By Glenn Stehle
[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]
The richest eschews a vain parade of wealth
And entertains the poor with friendship and with care
…Where the farmer so rich…the sailor so beloved
The humblest servant as merry as his master
–SIMON STIJL, Rise and Flourishing of the United Netherlands (his description of the Dutch Republic in the 3rd quarter of 18th century)
Every nation has its national mythology, and the Netherlands is no exception. As Simon Schama points out, many Dutch still see “themselves frozen in the attitudes of Hals’ guild deacons and de Hooch’s interiors, a maritime community of God-fearing burghers dwelling in piety and liberty” (Simon Schama, Patriots and Liberators: Revolution in the Netherlands 1780-1813). The rub, however, is this, and again the Dutch prove no exception to the rule: national mythologies are unfailingly more fiction than fact.