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It was a long time before I could allay the storm, and dulcify the temper of this man, which, considering my situation, required some little forbearance and management of feeling. At length we got on shore, and after much difficulty and perambulation discovered a comfortable hotel in the suburbs; the gates of the city being always shut, and the boom closed at eleven o'clock.
Our hotel lay at the bottom of a most beautiful avenue of trees, running parallel with the river opposite to the ferry. Our landlord was very civil, and all his servants spoke French. In the principal apartment was a print of Napoleon in his coronation robes: I afterwards observed similiar prints in many other houses in the city.
Many of the principal merchants of Rotterdam have countryhouses in these delightful suburbs. I walked along a line of them, and beheld for the first time a specimen of the taste of the Dutch in rural scenery: the gardens, upon a level with the river, and divided from it by a high raised road, appeared to have been all designed by a mathematician; but still their neatness and luxuriance left a pleasing impression on the mind. Upon every gate, or house, a motto indicative of the mind of the owner, or of the character of the place, presented itself, of which the following are specimens:
Vreede is myn Lust Haf
Ziet op u minder
large house that commanded
some little cottages.
Na by Bruten
These inscriptions are seldom used but by opulent tradesmen; ainongst the higher classes they are considered to be a little tinctured with vulgarity, though, as I found, they sometimes indulge in them: the villas of the latter are frequently known by names. corresponding with those which are applied to the country residences of the superior families in England.
In the morning our luggage was inspected by the proper officers, who gave us very little trouble, and were content with a trifling douceur. The entrance to the city, towards the river, through the principal gate, called De Nieuwe Hoofds Poort, a structure infinitely more elegant than another barrier of this city, called De Oude Hoofds Poort, is very handsome.
The immediate transition from the tranquillity of the country to the busy hum of men was very striking: the canals, with their numerous draw-bridges, as we proceeded to our city hotel, the Mareschal de Turenne, were lined with vessels of all sorts and sizes; and notwithstanding the war, every one appeared to be engaged in some active pursuit or another.
Before hostilities began, it was no uncommon circumstance to see between three and four hundred merchant ships, from England alone, lying in these canals and in the Maas; by which a vast commerce is carried on with the greatest facility and economy, from the centre to the extremities of the kingdom; and as they communicate with the Rhine and other large rivers, all the productions of the earth are conveyed at little expence to many parts of the continent, in a period of tranquillity.
The number of beautiful streets adorned, as is the case throughout Holland, with noble rows of trees, is a spectacle at once novel and, beautiful. The trees act as a fan to the houses in hot weather, and their leaves are said to inhale whatever mephitic air may arise from such of the canals as are stagnant, and to breathe it out again with refreshing purity.
In a sick chamber, fresh flowers are now thought salubrious, although, in no very distant time, they were regarded by the faculty as extremely noxious.
The city derives its name from the adjoining river Rotte, which unites with the Merwe, and from the neighbourhood of both to the sea, renders the situation of this town very eligible for trade, commerce, and navigation. The pleasure-boats of some of the merchants, which we saw moored opposite to their houses, appeared to be very clumsy, and constructed only for smoking or napping in: they were broad, high at the head and stern, admitted only of one rower, and had a heavy cabin with moveable glass windows towards the stern.
One of the first appearances which impress a foreigner of his arrival in Holland is that of the houses, which, built of very small bricks, very lofty, and filled with large windows, lean forward as they ascend; to such a rage has this unaccountable passion for aveiding an upright been carried, that I am sure many of them must be two or three yards out of the perpendicular: nothing can be more whimsical than the corner houses of most of the streets. If these houses had not the appearance of being perfectly stable, from the freshness of their outsides, and from their presenting no fissures, a stranger would be induced from apprehension of personal safety, to prefer paddling his way in the very centre of their canals, to walking in the streets. No scene can at first be more novel and interesting than that which Rotterdam presents; masts of ships, enlivened by gay streamers; beautiful stately trees and lofty leaning houses appear mingled together, and at one view he sees before him the characteristic features of the country, the city, and the sea.
THE BOOMPIES....BAYLE....PREROGATIVES OF GENIUS....SPANISH
INSCRIPTIONS....A DUTCH DINNER....DUTCH BEGGARS....A GOOD
BARGAIN....ANECDOTES OF SOME MEMBERS OF THE BATAVIAN
EXECUTIVE BODY....ANECDOTES OF THE PASSION OF THE DUTCH
FOR TRAFFIC....ANECDOTE OF LORD NELSON AND THE DEY OF
TUNIS....HEREDITARY DRESSES....THE EXCHANGE OF ROTTER
DAM....ANECDOTES OF THE ENGLISH THERE....SEVERAL ANEC
DOTES OF THE KING AND QUEEN OF HOLLAND....PUBLIC OPI-,
NION OF THEM....DUTY OF A TOURIST.
ONE of the first places we visited was the Boomquay, or Boompies, which extends along the river, about half a mile from the new to the old head, the two places where the water enters the city, and fills the canals, which are seven in number: this street is very broad and truly magnificent; and the prospect from it, over the river, and the opposite country, highly delightful. Cheyney-walk at Chelsea is a very humble resemblance to it.
Many of the houses are very noble, and some of them are built of free-stone, which not being the produce of the country, must have been brought to the spot at a great expense. In England a rage for expensive building had so possessed a man whom I knew, and who resided very far from the capital, that he had many parcels filled with bricks and stones sent down to his work. inen by the mail coach.
The Boom-quay forms a fine mall for the inhabitants of the city, and is chiefly the residence of the most opulent and elegant families. An English nobleman, Lord North and Gray, had many years since a superb house here, which he became entitled to in right of his wife, a rich Dutch lady.
Upon this quay once resided the celebrated Bayle, the author of the Historical and Critical Dictionary, and professor of philosophy and history at Rotterdam, from which he was removed by the influence of M. Jurieu, who in a violent controversy with him, had illiberally misrepresented his principles, and driven him to great penury. The writings of this extraordinary man are so versatile and so adapted to every one's taste, that he secured readers amongst divines, philosophers, physicians, wits, and libertines in every part of Europe. Saurin, with that antithesis for which he was more known than for the elegance of his compositions, thus describes him: “ Bayle was one of those extraordinary men, whom it is difficult to reconcile with themselves, and whose opposite qualities give us room to doubt whether we ought to consider him as the best, or the worst of men. On the one hand he was a great philosopher, who knew how to distinguish truth from falsehoood, who could at one view perceive all the consequences of a principle, and the chain or series, in which they were linked together; on the other, he was a great sophist, who undertook to confound truth with falsehood, and knew how to deduce false inferences from the hypothesis he advanced. On the one hand, he was a man of learning and of knowledge, who had read all that could be read, and remembered all that could be remembered; on the other, he was ignorant, or affected to be so, of the most common things, in respect of which he proposed such difficulties, as had been answered a thousand times. On the one hand he attacked the most eminent men, opened a large field of labour for them, led them through the most difficult ways, and if he did not get the better of them, at least gave them great trouble, to get the better of him; on the other, he made use of the worst of authors, to whom he was lavish of his praise, frequently disgracing his writings by citing such names as no learned man ever mentioned.” So speaks Saurin of this able man, whose abilities, however, have been honoured with the usual homage; they have been allowed to consecrate the place in which they flourished. No stranger can visit the Boom-quay without being informed that Bayle resided there, and without having the spot where his little mansion stood pointed out to him. It is the noble nature of genius to requite the ingratitude of a thankless country, by shedding upon it unquenchable lustre, and raising it in the rank of nations.