitered about the courtyard, furtively examining the premises, so that a sergeant of halberdiers asked him why he was waiting there. Balthazar meekly replied that he was desirous of attending divine worship in the church opposite, but added, pointing to his shabby and travel-stained attire, that, without at least a new pair of shoes and stockings, he was unfit to join the congregation. Insignificant as ever, the small, pious, dusty stranger excited no suspicion in the mind of the good-natured sergeant. He forthwith spoke of the want of Gerard to an officer, by whom they were communicated to Orange himself, and the Prince instantly ordered a sum of money to be given him. Thus Balthazar obtained from William's charity what Parma's thrift had denied—a fund for carrying out his purpose!
"Next morning, with the money thus procured he purchased a pair of pistols, or small carabines, from a soldier, chaffering long about the price because the vendor could not supply a particular kind of chopped bullets or slugs which he desired. Before the sunset of the following day that soldier had stabbed himself to the heart, and died despairing, on hearing for what purpose the pistols had been bought.
"On Tuesday, the 10th of July, 1584, at about half-past twelve, the Prince, with his wife on his arm, and followed by the ladies and gentlemen of his family, was going to the dining-room. William the Silent was dressed upon that day, according to his usual custom, in very plain fashion. He wore a wide-leaved, loosely shaped hat of dark felt, with a silken cord round the crown,—such as had been worn by the Beggars in the early days of the revolt. A high ruff encircled his neck, from which also depended one of the Beggars' medals, with the motto, 'Fideles au roy jusqu'a la besace,' while a loose surcoat of gray frieze cloth, over a tawny leather doublet, with wide slashed underclothes completed his costume. 
"Gerard presented himself at the doorway, and demanded a passport. The Princess, struck with the pale and agitated countenance of the man, anxiously questioned her husband concerning the stranger. The Prince carelessly observed, that 'it was merely a person who came for a passport,' ordering, at the same time, a secretary forthwith to prepare one. The Princess, still not relieved, observed in an undertone that 'she had never seen so villanous a countenance'. Orange, however, not at all impressed with the appearance of Gerard, conducted himself at table with his usual cheerfulness, conversing much with the burgomaster of Leeuwarden, the only guest present at the family dinner, concerning the political and religious aspects of Friesland. At two o'clock the company rose from table. The Prince led the way, intending to pass to his private apartments above. The dining-room, which was on the ground-floor, opened into a little square vestibule which communicated, through an arched passage-way, with the main entrance into the court-yard. This vestibule was also directly at the foot of the wooden staircase leading to the next floor, and was scarcely six feet in width. 
"Upon its left side, as one approached the stairway, was an obscure arch, sunk deep in the wall, and completely in the shadow of the door. Behind this arch a portal opened to the narrow lane at the side of the house. The stairs themselves were completely lighted by a large window, half-way up the flight. The Prince came from the dining-room, and began leisurely to ascend. He had only reached the second stair, when a man emerged from the sunken arch, and, standing within a foot or two of him, discharged a pistol full at his heart."