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perhaps Mr. Mengelberg conducts. But she is still only
beginning to take her part in public life. She does not
canvass for votes. She does not mob Cabinet Ministers.
There is for her no Regent Street and no Club, and if
she plays Bridge at all, it certainly is not with her own
sex and in the afternoon. Politics, the Church, the
excitements of sport, even the pleasures of shopping, enter
little into her life.

There is not, for example, our widely spread and
organised interest in Missions.

So far as I know, Dutch missionary effort is confined
to the Colonies : only once, I may say, have I encountered
a lay family in Holland who were sympathetic, and
could impart any information whatever about it. There
must be many who can, of course, since more than a
dozen bodies (including the Salvation Army, at one
time despised but now curiously influential) direct
the work, expending on it about .100,000. By
general report, the Roman Catholics are at present
most successful, particularly among the Eurasians,
and even they are active mainly in education, em-
ploying, I am assured, Protestant teachers in their
schools.

It is significant that until recently the fields of
missionary effort have been the outlying possessions.
Officially encouraged nowhere, in Java itself missionaries
were actively opposed. So far as the public indifference to
the religious instruction of the natives can be distinguished
from that towards the Archipelago generally, the explana-
tion of it lies in the policy of the Government, who,



70 HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

champions at home of the " neutral " school, steadily set
their faces against any form of proselytism abroad.
Whether or not the Church acquiesced therein, it certainly
has failed to foster in the nation any religious missionary
zeal.

Except among the Orthodox, the brightly awakened
sense of responsibility for the native to-day has a humani-
tarian, not a religious, cast. Among the civilised the
phrase as used in Holland indicates an amount of school
learning the absence of which leaves nine-tenths and more
of our population among the savages the idea of seeking
to convert a Mohammedan is regarded as ludicrous, and
an impertinence. (Medical missions are another matter.)
Those who do not deride are mostly indifferent. In the
classes we are studying, Missions are a quite negligible
interest.

Not so Philanthropy ; yet the Church by rejecting
woman from all its offices excludes her from official
charities.

There is no Poor Tax in Holland. One does not
wonder that the country has been unwilling to relinquish
its system, the honourable traditions of which are known
to all men, of entrusting the care of the needy and
destitute to ecclesiastical bodies and the private conscience.
The Poor Law, which came into force half a century ago,
declares in its preamble that charity is a moral, not a
civil, duty. Thus it preserved the ancient usage, but it
has been less successful in its other aim of co-ordinat-
ing the threefold efforts of the State, the Churches,
and private benefactors. There is confusion and over-
lapping among them. The attempt to enforce the
registration of all benevolent institutions has failed : it
seems, indeed, to have been abandoned ; and no man or
Minister knows exactly the existing material out of which
a reorganised system must be fashioned.



THE COUNTRY AND THE HOME 71

The Churches perform their charities liberally and
well. They perform them picturesquely also : I am
thinking of the quaint costumes of the orphanages and
the reposeful beauties of the almshouses. But of course
their favours, and indeed their duty, are for their own
poor. I have been amused to find how, with an eye to
future mercies, dissenters among the lower classes (who
include indifferents, socialists, and even anarchists) will
have their children baptized in the church they have
repudiated. The Dutch are a people of long views. It
would also appear that the Church's charity, though
always acceptable, is not very popular, at any rate in the
villages. The Church bodies there are composed of the
neighbours, before whom, accordingly, a family's poverty
stands exposed.

There was a diverting scandal recently in a village
I know. The charity accounts were lodged, as was
customary, for a month with the schoolmaster, for public
inspection. He is a piece of very special Dutch cross-
grain, and used the accounts in the arithmetical exercises
of his scholars. In this way the flitches of bacon and
the contributions towards the rent charitably dispensed
throughout the village became flying rumours. The
sequel is too comical and illuminating to be missed.
The clergyman took courage the Teacher's Bond is not
lightly to be defied to summon the teacher before a
Church council. And there an elder, intervening with
heavy reprimand, had the tables turned upon him by
the offender with charges of excessive attachment to
jenever.

To those who know the capacity of Dutch women,
it is almost incredible that it is scarcely ever enlisted in
this office of charity. Yet I saw it stated on good
authority the other day that of the thousands employed
in Holland in Poor Relief only fifty-two are women, and



72 HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

that thirty-three out of the thirty-eight Church bodies
(let the reader mark the last figure) do not seek their
aid at all.

Women have of recent years entered actively upon
social works. There are sewing classes and mothers'
classes, and into all the efforts for the amelioration of
the condition of the poor, known generally as Toynbee-
work, such institutions as Ons-Huis seek to introduce
science and training. But amateur philanthropy on a
great scale, as with us, is not known. There has never
been a fashion of slumming. The woman of the middle
classes may be a lady of Charity, but she still dispenses
it acceptably at her own gates.

The daughters of good families who take up nursing
as a profession are still generally engaged in the private
hospitals, like the Nursing Home in the Prinsengracht in
Amsterdam. Some of these institutions are large and
notable, and often they are very religious. The nurses
in the Lutheran Diakonessenhuis, for example, are almost
like nuns in their strictness. The training of the nurses
in the public or municipal hospitals generally begins after
they are twenty, and lasts three years, with an examina-
tion at the end of them for the White Cross. The
maternity and neurotic certificates require a further year
of study. Salaries, like most salaries in the country, are
small. Matrons of the first class are paid ^50 a year;
those in the second, 33: staff nurses receive 25;
certificated nurses, 20, i6s. 8d. ; and probationers begin
with 12, i os. The cleaning of the wards is done partly
by the nurses and partly by maids. All the public
hospitals take paying and non-paying patients, the
maximum charge for the former being as a rule 2s. 6d.
a day. It is often much higher in the private homes.
Neurotic patients in the Burger Ziekenhuis at Amsterdam
pay from I is. 8d. to i, and 45. 2d. is the cheapest of



THE COUNTRY AND THE HOME 73

the three classes accepted at the Diakonessenhuis of the
Netherlands Church there.

I have said already that the Dutch lady does not
know the daily distractions of a Regent Street. It is not
part of her domestic routine to replenish the store-room
herself from the town. She is the less tempted forth to
do shopping that, though small shops are innumerable,
such large ones as do exist still lack the art of advertising
the fact. This is even true of provincial capitals, though
Arnhem notably, and perhaps Utrecht, are exceptions.
The Groningen lady tells you that she buys most of her
things in " Holland," which means the Leidschestraat and
the Kalverstraat in the capital, and the Wagenstraat and
the Lange Pooten in the Hague. For most ladies
throughout Holland a day's shopping is a day in
Amsterdam.

There appears here one of the minor anomalies. It
is in this country so little given to display that you can
feel the pulse of the world's prodigality. All its diamonds
are cut in Amsterdam. Within her singel there is a
fair-sized Jewish town depending on the industry.
Holland keeps a few hundred pounds' worth of the stones,
and exports the remainder to the amount of millions. Is
there war in South Africa, or a higher duty, or a crisis
on the bourses in the United States ? Then the
flashiness of the Serphati street fades away, and the
crowds dwindle in the Mille Colonnes and the Cafe
de Kroon.

If we turn next to manly diversions and interests
outside the house, it is difficult to think of any except
work. I shall be reminded of the Dutchman's newly
developed craze for football, but he keeps that for Sunday.
There are tennis and rowing pastimes of his youth. If
he is a Rotterdammer he is possibly a sailor to his
old age. The carnival of the ice he enjoys with his whole



74 HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

household. The pleasures of the chase he seldom knows.
Frequently he regards them with a disapproving humani-
tarian eye, which I suggest he might turn upon the gasping
fish and wriggling eels in the waterless tanks of his
markets. In a word, it is not for sport that he deserts
his hearth if we may speak of hearths in a country of
stoves.

It is by their side that he conducts his politics, which
largely consist of damning the Government, especially if
it is " Clerical." Beside them, too, he does the work of
such of the innumerable bonds, societies, unions, com-
panies, public, private, and semi-public, as he happens to
be a member of. I must not be led, when enforcing the
private life of Holland, to forget her long, honourable
record of public service. Her citizens have always been
found ready to serve the State as well as their communes
voluntarily and well. Mr. Matthew Arnold, in calling
attention to the admirable organisation of school inspec-
tion, observed that it was the more wonderful since some
of the best work done by the inspectors was unpaid,
" following a practice not rare in Holland, where the
public service is esteemed highly honourable, and where
the number of persons able and willing to take part in it
is greater than in any other country." I should not
endorse these last words in respect of Holland to-day, if
purely voluntary service be meant, but if they refer as
well to public work done for a trifling honorarium, they
are as true as ever they were.

Besides municipal work of all kinds common to all
countries, there is in Holland the whole special business
of polder government. Legislation, again, is creating fresh
commissions yearly for Health, Workmen's Compensa-
tion, the Protection of Children, and the like. The Poor
Relief of the Churches, we have seen, occupies thousands ;
and there are the innumerable lay philanthropic societies,



THE COUNTRY AND THE HOME 75

of which the Soci/te de Bien Public and the Socitti de
Bienfaisance are of world-wide fame. Schools of all
kinds, Agricultural, Trade, Infant, Continuation, House-
hold, special branches of the elaborate system of public
instruction, require their boards of supervision. So,
of course, do the diakonessenhuizen and the hospitals.
The Netherlands Tourist Bond may almost be counted
a public institution. There is a commission for the
commutation of the Teinds. 1 Perhaps the passion for
association is best indicated by saying that there are no
fewer than two thousand agricultural bonds and societies
throughout Holland. All this work, partly paid, partly
unpaid, about some of which we are to hear more,
engages lay leisure.

It falls within this chapter to speak of the Dutchman's
love of the country, or at any rate of being in the open
air. Alliteration only accounts for our phrase " house
and home" finding its equivalent in his " huis en hof"
(house and garden) ; but we are reminded for how much
the garden counted in the life of his forefathers, as
depicted in picture and poem : not only the little hofje
behind the house, but also the garden farther off, with
perhaps its summer-house on the water, or even in it,
" like a stone bottle in a cooling vat " (the old klugsken,
the surviving koepel), in the upper room of which to
entertain neighbours was the good old Holland style.
Yet one does not think of these old Dutchmen as being
breathed upon by the rural Pan. They took most kindly
to the town. They were cits. And so, off the land, are
their successors to-day, who have only exchanged the
stoep for the veranda, and have their gardens and their
summer-places, and love to drive or cycle out to the
woods and the dunes, where some uitspanning receives
them in a country that is exceeding restful.

1 The Tithes.



76 HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

It is in the open air of the street and square that
many Dutchmen now, as in olden times, spend their
leisure. No doubt to-day, as then, they are sent forth
from small houses. " I got all my education on the
brink" (the square of Guelders) we read one of them
saying, and so, it appears, it was even with the de Witts.
If the present Dutch boy does not learn much on the
street, it is not because he does not give himself the
opportunity, as many strangers have painfully observed.
They may not have remarked at the same time how few
schools have playgrounds. And no doubt, in a land
where life changes so little, the old boy to-day can say
with a seventeenth -century writer that on the streets
he can see all the games that he used to play there
himself.

None the less, it remains generally true that the men
of the middle classes allow few interests to tempt them
forth from their homes after the day's work. The day's
work, however, takes a long time to do. It is begun
early and is finished late. The Dutch peasant is out in
the fields and gardens with the sun, and after the mid-
day siesta does not leave them until it goes down. The
Dutch workman is at his bench or forge or in his factory
for twelve hours a day, with short intervals, most often
six days in the week. Persons in Holland who keep
moderate hours possibly have the idea that shops never
shut. It was customary until recently for Rotterdam
merchants to go back to their offices after dining ; some
still do so ; and all over the country the lights, I have
noticed, burn late in the bureaus in the town and the
business rooms of private houses.

Holland is still a country of long hours. It enjoys
the compensation of being a country of little strain.
Those able to judge by experience all assure us that
work is not put through at anything like our high speed.



THE COUNTRY AND THE HOME 77

As against long hours of work, most men spend their
daytime leisure, as well as that of the evening, in their
own homes. And whether as the result of this or not,
the interests, the worries and successes, of their workaday
life are shared by the whole household more intimately
than among ourselves. The vague ideas of many British
and American women about what their menkind " do "
in the city is impossible in Holland, and, if it were, would
not be tolerated. Dutch fathers keep an eye on their
sons-in-law. And the Dutch woman takes very good
care to know for herself.

Among my impressions of ten years ago was one
according to which her house was the Dutch woman's
only concern. To make his home comfortable for her
husband was her chief end in life, and so eminently did
she succeed, notwithstanding she often shared his failing
for mistaking the means for the end, that he was never
happy out of it. Her affectionate care cajoled him from
his ambitions. He had no sport, no golf, to steel him
against the insidious softness. Thus woman's triumph
was complete. Without putting a foot in his realm, she
enticed him into hers, and though the law calls the
husband the head of the household, it could not make
any one save the wife the head of the house.

This opinion, that there is an excessive influence of
women in Holland, finds me still not quite repentant,
although extended observation has shown that even in a
society where husbands and wives live and holiday too
invariably in each other's company, masculine wit makes
occasion for release from an over-great domesticity. A
remark of Mrs. Lepel might guide one to the daring
explanation that in Holland, where men 'marry their habits
long before they are forty, they marry their wives at the
same time, and these take good care to top the list.

Among the educated classes the Dutch woman is,



78 HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

with all her shining domestic virtues, so uniformly
soundly instructed, as compared with women in most
other countries, that foreigners have often credited Dutch
women with a greater cleverness than their menkind.
My suggestion is that these foreigners have seldom met
Dutch men outside woman's sphere, where she rules
according to very ancient precept largely through
gastronomy. And it is not under such subjection that
men's wits are at their brightest. Without surmising that,
like Amelia Farrel, the Dutch woman escapes bondage
through having grown out of her looks, one may opine
that she depends as much upon her accomplishments
as upon a display of physical attractions. The most
erroneous figure for her, however, would be that of a
Deborah with a Lapidoth (as they say in Holland) for
a husband. Dutch law and custom countenances no
prophetesses, and if in the upper classes woman's influence,
direct and indirect, is great, it is by the right of her
education and intelligence, and wholly without legal
sanction.

A woman in Holland may be married " with " or
" without community of goods," but only a special
marriage contract dispossesses the husband of his wife's
own belongings. No contract can entrust to her the
handling of property without his knowledge and consent :
she may not, without it, alienate or even pawn goods, or
receive them or a payment for them, or give a discharge.
If she trades on her own account she requires, though
married without community of goods, his assistance
before going to law. She cannot be the executor of the
estate of a deceased person ; or, without her husband's
consent, a guardian or co-guardian, trustee or co-trustee,
or in any case be party to a legal contract, except as
regards work.

Unless the marriage contract determines otherwise,



THE COUNTRY AND THE HOME 79

the fruits and income of the wife's goods belong to the
husband ; he can even, without her consent, and in spite
of her desire to the contrary, take the salary or pension
she has herself earned, except when she has done so
under a contract for work. Although the couple are
married in community of goods, the husband may sell,
alienate, or mortgage these goods without consulting the
wife. Should a wife seek divorce, until it is granted the
disposal of all she has contributed during the marriage,
and even of any properties she may inherit during the
progress of the suit, lies with the husband.

It is only in the event of action being taken under
the new Children's Law that " parental " authority does
not, in reality, reside with the father. He can deprive
the wife of the child she is nursing. He alone determines
where the children shall reside, and controls their bodily
and spiritual education. He can have them brought up
in a religious belief distasteful to the mother. In a word,
as says Mrs. Anna Polak, to whose works I am indebted
for this list of woman's disabilities, the only mother in
Holland who has a legal right in her child is the mother
out of wedlock.

One meets all shades of opinion in the country on
Woman's Suffrage, with the greatest amount of indiffer-
ence at the top and especially at the bottom of the citizen
estate. With the boers, I should say, it is no question
at all. The feminist movement, in its two main lines of
Woman's Work and Woman's Suffrage, is directed, like
all others in Holland, through innumerable societies,
linked and independent. A National Society and a
National Bureau make their special care the finding of
employment of women and their guidance ; while a
National Committee, with several sub-committees, keep
an eye upon the interests of woman's work, especially in
respect of projected legislation. A more general body,



80 HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

the National Woman's Council, linking up, a little loosely,
some thirty unions with thirty thousand members, repre-
sents the whole range of effort for the amelioration of
women's lot, except that of the Roman Catholics and the
Socialists. It is significant that it has declared for
Woman's Suffrage.



CHAPTER VII

THE COUNTRY AND THE HOME (continued)

" "\7OU must not forget, we are a very small country."
X This unresigned yet dispassionate phrase drops
as frequently from Dutch lips as the consciousness of
a tradition peeps out in Dutch bearing. Both reminders
are just. The characteristics of the Dutch are those
of a small people with a great past. The diminutive-
ness of Holland's scale must be set against the weight
of her living traditions.

The country is only twice the size of Yorkshire
(if it is that), and not a third so large as Cuba. The
longest direct line across it can be covered comfortably
in a Civil Servant's day. From Amsterdam you can
reach any of its frontiers in the hours devoted to a
morning's milking and cheese-making. For all, as
we have seen, that its populations are closely packed, they
do not number a sixth of the people of England alone.

So we are told by the guide-books ; but Holland is
a great deal smaller than that. Her whole population
is exceeded in Greater London. The strangers within
London's gates would fill her largest cities. It is not
the inconsiderableness of her area and people that
weighs ; it is the smallness of the scale by which she
is to be measured in every respect her reach, her
content, her opportunities. It is that which matters
to Dutchmen.
6



82 HOME LIFE IN HOLLAND

How much it matters to them is shown, I think, by
the attitude of those who leave her, never to return ; or
of those who, like the Indians, returning, congregate in
towns, which they make cosmopolitan by their efforts to
recover in them the bigger world they have renounced.
Like a " free Fries," who settles amid the comparatively
ampler opportunities of Holland, but carries with him
there a demonstrative love of his own Province (to the
dubious delectation of his new neighbours), unwistful
Dutch exiles of our acquaintance preserve and pro-
claim a passion for the country to which they yet
avow no eagerness to return. Their patriotism is in-
corruptible. I believe that to no Dutchman out of
Holland is there any country to compare with her,
or one so worthy of a man's pride. And yet the
dread of the inquisitorial and antiquated way of life
of a small country overcomes their nostalgia. The
enlarged air of big populations is irresistible, and I am
not sure that small nationalities have not more to fear
from that than from all the armaments of powerful
and jealous neighbours.

It is not easy to estimate the diminishing effect
upon the country's scale of a language which no foreigner
takes the trouble to learn ; or to admire too much the
resolution of the Dutch in counteracting it. Polyglot
for very life, they have compelled for themselves the
gift of tongues, and so enter upon their contests in
the world with unusually bright and serviceable armour,
but think of the effort and strain of fashioning it and
of keeping it polished ! Business houses in Rotterdam,
I am assured on excellent authority, can always at a
day's notice restaff their offices with native clerks who
are competent correspondents in English, French, and
German. They can find as many with Italian and Spanish
also as they require. Russian has been taught in the



THE COUNTRY AND THE HOME 83

Commercial School ever since ten students asked for
it, and as soon as ten applicants for Japanese appear
at this moment there are, I believe, only eight a pro-
fessor of that language will be engaged.

Beside this evidence of organised effort I should
like to place a chance experience of my own. In a
Dutch country inn, a village " pub," where I passed
a night last spring, I fell into talk with a quick, sandy,
mousing little chap, thin and keen. He was a saddler,
he told me, and had a brother in London, a tailor in
Whitechapel, with whom he once spent four weeks,
living apparently in Rowton Houses. I saw that he
invited my further attention through the landlord, and
played a game of billiards with him as an excuse for
a talk ; and he spoke much better in my tongue than
I did in his.

Here was a man who was at work at six in the



Online LibraryDavid Storrar MeldrumHome life in Holland → online text (page 6 of 31)