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a city.

When I arrived it was the busiest hour, so I planted myself upon the
highest bridge over the principal crossing. From thence were visible
four canals, four forests of ships, bordered by eight files of trees;
the streets were crammed with people and merchandise; droves of cattle
were crossing the bridges; bridges were rising in the air, or opening
in the middle, to allow vessels to pass through, and were scarcely
replaced or closed before they were inundated by a throng of people,
carts, and carriages; ships came and went in the canals, shining like
models in a museum, and with the wives and children of the sailors on
the decks; boats darted from vessel to vessel; the shops drove a busy
trade; servant-women washed the walls and windows; and all this moving
life was rendered more gay and cheerful by the reflections in the
water, the green of the trees, the red of the houses, the tall
windmills, showing their dark tops and white sails against the azure
of the sky, and still more by an air of quiet simplicity not seen in
any other northern city.

From canal to canal, and from bridge to bridge, I finally reached the
dike of the Boompjes upon the Meuse, where boils and bubbles all the
life of the great commercial city. On the left extends a long row of
small many-colored steamboats, which start every hour in the day for
Dordrecht, Arnhem, Gonda, Schiedam, Brilla, Zealand, and continually
send forth clouds of white smoke and the sound of their cheerful
bells. To the right lie the large ships which make the voyage to
various European ports, mingled with fine three-masted vessels bound
for the East Indies, with names written in golden letters - Java,
Sumatra, Borneo, Samarang - carrying the fancy to those distant and
savage countries like the echoes of distant voices. In front the
Meuse, covered with boats and barks, and the distant shore with a
forest of beech trees, windmills, and towers; and over all the unquiet
sky, full of gleams of light, and gloomy clouds, fleeting and changing
in their constant movement, as if repeating the restless labor on the
earth below.

Rotterdam, it must be said here, is, in commercial importance, the
first city in Holland after Amsterdam. It was already a flourishing
town in the thirteenth century. Ludovico Guicciardini, in his work on
the Low Countries, adduces a proof of the wealth of the city in the
sixteenth century, saying that in one year nine hundred houses that
had been destroyed by fire were rebuilt. Bentivoglio, in his history
of the war in Flanders, calls it "the largest and most mercantile of
the lands of Holland." But its greatest prosperity did not begin until
1830, or after the separation of Holland and Belgium, when Rotterdam
seemed to draw to herself everything that was lost by her rival,

Her situation is extremely advantageous. She communicates with the sea
by the Meuse, which brings to her ports in a few hours the largest
merchantmen; and by the same river she communicates with the Rhine,
which brings to her from the Swiss mountains and Bavaria immense
quantities of timber - entire forests that come to Holland to be
transformed into ships, dikes, and villages. More than eighty splendid
vessels come and go, in the space of nine months, between Rotterdam
and India. Merchandise flows in from all sides in such great abundance
that a large part of it has to be distributed through the neighboring

Rotterdam, in short, has a future more splendid than that of
Amsterdam, and has long been regarded as a rival by her elder
sister. She does not possess the wealth of the capital; but is more
industrious in increasing what she has; she dares, risks, undertakes
like a young and adventurous city. Amsterdam, like a merchant grown
cautious after having made his fortune by hazardous undertakings,
begins to doze over her treasures. At Rotterdam fortunes are made; at
Amsterdam they are consolidated; at the Hague they are spent....

In the middle of the market-place, surrounded by heaps of vegetables,
fruit, and earthenware pots and pans, stands the statue of Desiderius
Erasmus, the first literary light of Holland; that Gerrit Gerritz - for
he assumed the Latin name himself, according to the custom of writers
in his day - that Gerrit Gerritz belonged, by his education, his style,
and his ideas, to the family of the humanists and erudite of Italy;
a fine writer, profound and indefatigable in letters and science, he
filled all Europe with his name between the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries; he was loaded with favors by the popes, and sought after
and entertained by princes; and his "Praise of Folly," written in
Latin like the rest of his innumerable works, and dedicated to Sir
Thomas More, is still read. The bronze statue, erected in 1622,
represents Erasmus drest in a furred gown, with a cap of the same, a
little bent forward as if walking, and in the act of reading a large
book, held open in the hand; the pedestal bears a double inscription,
in Dutch and Latin, calling him, "The Foremost Man of His Century,"
and "The Most Excellent of All Citizens." In spite of this pompous
eulogium, however, poor Erasmus, planted there like a municipal guard
in the market-place, makes but a pitiful figure. I do not believe that
there is in the world another statue of a man of letters that is,
like this, neglected by the passer-by, despised by those about it,
commiserated by those who look at it. But who knows whether Erasmus,
acute philosopher as he was, and must be still, be not contented with
his corner, the more that it is not far from his own house, if the
tradition is correct? In a small street near the market-place, in the
wall of a little house now occupied as a tavern, there is a niche with
a bronze statuette representing the great writer, and under it the
inscription: "This is the little house in which the great Erasmus was
born." ...

Rotterdam in the evening presents an unusual aspect to the stranger's
eye. While in other northern cities at a certain hour of the night all
the life is concentered in the houses, at Rotterdam at that hour it
expands into the streets. The Hoog-straat is filled until far into the
night with a dense throng, the shops are open, because the servants
make their purchases in the evening, and the cafés crowded. Dutch
cafés are peculiar. In general there is one long room, divided in the
middle by a green curtain, which is drawn down at evening and conceals
the back part, which is the only part lighted; the front part, closed
from the street by large glass doors, is in darkness, so that from
without only dark shadowy forms can be seen, and the burning points
of cigars, like so many fireflies. Among these dark forms the vague
profile of a woman who prefers darkness to light may be detected here
and there....

Walking through Rotterdam in the evening, it is evident that the city
is teeming with life and in process of expansion; a youthful city,
still growing, and feeling herself every year more and more prest
for room in her streets and houses. In a not far distant future, her
hundred and fourteen thousand inhabitants will have increased to two
hundred thousand.[A] The smaller streets swarm with children; there is
an overflow of life and movement that cheers the eye and heart; a kind
of holiday air. The white and rosy faces of the servant-maids, whose
white caps gleam on every side; the serene visages of shopkeepers
slowly imbibing great glassfuls of beer; the peasants with their
monstrous ear-rings; the cleanliness; the flowers in the windows; the
tranquil and laborious throng; all give to Rotterdam an aspect of
healthful and peaceful content, which brings to the lips the chant
of "Te Beata," not with the cry of enthusiasm, but with the smile of

[Footnote A: The population now (1914) is 418,000, as stated In the
New Standard Dictionary.]

The Hague - in Dutch, s'Gravenhage, or s'Hage - the political capital,
the Washington of Holland, Amsterdam being the New York - is a city
half Dutch and half French, with broad streets and no canals; vast
squares full of trees, elegant houses, splendid hotels, and a
population mostly made up of the rich, nobles, officials, artists, and
literati, the populace being of a more refined order than that of the
other Dutch cities.

In my first turn about the town what struck me most were the new
quarters, where dwells the flower of the wealthy aristocracy. In no
other city, not even in the Faubourg St. Germain at Paris, did I feel
myself such a very poor devil as in those streets. They are wide and
straight, flanked by palaces of elegant form and delicate color, with
large shutterless windows, through which can be seen the rich carpets
and sumptuous furniture of the first floors. Every door is closed; and
there is not a shop, nor a placard, nor a stain, nor a straw to be
seen if you were to look for it with a hundred eyes. The silence
was profound when I passed by. Only now and then I encountered some
aristocratic equipage rolling almost noiselessly over the brick
pavement, or the stiffest of lackeys stood before a door, or the
blonde head of a lady was visible behind a curtain. Passing close
to the windows and beholding my shabby traveling dress ruthlessly
reflected in the plate-glass I experienced a certain humiliation at
not having been born at least a Cavalière, and imagined I heard low
voices whispering disdainfully: "Who is that low person?"

Of the older portion of the city, the most considerable part is
the Binnenhof, a group of old buildings of different styles of
architecture, which looks on two sides upon vast squares, and on the
third over a great marsh. In the midst of this group of palaces,
towers, and monumental doors, of a medieval and sinister aspect, there
is a spacious court, which is entered by three bridges and three
gates. In one of these buildings resided the Stadtholders, and it is
now the seat of the Second Chamber of the States General; opposite is
the First Chamber, with the ministries and various other offices of
public administration. The Minister of the Interior has his office in
a little low black tower of the most lugubrious aspect, that hangs
directly over the waters of the marsh.

The Binnenhof, the square to the west, called the Bintenhof, and
another square beyond the marsh, called the Plaats, into which you
enter by an old gate that once formed part of a prison, were the
theaters of the most sanguinary events in the history of Holland.

In the Binnenhof was decapitated the venerated Van Olden Barneveldt,
the second founder of the republic, the most illustrious victim of
that ever-recurring struggle between the burgher aristocracy and the
Statholderate, between the republican and the monarchical principle,
which worked so miserably in Holland. The scaffold was erected in
front of the edifice where the States General sat. Opposite is the
tower from which it is said that Maurice of Orange, himself unseen,
beheld the last moments of his enemy.

The finest ornament of the Hague is its forest; a true wonder of
Holland, and one of the most magnificent promenades in the world. It
is a wood of alder-trees, oaks, and the largest beeches that are to be
found in Europe, on the eastern side of the city, a few paces from
the last fringe of houses, and measuring about one French league in
circuit; a truly delightful oasis in the midst of the melancholy Dutch
plains. As you enter it, little Swiss châlets find kiosks, scattered
here and there among the first trees, seem to have strayed and lost
themselves in an endless and solitary forest. The trees are as thickly
set as a cane-brake, and the alleys vanish in dark perspective.

There are lakes and canals almost hidden under the verdure of their
banks; rustic bridges, deserted paths, dim recesses, darkness cool
and deep, in which one breathes the air of virgin nature, and feels
oneself far from the noises of the world. This wood, like that of
Haarlem, is said to be the remains of an immense forest that covered,
in ancient times, almost all the coast, and is respected by the Dutch
people as a monument of their national history.


[Footnote A: From "Holland of To-day."]


A few minutes bring us from Leyden to Haarlem by the railway. It
crosses an isthmus between the sea and a lake which covered the whole
country between Leyden, Haarlem, and Amsterdam till 1839, when it
became troublesome, and the States-General forthwith, after the
fashion of Holland, voted its destruction. Enormous engines were at
once employed to drain it by pumping the water into canals, which
carried it to the sea, and the country was the richer by a new

Haarlem, on the river Spaarne, stands out distinct in recollection
from all other Dutch towns, for it has the most picturesque
market-place in Holland - the Groote Markt - surrounded by quaint houses
of varied outline, amid which rises the Groote Kerk of S. Bavo, a
noble cruciform fifteenth-century building. The interior, however,
is as bare and hideous as all other Dutch churches. It contains a
monument to the architect Conrad, designer of the famous locks of
Katwijk, "the defender of Holland against the fury of the sea and
the power of tempests." Behind the choir is the tomb of the poet
Bilderijk, who only died in 1831, and near this the grave of Laurenz
Janzoom - the Coster or Sacristan - who is asserted in his native town,
but never believed outside it, to have been the real inventor of
printing, as he is said to have cut out letters in wood, and taken
impressions from them in ink, as early as 1423. His partizans also
maintain that while he was attending a midnight mass, praying
for patience to endure the ill-treatment of his enemies, all his
implements were stolen, and that when he found this out on his return
he died of grief.

It is further declared that the robber was Faust of Mayence, the
partner of Gutenburg, and that it was thus that the honor of the
invention passed from Holland to Germany where Gutenberg produced his
invention of movable type twelve years later. There is a statue of the
Coster in front of the church, and, on its north side, his house is
preserved and adorned with his bust.

Among a crowd of natives with their hats on, talking in church as in
the market-place, we waited to hear the famous organ of Christian
Muller (1735-38), and grievously were we disappointed with its
discordant noises. All the men smoked in church, and this we saw
repeatedly; but it would be difficult to say where we ever saw
a Dutchman with a pipe out of his mouth. Every man seemed to be
systematically smoking away the few wits he possest.

Opposite the Groote Kerk is the Stadhuis, an old palace of the Counts
of Holland remodeled. It contains a delightful little gallery of the
works of Franz Hals, which at once transports the spectator into the
Holland of two hundred years ago - such is the marvelous variety of
life and vigor imprest into its endless figures of stalwart officers
and handsome young archers pledging each other at banquet tables and
seeming to welcome the visitor with jovial smiles as he enters the
chamber, or of serene old ladies, "regents" of hospitals, seated at
their council boards. The immense power of the artist is shown
in nothing so much as in the hands, often gloved, dashed in with
instantaneous power, yet always having the effect of the most
consummate finish at a distance. Behind one of the pictures is the
entrance to the famous "secret-room of Haarlem," seldom seen, but
containing an inestimable collection of historic relics of the time of
the famous siege of Leyden.

April and May are the best months for visiting Haarlem, which is the
bulb nursery garden of the world. "Oignons à fleurs" are advertised
for sale everywhere. Tulips are more cultivated than any other flower,
as ministering most of the national craving for color; but times are
changed since a single bulb of the tulip "L'Amiral Liefkenshoch" sold
for 4,500 florins, one of "Viceroy" for 4,200, and one of "Semper
Augustus" for 13,000.


[Footnote A: From "Holland of To-Day." By special arrangement with,
and by permission of, the author and of the publishers, Moffat, Yard &
Co. Copyright, 1909.]


Let us go down to the North Sea and see how the Dutch people enjoy
themselves in the summer. Of course the largest of the watering-places
in the Netherlands is Scheveningen, and it has a splendid bathing
beach which makes it an attractive resort for fashionable Germans and
Hollanders, and for summer travelers from all over the world. At the
top of the long dyke is a row of hotels and restaurants, and when
one reaches this point after passing through the lovely old wood of
stately trees one is ushered into the twentieth century, for here all
is fashion and gay life, yet with a character all its own.

Along the edge of the beach are the bathing machines in scores, and
behind them are long lines of covered wicker chairs of peculiar form,
each with its foot-stool, where one may sit, shaded, from the sun and
sheltered from the wind, and read, chat or doze by the hour. Bath
women are seen quaintly clad with their baskets of bathing dresses and
labeled with the signs bearing their names, such as Trintje or Netje;
everywhere there are sightseers, pedlers calling their wares, children
digging in the sand, strolling players performing and the sound of
bands of music in the distance. So there is no lack of amusement here
during the season.

The spacious Kurhaus with its verandas and Kursaal, which is large
enough to accommodate 2,500 people, is in the center of the dike.
There are concerts every evening, and altho the town is filled with
hotels, during the months of June, July, August, and September they
are quite monopolized by the Hollanders and the prices are very high.

The magnificent pier is 450 yards long. The charges for bathing are
very moderate, varying from twenty cents for a small bathing box to
fifty cents for a large one, including the towels. Bathing costumes
range from five to twenty-five cents. The tickets are numbered, and as
soon as a machine is vacant a number is called by the "bath man" and
the holder of the corresponding number claims the machine. The basket
chairs cost for the whole day twenty cents, Dutch money. One may
obtain a subscription to the "Kurhaus" at a surprisingly reasonable
rate for the day, week or season. There is a daily orchestra; ballet
and operatic concerts once a week; dramatic performances and frequent
hops throughout the season.

There is a local saying that when good Dutchmen die they go to
Scheveningen, and this is certainly their heaven. To stand on the pier
on a fine day during the season looking down on these long lines of
wicker chairs, turned seaward, is an astonishing sight. They are
shaped somewhat like huge snail-shells, and around these the children
delight to dig in the sand, throwing up miniature dunes around
one. Perhaps no seashore in the world has been painted so much as
Scheveningen. Mesdag, Maris, Alfred Stevens, to name only a few of the
artists, have found here themes for many paintings, and the scene is
a wonderful one when the homing fleet of "Boms," as the fishing-boats
are called, appears in the offing to be welcomed by the fisherwomen.
There are other smaller watering-places on the coast, but Scheveningen
is unique.

In the little fishing town itself, the scene on the return of the men
is very interesting. Women and children are busily hurrying about from
house to house, and everywhere in the little streets are strange signs
chalked up on the shutters, such as "water en vuur te koop," that is
water and fire for sale; and here are neatly painted buckets of iron,
each having a kettle of boiling water over it and a lump of burning
turf at the bottom. Fish is being cleaned and the gin shops are well
patronized, for it seems a common habit in this moist northern climate
frequently to take "Een sneeuw-balletje" of gin and sugar, which does
not taste at all badly, be it said. All sorts of strange-looking
people are met in the little narrow street, and all doing
strange-looking things, but with the air of its being in no wise
unusual with them. All in all, Scheveningen is an entertaining spot in
which to linger.


[Footnote A: From "Sketches in Holland and Scandinavia."]


An excursion must be made to Delft, only twenty minutes distant from
The Hague by rail. Pepys calls it "a most sweet town, with bridges
and a river in every street," and that is a tolerably accurate
description. It seems thinly inhabited, and the Dutch themselves
look upon it as a place where one will die of ennui. It has scarcely
changed with two hundred years. The view of Delft by Van der Meer in
the Museum at The Hague might have been painted yesterday. All the
trees are dipt, for in artificial Holland every work of Nature is
artificialized. At certain seasons, numbers of storks may be seen
upon the chimney-tops, for Delft is supposed to be the stork town par
excellence. Near the shady canal Oude Delft is a low building, once
the Convent of St. Agata, with an ornamental door surmounted by a
relief, leading into a courtyard. It is a common barrack now, for
Holland, which has no local histories, has no regard whatever for its
historic associations or monuments. Yet this is the greatest shrine of
Dutch history, for it is here that William the Silent died.

Philip II. had promised 25,000 crowns of gold to any one who would
murder the Prince of Orange. An attempt had already been made, but had
failed, and William refused to take any measures for self-protection,
saying, "It is useless: my years are in the hands of God; if there is
a wretch who has no fear of death, my life is in his hand, however I
may guard it."

At length, a young man of seven-and-twenty appeared at Delft, who
gave himself out to be one Guyon, a Protestant, son of Pierre Guyon,
executed at Besançon for having embraced Calvinism, and declared that
he was exiled for his religion. Really he was Balthazar Gerard, a
bigoted Catholic, but his conduct in Holland soon procured him the
reputation of an evangelical saint.

The Prince took him into his service and sent him to accompany a
mission from the States of Holland to the Court of France, whence
he returned to bring the news of the death of the Duke of Anjou to
William. At that time the Prince was living with his court in the
convent of St. Agata, where he received Balthazar alone in his
chamber. The moment was opportune, but the would-be assassin had no
arms ready. William gave him a small sum of money and bade him hold
himself in readiness to be sent back to France.

With the money Balthazar bought two pistols from a soldier (who
afterward killed himself when he heard the use which was made of the
purchase). On the next day, June 10, 1584, Balthazar returned to the
convent as William was descending the staircase to dinner, with his
fourth wife, Louise de Coligny (daughter of the Admiral who fell
in the massacre of St. Bartholomew), on his arm. He presented his
passport and begged the Prince to sign it, but was told to return
later. At dinner the Princess asked William who was the young man who
had spoken to him, for his expression was the most terrible she had
ever seen.

The Prince laughed, said it was Guyon, and was as gay as usual. Dinner
being over, the family party were about to remount the staircase. The
assassin was waiting in a dark corner at the foot of the stairs, and
as William passed he discharged a pistol with three balls and fled.
The Prince staggered, saying, "I am wounded; God have mercy upon me
and my poor people." His sister Catherine van Schwartz-bourg asked,
"Do you trust in Jesus Christ?" He said, "Yes," with a feeble voice,
sat down upon the stairs, and died.

Balthazar reached the rampart of the town in safety, hoping to swim
to the other side of the moat, where a horse awaited him. But he had
dropt his hat and his second pistol in his flight, and so he was
traced and seized before he could leap from the wall.

Amid horrible tortures, he not only confest, but continued to triumph
in his crime. His judges believed him to be possest of the devil. The
next day he was executed. His right hand was burned off in a tube of
red-hot iron; the flesh of his arms and legs was torn off with red-hot
pincers; but he never made a cry. It was not till his breast was cut
open, and his heart torn out and flung in his face, that he expired.
His head was then fixt on a pike, and his body, cut into four

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Online LibraryVariousSeeing Europe with Famous Authors, Volume 4 France and the Netherlands, Part 2 → online text (page 11 of 13)