Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
Description of a Dutch House
By Owen Felltham (1602?1668)
From A Brief Character of the Two Countries
WHEN you are entered the house the first thing you encounter is a looking-glass. No question but a true emblem of politic hospitality; for though it reflects yourself in your own figure, tis yet no longer than while you are there before it. When you are gone once, it flatters the next comer, without the least remembrance that you ere were there.
The next are the vessels of the house marshalled about the room like watchmen. All as neat as if you were in a citizens wives cabinet: for unless it be themselves, they let none of Gods creatures lose anything of their native beauty.
Their houses, especially in their cities, are the best eye beauties of their country. For cost and sight they far exceed our English, but they want their magnificence. Their lining is yet more rich than their outside; not in hangings, but in pictures, which even the poorest are there furnisht with. Not a cobbler but has his toys for ornament. Were the knacks of all their houses set together, there would not be such another Bartholomew Fair in Europe.
Whatsoever their estates be, their house must be fair. Therefore from Amsterdam they have banished sea-coal, lest it soil their buildings, of which the statelier sort are sometimes sententious, and in the front carry some conceit of the owner. As to give you a taste in these:
Every door seems studded with diamonds. The nails and hinges hold a constant brightness, as if rust there were not a quality incident to iron. Their houses they keep cleaner than their bodies; their bodies than their souls. Go to one you shall find the andirons shut up in net-work. At a second, the warming-pan muffled in Italian cut-work. At a third the sconce clad in cambric.