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My vagabond informant seemed to consider this one of the greatest victories of the republic.
I walked about the place in mute wonder and admiration. A dead stillness prevailed around, like that in the deserted streets of Pompeii. No sign of life was to be seen, excepting now and then a hand, and a long pipe, and an occasional puff of smoke, out of the window of some lust-haus' overhanging a miniature canal ; and on approaching a little nearer, the periphery in profile of some robustious burgher.
Among the grand houses pointed out to me, were those of Claes Bakker, and Cornelius Bakker, richly carved and gilded, with flowergardens and clipped shubberies; and that of the Great Ditmus, who, my poor devil cicerone informed me, in a whisper, was worth two millions; all these were mansions shut up from the world, and only kept to be cleaned. After having been conducted from one wonder to another of the village, I was ushered by my guide into the grounds and gardens of Mynheer Broekker, another mighty cheese-manufacturer, worth eighty thousand guilders a year. I had repeatedly been struck with the similarity of all that I had seen in this amphibious little village, to the buildings and landscapes on Chinese platters and tea-pots; but here I found the similarity complete; for I was told that these gardens were modelled upon Van Bramm's description of those of Yuen min Yuen, in China. Here were serpentine walks, with trellised borders; winding canals, with fanciful Chinese bridges; flower beds resembling huge baskets, with the flower of love lies bleeding' falling over to the ground. But mostly had the fancy of Mynheer Broekker been displayed about a stagnant little lake, on which a corpulent little pinnace lay at anchor. On the border was a cottage, within which were a wooden man and woman seated at table, and a wooden dog beneath, all the size of life : on pressing a spring, the woman commenced spinning, and the dog barked furiously. On the lake were wooden swans, painted to the life : some floating, others on the nest among the rushes; while a wooden sportsman, crouched among the bushes, was preparing his gun to take deadly aim. In another part of the garden was a dominie in his clerical robes, with wig, pipe, and cocked hat; and mandarins with nodding heads, amid red lions, green tigers, and blue hares. Last of all, the heathen deities, in wood and plaster, male and female, naked and bare-faced as usual, and seeming to stare with wonder at finding themselves in such strange company.
My shabby French guide, while he pointed out all these mechanical marvels of the garden, was anxious to let me see that he had too polite a taste to be pleased with them. At every new nick-nack he would screw down his mouth, shrug up his shoulders, take a pinch of snuff, and exclaim : «Ma foi, Monsieur, ces Hollandais sont forts pour ces betises la!'
To attempt to gain adinission to any of these stately abodes was out of the question, having no company of soldiers to enforce a solicitation. I was fortunate enough, however, through the aid of my guide, to make my way into the kitchen of the illustrious Ditmus, and question whether the parlor would have proved more worthy of ob
servation. The cook, a little wiry, hook-nosed woman, worn thin by incessant action and friction, was bustling about among her kettles and sauce-pans, with the scullion at her heels, both clattering in wooden shoes, which were as clean and white as the milk-pails; rows of vessels, of brass and copper, regiments of pewter dishes, and portly porringers, gave resplendent evidence of the intensity of their cleanliness; the very trammels and hangers in the fire-place were highly scoured, and the burnished face of the good Saint Nicholas shone forth from the iron plate of the chimney-back.
Among the decorations of the kitchen, was a printed sheet of woodcuts, representing the various holiday customs of Holland, with explanatory rhymes. Here I was delighted to recognize the jollities of NewYear's day; the festivities of Paäs and Pinkster, and all the other merry-makings handed down in my native place from the earliest times of New-Amsterdam, and which had been such bright spots in the year, in my childhood. I eagerly made myself master of this precious document, for a trifling consideration, and bore it off as a memento of the place; though I question if, in so doing, I did not carry off with me the whole current literature of Broek.
I must not omit to mention, that this village is the paradise of cows as well as men: indeed
the cow to be as much an object of worship here, as the bull was among the ancient Egyptians; and well does she merit it, for she is in fact the patroness of the place. The same scrupulous cleanliness, however, which pervades every thing else, is manifested in the treatment of this venerated animal. She is not permitted to perambulate the place, but in winter, when she forsakes the rich pasture, a well-built house is provided for her, well painted, and maintained in the most perfect order. Her stall is of ample dimensions; the floor is scrubbed and polished; her hide is daily curried and brushed, and sponged to her heart's content, and her tail is daintily tucked up to the ceiling, and decorated with a riband!
On my way back through the village, I passed the house of the prediger, or preacher; a very comfortable mansion, which led me to augur well of the state of religion in the village. On inquiry, I was told that for a long time the inhabitants lived in a great state of indifference as to religious matters : it was in vain that their preachers endeavored to arouse their thoughts as to a future state: the joys of heaven, as commonly depicted, were but little to their taste. At length a dominie appeared among them, who struck out in a different vein. He depicted the New Jerusalem as a place all smooth and level; with beautiful dykes, and ditches, and canals; and houses all shining with paint and varnish, and glazed tiles; and where there should never come horse, or ass, or cat, or dog, or any thing that could make noise or dirt; but there should be nothing but rubbing and scrubbing, and washing and painting, and gilding and varnishing, for ever and ever, amen! Since that time, the good housewives of Broek have all turned their faces Zion-ward.
REGENT-STREET has no historic interest, even less than our Chesnutstreet. It has less variety, too, of buildings and pursuits than your Broadway, and bears no comparison with the Boulevards in this respect. Its great beauty consists in its company ; in its animated display of equipages, in its well-dressed and elegant multitudes. In these particulars, it has no rival in the universal history of streets.
I like fashionable streets. In walking in them, one feels, for the time being, a refined antipathy to low life. If shabby in apparel, one sneaks instinctively into some place of meaner resort. The inclination to be decent is, I believe, one of the strongest of the human mind. Pliny informs us that the drowned ladies of his time were always found upon their faces; their strongest feeling being, in the last struggles of life, the becoming. Poets have given their heroes, even those not very delicately brought up, such as Julius Cæsar, the same sentiment. One might reason much, if careless about squandering time, of the advantages to be drawn from these human feelings; say the statesman, of his power, through the means of fine streets and gardens, and other places of public resort, of making the upper classes instru. mental in refining that part which, from neglect or scorn, or from want of observation, is continually falling into slovenly and immoral habits; and of the good effects which the frequency of such places, and a more familiar intercourse of the different orders, might have in lessening pride on the one hand, and on the other the vicious emulation produced by an excessively important and exclusive gentility.
The south and Picadilly end of this street meet you with a curve, having on each side a colonnade and roof over a wide pavement, which is called the Quadrant ; a kind of eddy, that receives the sediment of the street of a rainy day, and affords shelter to those who have none elsewhere.
This Quadrant continues in a tangent due north, and terminates at a mile distant, in Regent's Park. I mounted the gentle ascent, and stood where Oxford-street pours in its multitudes, east and west, mixed with the elegant world from Grosvenor and Berkley squares, and the other fashionable districts. Here the grand scene suddenly explodes. One used only to the laconic simplicity of our Schuylkill, on reaching this spot, stands agape with astonishment; and at the end of an hour you will see him gaping there still. One becomes fatigued, however, with the general prospect, at length, and begins to analyze, and look into the details.
Equipages do not present themselves in a single form, but in a most agreeable and picturesque variety. Now it is a gorgeous and massive chariot — the king's ; cream-colored horses, sturdy and large, two postillions, mounted footmen, and lancers, front and rear, in scarlet livery; now it is a tiny coach, light as Queen Mab's, when she trots over ladies noses in a dream, driven by a woman in the full blaze of English beauty, with ponys a little bigger than Venus' doves; now it is a high-mounted barouche, rich with emblazonry, displaying its group of gallants and noble dames, overlooking the prospect; or a modest box, an earl's arms upon the pannels, and at a foot only from the pavement, to accommodate old age and the gout. Now and then you see a two-wheeled vehicle, burnished with the precious metals, and a single horse, and inside a single gentleman, white-gloved, and the jetty reins reposing gracefully on the left hand and grasped in the right, rattling over the pavement, and going nowhere with infinite speed – passing sometimes over a man's body without his knowing it. This is a tilbury. The little man in sky-blue, silver-laced, wh swings in the rear of it like the tail of a kite, whose shorts, and fairtops, high-buttoned jacket, silver shoulder-knots, and bushy hair curled over his varnished cap, give an air of the pompous, excessively genteel. This is a tygar an individual not yet known in America, and therefore the more deserving of notice. Little he must be, from the nature of his functions; and leanness being inadmissible in a gentleman's household, therefore little and plump. He is suspected of being sometimes of the gentler sex. Doubtful. He is intrusted with his master's private affairs, and minus plaisirs, and is required to be of wonderful secrecy and fidelity. Why called a 'tygar,' I omit to inquire. It is not granted mortals to know all things.
He who sits imminent in front, of graver aspect, and sturdier frame, wearing a broad brim, and coat with the majesty of many folds and
capes, and a wig, making the coach-box dispute important looks with the wool-sack; this august personage is the coachman. Driving gives to the human countenance a cast of gravity. There is the idea of holding the reins, and sense of important functions. One may be charged with a duchess, and a long line of ancestors, or it may be, with the destinies of the three kingdoms; one may drive perhaps the prime minister. Indeed, the dignity of this office has been recognized in all ages. Automedon was one of Homer's notabilities. In England some of the noblest blood seats itself occasionally upon the coach-box. In Jehu's time they made kings of drivers, and often in ours they make drivers of kings; and this incognito brings a general respect; as when the gods travelled in mortal disguises, a poor devil was treated with fat geese and other civilities, through fear it might be Jove, or some other stroller from the skies.
The plump little man astride the leading horse, like a pair of compasses ; his face the full moon, in a powdered wig; his livery silver upon a black, yellow, or blue ground ; the arms of our house' emblazoned upon his left sleeve, and a bouquet at his button-hole, is the postillion. Above all things, if you presume to drive into Regentstreet, let your footman be tall, and perfect in shape, a study for a statuary. Let his coat be of a glaring color, rustling in gold or silver, his vest plush, the sky-blue lining reflecting upon the bright polish of his countenance. His hair must be powdered and frizzled into ringlets, and he must wear a laced hat, and silk hose of the drifted snow. Two of these must swing in your rear, and one more on days of parade ; each holding on great occasions a mace, glittering with the precious metals, obliquely over the tail of your chariot. If a great lady does sometimes take a fancy for her footman, in England, as we read in the romances, it has its apologies. This elegant individual is chosen also in Paris upon the same principles; but there he is plumed, which yet adds to the procerity of his figure ; he is more airy too, and elastic, and steps upon the tail of a coach like • feathered Mercury.' If with these principal figures, footmen, coachmen, and postillions, you imagine a graceful and magnificent chariot, its pannels blazing with crests and arms, and filled with a group of ladies and their cavaliers, and drawn by six horses of fine rounded and tapering forms, and skins of the dove, and burnished with rich trappings, you will have before you one of the prettiest objects ever presented to the human fancy; one which Homer's muse would not have disdained to describe.
Of these footmen there are in London enough to found a colony, about thirty thousand. They have, too, their several ranks, conferred by personal merits, and the dignity of the employers; he who bears the long staff
, announces his master, and delivers messages, being of a more graceful mien and polished phrase. And the pride of place of the footman is quite as great as that of the patron. To see a pair of broad shoulders, fit to do good service at the plough, thrown away in this manner upon the tail of a coach, at first inspires one with contempt for the individual. But after all, what matter whether you step behind a coach, or get into it, if happy in your lot ?
Not the least beautiful images of the picture are the mounted ladies and gentlemen. All the variety of noble steeds for which the English are so noted, are seen here caparisoned richly, and mounted by the