David Storrar Meldrum.

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bread and groceries from it or De Hoop or De Vol-

Mevrouw goes to her storeroom to give out the day's
requirements, and to make good the gaps in it. Marie
now sets forth shopping, at the confectioner's (banket
bakker)> the poultryman's, the delicatesse-handel, whose
wares (in the German version) Londoners know through
the enterprise of Mr. Appenrodt. There is the fish-
monger also to visit, if Mynheer does not consider that
his duty, for the fishmonger's live-tanks at the door in
the morning held only flounders and eels, no cod or
salmon or oysters.

When Mevrouw by and bye descends into the gar-
den, I follow her there, to pursue, if I may, some in-
quiries into domestic budgets. I fear myself just a little
in disgrace with her still over an incident of the break-
fast table. You have heard earlier of the Dutch linen cup-
board. Be warned by me, and do not touch it flippantly
in talk with your hostess, especially if she be one of the
older school.

Sacred are these snow-white piles, products for that
great occasion how many years ago? of a certain


hand-loom of Brabant, and placed beside others still
older of Almelo and Emden, the strong and close and
fine, saved from fore-mothers' times, for the trousseaux
of sons as well as of daughters.

Well, this morning, deceived by a slight levity dis-
played by her family, and missing the awe in her voice
as she spoke of it, I said

" M tells me it took his aunt two years to do

the round of her linen-cupboard."

" Ho ! " says monsieur, cocking an eye towards her
over his paper, " myn vrouw has been doing nothing
else for the last twenty ! "

Whereupon myn vrouw, who is a little fiery, and
tenacious withal, declared she would invite none to in-
spect her treasures, and so far has not done so.

I have therefore to approach her a little humbly for
the information I desire.

Touching the budgets of which I entice her dis-
course, I may say that there are only two items in them
wherein I see an undoubted saving in Holland as against
ourselves at home. The first of these is education. The
other is personal service, which is cheaper in Holland,
where also people do with less of it, and so avoid one
of the great obstacles to economising when the need of
economising arises. In simple professional households
two maids only are as a rule employed, or three if the
family is large, and entertains.

Here all the children but one are out of the nursery ;
while the others remained in it (a condition we have
seen that is not to be interpreted too literally), a third
maid was kept specially for their care. Now they are
in charge of a " juffrouw." In addition, the husband has
a male servitor, who usually comes in daily, and for part
of the day only, and fulfils all the offices from a valet
to a barrister's clerk. The cook, Mevrouw tells me, is


paid 12, i os. a year; and the housemaid, 9. The
first is a usual wage for a juffrouw also. In recording
these payments, however, it is necessary to point out
that this is a household such as is found in provincial
towns ; the capital towns, like the Hague and like
Amsterdam, have a scale of their own in these matters.
Our country towns, then, and not, of course, London,
must supply the just comparison with Mevrouw's figures.
There is still another condition to be mentioned. The
scale of living in Holland is certainly rising. " Establish-
ments " are on the increase. The cost of service will
therefore increase in many budgets, owing to an en-
hanced number of servants, even if the market-rate for
these does not rise, which as a matter of fact it is now
doing. None the less, in comparison with those paid in
England, all wages are less.

In noting the wages above, no allowance has been
made for presents, stipulated for, or tacitly assumed on
both sides. Thus at the kermis (whenever it falls or
fell), and again at New Year, each domestic servant
receives a percentage of her wages, generally a twentieth.
In this way the cook, who nominally is to receive 10,
can count upon 11. New-Year gifts are extended also
to the lamplighter (who used to present in return a poem
of inordinate length), the watchman, the tradespeople,
and the police. One custom in respect of the servants
may be mentioned. If her cook or her housemaid
abstains from wishing her a happy new year, the mis-
tress is intended to take this formal inattention in lieu
of notice.

These kermis and New- Year gifts, however, do not
exhaust the " tips " upon which the Dutch domestic
servant reckons in engaging herself. The discounts
allowed by tradespeople are recognised perquisites of
the servants : so much so that if on occasion the lady


of the house settles the bill, the discount is handed to
her with the request that it be passed on to the maids.
Very early travellers in Holland are found complaining
of " the guilder tip at dinner," which survives still. It
used to be that when you ate you paid. It may be that
even yet some older-fashioned folk slip a kwartje or
two into the hands of cook or maid on departing from
" coffee-drinking," but it is not customary. But if the
occasion be more formal, with a hot lunch, and always
after dining, even with intimates and relations, the oppor-
tunity must be seized, in homely fashion by a visit to
the kitchen, in formal at the hall-door, of tipping the
guilder. You would not in Holland ride away from a
line of grinning faces if like the Fife laird you merely
tickled for the domestic the palm you were supposed
to be oiling. I cannot imagine the Dutch servant
seeing the joke of having the " loof kittled " only.
Such a proceeding would be a breach of faith,
involving the mistress as well, for which, consequently,
a second occasion would certainly not be granted

For there is no false sentiment in the matter. Gener-
ally those tips are put into a common box, to be shared
in recognised proportions later, sometimes under the
direction of the lady of the house. She, in negotiating
about the engagement of a maid, is expected to intimate
the approximate amount of the perquisites (verval} which
her entertainments bring into the common box, and pos-
sibly acquiesces in the maid's stipulation that it shall be
made up to a stated sum. " Veelverval" ("many tips")
often occurs in advertisements for servants. A wedding
feast in the household is a happy windfall for the
kitchen, as it brings to it a big tip from departing bride
and bridegroom. The florin also passes to your friend's
coachman, when you enjoy a drive with her ; and I may


mention that to men-servants fall also the benefit of the
draag-plaatsen at a funeral.

These bearers' places are still rilled in some districts :
a few weeks ago in the church at Workum I saw a set
of old guild litters which have been in use for the last
one hundred and fifty years. There are, if I remember
rightly, seven of them, decorated with paintings illus-
trative of the estate or occupation of those whom they
are destined to carry to their last retirement: boers,
ironmongers, joiners, great skippers, doctors, the children
of sailors, the children of farmers. Sixteen men act as
bearers, and another sixteen toll the bell, when the body
is borne to the churchyard.

Even where bearers are no longer employed, the
perquisites of their places are distributed. I remember
one friend's coachman receiving fl. 10 in this way.
These funeral pomps are truly, as St. Augustine said,
more consolations to the living than benefits to the

But here is Marie back from the town. The table
is again set. Sideboard and cupboard and their tin
boxes have made delivery afresh of their wares. Myn-
heer appears, clapping impatient hands on the veranda.

It is time for coffee-drinking.



P^HE noonday meal in this house, as I have already
A remarked, is only a second dejeuner, simple like
the first. A hot dish may appear at it, a pasty, on
occasion a bottle of wine. For my special benefit there
has been procured this morning a dish of eels, from which,
unfortunately, I, being Scotch, have a native aversion.
There follow regrets ; even, I fancy, a slight reproach,
and a pity for such lamentable lack of taste. For the
Dutch rather pride themselves as possessing the true
smaak. But coffee is the drink, and bread and butter
and milk and cheese the body of the meal. By one
o'clock it is over.

De Amicis, who wrote so delightfully of Holland,
justly praises the Dutch cheese, " wherein," he says,
" when once you thrust your knife you can never leave
off until you have excavated the whole, while desire still
hovers over the shell." The visitor to Holland will do
well not to let his enthusiasm run to these depths. Our
Dutch hostess here would not be over-well pleased to
see her kebbuck dug into ; and though she would not
utter it, or think it, the old Dutch saying might be at
the back of her mind : "Die myn kaas snydt als een schuit,
die jaag ik myn deur uit : " whoso cuts my cheese like a
boat, him I send out of my house. If De Amicis'



enthusiasm was aroused by recollections of a soft-pressed
Gouda (as my own advises me), he ought to have sliced
it long and very wafery. Taste in cheeses varies with
each household. Here they have hard Gouda, and a still
harder Leyden, green, with caraway seeds, but not so
green as Texel (sheep's milk, I think), into the colour-
ing and flavouring of which I am recommended not to

Willem, the eldest boy, left early, on his cycle (of
course) for the gymnasium in the neighbouring town,
and will not return until the evening. He always
lunches with good friends of the family there. But all
the other children are here, and with them two cousins
who live a mile or two off, and drive (or sleigh, if there
is snow) night and morning to and from the Higher-
burgher school. How the " boterhams " fly, as they
call the fast-disappearing slices of bread and butter !
And yet how the eaters talk ! There is no repression
of youth in Holland, or not, at any rate, in town
families ; and in consequence one misses those cynical
flashes out of his silence with which the public-school
cub at home frequently illumines the luncheon conver-
sation of his elders. The system shows to disadvantage,
of course, when the parents have let control slip from
their hands. And meals are not reposeful. Yet these
eager, chattering coffee-drinkers contribute to the hap-
piest recollections of family life in Holland.

On earlier visits paid to such Dutch households, I
seem to remember, parents were addressed as papa and
mamma by their children, and even by their children-in-
law, but now vader and moeder are in commoner use.
Is the reason to be found in another change I observe
among the lower classes, of discarding vader and moeder
for papa and mamma ? It would be quite characteristic
were it so. I have already explained that Republican


Holland is not democratic, and with my hostess's help
will employ the peaceful half-hour after coffee-drinking
to elaborate this theme.

For all their Republican virtue because of it pos-
sibly the Dutch are punctilious in the matter of titles.
There is neither a Duke (Hertog) nor a Marquess
(Markies) among the ennobled in Holland. The
highest title is that of the Graaf (Count), whose lady
is Gravin. After that come the Baron (with his
Baroness) and the Jonkheer (Baronet), whose lady is
known as the wel Edele Vrouwe, though among the gentle
themselves titles are not in use, and are exacted from
inferiors only. Titles multiply for the reason that the
father's rank passes to all his children, sons and
daughters, at their birth. These are commonly called
Jonker and Freule, but officially they receive their father's,
and so have no courtesy, title.

This Society has the reputation of being as exclusive
as any in Europe, which does not prevent many outside
it besieging its close ring. But that comedy is witnessed
only at the Hague. The other cities present their own,
where the patrician commoners cultivate a pride as
great as the aristocracy, and have the power to support
their pretensions. English residents in the cities have
remarked to me how few of their many acquaintances
they meet at the same houses. And they have told me
also strange stories of the affectation, and perhaps the
reality, in Hague Society of ignorance of the very exist-
ence of its countrymen of world-wide fame a subtle
proof of the obvious fact that a middle class disputes its

The prefix van is not necessarily a sign of nobility ;
though there are, I believe, van Somethings in New
York who have adopted it under the impression that it
is. It denoted neither gentle nor noble blood or birth


in the seventeenth century. Great landowners assumed
it with the name of their estates, but so also did the
lessee of the estate, or of a part of it. The Dutch de,
which means not "of" but "the," simply attached to the
Christian name or patronymic some identifying nickname
or geographical adjective. So did ter and ten, contrac-
tions for " at the " and " by the " ; and so did op (found
in the American Opdyke), which was simply " on." De
Haas, De Meyer, De Ruyter are no more aristocratic
than Paauw (peacock), Vandervoort (of the ford), or
Gansevoort (gooseford). I do not know whether there
are any de Schoornsteenvegers left in the United States.
If so, their common ancestor was doubtless the early
settler we know of on Long Island, Pieter Andriessen de
Schoornsteenveger, Peter Anderson the chimney-sweep.

The three Orders for special services which the
sovereign at present can bestow are the Military Order
of William, the Order of the Netherland Lion, and that
of Orange-Nassau. Before a new Order can be instituted
a special Act must be passed, and the initiation for such
a new Order does not lie with the Chambers. No one
can accept or wear a foreign Order without the per-
mission of the sovereign, which I gather from the year-
books is given freely ; the sovereign and princes (the
princes only with his consent) may accept them, if they
carry with them no obligations.

The titles accompanying University degrees are
stumbling-blocks to the foreigner, or at any rate to the
Briton. The degree of Doctor in Literature and Science
is recognised by the regular use of Dr. ; so is that in the
Law, but a practising barrister is Mr. (Meester: the
French Maitre}. Thus in writing to holders of these
you use the forms : " Den Wei Edelen Zeer Geleerden
Heer Dr. Jan Janssen," and " Den Wei Edelen Zeer
Gestrengen Heer Mr. Jan Janssen." It is necessary to


make a distinction among medical men. They are all
known as Dokter; but all have not defended their thesis,
and those who have not are distinguished on their name-
plates by the title Arts (Physician). A clergyman
receiving his full recognition will be addressed as Wei
Eerwaarde Zeer Geleerde Heer. The terms of address,
in fact, are a labyrinth which one threads with difficulty,
and scarcely with any certainty of complete success. As
the stranger will have few opportunities of addressing
officials officially, it is only necessary here to mention
such forms as " Hoog Wei Edel Gestrenge Heer " and
" Zeer Wei Edel Geboren Heer " (which being inter-
preted literally means " High well-noble-austere Sir " and
" Very well-noble-born Sir ") as showing some of the
high-sounding obstacles to be surmounted, if they are
called upon to do so.

The ordinary correspondence of life is simpler. To
his intimates plain Jan Janssen is Waarde Janssen, and
signs himself probably " ta.t." (Tout a toi) J. J. ; to his
acquaintances, not quite his equal in age, generally
Beste Mynheer Janssen ; to the rest of the world, Wei
Eldele Heer, or Waarde Heer. Women friends give
each other their Christian names : " Lieve Marie " or
" Beste Marie." Married women, good acquaintances,
may write " Lieve Mevrouw " or " Beste Mevrouw," and
sign themselves Uw. toegenegene, scarcely liefhebbende:
custom tends rather more than less nowadays to reserve.
" Geachte Mevrouw " (" Esteemed Madam ") is a more
formal address of respect.

In society, familiars use the "thee" and " thou " ;
there is no hard-and-fast rule, but je and jou are usual
among friends of both sexes. Persons who are older, or
not intimates, or to whom it is desired to show special
respect, are addressed with U. In unflattering Friesland,
I understand, children have always used the je to their


parents, and this habit appears to be creeping in, with
the parents' encouragement, in other provinces. Servants,
themselves addressed with/*?, of course use towards their
masters and mistresses the more formal second person

In an older time the domestic servant (when not
called by her Christian name) was meisje (girl) or vryster
(sweetheart). Now she is juffrouw (miss), which suggests
an interesting point. The three titles for a married
woman are mevrouw, juffrouw, and vrouw. There is
even a fourth, vrouw with an 2, vrouwe. The distinction
is subtle. A lady is mevrouw (if she is not vrouwe}.
Between her and the vromu, somewhere, comes the
indefinable juffrouw. Such at one time was the wife of
the clergyman -juffrouw pastoorscke, as she was called,
in the days, no doubt, when it became her to wear the
kornet. The unmarried noblewoman the daughter of
a baron or ^jonkheer is, we have seen, a freule ; the un-
married lady-commoner is strictly juffrouw. But now that
the maid-servant is also juffrouw , the young and sensitive
daughter of the house, though a commoner, likes to be
addressed by tradesmen, and sometimes is by her equals,
as freule ; this is a country where a man, as likely as not,
would refuse a title, claiming that his patronymic which
had been held in a plain respect for a generation or two
required no adornment. But these contrasts in character
and conduct jostle one another in Holland continually.

There are, then, titles of ennoblement, and those who
claim them are " well-born," when they are addressed
Wei Edel Geboren. Outside the gentle birth there are
many titles, distinctly defined, punctiliously used, based on
a claim that can be defended. And there are some in
use for which there is no warrant. There is not, however,
so far as I know, anything of the vague nature of our
Esquire, or of our Mr. Nor is there any condition, such


as exists with us, where by some social standard a man
is addressed as Esquire, and not as Mr., while his wife
remains only Mrs. The wife of the " high-learned " and
the " strongly learned " Smit is Mevrouw Smit ; but then
the wife of Smit the tailor is (as we have seen) merely
Vrouw Smit.

Family names are not used as Christian names :
nobody is called Beaufort Smit. So far as I know the
Calvinists of Holland did not, like the Puritans, bestow
outrageous Scriptural names upon their children. There
are Sybillas, Theodoras, and of course Saras. But I
never heard of a Spring-voor-Glorie-Jans.

A society with the traditions of the Dutch has
naturally retained the plentiful use of nicknames. A
soft man is known as a " Jan-salie " (salie is sage), and
a man who interferes with household affairs a " Jan-hen,"
which notably explains itself. There is a cake called
janhagel, a brown, flat, blistered cake, very hard, eaten as
a kind of biscuit, and janhagel (for some reason I cannot
fathom) is a name for the riff-raff. The goody-goody hero
of juvenile stories is generally called Joris again I can-
not say why. A clownish fellow (in a funny sense) is
Hans Worst. Other Jans are " Jan Vlegel " (John Flail,
a boy always up to tricks), " Jan Sul " (clearly a silly),
" Jan Rap " (one of the unwashed), " Jan Contrarie," and
" Jan Sekuur," which require no explanation ; with
others, very pithy, which are better not explained. The
Dutch " Johnnie," the " Jan," is not exactly our rather
dandified fellow-of-the-town, who is better represented
by the Dutch " Piet " : " the Jan," at any rate, is a like-
able, clever " Johnnie." The grosser, boastful type is
" een Bram " (Abraham) ; the wooden fellow " een
Klaas " (Nicolas) ; the brainless fellow " een Stoffel "
(Christoffel). A "Lys" (Lisbeth) may be a helpless
person of either sex ; and a " Tryn " is generally used


with a not particularly complimentary adjective " as a
silly Tryn." A " Frans " is generally frolicsome ; an
" Aagje " is nieuwsgierig (inquisitive), like the notorious
Aagje of Haarlem.

But now Mevrouw must leave me. Since in the
larger towns some old-fashioned households still dine at
half- past five or even at five, afternoon calls begin early.
By three, seated on her sofa in the voorkamer t she will
be surrounded by her friends. She is too old-fashioned
for the custom of a day-at-home. Hospitality seems to
necessitate refreshment. It used to be the glass of port
or madeira, but these have mostly disappeared. The
fragrant custom of afternoon tea has charmed even
Dutch conservatism. Marie, who has gone into the
town with some companions, will drink it at the tea-
salon, instead of visiting the confectioner's to eat tarts,
the refection of an earlier day.

Mynheer went off after luncheon to do business in the
neighbouring big town, and I am to meet him later for a
barrel at his club there. There is an hour still free for
wandering in the street, most exciting of Dutch diver-

The town crier is preluding an announcement, about
baked eels or stewed, or something, by beating on a
bright copper plate. He is standing opposite the
druggist's, with its sign of the gaping man whose tongue
lolls in his red mouth. Farther down the street is
another crier, a figure black from toe to crown : shoes,
buckles, stockings, knee-breeches, swallow-tail, and peaked
cap, from which hangs a long black scarf gathered up
over the arm. This is the aanspreker. His business is
to deliver the cards, which announce a decease, at the
addresses on his list. Sometimes he is given no cards,
but only a form of notice, which he recites at the door.
" Mynheer and Mevrouw give intimation of the death


of etc. etc.," I heard him the other day in a village shop,
as if he were summoning to a hay-roup. And indeed
death and auctions seem to be always advertising them-
selves in Dutch streets, the one by its trappings of woe,
and the others by their terrible hubbub.

The grim chariots that bear the Dutch to the grave
are driven by coachmen who in some places still wear a
huilebalk (which is to say, a blubberer), a black hat,
large as a hearse wheel, which they keep from blowing
away by a stout black cord in their teeth. Under this
doleful canopy they set a pace like a Dopper voorzangers,
and so the processions move through the streets leaving
trails of depression behind them.

A Dutch auction is not the simple affair it looks in
this town fish-market here, where hunkered wives arrest
the auctioneer's rapid descent in the scale of cents :
veertien, dertien, twaalf, elf, tien, neg Pop ! and the
flounders are theirs. It is a little more complicated than
that. A house, we will say, is put up. Rising bids are
made, and there is a premium (or ploK] for the highest
figure. This is taken by a dealer (only dealers are
recognised, really, and they settle prices among them-
selves) who has brought the price of the house (we will
suppose) to fl. 5000. At the next stage the auctioneer
starts with a margin above 5000 at fl. 8000, say, and
the house is knocked down at fl. 6000. But if no bid is
received above fl. 5000, the dealer must take it who ran
up that price.

The system works in favour of the sale. The
premium tempts up the price. Sometimes, of course, the
bidder is landed with a thing which he didn't wish, and
only bade for because of the plok.

Here is a case I heard of. A man commissioned
one of the dealers, a makelaar, to secure a house for
him. He was to make sure of getting it. The price


was run up to fl. 4000. The auctioneer then began at
fl. 6000, and the inakelaar got the house at fl. 4 1 5 o.
He went to the purchaser and told him the house was
his, and the cheap price paid for it. " All right," said the
other, " but you'll never get a commission from me
again. You ought to have bid at the highest figure,

Online LibraryDavid Storrar MeldrumHome life in Holland → online text (page 9 of 31)