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class in Holland, but what it lacks in authority it makes
up for by the qualities of strangeness and surprise. He
fascinates even when he repels. His is the only name
of a public man that the stranger hears on every mouth.
Even now, when he is eclipsed, only his age makes it
doubtful whether he could again emerge to take up the
leadership; and there are some who believe that he
may yet be called upon to draw the sting from a
coalition which his own hand fashioned, though Mr.
Heemskerk now leads it.

The student of Dutch politics first meets Dr. Kuyper's
name in the debates of the late sixties concerning grants-
in-aid to non-State schools. With the eye of a great
leader he saw the excellence of denominational education
as a rallying-ground for the diverse forces opposed to
the ruling Liberalism, in the Church and the State. He
founded the Standaard (which he still edits in its fortieth
year) as the Antirevolutionnair organ of the Netherlands.
The name had already attached to the earlier Opposition
" the Gospel against the Revolution " was Groen van
Prinsteren's watchword and with the name Dr. Kuyper


adopted the principles also. They were, in a word,
condemnation of the free thought introduced with the
French Revolution, and a return to the ideal of Holland
in her golden age, God the source of sovereign power, so
that in politics as in all things His Word is acknowledged.

To recreate of modern Holland a theocracy was the
programme declared by Dr. Kuyper for the party in
1878. The Reformed Church was not to be again
established, neither was it to be regarded as opposed to
the State, but both were to work together, united yet
independent, for the same end. The education of
children was to lie with their parents, whose duty it is.
The power of the people was not to be considered as a
natural right, for like that of princes and governors it is
held from Providence. The application of these principles
to current politics, while it countered pet theories of the
Liberals, won the favour of the Conservatives through a
claim to historic sanction. The patriarchal ideal of
certain sections of the country was sustained by the
doctrine of the sovereignty of each within his own
sphere, and therefore of the autonomy of the local
governments and of the electoral right residing in the
heads of families. An inclination towards Protection
attracted the agricultural classes, then beginning to feel
the depression in their industry. The programme, in a
word, had many allurements in detail for Dutch men of
various shades of political opinion, and above all it
united religious sentiments, alarmed and shocked by a
great freedom of thought, through its acknowledgment
of the authority of Holy Scripture, and the claim that it
must rule through the consciences of governments.

And here I may note still another element in the
political situation which may not have been without its
influence in strengthening the Clerical forces. There are
more Jews in proportion to the population in Holland


than in any other country in Europe which may be
called self-governing. In it alone are they numerous
enough to count politically in the mass, and their whole
weight is cast in the anti-Clerical scale. There is no
Jewish question in Holland, as in militarist Germany
and in Russia. The Jews, and particularly the poor
Jews, are almost blatantly Orange. But in the minds of
that class especially, which is the stronghold of Anti-
revolutionnair prejudice, Liberalism is often identified with
Jew lawyers " on the make " and Jew traders who are
interested in keeping up the Free Trade system. This
may have inclined many wavering voters towards the
Clerical camp.

The forces thus rallied were cleverly organised as a
political body. It had district associations, Provincial
committees, and a general assembly, somewhat after the
manner of the religious bodies, and with an almost
religious fervour inspiring its activities. There was one
section, aristocratic and Protestant, powerfully led by Mr.
de Savornin Lohman, and carrying on the Conservative
tradition, which had no love for Dr. Kuyper and all his
ways ; but even it placed the conception of God in the
Government of the country in the foreground, and only
added " in a Protestant sense " to qualify the " Christian
State " which was the primary ideal of all. This section
" with the double-barrelled names," as he called it,
Dr. Kuyper treated with a disconsideration that has
since been revenged. His strength lay with the
bourgeoisie, the kleine luyden, the " little people," dumb
classes in a practical oligarchy, to whom he gave spirit
and a voice. That was the inestimable service he
rendered them, and they have repaid it by their faithful-
ness to his powerful personality.

The Roman Catholics, the other party to the
Coalition, had given the Liberals notable support in the


fifties, during the Protestant fever over their emancipa-
tion, and they continued it for a time on the question of
the " neutral " school. But that was from policy, not
from principle. Both policy and principle, on the other
hand, seemed at least to countenance alliance with the
Antirevolutionnairs, fierce as their essential antagonism
was. Whether in winning freedom for their education
or in routing the accursed thing Modernity, or simply
in tasting the fruits of power which is the reward of
parties, there lay in a junction of forces a hope which
must be renounced if they kept apart. Each had
organisation, cohesion, a steady aim, and the quickening
of a spirit that feels its enlargement; and led by
Dr. Schaepman, the Roman Catholics knew something of
the spell of personality, which had worked a miracle
upon their allies. Together they were to have numbers
at the polls, which only the solidarity of their opponents
could resist.

Among the Liberals, on the other hand, there was
no solidarity. Their diverse opinions, the latest parlia-
mentary groupings of which I have already indicated,
might consent to be harmonised on the eve of elections,
in an effort against Clericism and the threat of Protection ;
but essential differences of principles remained which
could not long be composed. There were innumerable
differences also on matters that were not essential.
These at least might have been settled, one way or
another, and some matters of high principle also, over
the issue of one daring advance ; but with characteristic
Dutch caution new ground was taken step by step, each
an occasion for sectional bickerings. The Franchise
Act of 1897, though it doubled the electorate, was still
a compromise, and universal suffrage is still a bone of
contention among the various members of the Left.
And on the new franchise, it was the Clericals who won


at the polls. It was the Antirevolutionnair party, and
not Labour, which showed increased strength.

The Liberal party was doomed to defeat, though
it moved towards it slowly. It went down, indeed,
flying Radical colours, and it is not to be wondered at
that the Liberal ministry (1897-1901) which made
education compulsory, and passed the Dwellings Act,
and the Health Act, and the Workman's Accident law,
brought its followers to the polls more disrupted than

It will now be seen what I mean by saying that the
stream of politics in Holland has burst its dikes and
become lost in a morass. This flying survey of its
rather tiresome wanderings would not have been
warranted merely to interpret that figure by tracing the
degeneracy of Dutch parliamentary parties. These have
long ceased to have any interest or importance in them-
selves for the foreign observer, and, as far as he can see,
for large sections of the natives as well. As often as
not he hears the business of the Binnenhof dismissed
with impatience or contempt. Interest in politics
frequently takes the voters in large numbers to the polls,
but it does not appear to carry them farther. Through
some weakness in its constitution, which removes repre-
sentatives from vital contact with the constituencies, or
the lack of great figures, or a pettifogging handling of
principles, resulting in trivial divisions and the consequent
opportunism of leaders, who nevertheless seem to have
followings only because of an excessive resolute faithful-
ness to some unessential shade of principle, however
it is to be accounted for, the representative system seems
to fail in the respect of the country, and it lacks any
pomp and circumstance to sustain its prestige during
periods of depressed authority.

Yet one can regard the Legislature as a kind of


gramaphone, without inspiration of its own, which at the
same time gives the force of enactment to voices that
speak through it. The tactics and compromises of the
Chamber, often petty and ludicrous, and still more often
futile, are the signals of extremely interesting and
significant stresses in the country outside it.

Whether or not I am right in thinking that Holland
is at this moment on a wave of prosperity, she is at
least on a wave of enterprise : enterprise in business and
enterprise in setting her house in order. New forces
are coming into play in consequence. Agriculture and
industry are investing themselves with a new political
authority ; and it remains to be seen how they will exert
it when the Government, if they escape shipwreck over
their expenditure on defences, introduce their promised
measure of Protection. The question of taxation is
urgent. Between Capital and Labour a battle has still
to be fought, and there are larger questions looming in
the development of the Indies than the playing of
Sunday bands on the Waterloo Plein.

The observer seems to notice signs already that
these practical interests will consolidate moderate
counsels in the country, too long silent in the Binnenhof,
and relieve the political strife of its religious bitterness.
This is the amelioration of the situation to which the
hopeful looks. If it strikes the observer at the same
time that the waters of disillusionment have gone over
certain sections of the nation, that can easily, I think,
be explained. Liberalism, as we have seen, has suffered
a defeat, and Dutch Liberalism was a great intellectual
effort. It has, again, left behind it a legacy of Rationalism,
and Rationalism has proved itself an ungrateful philosophy
in a world constituted like this one we know. Bred
on the somewhat arid doctrines of both, yet having
developed the enlarged sentiment or conscience of their


time, a new generation, or it were better said, the finer
spirits of a new generation, face Clericism and Socialism,
and know not very well what to make of them. The
whole country is a little in amaze before them ; and
touching the attitude of the Protestant part of it there are
two impressions that I shall venture to record. The first
is, that while many have fled Socialism as the devil, and
have sought the deep sea of an alliance with Rome, a
great many others, in all classes, are at the point of
being almost inclined to embrace it. And the second
impression is, that many of the dominant class, for whom
the besetting danger was the pride of knowledge, have
been chastened into the recognition of an undeniable
force behind the incredible banners of the Calvinists.


THE Englishman, and still more the Scot, ought to
walk into Leyden with a great feeling of friendli-
ness. The Rapenburg, the Breestraat, the Lange Brug
to find ourselves in them is like paying a visit to the
village among the hills from which our forebears sprang.
It satisfies a homing sense in us.

For I am supposing that we are travellers with a
little imagination, who have appropriated for ancestors
our countrymen that lived in Leyden in centuries back, a
shining lineage by adoption. Soldiers of fortune, newly
arrived in it from the packet at Brielle or Helvoetsluis,
and already fingering their sword-belts while they listened
for the bugle-call wafted over Rynland from foreign
fields. Migrant pilgrims of faith, who lighted here to
rest in the storm a while before spreading wings for
flight across the Atlantic. Scholars what company of
adventurers will compare with that enrolled in the
" Album Studiosorum Academiae Lugduni Bataviae " :
many hundreds of English-speaking graduates of Leyden,
all young, all ardent, aglow with ambition and hope?
A mile or two away at the Hague, in those centuries,
political exiles of the same kin ate their hearts out in
hopeless longing under smiles and posturings on the
Voorhout ; broken men and disillusioned, most of them,
playing a game a game of deception often which they


played with themselves. But here in Leyden were the
fresh hearts of the same generations, their only intrigue
as yet with knowledge, their spirits soaring, taking a short
breath in this garden of learning by the Old Rhine before
starting forth upon a world they were sure was all at
their feet.

As a Scot I read the Scots names in that quarto, a
thousand of them more or less, with a tightening at the
throat. What a sum of national aspiration they repre-
sent ! and who would be so churlish as to remark how
few are known to the fame which all so confidently
sought !

We do well to establish some such mood before paying
our visit, for the town will scarcely stimulate one in us of
itself. Not that Leyden is dead, like " Bruges la morte."
I choose to think of her, retired among her polders, as
an ancient dame of spirit, who has withdrawn from the
vulgarity of modern traffic. It is true that all do not
interpret her isolation in so flattering a figure. A
gentleman from Cowdenbeath (which he assures me is
a growing place) with whom I chanced to travel from
Amsterdam last summer, confided in me that " Leyden
was a backwater." She had " got left," he said ; and
how shall I dispute his verdict when the natives them-
selves are so eager to confirm it? If you happen to
express in their hearing your love for their city and
pleasure in dwelling in it, they shoot a look at you out
of their eyes as if they suspected a jest ; nor, when they
are assured of your sincerity, do they appear gratified by
this bestowal of your affection. It is not a great com-
pliment to their town, they seem to say, that it wins the
favour of so indiscriminating and eccentric a traveller. I
have met none of them who might not frankly tell you that
when they love her best is when they are away from her.

The Leydeners, in a word, exhibit the truth that we


never know our mercies. There is their single horse-
tram, for example, that jogs you through the town from
the station to Hoogewoerd. It stops on this side of each
bridge to let the picturesque barge glide through. It
gets itself involved in every interesting crowd in the
Nobelstraat, exchanges salutes with the waiter of De
Harmonic, and takes the Breestraat at a pace that allows
you to enjoy at leisure the architectural beauties of the
Gemeentlandshuis and the Stadhuis. It would halt for
you, there is no doubt, if you wished to hear the silver
chimes under the broach-tower itself. How incomparable
is a conveyance such as this ! Yet I have acquaintances
in Leyden who are growing morose at the thought of
Utrecht's new electric cars. And the Utrechters, after
they were whisked round their beautiful Singel, and even
through the noble bosky alley of the Maliebaan, were
only restrained from an intolerable upsettingness by the
gibes of the Hagenaars at the old horse-express, now
departed, which survived for a time to ply a raucous and
tortuous course around their Dom.

Big fleas have bigger fleas, and so from infinitum.
Doubtless, did we live in Leyden, we should feel as
Leydeners do. But it is the pleasure of foreign travel
that you do not require to outstay your illusions ;
and unless it is our misfortune to carry about, like
my Cowdenbeath acquaintance, too exacting a native
standard, we need not suffer on a visit to Leyden the
disenchantment of mere rate-payers.

The charm of Leyden, then, is this great repose.
Who, that dreams away the day in it now, would
imagine that once it was one of the Dutch "towns of
traffic," perhaps the first of them, the Manchester of
Holland! The guide-books, always flattering to our
grosser interests, have invented the story that in the
town's hey-day there were a hundred thousand people


living where now there are but fifty. That fiction has
no warrant in the bills of mortality. It is a proof of
the small importance of mere numbers that the popula-
tion which then made so great a noise in the world was
that of a little country town. But the moralist who
comes to Leyden can pick up many an illustration of the
vanity of human endeavour for his next sermon. Which
of the splendid and dashing figures that shone in the
Rapenburg lives to-day beside its lameters and beggars
in Rembrandt's etchings ! Whose ghosts do we hope to
meet in the wynds and closes? A rollicking painter
who kept a tavern. An ugly Irish medico spending his
last penny upon some bulbs for the uncle in Ireland
whose charity he was abusing. A few weavers, a printer,
a shoemaker or two, poor puritans from Scrooby. What
a mockery of human endeavour for we can preach a
sermon too in all its conscientious blindness, lies in this
reversal of the standards of greatness.

It is the things of the spirit that live. The citizens
of Leyden had an instinct for this truth when Orange
offered to reward them for their endurance in the siege
with a University or exemption from taxation, and, like
children of light, they chose the former. For it is the
Academie that has won fame for Leyden. It is a beacon
set higher than her Burg ; a delectable mountain of these
nether lands. This is the heart through which, for all
these centuries, the blood of adolescence has flowed, and
to-day, too, it is in the Academie that the life of Leyden
throbs ; so that, in the " Vacantie," when cubicula locanda
hangs in the windows, and the portals of Minerva are
silent, the pulse of the town beats low indeed.

It is with our minds on the past that we must visit
Leyden. Here we can " weave illusions incompatible
with the bustle of modern occupancy." Not to risk
shattering them, let us enter the town from the side of


the Hague by tram or by boat. Over this road, by the
same wagon, perhaps, that carried Evelyn ten years
later, runaway horses (if Houbraken may be believed)
brought the young Rembrandt breathless to his parents
with the news of his first sale to the connoisseur in the
Hague. This was the pilgrim's way for centuries; by
jachtschuit or by coach along it passed the procession of our
countrymen which makes so variegated and affecting a
show to our imaginations. It brings us like them to the
Witte Gate, and thus plump into a town that, save for
the ramp of 1807, has changed its aspect little since
the Beggars sailed up to its wall in boats.

Holding straight on, within the old ramparts, we will
turn into the Weddesteeg, where Rembrandt was born.
There is a kind of cellar in the lane, used as a stable or
coach-house ; on the walls can still be seen a few Dutch
tiles, all the trace that remains of the miller's household
except its imperishable appearance in the plates and
canvases of his immortal son.

Was ever so ordinary a family rendered so extra-
ordinary? Herman the miller, dragged unwillingly ft
may be from his malt sacks, and decked out in furs or
corselet to give practice to the 'prentice painter. The
mother is caught over her Bible ; her eyes of inward
contemplation are wells of mystery in that face of wise,
arid, worldly sense. Lysbefh, with the delicate peach-
bloom on her cheek, and a blunt matronliness of feature
and figure, hands the child into the arms of the aged
Simeon. The shoemaker Adriaan, dumb model of the
grief and weariness of the humble, brother flesh and
bone of their great interpreter. Struck in their golden
moments, as on an imperishable medal, these burgher
folk in the Weddesteeg.

But other ghosts await us in the town. We start
them at every turn. A whole pilgrim colony of them


flit past the shadows of Gravenstein towards John
Robinson's house at the Pieter's Kerk, across the Rapen-
burg, into which we have just passed. Here was the
St. Barbara's Cloister, the first University building, and a
little later known as the Princessenhof, because of its
royal occupants. Mary of Medicis and Queen Henrietta
Maria, and her daughter Mary, William ll's wife, all
visited this inn : Mary's son, our William III, spent
three years of his strange austere boyhood here, already
reflecting gravely on the duties of Princes which sat so
lightly on his cousins of Bohemia. They, also, were all
educated in this house; boys and girls streaked like
their mother with genius, an unhappy portion for the
children of kings. If you have read the memoirs of one
of them, Sophia, their restless, reckless spirits will haunt
this corner for you ; and you will see their mother too,
Elizabeth Stuart, receiving with a mocking gravity (if
she be not too bored) the bowing magistrates and poorters
at the inn-gates.

Now we walk down the canal, under the shadowing
limes : where better can Sir Thomas Browne have found
the " leisurable hours " in which to revolve the noble
periods of the " Religio Medici " ? And there, in decayed
relics of the sky-blue shalloon and white allapeen and
the superfine small hat that have shared his adventures
since he bought them in Edinburgh, is Oliver Goldsmith.
He has just come from Madame Diallon's (wherever she
resided), after writing home a description of the " well-
clothed vegetable," the Dutchman of his day, and the
pleasing creature, the object of his appetite, who wears a
large fur cap with a deal of Flanders lace what an eye
he has for finery and puts on two petticoats for every
one of the nine pair of breeches that her lover carried.

As he steps across the Academie forecourt into the
Hortus (whither let us follow him), he is thinking how


the great Monro, whose class he has lately left, had often
entered here ; the physician who was drawing students
from all parts of the world, even from Russia, to
Edinburgh, founding a school of medicine there that
would by and bye rob Leyden of her pre-eminence. In
this Physick Garden the ghosts crowd thickly ; here are
its founder, Dirk Kluit, and Clusius, greatest botanist of
his century, on whose tomb it is wittily written

"Since no more herbs the earth to Clusius yields,
New ones he seeks in the Elysian fields ; "

and Boerhave, and our own Dr. Archibald Pitcairne, in
whose lecture-room in the adjoining Academie the
incomparable one himself had sat ; William Pitcairn,
Brocklesby, Mead, Monro himself, Gregory, Askew, scarce
a physician of note in the eighteenth century but is here.

As we retrace our steps, after quitting this company,
the gate of the Academie is filled with the fine figure of
a man, a demigod, with " shrewd, clever carle " written
boldly on his front of Jove, as Sir Walter wrote it on
his memory. It is the minister of Inveresk to be. He
lodges on the Lange Brug, with one Mademoiselle
Vandertasse, " plump and in good condition," upon whose
lively confidences to the handsome Scot he polishes his
French. What a garrulous and caustic shade it is ! We
must have him take us to the Frenchwoman's house, in
high repute for the best coffee, to be introduced there to
his fellow-lodgers, and discuss with them the news of the
Rebellion, and then round the rooms of the other British
students ; Charles Townshend and Doddeswell among
them, Chancellors of the Exchequer in the making, and
John Wilkes, if he has not betaken himself and his ugly,
notable face to visit Immateriality Baxter in Utrecht.

He is acquainted with half the Dutchmen too, and
can tell which misuse the Dutch student's freedom, and


the houses where the dull lectures are delivered that they
are at liberty to avoid. You will know Leyden better
than a Leydener when he has taken you about the town
and carried you with him for a walk round the Singel.
And here he shall be our cicerone in the Academie
building on whose threshold he has held us with his
gossip, which Scaliger and Lipsius, Boerhave, Albinus,
Gronovius, and the later names of Kuenen and Lorentz

Online LibraryDavid Storrar MeldrumHome life in Holland → online text (page 22 of 31)