Friday, July 5, 2024

19th C. Decorous Dutch Etiquette

A coach house is bordered by a formal garden, in the rear of the “Museum van Loon” in Amsterdam. This is where the Van Loon family’s interesting collection of historic carriages is displayed, among other items. The “Museum van Loon” is one of the best and most beautifully preserved of Amsterdam’s historic and picturesque canal houses. It offers visitors a glimpse into the splendor and grand lifestyle of wealthy 17th-century Dutch merchants. It was originally built as a private residence in 1672, and it once was the home of a pupil of Rembrandt’s, painter Ferdinand Bol. In 1884, Hendrik Van Loon, of the Dutch East India company (VOC), purchased the grand home as a wedding gift for his son Willem and his bride. Willem eventually became mayor of Amsterdam.
How People Live in Holland-Home of their Curious Customs


The man is “lord of all” in Holland, and woman almost without the shadow of estimation. He is a sort of a bear, tame and good natured, but still full of the bruin element. His countrywomen are actually afraid ot him, especially when outside of their own door. Not that the men are dangerous, for rarely is it heard that the bears have bitten. Look out in the street, and you will see that the ladies walk in the road and the gentlemen on the sidewalk. Always so, no matter how muddy or dusty the road is, or how many teams are passing. Watch them, and you cannot help but notice that the gentlemen and ladies never speak to each other on the street. That would be a breach of etiquette that society would hardly pardon.


Even when a man meets his wife he is not permitted to ask what he shall bring home for dinner! The gentleman bows first, the same as in France, and a lady may have bows from men whose names she does not even know. And the bow is a marvel! The forehead almost touches the knees in the act, and there is no half-way work about it- no nodding or a sweeping touch of the hat, but an entire removal of the hat to supplement that intense bow. Everybody bows, then take off their hats to one another and profoundly bow. Your friend's coachman or lackey does the same toward you as his master does, and servants are just as polite to each other. A lady is bowed to by all the friends of her father, husband or brother, and your housemaid's friends as well. Every man bows to the house of his lady acquaintances when he passes; bows, smiles and raises his hat, no matter whether the ladies are visible or not. If they are visible they return the bow with an over-polite bend of the whole body.


A lady is never known to pass a club house or a knot of men on the street. If she is obliged to pass up a street where there is a club she does not dare to brave the dreaded windows, but will cross the street until she is past the house, and then cross back again. I have seen a lady of my acquaintance make the round of several streets to avoid a club house, being at the time in a great hurry to reach an apothecary, whose shop was next beyond the club. If a lady, alone, or accompanied by other ladies, must needs enter a confectionery, a library, or other places where men will naturally go, and finds a gentleman or two there, she will retire as precipitately as if she had seen a case of small-pox. The men know this, but unless my lord, the man, has quite finished his business, he will not retire. The lady retreats in a most undignified manner, and the bear finishes his book or chocolate, even though the lady is waiting at the door for him to leave.


But a change comes over the woman at home. No longer is she the afraid body of the street. She has at hand the kettle of hot water, the flat-irons and the other articles of defense that a woman can use if necessary, and no longer does she fear the bears. She is quite “at home.” She does not put herself to any trouble for the sake of her guests. In the morning she never dresses for breakfast, but comes to the table en demi-toilette, her, hair on the crimping pins, a calico gown loosely buttoned over skirts by no means new, with no collar, her shoes unbuttoned, and frequently without-stockings. After breakfast it is quite a while before she gets dressed, and meantime, if she receives callers, she goes into the parlor in her breakfast toilet. Gentlemen never think of coming to a morning meal unless in full dress, or at the least well-dressed and clean, yet they never remonstrate with their untidy wives or daughters.


But the social etiquette is not to be compared to that of the table. If the one is curious the other is extremely droll. It is amusing to see the people eat. The take their plateful as soon as they are helped and cut it up into morsels. Then they lay the knife in front of the plate, and leaning on the table with their left hand, proceed to eat all with the fork. I never saw food eaten otherwise except that some desserts are shoveled with the spoon instead of the fork, two spoons lying with knife and fork at each plate. All this is etiquette. Besides the plate a hand-rest is sometimes placed, for it is necessary that one should half recline on the table! There is no such thing as changing covers, and be the courses two or twenty, they are served on the same plate, and the same knife, fork and spoon are used. The napkins are kept in service until the washerwoman has to meet a bill for soap!


One supper at which I was a guest I shall always remember. At 9 o'clock the hostess left the cardboard, spread the tablecloth and placed the dishes, Then she brought out a spirit lamp, which she lighted with a match from the match-box on the table, and having ground some coffee in a little hand mill, she set the cafetiere over the lamp, where it boiled merrily during the meal. The bread came on in a loaf and in a long basket, and was cut into thick slices, and so passed around. The butter was in a little round earther pot, each one scraping out with his own knife as much as he wanted for each piece of bread.


The cheese came to the table in a similar pot, and was also scraped and eaten spread on the bread over the butter. Near the bread basket, on a round tray, was a partly cut loaf of brown bread, and slices of three or four kinds of cake, including the invariable fruit cake. Preserves were placed on the cloth in a shallow dish, and it was passed around. The milk, freslı from the dairy, was drawn for the coffee from a jug that, in the absence of a side-board by my lady’s side. After the meal a china washbowl was brought out and the dishes washed on the table by the mistress, who used the snowiest of serviettes, and neither spilt a drop nor wet her fingers. While the dishwashing was going on the family and guests remained sitting. – Correspondence Springfield Republican, 1884

 đŸœ️Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

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