+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

may be as good as good can be. Unmistakeably
well-fed, with glossy, shining skins.
Unmistakeably well-dressed in festival
garments. Father o' family (as good a word as
Pater-familias any day)—Father o' family,
toiling on in front, with the stout Family
Bible, shouldered as it were; children,
maids, servitors, Dutchmen and Dutchwomen
crowding on behind, pell-mell. Dutchwomen,
ah! upon that text might be spun
a homily of infinite length. When first I
saw Sweet Peggy (of Dutch life that is),
'twas on a market-day, curiously enough
more correctly speaking, upon a washing,
cleansing, and purifying dayand, to say the
truth, I was not disposed, like the gentleman
in the song, to envy the chicken or other
poultry Dutch Peggy might choose to prepare
for table. My little Dutchwoman, on weekdays,
when she is busy working her pumps,
or scouring her house-steps, or busy with her
herrings, will scarcely tempt the wandering
man to halt by the wayside and look again.
But, take her of a Sunday, when house and
steps are off her mind, when all about her is
snow-white and crimp with starch, and I
will lay an anker of schiedam with any man
that she will not be matched on either side
of the British Straits. My little Dutchwoman
hath a face fair and fat, fleshy, yet,
by no means, inclining to the dewlap; clear,
yet tinted with a marvellous delicacy; fresh,
as though newly come from an English
hayfield, yet without Molly Seagrim's blowzabel
hue, whose cheeks shine coarsely with pippin-like
red. With her neatly-frilled cap and
delicate gold ear-rings, her snowy cape
coming down peak-shaped to the waist, her
white linen gloves reaching up to the elbow,
I declare she did a man's heart good to look
upon, as she tripped along to worship that
Sunday morning.

My old little Dutchwoman is also
unmatched of her kind, and I am ready with
another anker to stand up for her against all
comers. Against the horrible thing that, in
France, sits and shrivels up into old age over
the charcoal chauffe-pied; against the ancient
Irish crone, that is coiled into a terrible
bundle by the cottage-door, drawing life and
oblivion from her short black pipe; against
the blear-eyed, palsied creature, clothed with
infinite respectability in black, that chatters
at you from the almshouse windows of Old
England; against the whole world; I say
again, the claim of the original Dutch hag!
The revolting whiteness of the skin retained
to the very last, shrunken jaws, impending
junction at no remote period of nose and
chin nut-crackerwiseor, more appropriately,
after the curved lines of lobster-claws
go to make up an appalling apparition, such
as one might look for, on a stormy night, on
Pendle Hill, taking We fly by Night exercise
on a wooden steed trained to carry a lady.
Such, as in the fine old days, would have
put to proof her swimming powers in a

mill-race; such, too, as both now and for
ages back, have been looking out upon
travellers and admiring connoisseurs from
acres of canvas in many great picture
collections. Truly curious is it what friends
and familiar faces have I among my old and
my young Dutchwomen. It is but one tide
of recognition, and I am being periodically
inclined to start and uncover respectfully as
at meeting well-known features. That
shrivelled head, all lines and crumples, all
knots and gnarls like an ancient walnut, I
have surely met before now, with a huge
frilled collar about its neck, on some gallery
wall, worked up cunningly by that famous
master Ferdinandus Bol. So, too, in our
British collection hangs a noted Mieris
woman, busy peeling carrots, with a little
child in a skull-cap at her knee, admiring
how the carrots are peeled. Now, I vow and
protest, that round the first corner I have
come upon that Mieris carrot- woman and the
admiring child, hand in hand, and cheapening
pears at a stall. I have other old friends
from the Dulwich Gallery, chiefly among the
robustious women that bring in jugs of
punch to boors of irregular habits. They
present themselves in the most surprising and
unexpected manner, and at all sorts of places
at tavern doors, at street corners, selling
you stale fish, questionable poultry, stewed
pears of pink complexion, and other edibles.

More of my little Dutchwomen live out in
the suburbs, on board barges, or far out in
the country, and come in only of Sundays
and festival days. Over such is therefore
spread a thin varnish of unsophistication,
which makes their presence doubly welcome
to the curious stranger: I am dazzled with
their suburban magnificence; dazzled with
that golden belt running across over the
eyes, like the forehead-band of a horse: with
the huge flowering rosettes, one at each side,
of the same precious material; with the
broad lace lappets hanging so gracefully;
and with the yellow ear-rings of Indian
pattern; all of which pretty things become my
little Dutchwoman amazinglysaving,
perhaps, the forehead-band, which looks a little
savage. With another of my little Dutchwomen
I am less satisfied, she being possessed
of the idea that those great silver
scallop-shellscovering her head up like the
Polytechnic diver's helmetare becoming to her
(which, beyond mistake, they are not, even
though glittering through a thin lace skullcap).
"Unflattering, too, is the little straw
cap, with the droll coal-scuttle twist, which
fits just over the forehead, and is known as a
Zealand bonnet. And why, O! little Teniers
womanyou that have journeyed hither per
treikschuit or canal boat for a day's
pleasuringsay, why persevere in wearing those
spiral volutes over the region of the ear,
suggestive of only one thing in the world
patent appliance for defective hearing? Much
more grateful is the aspect of our little