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HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND



UNIFORM WITH THIS BOOK

HOME LIFE IN FRANCE. BY Miss BETHAM-EDWARDS
HOME LIFE IN GERMANY. BY MRS. A. SIDGWICK
HOME LIFE IN ITALY. BY LINA DUFF GORDON
HOME LIFE IN SPAIN. BY S. L. BENSUSAN
HOME LIFE IN AMERICA. BY KATHERINE G. BUSBEY
HOME LIFE IN RUSSIA. BY DR. ANGELO S. RAPPOPORT




<! 2

H

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w

K -
H o



HOME LIFE IN
HOLLAND



BY

D. S. MELDRUM



WITH TWENTY-SIX ILLUSTRATIONS



METHUEN & GO. LTD.

36 ESSEX STREET W.G.

LONDON



First Published in



TO

MY WIFE

WHOSE NAME OUGHT TO
BE ON THE TITLE-PAGE



CONTENTS

CHAP. PAGE

I. COME AND LET us TALK ABOUT THE WATER ! . i

II. DUTCH INTERIORS . . '. . .n

III. DUTCH INTERIORS (continued) . . . .24

IV. THE HOUSE AND THE HOME . . . .39
V. DUTCH COUNTRY . . . . -53

VI. THE COUNTRY AND THE HOME . . -65

VII. THE COUNTRY AND THE HOME (continued) . .81

VIII. DUTCH HOURS: MORNING IN THE SQUARE. . 97

IX. FORENOON IN THE HUISKAMER . 107

X. RAMBLES AFTER COFFEE-DRINKING 116

XI. DINNER . . . .130

XII. ON THE LAND : THE BOER . . . .142

XIII. CUSTOMS . . . .155

XIV. HUNTING THE HOUPPELANDE . 168
XV. IN THE GARDENS . . .185

XVI. ON THE MEADOWS . . -195

XVII. IN THE FENS . . . 206

XVIII. PRACTICAL SOCIALISTS . . . . .218

XIX. THE BURGOMASTER ..... 230

XX. THE WORKMAN ...... 243

XXI. POLITICS IN THE CHURCH .... 257



viii HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

CHAP. PAGE

XXII. THE CHURCH AND THE HOME . . .270

XXIII. CALVIN IN THE BINNENHOF . . . . 284

XXIV. SHADES OF THE RAPENBURG . . .301
XXV. THE PUBLIC SCHOOL BOY . . . .309

XXVI. THE SCHOOL IN THE CAREER . . -319

XXVII. THE ACADEMIE . . . . -332

XXVIII. THE EDUCATIONAL IDEAL . . . .342

XXIX. THE COLONIES IN DUTCH HOMES . . -352

INDEX . . . . . . -365



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

THE DAM, AT AMSTERDAM .... Frontispiece

From the Painting by G. H. BREITNER. Photograph by VAN
RIJKOM

FACING PACE

WATER MILLS ON THE NORTH HOLLAND CANAL SYSTEM . 8

From NEDERLAND, published by A. W. SIJTHOFF

AN AMSTERDAM CANAL (GRACHT) . . . .46

From the Painting by WILLEM WITSEN (Town Museum,
Amsterdam). Photograph by VAN RIJKOM

ON THE GEIN ....... 56

After the Painting by WILLEM ROELOFS. Photograph by VAN
RIJKOM

IN THE CITY ORPHANAGE, AMSTERDAM . . .70

From BUITEN

A MAKER OF WOODEN SHOES ..... 100

From NEDERLAND

COMING INTO TOWN )

THE CHEESE MARKET, ALKMAAR/

From NEDERLAND

ACCEPTED ADDRESSES . . . . . .164

From the Painting by H. VALKENBURG. Photograph by VAN
RIJKOM

COSTUMES OF MARKEN, STOKKUM, AND ST. WILLEBRORD 170
COSTUMES OF STAPHORST, ZANDVOORT, ISLAND OF URK,

AND SCHOKLAND . . . . . .176

COSTUMES OF MARKEN . . . . . .180

FORMAL GARDENING : A SPECIAL CULTURE IN THE AALS-

MEER NURSERIES . . . . . .186

From NEDERLAND
AFTER THE STORM ...... 232

From the Painting by JOSEF ISRAELS. Photograph by VAN
RIJKOM

A MOTHER'S CARE ...... 260

From the Painting by JOSEF ISRAELS. In the Collection of F.
C. F. DRUCKER, Esq. Photograph by DEWALD

THE BEACH AT SCHEVENINGEN ..... 288
From GOLDEN WAYS IN MANY LANDS, By WINIFRED H.
LEYS

OLD DUTCH CHILD'S CHAIR ..... 310
From the Painting by JOSEF ISRAELS. Photograph by DEWALD



HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

CHAPTER I
COME AND LET US TALK ABOUT THE WATER

WHEN the stranger hungry for knowledge about
Holland seeks it in a Dutch household, sooner
or later, and generally at once, he is given a map.

Geographers like Bos and Brinckman, I have found,
are familiar names there. Every Dutch boy and girl,
whether born a little Calvinist, is born a little hydro-
grapher. The Dutch hours I recall with most pleasure
perhaps are those spent in study or arbour, when some
new-found host, with his charts around him, discoursed
upon the physical conditions of his country. " Come and
let us talk about the water," is the welcome you know
to expect. And the reason is plain. Maps of Holland
are the records of the Waterstaat, and the Waterstaat, as
some one has said, is une etude de ge"ographie humaine.

We cannot help but talk about the water in Holland.
Our host, when we ask him about his countrymen, is
bound to entertain us with a chart. They cannot know
how the Dutch live who have not first learned where the
Dutch live ; and for an understanding of that, something
like a course of navigation is required. Dutch geography
is an adventure upon strange and apparently illimitable
seas. The name Waterstaat cannot be translated into



2 HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

any foreign tongue, for the thing itself exists nowhere out
of Holland. Other countries suffer from the invasions
of the ocean and the overflow of rivers, but in it only
are these dangers constant, and to be averted daily. Sea
and rivers, moreover, are outer waters, and it is rather
the inner waters of this ironically constituted country
which occasion its characteristic works of reclamation
and defence. Holland is ill of a dropsy, and only sur-
vives by tapping itself. The watery conditions amid
which the Dutch live are so urgent and persistent that
they are entrusted to a separate department of State
under a Minister of the Crown.

Now, these conditions themselves, the local means for
making the best and the most of them, and the body
which supervises these efforts, are all included in the
term Waterstaat The Waterstaat is not only the state of
the water ; it is (so to say) the Clerk of the Water as well.

Its problems are the oldest public questions, its
works the most ancient monuments in the country. It
is the earliest of the institutions of the Dutch that
" something like government among them brought."
The powers which are entrusted to it still are those it
exercised long before the House of Orange emerged
from obscurity, or the Provinces from sharing the fate
of the Holy Roman Empire. Its history is written in
tomes, the study of which, I confess, does not always
bring enlightenment. Yet it is easier to state the facts
of this great struggle with water than to see its marks :
the facts are common renown ; the difficulty is to be
persuaded that they are literally true.

" Oh ! " I can hear some impatient reader exclaim
"Oh, the old story of water-logged Holland!" And
then he ticks off upon his fingers (for which I am greatly
obliged to him) the headings under which that story will
certainly fall.



LET US TALK ABOUT THE WATER 3

That " A.P.," appearing on innumerable water-gauges
throughout the country, indicates the old normal flood -
level of the Y at Amsterdam (Amsterdamsch peif).

That a great part of Holland (38 per cent, of it, to
be precise) is at or under, or not more than three feet
above, this flood-level.

That the sea, striving to break in (which is a way
the sea has everywhere), is held back by dunes part of
a string of dunes stretching from the Pas de Calais to
Cape Skagen.

That where these natural dikes have broken down,
artificial dikes have been built (of stupendous strength
and at fabulous cost : see all the reference books).

That in Holland (as elsewhere) rivers running higher
than the surrounding meadows are indiked.

That besides these invasions, which threaten most
countries, and on occasion have been hurled against
most, there are inner waters which menace Holland ;
and these meres and pools, and dug-out peat beds, set
the Dutch Waterstaat characteristic and unique problems.

Likewise, and as a consequence, that all Holland, or
nearly, is a polder, trenched and diked against water ;
with deeper impolderings (droogmakeryeri) within it, and
others (indykingen) on its fringes, without the dikes.

That Dutch meadows are mapped out in a network
of slooten those ditches whose whirlings strain the eye
as the train flashes through them. That Dutch towns
are ringed with canals allemachtig ! how they smell.
That Amsterdam is built upon piles, and that even so
the houses rock, as their leaning gables show. That
(so, at least, they say) all this has marvellously in-
fluenced the character of the Dutch ; and as for the
character of Holland does not the reader know his
Andrew Marvell? In a word, have we not all been
informed about it all, a score of times before !



4 HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

Well, I wonder.

It is quite true, for example, that would you build
a house in Amsterdam to-day, the authorities will
compel you to found it upon piles. (If ever you
have trodden the quaking soil of the Pyp t that new,
ugly, bewilderingly artistically-named quarter which has
sprung up on the site of the " little gardens," behind the
Rijks Museum, only the assurance of piles well-driven
will give you peace in your bed there o' nights.) But,
as I only learned the other day, all that old Amsterdam
of which we are thinking was not so built, in spite of
Erasmus' saying; and those quaint, charming gables of
apple-red, which we have in our mind's eye, do not lean
over by accident, but were designed and fashioned as
they are by the artifice of builder and brickmaker, to
throw off the rain, and perhaps also, I have heard it
suggested, in order that their burgher owners might the
more easily hoist their goods to the attic-windows, six
storeys up.

It is possible, again, that the common knowledge of
A.P. does not exhaust all its interest. Dating from
centuries back, in its latest refinement it has been
adopted throughout Europe ; for the Normal Nul is
only the New or Normal Amsterdamsch peil (the
" N.A.P." which is beginning to appear in Dutch
ditches). Yet, as the searcher for smaller significances
notes, Delfland kept its own peil after the Rynland had
adopted the A.P., and an R.P. still regulates the water-
works of Rotterdam. It would be no surprise to learn
that Utrecht or Zeeland has a gauge of its own.

So that the story of water-logged Holland, often
told, will still bear some revision and amplification.
If there was a time when I thought I knew it all,
every day I have spent in the country since has re-
vealed a fresh miracle. I am contemplating the latest



LET US TALK ABOUT THE WATER 5

of them now, as I revise these pages, among rich clay-
lands close by the Avenue of Middelharnis, Hobbema's
" laan," where a map before me of a hundred years ago
indicates only an arm of the sea between the severed
islands of Goeree and Flakkee. Even were the plot no
more complicated than my impatient reader has sketched
it, one must peruse it again and again in the country
itself to realise all its scenes, and know all its characters,
and get a sense of the intensity and prevalence of its
incidents.

Contemplate the locks cut daringly through the pro-
tecting sandhills for the harbour of Ymuiden. Go to
Schoorl, and learn how pines are enticed to compact the
exposed and inconsistent dune. See how its shifting
mass and the receding shore are strengthened in Delf-
land or at Vlieland, by concrete piers ; examine the
" shore heads " on the Zeeland islands, and the piles of
baton, literally " riveted through the centre," of the dike-
face on Schouwen.

Sail up the normalised rivers, and mark how the
outer marches (shall we call them ?), the accretions out-
side the dike, grow or fade away with the windings of
the stream. Or, on a Frisian mere, laying your yacht
over flush with the meadows, realise that that glowing
polder was once like this flood. Or again, leaping the
ditches on the uttermost quaking fringe of Groningen,
hear within how few generations the rye-fields inside the
dikes were reclaimed out of similar mud-pools.

The other day I was walking with the farmer on the
Lek Dike. His talk was of his cheese contract, and the
nice price he was getting for his porkers, and the precise
admixture of Yorkshire and Prussian with the local strain
in his breed of them ; but still more it ran on wells and
doorbraken ("breakings through"), and the coming election
of dike magistrates. He turned a proudful eye upon the



6 HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

fat marches outside the dike, which gave the best feeding
for his cows ; though he smiled his conservative disdain
of the idea that the river so laboriously pumped out of
his meadows might be as carefully pumped into them
again for a season, to fructify them afresh.

Did I see that chimney-stalk on the other side ?

" That mill cost the State a hundred thousand
guilders, and only worked once last year," he tells me.

I quoted him afterwards on the same spot to the
squire, who (and not the farmer) contributes to the cost
of that single annual tune.

" And well worth it," he answered. And he pointed
towards where the beautiful profile of Ameide is deli-
cately outlined on the sky.

" Two winters ago, not a severe winter either, the ice
damned the river there. We had an anxious week.
From here," pointing northwards, " is flat as a flensje
(that is, a pancake) to Amsterdam."

Is it possible that Amsterdam, many miles away,
though on dark nights on the dike I can see its lights
reflected in the sky, is ever really endangered by this
flood, peacefully confined now within summer limits ?
The countryside stories answer me.

Imagine the river flowing between the winter dikes,
and icebound at that level. The wind changes a point
to the south. The ice melts, and melting first of all in
the upper waters comes down in enormous blocks, high
as the barn, sliding one over the other, lump upon lump
mounting to the dike.

What if it pierces it, as ice has pierced dikes often
before? Answer that, and understand what it means
that the river runs high outside the dike, and that all
within it lies flat as a pancake to the capital.

The countryside is out, watching the weak or ex-
posed spots. The worldly possessions, if not the lives of



LET US TALK ABOUT THE WATER 7

all, depend on these withstanding the shock. The dike
count issues his orders as if the polder were in a state of
siege and he its governor. A simple country gentleman,
maybe, plain like any town councillor, he is armed by
the Constitution with powers entrusted to no other pacific
official in the world. He directs his officers to occupy
any position or to impound any property that they think
needful. Threatened dike-slopes are temporarily height-
ened by planks, and the space between them filled up
with whatever comes to hand. Polder-proprietors supply
labourers as in feudal days overlords supplied soldiers.
The dike count can impress any man for the work.
Carts, wagons, brick, manure, wood, anything useful,
can be appropriated without by-your-leave or more than
the understanding that their value will be refunded.
Even houses are demolished to supply stop-gap material.
The imagination likes to stimulate itself with such
sensational aspects of the Waterstaat, but it is rather in
its customary routine that we best realise how it can
affect the daily fortunes and interpenetrate the character
and constitution of the Hollander.

I remember experiencing this conviction most vividly.
We had driven off the meadows on the river-clay,
and on to those of the low fen, interspersed with meres.
Our road ran round a new polder a polder within a
polder, one of those inner waters of which the Haarlem
Mere is the example on the greatest scale. There was
the customary encircling canal, filled with black waters
which newer and more powerful engines were thought
necessary to pump out and over the dike and away into
who knows what reservoir or boezem in the waterschap 's
ramifications. There, inside it, were farms and gardens,
and the early and delicate fruits of an intensive cultiva-
tion, and lusty cattle on sunny meadows all where
within living memory we could have sailed our boat as



8 HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

we can sail it still on the mere just over the polder
dikes.

And then, at the heart of the polder, its owner
entertained us with an account of the exigencies of
droogmakeryen, or " making-dry." At his words we
saw the muddy swamp a quagmire of hopes, too
drained and sweetened in the sun. Horses shod with
planks ploughed the shrinking and quaking soil. Colza
appeared, and again colza ; and then, by and by, there
were meadows. But meanwhile a fortune has composted
the fields, and another flows away with the water which
the mill keeps pumping out. There are checks and
conflictions. The interests involved in polder govern-
ment are as numerous and intricate as its off-waterings.
It takes a lifetime sometimes to compose them. They
become the question of the countryside, and, to settle
it, High-Mightinesses descend into the polder from some
distant official sphere, with suggestions or commands
unwelcomed by the dismayed owner. I hear it all told,
with natural bitterness at the recollection of the diffi-
culties, and elation over the smiling issue. It is a
man's story of his life we have been listening to.

In the highland East you have still no difficulty in
finding water, and in the lowlands you cannot escape it
unless it be in the bathrooms of both. It explains
Dutch landscape, and particularly the strangeness which
is the chief element in its beauty ; and as it affects the
natural appearances of Holland, so it has affected her
art. By obvious and sensational effects, it imposes
itself upon the minds of her people; and it has now
subtly fashioned their character by enabling them to add
to their territory, not from without, but from within their
own borders, setting the national lesson of independence.

For water is at once their enemy and their friend.
It gives (or nearly) as much as it takes. As an



LET US TALK ABOUT THE WATER 9

enemy it would devastate their soil so that the
support of society upon it would be impossible ; as a
friend it sweetens and fattens that soil, to nourish in
comfort almost the thickest population in Europe. It
is the element that has shut the Dutchman in, keeping
him close as an oyster in his polder-shell ; and it is the
element which has borne him out into the world, an
equal among great colonisers. Though he build Dread-
noughts and erect fortresses, he still looks to it for his
defence. It is paradoxical, but true, to say that the
fluid condition of Holland is the explanation of its fixity
in the old ways, and of its continuity also. Its con-
servatism is rooted in its mutability.

The Waterstaat is the key to Dutch temper and
Dutch temperament. It explains the Hollander's
sedentary habit of body and his concentration (rather
than agility) of mind. Water bleaches his complexion
and sets the fashion of his clothes. It determines his
agriculture, and is the architect of his towns. It pro-
vides him with his sports, and scourges him with the
fever which shatters the national nerves. It has taught
him orderliness, and made him a genius at small
mechanical contrivances though I admit they do not
always work. It seems to account for everything about
him, from the shape of his Scheveningen boms, beloved
of Mr. Mesdag, to his attitude towards life derived
(though he would probably deny it) from St. Paul's
Epistle to the Romans.

The stranger in Holland may be wearied by its
eternal flatness, its dikes, its dull, grey sheen, its inter-
minable meadows and canals. But let him come by
some understanding of their significance, and what at
first bores soon begins to interest, and ends by fascinating.
Thus it happens that every student of Holland is given
a map, and that every writer on Holland strives at once



io HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

to convey to his readers his sense of this marvel of
water. And I think that M. Mirbeau has done it best,
in a figure that at first indeed appears singularly in-
appropriate : " On la voit" he says, " on la voit sourdre
sous les nappes de verdure, comme, sous la couche de cendres
qui le recouvre, on voit sourdre la rougeur d'un brasier"
In Holland, water is as intense, as vivid, as fire.



CHAPTER II
DUTCH INTERIORS

WE will now go indoors.
I suppose no society was ever so exhibited in
its entirety as that of Holland by her painters in the
seventeenth century ; and with a very special particularity
they represented the houses of their time. These, in
consequence, we know, in and out, from cellar to top-
most attic. They were high and narrow, with decorated
window cornices and arches ; and most had crow-stepped
gables, facing the street or canal, often surmounted by
vases and statues. Frequently set into these gables, and
displaying a high standard of craftsmanship, were the
arms of the dweller, or some sculptured figure or device
by which the house was popularly known ; so that the
occupant was called, not by his own name, but by that
of his dwelling, as Dutch farmers to-day still are by that
of their farms.

The principal room was the voorhuis (the front-
house), which in many cases was led to directly from the
door on the street. It was the reception-room ; in great
houses very spacious, and decorated with tapestries, arms,
and the trophies of the chase ; and in the burgher-
houses, where it served as a living-room also, it had
tiled or whitened walls, and sand-strewn brick floors.
The spinning and knitting, the household work and the
nursery duties, were all performed here by the citizens,



12 HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

when they did not issue for the purpose upon the open
verandas on the street, or under the luifels (an older
fashion), where often, too, the master of the house had
his workshop.

In these burgher front-houses the rafters as a rule
were left open. The broad, deep mantelpiece was un-
decorated by the ware and lacquer of the larger mansions,
and there were no pots or vases in the open hearth
where, in winter, wood and peat were burned. But
there were almost always pictures on the walls, as
Evelyn and others remarked. The French traveller
Sorbiere spoke of " V excessive curiosite" pour les peintures?
Pictures were regarded as furniture, and were found in
every room, even the attic, and even in the peasants'
cottages, though there no doubt they were as cheap and
nasty as often now they are cheap and pious.

The kitchen and some rooms behind (including
possibly the master's office, or comptoorke, used also by
the lady of the house, careful of her living-room) led off
the narrow hall (gang), which ran from the front-house
to the courtyard (hofje or binnenplaats), that most
characteristic feature of the seventeenth-century Dutch
house. Behind these back rooms (forming the achterhuis)
was the garden (tuin), the formal adjunct of greenery
and open air without which no Dutch dwelling was then
complete.

The stair to the second storey issued from the front-
house or perhaps from the kitchen ; and traps and
ladders from the bedrooms above led aloft duly to the
uppermost attic or zolder. The bedrooms were often
laid with Spanish matting there were no carpets in
those days ; and besides the beds and the ordinary
bedroom furniture, contained the coffers and cupboards
and cabinets in which the housewife kept her treasures
of linen and sometimes ware, all of which, both chests



DUTCH INTERIORS 13

and contents, are not to be shamed by perfunctory
attempts at description.

How far, now that we have stepped within a modern
one, do we find repeated around us this seventeenth-
century house ?

In some cases we are actually within the old shells,
very little changed in their outward appearances, or even
in the general plan of their interiors. All over Holland
still are to be found survivals of the houses, of varying
estate, yet singularly true to a common type, which we
have been recalling from the pictures of the past.

One of them in Leyden, which I select only because
it must have attracted the attention of many strangers,
exemplifies the Dutchman's love of emblem in naming
his house. An old and partially destroyed gable at the
end of the Breestraat has inscribed on it " Who can live
unenvied ? " To that question answer is made by a
crab ; which points the moral that only those who are
back-going can expect to lead the unenvied life. That
the crab should be golden is not uncharacteristic : the
" golden scales," the " golden beaker," the " golden
heart," are met with at every turn by the twentieth as
by the seventeenth or eighteenth century traveller.

The Hollander still displays this na'ivet^ in the ex-
pression of his feelings, though almost always too he
exhibits a curious, deep reserve, thinking more than he
says (though he can be frank enough) as we often
discover by the lightning illumination of a remark
blurted out in passion. See how he expresses his ideal



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