Bolsward, Sneek’s neighbour, is another amphibious town, with a very charming stadhuis in red and white, crowned by an Oriental bell tower completely out of keeping with the modern Frisian who hears its voice. This constant occurrence of Oriental freakishness in the architecture of Dutch towns, in contrast with Dutch occidental four-square simplicity and plainness of character, is an effect to which one never quite grows accustomed.
Bolsward’s church, which is paved with tomb-stones, among them some very rich ones in high relief—too high for the comfort of the desecrating foot—has a fine carved pulpit, some oak stalls of great antiquity and an imposing bell tower.
It is claimed that the Frisians were the first Europeans to smoke pipes. Whether or not that is the case, the Dutch are now the greatest smokers. Recent statistics show that whereas the annual consumption of tobacco by every inhabitant of Great Britain and Ireland is 1.34 lb., and of Germany 3 lb., that of the Dutch is 7 lb. Putting the smoking population at 30 per cent. of the total—allowing thus for women, children and non-smokers—this means that every Dutch smoker consumes about eight ounces of tobacco a week, or a little more than an ounce a day.
I excepted women and children, but that is wrong. The boys smoke too—sometimes pipes, oftenest cigars. At a music hall at The Hague I watched a contest in generosity between two friends in a family party as to which should supply a small boy in sailor suit, evidently the son of the host, with a cigar. Both won.
Fell, writing in 1801, says that the Dutch, although smoke dried, were not then smoking so much as they had done twenty years before. The Dutchmen, he says, “of the lower classes of society, and not a few in the higher walks of life, carry in their pockets the whole apparatus which is necessary for smoking:—a box of enormous size, which frequently contains half a pound of tobacco; a pipe of clay or ivory, according to the fancy or wealth of the possessor; if the latter, instruments to clean it; a pricker to remove obstructions from the tube of the pipe; a cover of brass wire for the bowl, to prevent the ashes or sparks of the tobacco from flying out; and sometimes a tinderbox, or bottle of phosphorus, to procure fire, in case none is at hand.
“The excuse of the Dutch for their lavish attachment to tobacco, in the most offensive form in which it can be exhibited, is, that the smoke of this transatlantic weed preserves them from many disorders to which they are liable from the moisture of the atmosphere of their country, and enables them to bear cold and wet without inconvenience.”
Fell supports this curious theory by relating that when, soaked by a storm, he arrived at an inn at Overschie, the landlord offered him a pipe of tobacco to prevent any bad consequences. Fell, however, having none of his friend Charles Lamb’s affection for the friendly traitress, declined it with asperity.