Monday, 28 June 2010

The Character of Holland...According to the English

In a previous post, we have referred to English hatred of the Dutch, and it's no secret that during the Anglo-Dutch Wars, the English launched some pretty nasty anti-Dutch propaganda that would have made Goebbels proud. Below is a poem by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), a friend of Milton's in the service of Cromwell. It's pretty rude, but some of it is quite funny! Lest any Dutchies get offended, Marvell also used anti-Semitic stereotypes to berate his opponent, Samuel Parker:
who but such an Hebrew Jew as you, would, after an honest man hade made so full and voluntary Restitution, not yet have been satisfied without so many pounds of his flesh over into the bargain.
This is actually in the context of a debate rooted in Hebraism, so the insults get way more interesting than that (check out Rosenblatt's book on Selden, chapter 5).

Unsurprisingly, in the early modern period, religion was a source of conflict. The English disapproved of the Dutch pluralistic society, which was rooted in Republican sensibilities; this disregard for order and hierarchy was dangerous. The Dutch took the reformist call for personal autonomy in interpreting Scripture too far:
They are generally so bred up to the Bible that almost every Cobbler is a Dutch doctor of divinity...yet fall those inward illuminations so different that sometimes seven religions are found in one family.' (Schama)
And finally, here is the poem. Incidentally, if you're Dutch and Jewish, well, Marvell will offend you in one form or another! ;-)

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