Dortrecht – France And The Netherlands

Our morning at Dortrecht was very delightful, and it is a thoroughly charming place. Passing under a dark archway in a picturesque building of Charles V., opposite the hotel, we found ourselves at once on the edge of an immense expanse of shimmering river, with long, rich meadows beyond, between which the wide flood breaks into three different branches. Red and white sails flit down them. Here and there rises a line of pollard willows or clipt elms, and now and then a church spire. On the nearest shore an ancient windmill, colored in delicate tints of gray and yellow, surmounts a group of white buildings.

On the left is a broad esplanade of brick, lined with ancient houses, and a canal with a bridge, the long arms of which are ready to open at a touch and give a passage to the great yellow-masted barges, which are already half intercepting the bright red house-fronts ornamented with stone, which belong to some public buildings facing the end of the canal. With what a confusion of merchandise are the boats laden, and how gay is the coloring, between the old weedy posts to which they are moored !

It was from hence that Isabella of France, with Sir John de Hainault and many other faithful knights set on their expedition against Ed-ward II. and the government of the Spencers.

From the busy port, where nevertheless they are dredging, we cross another bridge and find ourselves in a quietude like that of a cathedral close in England. On one side is a wide pool half covered with floating timber, and, in the other half, reflecting like a mirror the houses on the opposite shore, with their bright gardens of lilies and hollyhocks, and trees of mountain ash, which bend their masses of scarlet berries to the still water. Between the houses are glints of blue river and of inevitable windmills on the opposite shore. And all this we observe standing in the shadow of a huge church, the Groote Kerk, with a nave of the fourteenth century, and a choir of the fifteenth and a gigantic brick tower, in which three long Gothic arches, between octagonal tourelles, enclose several tiers of windows. At the top is a great clock, and below the church a grove of elms, through which fitful sunlight falls on the grass and the dead red of the brick pavement (so grateful to feet sore with the sharp stones of other Dutch cities), where groups of fishermen are collecting in their blue shirts and white trousers.

There is little to see inside this or any other church in Holland; travelers will rather seek for the memorials at the Kloveniers Doelen, of the famous Synod of Dort, which was held 1618-19, in the hope of effecting a compromise between the Gomarists, or disciples of Calvin, and the Arminians who followed Zwingli, and who had recently obtained the name of Remonstrants from the “remonstrance” which they had addrest eight years before in defense of their doctrines. The Calvinists held that the greater part of mankind was excluded from grace, which the Arminians denied; but at the Synod of Dort the Calvinists proclaimed themselves as infallible as the Pope, and their resolutions became the law of the Dutch Reformed Church. The Arminians were forthwith outlawed; a hundred ministers who refused to subscribe to the dictates of the Synod were banished; Hugo Grotius and Rombout Hoogerbeets were imprisoned for life at Loevestein; the body of the secretary Ledenberg, was hung; and Van Olden Barneveldt, the friend of William the Silent, was beheaded in his seventy-second year.

Through the street of wine—Wijnstraat—built over stonehouses used for the staple, we went to the museum to see the pictures. There were two schools of Dortrecht. Jacob Geritse Cuyp (1575) ; Albert Cuyp (1605), Ferdinand Bol (1611), Nicolas Maas (1632)., and Schalken (1643) belonged to the former; Arend de Gelder, Arnold Houbraken, Dirk Stoop, and Ary Scheffer are of the latter. Sunshine and glow were the charmteristics of the fire school, grayness and sobriety of the second. But there are few good pictures at Dort now, and some of the best works of Cuyp are to be found in our National Gallery, [London] executed at his native place and portraying the great brick tower of the church in the golden haze of evening, seen across rich pastures, where the cows are lying deep in the meadow grass. The works of Ary Scheffer are now the most interesting pictures in the Dortrecht Gallery. Of the subject, “Christus Consolator,” there are two representations. In the more striking of these the pale Christ is seated among the sick, sorrowful, blind, maimed, and enslaved, who are all stretching their hands to Him. Beneath is the tomb which the artist executed for his mother, Cornelia Scheffer, whose touching figure is represented lying with outstretched hands, in the utmost abandonment of repose.