BLTC Press Titles

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The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment

Rudolf Steiner

The Haunted Bookshop

Christopher Morely

Shakti and Shakta

John Woodroffe

A family tour through south Holland

by Sir John Barrow


Our fellow-passengers were not far short of a hundred, English, Dutch, Germans, Norwegians, and Americans; the ladies nearly as numerous as the gentlemen. A good substantial dinner was provided at a price reasonable enough; we had delightful weather, the water smooth, every body in good humour; and the navigation among the islands was not only pleasant, but full of interest; the ingenious and laborious works of the industrious Hollanders meeting the eye, in every possible contrivance, to save their lands and habitations from the inroads of the sea.

Among the various people of European nations assembled in the steamer, every person, with the exception of two French ladies, spoke intelligible English. The steward had been a prisoner of war in England, and entered into the British army ; was sent to the Cape of Good Hope, where he was wounded in a skirmish with the Kaffers; and, though young and healthy, had the good fortune to enjoy a pension for life from Chelsea Hospital. He was one of the many thousand foreigners, who, perfectly able to maintain themselves, are mainly supported by the bounty of Great Britain; and it would seem but reasonable, when certain gentlemen in the House of Commons are grudging the pittance of half-pay to officers of the British army, those of the German Legion, many of whom are serving in the armies of their respective states, should be the first to undergo a reduction, more especially when it is considered that ten shillings on the continent is equivalent to twenty in England.

The course pursued from Antwerp is down the Scheldt, in the first instance, as far as Batz; then through the narrow channel close to the edge of the extensive sand, along the eastern side of South Beveland, which is the Verdronkm, or sunken land; the channel of deepest water, which is shallow enough, is here marked off by tall branches of trees, continuing for a long way, and until the fortress of Bergen-op-zoom is passed at a considerable distance to the right. We next enter the long and narrow channel of Tholen; through the Volk Rak into the Flakke" and Holland's Diep. After this the steamer enters another narrow channel, more resembling an artificial canal than an arm of the sea, and it continues nearly of an equal width as far as Dordrecht or Dort, being seldom more than from fifty to sixty yards wide. It has no visible artificial embankments, but both its sides, apparently on a level with the water, are thickly clothed with tall reeds. Yet in this narrow channel were lying at anchor a long range of square-rigged vessels, Dutch, Americans, and Norwegians, at least from two to four hundred tons burthen, but not a single English ship among them; a fact that was noticed with a sort of triumph, as indeed well it might, by a young American officer, who was one of the passengers, and who suffered none of his country ships to be passed without calling the attention of the passengers to the stripes and stars. These vessels were laden chiefly with staves, lumber, tobacco, and other articles of American growth and produce.

Very little population had hitherto been seen along the shores of the islands: but on approaching Dort, the scene began to change; cottages and workshops of various kinds skirted this narrow navigation close to the water's edge; and here and there a neatly painted house was seen planted in the midst of a garden. At some little distance from Dort the uniformity was relieved, and the unvaried scene much enlivened, by the appearance of some fifty or sixty windmills,—some reckoned up near a hundred,—busily whirling round, some employed in grinding corn, others in crushing various kinds of seeds, chiefly rape, for their oil, some in the preparation of snuff, but by far the greater number in sawing wood. The reedy banks of the channel had now given way to little patches of garden ground in front of these mills, the lower part of which were generally very neat inhabited dwellings; their roofs, and also the sides of the mills above the habitable part, were mostly thatched with reeds, in a very neat manner, and so contrived that nothing but the points were visible, which gave the appearance of their being covered with a brown rough coat of sand or pebbles, but at a little distance this covering resembled the skin of a mole.

Now also we had on both sides of this navigable channel, which from Dort to Rotterdam may be considered as the united branches of the Rhine and the Meuse, numerous small establishments of ship and boat builders, small villages, and now and then a gentleman's house and pleasure grounds. The confluence of the two streams at Dort had considerably enlarged the navigable channel, which here takes the name of the Maas, and retains it till it reaches the sea, having first passed Rotterdam, Delfshaven, and the Brille. A little above Rotterdam we observed, among other shipping that were at anchor, one of the most extraordinary, and it will probably turn out one of the most useless, and it may be added, dangerous, vessels that was ever sent upon the ocean. A friend of ours had the curiosity to go on board, and ascertain the particulars of her size and construction. She was a steam-boat, named the Atlas, and intended for Batavia. Her length measured two hundred and fifty feet, breadth thirty-eight feet, and her calculated burthen nine hundred and fifty tons. She had three engines, each of one hundred-horse power; four masts, of which her foremast was so calculated as to carry a fore and aft sail, square top-sail, topgallant-sail, and studding-sails. The topsail-yard was seventy-four feet long; the other three masts were rigged alike, with fore and aft sails, and gaff topsails; her deck was described as rising considerably from the bow and stern towards the centre, which gave her the appearance of being hogged; and this, the engineer said, was purposely done to enable her to bear the weight of the engines without breaking; but he expected they would bring her deck to a level. It would probably not stop there, but rather sink it to an inverted arch, and the ship itself to the bottom of the sea, if any person can be found careless enough of his life to carry her out upon that element. She is wallsided, and appeared to have no bearing on the water. The Dutch, having no name in their own language for steam, but ruik or damp, have borrowed one from us, and called this kind of vessel a Stoom-boat; the Germans have named it a Damf-schiff.

On landing on the Quay of Rotterdam, we found the Hotel des Pays-bas, a large and most excellent house, completely full, which compelled us to take up our abode at the New Bath Hotel, a much inferior one on the same quay. The house was small and indifferently furnished; but the most essential part, the beds, were good, and the linen, both for them and the table, white as snow. This article the traveller will find clean and neat throughout Holland, Prussia, and the Netherlands. And it may here be added, that in no single instance were we disgusted or annoyed, notwithstanding the heat of the nights, with bug, flea, gnat, or musquito, in any part of our route, with the single exception of a few small gnats that had entered the open window at Antwerp. This is the more surprising, especially in Holland, where so much stagnant water prevails.

The landlord affected a taste for pictures, and shewed us one covered with a curtain in the dining room, for which, he told us, an Englishman had offered him ten thousand guilders, about 8301. The subject was St. John in the Wilderness, by Murillo, and he said it was out of the Orleans' collection.

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