Contributed by Kathleen Haynes
Contact Myrtle Bridges June 04, 2008
Brussels - August 20, 1912
My dear Mother,
My last letter to you was from Amsterdam - written on a very wet and rainy afternoon. Later though,
it cleared up and I took a long walk and that evening went to a moving picture show - they are quite as
popular here as in America. Everywhere you see cinematographs as they are called. The next day the sun
came up bright and clear and I took the trip to Voterdam out past the docks - and into the canals - stopped
at a little village and saw how they made cheese - the stables etc - "so sanitary" remarked one of the
visitors - only I don't think the stalls had ever held or seen a cow. It wasn't much - the trip I mean.
Here and there were the Dutch in bagging patched trousers - wooden shoes and gaily colored headgear, but
all for the visitors and the only thing that seemed real were their hard lined and wrinkled faces, and
the pretty children with truly flaxen hair. Marken [a Dutch fishing village] and some other little stops
were made, but by then it was pouring rain in torrents. Flowers lined the landscape - low and level - fine
cows and lots of them on the green land - all touched up here and there by windmills - large and small -
all spinning away most industriously. Then back and caught a train for the Hague, going through Haaslem with
its large nurseries and farms for bulbs. Here it was much nicer I thought. The galleria was good. I couldn't
see much in Patros 'Bull', but there were lots of good things - especially Vermeer's 'View of the Delft'
and the 'School of Anatomy' by Rembrant which has marvelous faces in it - and his 'Saul & David' and
'Presentation' and some portraits of himself - all so fine. The old prison and its implements of torture
and where the De Witts were, brought back some of Motley's Dutch Republic to me, but the most of it I had
forgotten. The Palace I liked - not very magnificent - but handsome in its plainness - almost home like it
was, and then I went to the House in the Wood - a most interesting place built for Amelia, and in it is quite
a wonderful center room she had painted up in honor of her husband. It's too much to write about it all now.
Then I went to Scheoeniger - the fahionable Dutch watering place - shops along a board walk effect that
looked out on the sandy beach, decked with bath wagons and beach chairs. Then to Antwerp, a very pretty city
where Reubens lived, and in the Cathedral I saw some of his pictures; 'Descent from the Coors' one of the world's
finest pictures and 'The Assumption' which I think I liked even better.
After this I hurriedly went back to the station, caught a train here - checked my bag and went out to Waterloo
which was most interesting to me - now all fields rich in their harvest of grain, and at Hugomont where was
such heavy fighting there is only a peaceful old ruined farmhouse and under the eaves were cooing doves. I
went up on the monument of the Belgian Lion and think I got a very good idea of the battle. This was one of
the things I had retained, and most of the many varied accounts came back to me - Victor Hugo's description
you know of the sunken road, which isn't sunken any more as they scooped away its banks for the mound for the
monument - all this and many others I thought of - not the least of how Betty and Tos were leaving Brussels,
and how George you know 'lay dead with a bullet thru his heart' and of poor little Amelia and Dobbin. Even to
a layman it was most noticeable, the advantage in the Duke's position from this monument. It was quite impressive
to look at one of the roads and know that down this Napoleon fled - all turned in an instant - all gone. It
almost seemed as if it lead straight to St. Helena, as if that spot must be just over in the woods.
Then I saw the place in Brussels now a convent, where the ball was that Byron wrote of - and the park and
King's Palace and Hotel de Ville a fine old place that fronts on a fine old square, and the Palace of Justice
a magnificent building , in which I went and saw some of the courts and the lawyers - quite impressive in their
gowns of black and some had ermine on their sleeves - the judges black velvet.
It's pretty here - nice buildings and tempting shops, but dirty and not very interesting - so I leave for
Paris this afternoon. I'm well and strong in spite of the rain and have no cold and am taking good care of myself.
Am enjoying your letters. Write as often as you can. Give my love to all the Tates.
Hastily but Devotedly, Donald
Go to Letter 53
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