Imagens das páginas

an equally strong impression on the mind : and besides, a certain share of cockney curiosity and wonder alınost invariably takes possession of every one on a first visit to a foreign country. Holland is par excellence the country of minutiæ, and any one who seeks to describe it, may well be pardoned for entering into details ; yet, nevertheless, I feel that I incur the risk of being submerged in a torrent of infinite trivialities, if I attempt to proceed from street to street, and from house to house. To avoid this catastrophe, I must beg of the reader to ascend with me to the top of the tower of the palace, a point from whence we may command a view of the amphibious city, without the danger of losing ourselves in the labyrinth of canals and quays. But before we look at the picture immediately beneath us, we will take a glance at the country beyond the walls which encircle Amsterdam.

That vast plain of greyish-coloured water which spreads itself before us is the Zuyderzee, whose dark muddy waves roll slowly on till they mingle with the German ocean. The other

expanse of water extending on the west, is called the Ey (Egg), which name it derives from its form, and it separates North from South Holland. Further to the south is the Lake of Haarlem, glistening in the 'sun like a mirror. Around these masses of water immense plains of verdure extend as far as the eye can reach, and in the distance are blended with the blue clouds. On every side are seen, like the masts of vessels in a harbour, groups of towers and steeples, tracing dark perpendicular lines on the horizon. These are Alkmaar, Haarlem, Leyden, Utrecht, and numerous other towns which are discernable in every direction in which the spectator turns his eye. This panorama is not very varied, but it is quite original, and not deficient in grandeur. It even derives a charm from its characteristic monotony. The extensive plains of fresh verdure present an air of calmness and repose, and whilst contemplating them, the mind is imbued with a feeling of pleasing melancholy. Mountain scenery seems to represent agitated life—it creates ideas of conflict and difficulty. Plains, on the contrary, are emblematic of a state of existence, whose course glides smoothly on, unruffled by passion and trouble.

But let us now look down on the city, which, at a bird's eye view, presents a singular character of uniformity. With the exception of iwo great gothic churches, and five or six steeples, remarkable only for their deafening chimes and Spanish architecture, the public buildings of Amsterdam are not distinguishable from private houses. The most remarkable is the palace, on the top of which we are now supposed to be stationed. The square on which this edifice stands, and which it almost entirely fills, is called the Dam, and forms the central point of the city. This palace was in fact the Town Hall in the time of the Republic, and its architecture was originally in the purest gothic style. It was, however, modernized and disfigured for the purpose of being converted into a residence for King Louis Bonaparte. It is still used as a palace, and King William resides in it when he visits Amsterdam. The throne-room is said to be larger than any similar apartment in Europe. The walls are faced with white marble, but the finest ornaments in the room are some Spanish flags, formerly wrested from foreign despotism by the hands of liberty.

We will not descend from our Belvidere without first taking a glance at that immense line of ships which borders the city on the north, and seems like a tutelary forest to protect it against the fury of winds and waves. When the colours are waving at the mast heads, the coup-d'ail is magnificent, and at all times the spectacle presents an imposing manifestation of Dutch industry and activity. The port which forms a line of junction between the Ey and the Zuyderzee, is not less than a league in length, and is always filled with vessels. At one end is the navy dockyard, but of that I shall say nothing, as it is merely the shadow of what it was. The two enormous dykes which intersect the port, are objects worthy of greater attention. The canals communicate with the Zuyderzee, and through it with the north sea. This latter has several times threatened to submerge the whole city of Amsterdam. some parts of which used to be regularly inundated during high tides. Now the enemy is subjugated, and Amsterdam reposes in peace under the safe-guard of her two stone giants. These formidable bulwarks are covered with fresh grass-plots, which serve as promenades. The citizen of Amsterdam is above all things proud of his port. There he feels himself at home. The smell of pitch and tar is to him more grateful than all the pefumes of the east. Tents moored to the shore by long planks of wood, project to a considerable distance over the water, and mingle with the shipping. Here the Hollanders of the old school, those who still boast, as did their ancestors of the seventeenth century, of having more ships than houses, love to spend their leisure hours. Seated under one of these tents, pipe in mouth, a Dutchman is in bis natural element, like Neptune floating over his empire with his trident in his hand.

Holland owes her existence to the spirit of association; it cannot, therefore, be matter of surprise that that spirit should have taken deep root in the people, Amsterdam is distinguished above every city in the world by the number of its liberal and philanthropic institutions, all of which have been founded and are supported by voluntary gifts. To enumerate them would occupy too much space; but it is sufficient to observe that the arts, literature, science, agriculture, and commerce, have each their academies. Every kind of human misery and infirmity is succoured and relieved, not by the official and paid charity which waits till it hears the appeal of misfortune, but by that spontaneous benevolence which seeks for and finds objects deserving relief. But the city of Amsterdam, prosperous as it is in appearance, is like every other great capital, afflicted with the scourge of pauperism. It is calculated that twenty thousand persons subsist by daily alms; but not one of these is seen begging in the streets.

Houses of refuge are open for those who can work, and hospitals for the sick and disabled.

In Holland, the spirit of association pervades as it does in England, every class of the community. Among working people societies are formed, the members of which pay a moderate weekly subscription and thereby ensure to themselves succour in case of sicknesss, and some little provision for their widows in the event of their death.

A volume might be written on the subject of false reputations, good, bad, and indifferent. It rarely happens that a man really is what he is reputed to be. The same remark is applicable to nations. The majority of travellers form hasty judgments and are struck by superficial

June.-vol, LXII, NO. CCXLVI.


appearances. Very few dive below the surface of things. The reputation of nations, like that of individuals, is an inflexible circle, from the boundaries of which they do not easily escape.

For example : Spanish gravity was long, and still is with many an article of faith : yet there are few greater errors in the world. No people are in reality less grave, or more passionately fond of pleasure than the Spaniards. The Dutchman is not, any more than the Spaniard, true to his reputation. He is said to be taciturn; but, on the contrary, he is exceedingly loquacious. He is reputed to be a model of cleanliness; but he exercises that virtue only in his house and not on his person. It is no uncommon thing to see a Dutchman with an unwashed face, and a shirt that he has worn for a fortnight, sitting in a room which has been cleaned and scrubbed till it presents a picture of spotless nicety.

Neither is there any greater degree of truth in all that has been said and written on the phlegmatic temperament of the Dutch people. I happened to be in Amsterdam during the time of the fair, and certainly J might easily have imagined myself in the most extravagantly gay and riotous city in Europe. During the day, the people were engaged in running after puppet-shows and tumblers, and some degree of order was preserved." But at night the scene changed. No sooner bad the clock struck ten, ihan groups of women collected in the streets singing and daucing like Bacchantes, and forcing every passer by to join in their turbulent mirth.

Every quay, every street, and especially the Kulverstraat (the Regent-street of Amsterdam), was occupied by these Eumenides, and their noisy saturnalia was kept up during the whole night. But this mania was not confined to the women ; the men also were infected with it. Groups of sailors might he seen, engaged in riotous dancing; and parties of shepherds, from the adjacent country parts, clothed in sheep's skin, were besieging the taverns, and instead of their usual beverage, milk, were indulging in libations of gin and brandy.

1 observed that the North-Hollanders were in the majority in this noisy merry-making. The women of North-Holland are easily discernable from the rest by their peculiar head-gear. They wear on their heads, bands of silver or gold, with rosettes of the same metal on the temples. Their hair, which is frizzed, entirely covers their foreheads. This singular diadem is called a fers. In addition to these gold and silver ornaments, some wear small straw hats, of a shape by no means becoming, and others wear lace caps. The head-dress of the women of Amsterdam consists of a smali round coif or cap, which fits so closely that the border is the most conspicuous portion of it, and the head of the wearer seems to be set in a frame-work of quilling.

The performances at the theatre did not materially differ from those in the streets. The principal piece was a sort of ballet or pantomime, in which incidents similar to those which had furnished amusement to the populace at the show-booths during the day, were reproduced and caricatured. It was a sort of mixture of the Spanish saynete and the Italian harlequinade.

I must not quit Amsterdam without saying a word or two about the Jews, who form nearly one tenth of the population, They reside in a particular quarter of the city, not because they are forced to do so, but because they prefer living together.

The universal toleration which prevails in Holland, makes no exception with reference to Jews; they enjoy the same rights and privileges as Christian citizens. It is a curious fact, that at the very time when the inquisition exercised the greatest degree of rigour against the children of Israel in Spain and Portugal, those two powers were represented at Amsterdam by two individuals of the proscribed race. The one, Don Manuel de Belmonte, when residing in Spain, received from the Emperor letters of nobility; the other, Don Jerome Nunez da Costa, has transmitted his name to a line of illustrious descendants in Holland.

The Jews of Amsterdam are divided into two tribes : the Germans, who are comparatively poor, and the Portuguese who are very rich. The synagogue of the latter tribe is the largest and most richly endowed in Europe. They exercise various trades and professions, but the natural bent of their inclination seems to lead them here, as well as in other countries, to stock jobbing. Another occupation for which they have a particular predilection, and which they appear to monopolize by a sort of hereditary right, is diamond polishing. In Ainsterdam, they carry on this business in a building allotted to the purpose.

The Jews' quarter in Amsterdam is distinguished from every other part of the city by its want of cleanliness. The countenances of its residents preserve here, perhaps more than elsewhere, the Hebrew character pure and unalloyed. Many of the men keep up the old Jewish costume : the three-cornered hat, the long blue coat, and bushy beard.

Two centuries ago, a boy of delicate frame and sickly constitution, was born in Amsterdam, in the bosom of the Israelite community. The first language he learned was the Hebrew, the first book he read was the Bible, and his first masters were rabbi. This boy was endowed with precocious intelligence, and reason inspired him with doubt. His bold turn of thinking scandalized his tribe, whose chiefs summoned him to appear before them. They insisted on retractations, which he refused to make. The contest was warmly kept up, and the conference ended in an open rupture. Finding himself rejected by the followers of his own faith, he mingled with the Christians, and learned the Greek and Latin languages.

His master had a daughter to whom he became attached, but his affection was not returned; he therefore renounced love, and devoted himself wholly to study. One passion took place of the other. Descartes superseded the mistress. The young philosopher soon had no other society than the writings of the great doubter, and he made applications of the methode which not a little alarmed the rabbis.

Fearing that his defection would shake their credit, they offered him a pension if he would consent to appear again in the synagogue. His answer was an ironical refusal, and an attempt at assassination was the reply of enemies. Having escaped from the blow aimed at his life by a hired murderer, he retired into the country, and earned his subsistence by the labour of his hands, for he was poor.

The sentence of rabbinical excommunication caused him to withdraw to a still greater distance from his native city, and after some time spent in wandering from one asylum to another, he finally fixed his abode at the Hague. There he lived in profound retirement, and in the observance of stoical abstinence. A few pence sufficed to supply his

daily wants, his mind supported his body, and he derived nourishment from the source of his own thoughts. But in spite of his obscure existence, his name became widely known. From his philosophic Thebais he exercised an influence over the intellectual world. He had disciples by whom he was regarded as an oracle, and who sometimes violated his solitude to seek his opinion on intricate metaphysical questions.

This pacific sort of power and dominion was all that his ambition aimed at. He never wished to enter upon the stormy fields of controversy which are swarmed by the common herd of man. Having renounced all worldly enjoyments, he despised riches; his mind soared to lofty regions, whence he looked down with contempt on the false honours of this world. He rejected all pecuniary benefits, refused even the inheritance of a friend, and the offers of princes, who visited him personally in the hope of tempting him to forsake his seclusion ; he preferred to pursue in silent liberty the task he had marked out for himself. As the follower of Descartes, and the precursor of the eighteenth century, he added a strong stone to the edifice of philosophy. This Jew was SPINOSA.

C. N.


Part II.


“ COMB," said the talkative Man of the Pack,
“ Before I put my box on my back,
For this elegant, useful Conductor of Sound,
Come-suppose we call it a pound !

Only a pound! it's only the price
Of hearing a Concert once or twice,

It's only the fee

You might give Mr. C.,
And after all not hear his advice.
But common prudence would bid you stump it;

For, not to enlarge,

It's the regular charge
At a Fancy Fair for a penny trumpet.
Lord ! what's a pound to the blessing of hearing!”
(“A pound's a pound,” said Dame Eleanor Spearing.)
Try it again ! no harm in trying!
A pound's a pound there's no denying;
But think what thousands and thousands of pounds,
We pay for nothing but hearing sounds :
Sounds of Equity, Justice, and Law,
Parliamentary jabber and jaw,
Pious cant, and moral saw,

« AnteriorContinuar »