Seeing Europe with Famous Authors, Volume 4 France and the Netherlands, Part 2 online

. (page 12 of 13)
Online LibraryVariousSeeing Europe with Famous Authors, Volume 4 France and the Netherlands, Part 2 → online text (page 12 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

quarters, exposed on the four gates of the town.

Close to the Prinsenhof is the Oude Kerk with a leaning tower. It is
arranged like a very ugly theater inside, but contains, with
other tombs of celebrities, the monument of Admiral van Tromp,
1650 - "Martinus Harberti Trompius" - whose effigy lies upon his back,
with swollen feet. It was this Van Tromp who defeated the English
fleet under Blake, and perished, as represented on the monument, in an
engagement off Scheveningen. It was he who, after his victory over the
English, caused a broom to be hoisted at his mast-head to typify that
he had swept the Channel clear of his enemies.


[Footnote A: From "Holland and Its People." Translated by Caroline
Tilton. By special arrangement with, and by permission of, the
publishers, G.P. Putnam's Sons. Copyright, 1880.]


Leyden, the antique Athens of the north, the Saragossa of the Low
Countries, the oldest and most illustrious of the daughters of
Holland, is one of those cities which make you thoughtful upon first
entering them, and are remembered for a long time afterward with a
certain impression of sadness.

I had hardly arrived when the chill of a dead city seemed to fall upon
me. The old Rhine, which crosses Leyden, dividing it into many islets
joined together by one hundred and fifty stone bridges, forms wide
canals and basins which contain no ship or boat, and the city seems
rather invaded by the waters than merely crossed by them. The
principal streets are very broad and flanked by rows of old
blockhouses with the usual pointed gables, and the few people seen in
the streets and squares are like the survivors of a city depopulated
by the plague.

In the smaller streets you walk upon long tracts of grass, between
houses with closed doors and windows, in a silence as profound as
that of those fabled cities where all the inhabitants are sunk in a
supernatural sleep. You pass over bridges overgrown with weeds, and
long canals covered with a green carpet, through small squares that
seem like convent courtyards; and then, suddenly, you reach a broad
thoroughfare, like the streets of Paris; from which you again
penetrate into a labyrinth of narrow alleys. From bridge to bridge,
from canal to canal, from island to island, you wander for hours
seeking for the life and movement of the ancient Leyden, and finding
only solitude, silence, and the waters which reflect the melancholy
majesty of the fallen city.

In 1573 the Spaniards, led by Valdez, laid siege to Leyden. In the
city there were only some volunteer soldiers. The military command was
given to Van der Voes, a valiant man, and a Latin poet of some
renown. Van der Werf was burgomaster. In brief time the besiegers
had constructed more than sixty forts in all the places where it was
possible to penetrate into the city by sea or land, and Leyden was
completely isolated. But the people of Leyden did not lose heart.
William of Orange had sent them word to hold out for three months,
within which time he would succor them, for on the fate of Leyden
depended that of Holland; and the men of Leyden had promised to resist
to the last extremity....

The Prince of Orange received the news of the safety of the city at
Delft, in church, where he was present at divine service. He sent the
message at once to the preacher, and the latter announced it to the
congregation, who received it with shouts of joy. Altho only just
recovered from his illness, and the epidemic still raging at Leyden,
William would see at once his dear and valorous city. He went there;
his entry was a triumph; his majestic and serene aspect put new heart
into the people; his words made them forget all they had suffered. To
reward Leyden for her heroic defense, he left her her choice between
exemption from certain imposts or the foundation of a university.
Leyden chose the university.

How this university answered to the hopes of Leyden, it is superfluous
to say. Everybody knows how the States of Holland with their liberal
offers drew learned men from every country; how philosophy, driven
out of France, took refuge there; how Leyden was for a long time the
securest citadel for all men who were struggling for the triumph
of human reason; how it became at length the most famous school in
Europe. The actual university is in an ancient convent. One can not
enter without a sentiment of profound respect the great hall of the
Academic Senate, where are seen the portraits of all the professors
who have succeeded each other from the foundation of the university up
to the present day.


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


Our morning at Dortrecht was very delightful, and it is a thoroughly
charming place. Passing under a dark archway in a picturesque building
of Charles V., opposite the hotel, we found ourselves at once on
the edge of an immense expanse of shimmering river, with long, rich
meadows beyond, between which the wide flood breaks into three
different branches. Red and white sails flit down them. Here and there
rises a line of pollard willows or clipt elms, and now and then a
church spire. On the nearest shore an ancient windmill, colored
in delicate tints of gray and yellow, surmounts a group of white

On the left is a broad esplanade of brick, lined with ancient houses,
and a canal with a bridge, the long arms of which are ready to open at
a touch and give a passage to the great yellow-masted barges, which
are already half intercepting the bright red house-fronts ornamented
with stone, which belong to some public buildings facing the end of
the canal. With what a confusion of merchandise are the boats laden,
and how gay is the coloring, between the old weedy posts to which they
are moored!

It was from hence that Isabella of France, with Sir John de Hainault
and many other faithful knights set on their expedition against Edward
II. and the government of the Spencers.

From the busy port, where nevertheless they are dredging, we cross
another bridge and find ourselves in a quietude like that of a
cathedral close in England. On one side is a wide pool half covered
with floating timber, and, in the other half, reflecting like a mirror
the houses on the opposite shore, with their bright gardens of lilies
and hollyhocks, and trees of mountain ash, which bend their masses of
scarlet berries to the still water. Between the houses are glints of
blue river and of inevitable windmills on the opposite shore. And all
this we observe standing in the shadow of a huge church, the Groote
Kerk, with a nave of the fourteenth century, and a choir of the
fifteenth and a gigantic trick tower, in which three long Gothic
arches, between octagonal tourelles, enclose several tiers of windows.
At the top is a great clock, and below the church a grove of elms,
through which fitful sunlight falls on the grass and the dead red of
the brick pavement (so grateful to feet sore with the sharp stones of
other Dutch cities), where groups of fishermen are collecting in their
blue shirts and white trousers.

There is little to see inside this or any other church in Holland;
travelers will rather seek for the memorials at the Kloveniers Doelen,
of the famous Synod of Dort, which was held 1618-19, in the hope of
effecting a compromise between the Gomarists, or disciples of Calvin,
and the Arminians who followed Zwingli, and who had recently obtained
the name of Remonstrants from the "remonstrance" which they had
addrest eight years before in defense of their doctrines. The
Calvinists held that the greater part of mankind was excluded from
grace, which the Arminians denied; but at the Synod of Dort the
Calvinists proclaimed themselves as infallible as the Pope, and their
resolutions became the law of the Dutch Reformed Church. The Arminians
were forthwith outlawed; a hundred ministers who refused to subscribe
to the dictates of the Synod were banished; Hugo Grotius and Rombout
Hoogerbeets were imprisoned for life at Loevestein; the body of the
secretary Ledenberg, was hung; and Van Olden Barneveldt, the friend of
William the Silent, was beheaded in his seventy-second year....

Through the street of wine - Wijnstraat - built over stonehouses used
for the staple, we went to the museum to see the pictures. There were
two schools of Dortrecht. Jacob Geritee Cuyp (1575); Albert Cuyp
(1605), Ferdinand Bol (1611), Nicolas Maas (1632), and Schalken (1643)
belonged to the former; Arend de Gelder, Arnold Houbraken, Dirk
Stoop, and Ary Scheffer are of the latter. Sunshine and glow were the
characteristics of the first school, grayness and sobriety of the
second. But there are few good pictures at Dort now, and some of the
best works of Cuyp are to be found in our National Gallery, [London]
executed at his native place and portraying the great brick tower of
the church in the golden haze of evening, seen across rich pastures,
where the cows are lying deep in the meadow grass. The works of Ary
Scheffer are now the most interesting pictures in the Dortrecht
Gallery. Of the subject, "Christus Consolator," there are two
representations. In the more striking of these the pale Christ is
seated among the sick, sorrowful, blind, maimed, and enslaved, who
are all stretching their hands to Him. Beneath is the tomb which the
artist executed for his mother, Cornelia Scheffer, whose touching
figure is represented lying with outstretched hands, in the utmost
abandonment of repose.


[Footnote A: From "Holland and Its People." Translated by Caroline
Tilton. By special arrangement with, and by permission of, the
publishers, G.P. Putnam's Sons. Copyright, 1880.]


This great basin of the North Sea, which bathes five provinces and has
an extent of more than seven hundred square kilometers, six hundred
years ago was not in existence. North Holland touched Friesland, and
where the gulf now extends there was a vast region sprinkled with
fresh-water lakes, the largest of which, the Flevo, mentioned by
Tacitus, was separated from the sea by a fertile and populous isthmus.
Whether the sea by its own force broke through the natural dikes
of the region, or whether the sinking of the land left it free to
invasion, is not certainly known. The great transformation was
completed during the course of the thirteenth century.

About the formation of this gulf there has collected a varied and
confused history of cities destroyed and people drowned, to which has
been added in later times another history, of new cities rising on new
shores, becoming powerful and famous, and being in their turn reduced
to poor and mean villages, with streets overgrown with grass, and
sand-choked ports. Records of great calamities, wonderful traditions,
fantastic horrors, strange usages and customs, are found upon the
waters and about the shores of this peculiar sea, born but yesterday,
and already encircled with ruins and condemned to disappear; and a
month's voyage would not suffice to gather up the chief of them; but
the thought alone of beholding from a distance those decrepit
cities, those mysterious islands, those fatal sand-banks, excited my

Marken is as famous among the islands of the Zuyder Zee as Broek
is among the villages of Holland; but with all its fame, and altho
distant but one hour by boat from the coast, few are the strangers,
and still fewer the natives who visit it. So said the captain as he
pointed out the lighthouse of the little island, and added that in his
opinion the reason was, that when a stranger arrived at Marken, even
if he were a Dutchman, he was followed by a crowd of boys, watched,
and commented upon as if he were a man fallen from the moon. This
unusual curiosity is explained by a description of the island. It is a
bit of land about three thousand meters in length and one thousand
in width, which was detached from the continent in the thirteenth
century, and remains to this day, in the manners, and customs of its
inhabitants, exactly as it was six centuries ago.

The surface of the island is but little higher than the sea, and it is
surrounded by a small dike which does not suffice to protect it
from inundation. The houses are built upon eight small artificial
elevations, and form as many boroughs, one of which - the one which has
the church - is the capital, and another the cemetery. When the sea
rises above the dike, the spaces between the little hills are changed
into canals, and the inhabitants go about in boats. The houses are
built of wood, some painted, some only pitched; one only is of stone,
that of the pastor, who also has a small garden shaded by four large
trees, the only ones on the island. Next to this house are the church,
the school, and the municipal offices. The population is about one
thousand in number, and lives by fishing. With the exceptions of the
doctor, the pastor, and the school-master, all are native to the
island; no islander marries on the continent; no one from the mainland
comes to live on the island.

They all profess the reformed religion, and all know how to read and
write. In the schools more than two hundred boys and girls are taught
history, geography, and arithmetic. The fashion of dress, which has
not been changed for centuries, is the same for all, and extremely
curious. The men look like soldiers. They wear a dark gray cloth
jacket ornamented with two rows of buttons which are in general
medals, or ancient coins, handed down from father to son. This jacket
is tucked into the waistband of a pair of breeches of the same color,
very wide about the hips and tight around the leg, fastening below the
knee; a felt hat or a fur cap, according to the season; a red cravat,
black stockings, white wooden shoes, or a sort of slipper, complete
the costume.

That of the women is still more peculiar. They wear on their heads an
enormous white cap in the form of a miter, all ornamented with lace
and needlework, and tied under the chin like a helmet. From under the
cap, which completely covers the ears, fall two long braided tresses,
which hang over the bosom, and a sort of visor of hair comes down
upon the forehead, cut square just above the eyebrows. The dress is
composed of a waist without sleeves, and a petticoat of two colors.
The waist is deep red, embroidered in colors and costing years of
labor to make, for which reason it descends from mother to daughter,
from generation to generation. The upper part of the petticoat is gray
or blue striped with black, and the lower part dark brown. The arms
are covered almost to the elbow with sleeves of a white chemise,
striped with red. The children are drest in almost the same way,
tho there is some slight difference between girls and women, and on
holidays the costume is more richly ornamented.


[Footnote A: From "Holland and Its People." Translated by Caroline
Tilton. By special arrangement with, and by permission of, the
publishers, G.P. Putnam's Sons. Copyright, 1880.]


The Dutch school of painting has one quality which renders it
particularly attractive to us Italians; it is of all others the most
different from our own, the very antithesis, or the opposite pole of
art. The Dutch and Italian schools are the two most original, or, as
has been said, the only two to which the title rigorously belongs;
the others being only daughters, or younger sisters, more or less
resembling them. Thus, even in painting Holland offers that which is
most sought after in travel and in books of travel; the new.

Dutch painting was born with the liberty and independence of Holland.
As long as the northern and southern provinces of the Low Countries
remained under the Spanish rule and in the Catholic faith, Dutch
painters painted like Belgian painters; they studied in Belgium,
Germany, and Italy; Heemskerk imitated Michael Angelo; Bloemart
followed Correggio, and "Il Moro" copied Titian, not to indicate
others; and they were one and all pedantic imitators, who added to the
exaggerations of the Italian style a certain German coarseness, the
result of which was a bastard style of painting, still inferior to
the first, childish, stiff in design, crude in color, and completely
wanting in chiaroscuro, but not, at least, a servile imitation, and
becoming, as it were, a faint prelude to the true Dutch art that was
to be....

After depicting the house, they turned their attention to the country.
The stern climate allowed but a brief time for the admiration of
nature, but for this very reason Dutch artists admired her all the
more; they saluted the spring with a livelier joy, and permitted that
fugitive smile of heaven to stamp itself more deeply on their fancy.
The country was not beautiful, but it was twice dear because it had
been torn from the sea and from the foreign oppressor. The Dutch
artist painted it lovingly; he represented it simply, ingenuously,
with a sense of intimacy which at that time was not to be found in
Italian or Belgian landscape.

The flat, monotonous country had, to the Dutch painter's eyes, a
marvelous variety. He caught all the mutations of the sky, and knew
the value of the water, with its reflections, its grace and freshness,
and its power of illuminating everything. Having no mountains, he took
the dikes for background; and with no forests, he imparted to a simple
group of trees all the mystery of a forest; and he animated the whole
with beautiful animals and white sails.

The subjects of their pictures are poor enough - a windmill, a canal,
a gray sky; - but how they make one think! A few Dutch painters, not
content with nature in their own country, came to Italy in search of
hills, luminous skies, and famous ruins; and another band of select
artists is the result. Both, Swanevelt, Pynaeker, Breenberg, Van Laer,
Asselyn. But the palm remains with the landscapists of Holland, with
Wynants the painter of morning, with Van der Neer the painter of
night, with Rusydael the painter of melancholy, with Hobbema the
illustrator of windmills, cabins, and kitchen gardens, and with others
who have restricted themselves to the expression of the enchantment of
nature as she is in Holland.

Simultaneously with landscape art was born another kind of painting,
especially peculiar to Holland - animal painting. Animals are the
wealth of the country; and that magnificent race of cattle which has
no rival in Europe for fecundity and beauty. The Hollanders, who owe
so much to them, treat them, one may say, as part of the population;
they wash them, comb them, dress them, and love them dearly. They are
to be seen everywhere; they are reflected in all the canals, and dot
with points of black and white the immense fields that stretch on
every side; giving an air of peace and comfort to every place, and
exciting in the spectator's heart a sentiment of patriarchal serenity.

The Dutch artists studied these animals in all their varieties, in
all their habits, and divined, as one may say, their inner life and
sentiments, animating the tranquil beauty of the landscape with their
forms. Rubens, Luyders, Paul de Vos, and other Belgian painters, had
drawn animals with admirable mastery, but all these are surpassed by
the Dutch artists, Van der Velde, Berghum, Karel der Jardin, and by
the prince of animal painters, Paul Potter, whose famous "Bull," in
the gallery of The Hague, deserves to be placed in the Vatican beside
the "Transfiguration" by Rafael.

In yet another field are the Dutch painters great - the sea. The sea,
their enemy, their power, and their glory, forever threatening their
country, and entering in a hundred ways into their lives and fortunes;
that turbulent North Sea, full of sinister colors, with a light of
infinite melancholy beating forever upon a desolate coast, must
subjugate the imagination of the artist. He, indeed, passes long hours
on the shore, contemplating its tremendous beauty, ventures upon its
waves to study the effects of tempests, buys a vessel and sails with
his wife and family, observing and making notes, follows the fleet
into battle, and takes part in the fight, and in this way are made
marine painters like William Van der Velde the elder, and William the
younger, like Backhuysen, Dubbels, and Stork.

Another kind of painting was to arise in Holland, as the expression of
the character of the people and of republican manners. A people that
without greatness had done so many great things, as Michelet says,
must have its heroic painters, if we call them so, destined to
illustrate men and events. But this school of painting - precisely
because the people were without greatness, or, to express it better,
without form of greatness, modest, inclined to consider all equal
before the country, because all had done their duty, abhorring
adulation, and the glorification in one only of the virtues and the
triumph of many - this school has to illustrate not a few men who
have excelled, and a few extraordinary facts, but all classes of
citizenship gathered among the most ordinary and pacific of burgher

From this come the great pictures which represent five, ten, thirty
persons together, arquebusiers, mayors, officers, professors,
magistrates, administrators, seated or standing around a table,
feasting and conversing, of life size, most faithful likenesses,
grave, open faces, expressing that secure serenity of conscience
by which may be divined rather than seen the nobleness of a life
consecrated to one's country, the character of that strong, laborious
epoch, the masculine virtues of that excellent generation; all this
set off by the fine costume of the time, so admirably combining grace
and dignity; those gorgets, those doublets, those black mantles, those
silken scarves and ribbons, those arms and banners. In this field
stand preeminent Van der Heist, Hals, Covaert, Flink, and Bol....

Finally, there are still two important excellences to be recorded
of this school of painting - its variety, and its importance as the
expression, the mirror, so to speak, of the country. If we except
Rembrandt with his group of followers and imitators, almost all the
other artists differ very much from one another; no other school
presents so great a number of original masters. The realism of the
Dutch painters is born of their common love of nature; but each one
has shown in his work a kind of love peculiarly his own; each one has
rendered a different impression which he has received from nature and
all, starting from the same point, which was the worship of material
truth, have arrived at separate and distinct goals.


[Footnote A: From "Holland and Its People." Translated by Caroline
Tilton. By special arrangement with, and by permission of, the
publishers, G.P. Putnam's Sons. Copyright, 1880.]


The word "tulip" recalls one of the strangest popular follies that has
ever been seen in the world, which showed itself in Holland toward
the middle of the seventeenth century. The country at that time had
reached the height of prosperity; antique parsimony had given place to
luxury; the houses of the wealthy, very modest at the beginning of
the century, were transformed into little palaces; velvet, silk, and
pearls replaced the patriarchal simplicity of the ancient costume;
Holland had become vain, ambitious, and prodigal.

After having filled their houses with pictures, hangings, porcelain,
and precious objects from all the countries of Europe and Asia, the
rich merchants of the large Dutch cities began to spend considerable
sums in ornamenting their gardens with tulips - the flower which
answers best to that innate avidity for vivid colors which the Dutch
people manifest in so many ways. This taste for tulips promoted their
rapid cultivation; everywhere gardens were laid out, studies promoted,
new varieties of the favorite flower sought for. In a short time the
fever became general; on every side there swarmed unknown tulips, of
strange forms, and wonderful shades or combinations of colors, full of
contrasts, caprices, and surprises. Prices rose in a marvelous way;
a new variegation, a new form, obtained in those blest leaves was an
event, a fortune. Thousands of persons gave themselves up to the study
with the fury of insanity; all over the country nothing was talked of
but petals; bulbs, colors, vases, seeds.

The mania grew to such a pass that all Europe was laughing at it.
Bulbs of the favorite tulips of the rarer varieties rose to fabulous
prices; some constituted a fortune; like a house, an orchard, or a

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12

Online LibraryVariousSeeing Europe with Famous Authors, Volume 4 France and the Netherlands, Part 2 → online text (page 12 of 13)