Ireland has an ingenious theory to account for the addiction of the Dutch to tobacco. It is, he says, the succedaneum to purify the unwholesome exhalations of the canals. “A Dutchman’s taciturnity forbids his complaining; so that all his waking hours are silently employed in casting forth the filthy puff of the weed, to dispel the more filthy stench of the canal.”
Ireland’s view was probably an invention; but this I know, that the Dutch cigar and the Dutch atmosphere are singularly well adapted to each other. I brought home a box of a brand which was agreeable in Holland, and they were unendurable in the sweet air of Kent.
The cigar is the national medium for consuming tobacco, cigarettes being practically unknown, and pipes rare in the streets. My experience of the Dutch cigar is that it is a very harmless luxury and a very persuasive one. After a little while it becomes second nature to drop into a tobacconist’s and slip a dozen cigars into one’s pocket, at a cost of a few pence; and the cigars being there, it is another case of second nature to smoke them practically continuously. Of these cigars, which range in price from one or two cents to a few pence each, there are hundreds if not thousands of varieties.
The number of tobacconists in Holland must be very great, and the trade is probably strong enough to resist effectually the impost on the weed which was recently threatened by a daring Minister, if ever it is attempted. The pretty French custom of giving tobacco licences to the widows of soldiers is not adopted here; indeed I do not see that it could be, for the army is only 100,000 strong. In times of stress it might perhaps be advisable to send the tobacconists out to fight, and keep the soldiers to mind as many of their shops as could be managed, shutting up the rest.
Leeuwarden and Neighbourhood
An agricultural centre—A city of prosperity and health—The fair Frisians—Metal head-dresses—Silver work—The Chancellerie—A paradise of blue china—Jumping poles—The sea swallow—A Sunday excursion—Dogs for England—The idle busybodies—The stork—A critical village—The green crop—The dyke—A linguist—Harlingen—A Dutch picture collector—Franeker—The Planetarium—Dokkum’s bad reputation—A discursive guide-book—Bigamy punished—A husband-tamer—Boxum’s record—Sjuck’s short way—The heroic Bauck—A load of exorcists—Poor Lysse.
In an hour or two the train brings us to Leeuwarden, between flat green meadows unrelieved save for the frequent isolated homesteads, in which farm house, dairy, barn, cow stalls and stable are all under one great roof that starts almost from the ground. On the Essex flats the homesteads have barns and sheltering trees to keep them company: here it is one house and a mere hedge of saplings or none at all. For the rest—cows and plovers, plovers and cows.