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the lower grades of society have, relatively to their
position, numbered themselves among the superiorly
educated. There remains a mass, in the bourgeoisie and
the working classes, that does not appear to have moved
an inch out of dull and degrading intellectual and social
conditions. It might indeed be said that Holland is a
highly civilised country with many most uncivilised

If you doubt it, go to a Dutch kermis. I was in
luck last summer. I had seen rustic kermisses before,
but now chanced upon one in a town, on the Thursday
of the octave, the citizen's night. The town was
Deventer (birthplace of Grotius ; where Terburg was
burgomaster), busy, thriving, reputed for culture. I
slept in the square beside the great church of St.
Lebuinus, or at least had ordered a bed there, for to no
soul within a mile of it, one fancies, can sleep have come
that night. The close was full of caravans, booths,
merry-go-rounds, tents, stalls, shooting-galleries, swings,
shows with every monstrosity. Fat women in front of
their fires were ladling out batter into the hollows of the
girdles from which forks deftly tossed off poffertjes. The
folding irons delivered their crisp wafels. Parties of
citizens were dining in the inns. At one a company of
officers had their kermis feast. You could hear their
laughter and the popping of corks through the open
windows, in front of which an Italian was grinding his
barrel-organ. A sad old hag held out a thin brown
claw for their dubbeltjes, which a swarthy, red-cheeked,
orange-mantled wife beside her acknowledged with
laughing kisses blown in to them.

There was music in all the cafe's, where people as
yet sat sedately listening, drinking beer and flip and
black-currant on gin. In a theatre a young Boer from
South Africa was doing wonders with a lasso, but


pinked the finger of a boy who volunteered from the
audience to hold up a mark for his fancy shooting. The
officers' feast was over, and the hostess and her house-
hold, resting from the anxieties of the kitchen, were
watching the crowds from the open windows ; I took a
walk in the town. Even the brink was deserted. Only
the station road had people on it.

When I returned to the close at midnight the theatre
had emptied into the street. The cafes were full to the
door, and men and women were seated on the pavement
in front of them, and out almost to the stalls. Rascally
looking kermis-gasten stalked in and out of the shadows
of the tents. Hideous spangled women stood on the
platforms of the booths, cross-legged under short stiff
skirts, talking with the woman counting her money at
the entrances. The elder folks were beginning to go
off, but the crowd in the street was greater, and taking
more space, dancing and shouting in groups. Whistles
screamed, the trumpets of the merry-go-rounds blared.
Above their sound was the noise of raucous voices, the
shouting of the showmen, the shrill, screaming laughter
of young girls. " Hosse-hosse-hosse ! " they yelled, linking
arms with their lads, and driving through the crowds.
Juliana moet een broertje hebbe ! The refrain of the
Amsterdam feasts was taken up as the kermis song.
At a caravan door a woman, with a white, peaked face,
sat looking out on Trouble, hearing nothing of the

At the back of the houses (under my bedroom
window) flowed the Yssel, with a bridge across into
Gelderland. It was crowded with passengers, mostly
sweethearting couples. On the other side I found a
wood, with a cafe still open. The night was lown and
starry. There were chairs in a garden among the
trees down to the riverside. Groups sat in them round


little tables ; sounds of muffled talk and laughter floating
from them. They got up, others took their place.
Couples entered the garden, and walked round the cafd
to where there were little booths fixed in its dark angles.
The wooden piers of the bridge, in tones as soft as the
voices of lovers, mixed with the shadows in the water.
Across it the houses stood up black against the ruddy
glare of torches in the square that leapt upon the church

From deep among the trees rose the shrieks of a
woman, Moord ! Moord ! The garden emptied, the
nearest couples on the bridge ran over. Figures
emerged from the paths through the tall trees. The
voice of the woman sounded nearer, in a frenzy of abuse
now, and at intervals short sharp growls of a man, " Get
home ! Get home ! " A brother, it turned out, a work-
man by his voice, driving his tipsy sister across the bridge
to the safer side of the Yssel.

The sun rose on the close, still a-glare and raucous.
The whisperings by the bridge continued in the morning
light. Groups on the strand standing laughing and
talking, suddenly seized by a gust of the kermis madness,
leapt, linked arms, and rushed off: "Hosse-hosse-hosse ! "
into the square.

At eight o'clock next morning when I came out after
breakfast, the white-covered Guelders' carts were driving
to the brink, and the farmers' wives in their white-lace
caps and black bodices, with gold neck ornaments the
most elegant of Dutch costumes were setting out their
butter and eggs before the silent shows. But to-night
the boers were to have their kermis.

A boer kermis (and Deventer's too) requires a
broader canvas than mine ; and some of its scenes are
too broad for my canvas. Mr. Querido describes it as
a licentious orgy, and if the stranger does not see all


that his native realistic pen describes, he has no difficulty
in imagining the worst in such a setting. And he asks,
How comes the kermis to flourish still ? Magistrates and
ministers inveighed against it for three centuries in vain.
Its suppression in the cities leads to riots, and the
masses get back their lost kermis in every Juliana or other
feast. Anyone who has spent a night in Amsterdam
en fete knows the delirium, or the paroxysms rather, of
its hilarity. The populace wants it, and often the better
classes tolerate it. Some of them have spoken to me
indignantly of its being put an end to in their village
but to be sure an Antirevolutionnair was the executioner.
My hostess in a country house near Deventer that week
said to me : " Oh yes ! we always allow our maids out
until two o'clock on kermis night." Is it that many in
the upper classes understand how the patient masses
require a safety valve ? Some among themselves exhibit
an abandon on occasion, when free of the repression of
routine. Grave seigneurs will caper with the giddiest
undergraduates at the lustrum feasts. I have heard
stories of the sudden " daftness " of usually orderly
merchant companies. Perhaps the Dutch populace
knows its needs. A native historian has explained their
wild outbreaks of licence in the seventeenth century by
their lives being empty of interests. They are empty
of interests still, and I cannot think of a better reason
for their orgies. One night of the year they will have
to react from its deadly monotony, and de bloemetjes
buiten zetten, as they call " painting the town red."

It is not in school instruction that the masses in
Holland still fall behind, but in self-discipline, and an
intelligent ordering of themselves in decent behaviour
in public. This is evidently recognised in the country
itself. A greater emphasis is beginning to be laid on
the civilising influences of education. I find an illustra-


tion of this in the school organised by the employers of
Enschede, to one of whom I am obliged for showing me
over it One of the conditions of children being taken
on at the cotton mills is that they shall attend this
school for ten hours a week for the first year, and four
for the second. The school dates from long before the
introduction of the compulsory principle, and is carried
on now as a continuation school, for confirming the
knowledge gained at the elementary institutions. Music
is conspicuous in its schedule. The care with which it
is planned is shown by the selection of a headmaster
from the Navigation School at Rotterdam, who had
gained experience there in treating casual and irregular
pupils from the Rhine boats. I cannot speak too
admiringly of the enthusiasm and competence of himself
and his staff in seeking to realise the aim of the direction
to surround these boys and girls with refining influences
during the school hours of their working day. It is with
no reflection, therefore, upon this excellent institution
that I suggest that a general habit of travelling third
class, for example, and a spirit of responsibility engendered
throughout the whole body of society, would have a
more civilising effect upon the masses in Holland than
all her educational institutions, admirable as these are.


r I ^O two countrymen of ours whom I met in Holland
I put this point on the same day : Did they think
it a very religious country ? " Frightfully ! " was the
answer of one. The other considered a moment, and
then said impressively, " Here they do not seem to me to
have any religion at all."

I could not inform myself how they came by these
opinions, which are equally of small weight. Yet I can
imagine either being held by the stranger who had been
two months in the country. Neither would remain the
judgment of anyone who had lived in it twelve, if
sympathy had been joined to understanding. After
twelve months in Holland, indeed, no estimate of her in
any respect can be come by easily. I recall a conversa-
tion with still another countryman of mine, who had
spent many years among the Dutch, and knew them.
It eased my passage among the entanglements of their
ecclesiastical politics. But about religion he had lived
too long among them to be able to express an

I have said that I do not know how the two views I
have quoted were come by, but it is not difficult to guess.
Religion in Holland, like everything else there, has well-
marked frontiers. You find a Frisian among the cruder
Saxons, or a merry Frank from Maestricht neighbouring


hard-headed Groningers, stranger birds, generally with
rather a look of moulting. So you find a Mennonite at the
table of the scorners, or the unco' guid beside very superior
persons, comical or uncomfortable opposites as you care
to take it. But the racial boundaries are not better
delimited than those of Modern and Orthodox, of the
indifferents and the Antirevolutionnair.

Thus the views of the brief visitant are highly coloured
according to the circles that receive him ; he may very
easily never enter or dream of others where they would
be speedily neutralised. It is not difficult to imagine
how the first whom I have cited found himself in house-
holds which and where we are to see later that
observed all religious ordinances, concerned themselves
with Church work, kept the Sabbath strictly, and even
were active at bazaars. He had landed among the
" kirky folk," and imagined that they reflected the
nation. To the second it was represented by his hosts,
within whose doors not even a rumour of these things
entered, or, if it came, was recognised by a jest, or a
growl at a " Clerical Government." Indeed, he indicated
to me the grounds of his opinion. " I have not," he said,
" slept under a Dutch roof from which anybody ever set
out to church."

I think he may have been wrong in his facts. Most
likely, though he did not know it, the cook went to
church, if two or three of the Doleerenden gathered
together there, and the gardener's wife, and possibly the
gardener himself. His hostess also probably went the
Sunday after his departure. And his host, even if he
never entered the church all the rest of the year, was
certainly present on New Year's Eve, before the family
gathered to drink negus round the table. A yearly
attendance at church does not stamp one religious, but
do two attendances, or fifty-and-two ?


Both my witnesses, in a word, are put out of court by
their prejudices. They were both measuring Holland's
religious life by their own home rule of church attend-
ance, and perhaps Sabbath observance. And her religious
life is not to be understanded so.

There is necessary first, if we would understand it,
some knowledge of Dutch ecclesiastical politics. Holland,
since 1579, has been officially Calvinist. The majority
of its people are Calvinists still, at least nominally. So
is the Court, true to the great tradition of the House of
Orange ; and so of course is the class which follows the
Court. There is no anxiety or irritation in Holland over
the Coronation oath. The Dutch know the flash-point
of logic. When they declared all religious creeds free
and equal before the law, thye removed from the con-
stitution the clause enforcing one of them upon the

" But if Queen Wilhelmina," said one of her subjects
to me, with a menacing laugh " if Queen Wilhelmina
were to turn Catholic, I believe she would be put across
the frontier ! "

This was not himself a Calvinist who was speaking,
but I could see that he would not wish the Queen to be
any other than Calvinist. That is in its way tolerance,
even of Sovereigns. It would clearly cause a scandal
did she adhere to any of the Reformed Churches (for
there are several) except the old one, De Nederlandsche
Hervormde Kerk,

This Church of the Court, though not connected with
the State, is still the Church of the nation, and hereafter
I shall refer to it as the National Church, to distinguish
it from the many schisms and " off-cuttings " (gerefor-
meerde kerkeri) which have reformed themselves out of
her. Their name is Legion. When the Dutch emerged
from the troubled period of the French occupation, many


brought with them the borrowed garments of the
Revolution. The National Church was strongly Ration-
alist. It was a National Church, but disestablished ; or
it might be more true to say, ,a Church in process of
being disestablished, for the change was not made by the
stroke of a pen. The Remonstrants, speaking generally,
represented the views of a very large section, but the
Remonstrants represented also an old quarrel, by no
means only religious, and they added comparatively few
to their numbers. The battle between the modern
thought and the older shade of faith was therefore fought
out in the Church itself; and when separations took
place, it was the orthodox who cut themselves off, and
only the extremely orthodox.

Though disestablished, the Church of the Netherlands
yet retained something of the sanction of an establish-
ment. There were strong steadying influences within
itself making for its preservation. An influential middle
and moderate section held it together in spite of
the disintegrating forces of the extremists. It does so
to-day. The battle in the Church is still over a defined
creed. Probably a fourth, it may be even a third, of its
clergymen and laymen are avowed Unitarians. One
would think that for such now, at any rate, if not before,
a home is ready among the Remonstrants, who bind
by no creed, but impose upon their members only the
expression of a wish to assist religious life on the basis of
the Gospel of Jesus Christ, true to its freedom and
forbearance one to another. Yet though many in the
Church sympathise with the Remonstrants, and have
much interest in them, comparatively few have gone over
to their communion. Attachment to the pew is stronger
than the logic of a common creed. The Liberals remain
in the Church, and the greater moderating body in that
Church secures them in it, though not sharing their views.


It is, as I have said, the extremists at the other, the
orthodox end, who still come out

There is no understanding Holland, however, without
a little knowledge of her other religious communions.
Some of them, of course, have a historical as well as an
immediate interest. The Remonstrants, already spoken
of, for example, carry us back to the early 'years of the
seventeenth century. A few months ago they celebrated
the tercentenary of the famous Remonstrance, still in
their possession, the voice of which was certainly the
voice of Oldenbarneveldt, and the hand (it is believed)
that of Uitenbogarird. Condemned by the Synod of
Dort, their leaders exiled or executed, their pastors
deposed, the Remonstrants reached a greater calm after
Frederick Henry came into power, and in it pursued
their persistent and never popular way. Not until
1798, no earlier than the Jews in fact, were they placed
on an equality with other confessions. Theirs is the
Church of the Moderns, the intellectuals, necessarily a
handful (though in recent years an increasing handful),
which in the nature of things never has included the poor.
Alone among the religious communities of Holland,
therefore, they have no great charities.

The first Lutheran congregations in Holland, again,
were formed in the sixteenth century, and early in the
next the body was definitely established in the country.
Naturally, they received much support from Germany,
which until a hundred years ago supplied them with
most of their ministers and educated the remainder.
The two sections of them, which live harmoniously to-
gether, represent the opposite tendencies of religion
throughout Holland : the Evangelical Lutherans stand
for the old faith ; the Re-established Lutherans have
since 1791 shifted ground with the modern movement,
and show the larger increase of adherents, though more


recently the older section have revived their influence
and numbers.

The Baptists or Mennonites, a more particular Dutch
brand, trace back to Menno Simons, the converted
Roman priest who, in 1536, gathered together in the
North of Holland the scattered remnants of the Ana-
baptists. Since then they have counted among their
comparatively few members an unusually large number
of great names. With the oldest lineage of any of the
Dutch religious bodies, they are to-day found still walk-
ing a strongly evangelical way, and though they no
longer hold aloof from the world, they continue to refuse
an oath.

Numerous in Holland, the Jews have found in
Amsterdam a New Jerusalem. The Portuguese ap-
peared the earlier, building their first synagogue in
I 597- They have now head synagogues at Amsterdam
and the Hague, and one ring synagogue. The German
Jews, among whom German has lapsed in favour of
Dutch for over half a century, followed with theirs in

Meanwhile Rome for nearly three centuries had been
patiently waiting. The old Archbishopric of Utrecht had
ceased to be. Roman Catholics, though not persecuted,
were barely tolerated, and all the offices of the State
were closed to them. The union with Belgium bade
them hope, but so little concord was there in that union
that each side was less confirmed in its own principles
than determined to oppose those of the other. The
Constitution of 1848, however, gave Catholics the freedom
and equality enjoyed under it by all religious professions,
and in 1853 the Hierarchy of the sixteenth century was

But there is another Archbishop in Utrecht. Side
by side with the Romans, the old Catholics or, as they


call themselves, " the old Episcopal Clergy of the Nether-
lands " (for they disavow the name of Jansenists), seek
to carry on directly the tradition of the Church in
Holland. Good Catholics, they recognise the supremacy
of the Pope, regularly informing him of the new election
of a bishop, to have it as regularly declared void at
Rome. Opposed to the teaching and practice of the
Jesuits, they profess the Augustinian Doctrines of sin
and grace, but reject the dogmas of the Immaculate
Conception and the Pope's Infallibility. They are only
a few thousands in all. An " Old Catholic " revival in
Germany encouraged them in their faith, and so, more
recently still, have the overtures of sanguine Anglicans
who dream of uniting these Dutch Jansenists and the
Greek Church with themselves.

All the religious bodies that have been mentioned
have equal rights. Adherents of all or of none of them,
and not those of the National Church only, as was the
case to the fall of the Republic, are admitted to the
offices of the State. The State protects and supervises
all Churches in the interest of public order. It follows
Spinoza's doctrine of liberty : the only limit it sets to
freedom in religion is interference with other people's
freedom. Ecclesiastical bodies are insured liberty in
regard to things concerning religion and its practice
within their own folds ; but the orders of their institution
and administration must be communicated to Govern-
ment. Without the Sovereign's consent a foreigner may
not hold office in a Church. Ecclesiastical officials are
not permitted to wear their robes outside church build-
ings or enclosed places, save at those ceremonials, such
as Roman Catholic processions, which were allowed
previously to 1848. That is why the Salvation Army,
much to itsembarrassment,is compelled to hold its open-air
meetings screened. The State carefully seeks to preserve


from offence the feelings of any religious body, and it
has so shrewdly anticipated possible causes of offence
that it controls the tolling of church bells, a matter
out of which actions at law have arisen before now in
other Calvinist countries.

Its foresight, however, was less conspicuous in an-
other matter. In 1798 the possessions of the Roman
Catholic Church, which had passed into the hands of the
Government, were secularised, and the State undertook
to pay the salaries of the clergymen of the establishment
for a certain period, after which the Church was to be
left to herself. Following Louis Napoleon, who recog-
nised the injustice of the Churches being all on an
equality, yet not equal sharers from this source, the
Constitution of 1815 secured the salaries, pensions, and
other incomes from Government to preachers and
teachers, not of the National Church only, but of the
Roman also and of all Christian sects. Save in the case
of certain Churches and congregations which refuse them,
therefore the Baptists, for example, only accept them
when they are too poor to pay their minister, and that is
seldom these payments are still rendered. No provision,
however, was made for future " off-cuttings," and thus
the Christian Reformed Church and the united Reformed
Churches mentioned earlier, and in fact all bodies that
have come into existence after 1815, have no claim upon
State aid, and do not get it should they require it or
desire it.

The Church, like the whole country, was shaken by
the controversy over the restoration of the Roman
Catholic hierarchy in 1853, which was no more than
a logical result of the freedom given to all sects by
the Constitution of 1848. The controversy resulting
from it, and gathering up the discordant elements in
Church and State, was largely political : it gave no


occasion for schism within the Church ; but it had a
large bearing on Church politics, and above all it roused
both Calvinists and Romans to an activity which shows
its effects still.

But the great fight was over Education. The story
of the Dutch Churches here merges into that of Dutch
politics. Protestantism, already rallied to its standard by
the Catholic question in 1853, attacked the policy of the
neutral school, initiated in 1857. Neutrality was the great
plank in the platform of the Liberal party, who dreamed
too sanguinely that it was supported on a basis of reason
and knowledge. They forgot the persistence of the
historical influence of the effects of the war of liberation,
for example, upon the daily lives of the people, manifested
to this hour in their art and architecture, and their
festivals, and how impossible in consequence is the
teaching of Dutch history on " neutral " lines. Circum-
stances favoured the Liberals ; but their triumph created
in opposition a body of Protestant opinion, a body
inspired by a bold and fierce Calvinist spirit, with which
every statesman and political thinker in the country had
failed to reckon. It burns fiercely still.

It is worth our while to note that there was no great
division, like that of Church and Dissent, to mark off
religious from civil politics. So far, at any rate, as a
foreigner can see, the two are inextricably mixed. Nor,
as in some other countries, did any serious difference
within the Church arise out of administration. The only

Online LibraryDavid Storrar MeldrumHome life in Holland → online text (page 19 of 31)