Archive for the ‘Haarlem Meer’ Category

“it is as quiet as Charleston”

On January 26, 1797, the Pinckneys were ordered to leave France; they moved to Amsterdam to await further instructions from home. MARY STEAD PINCKNEY, in a letter to her niece Mary, reflects on the change of abode.

Amsterdam March 16th 1797. . . . I should be glad to amuse you with something new of Amsterdam, but . . . . I cannot but be surprised to find your uncle, Eliza & myself sitting quietly by the fire side in Amsterdam as if we were all at home [in Charleston, S.C.]. And yet this is really the case. I cannot describe to you the difference of my feelings here and at Paris. I find it difficult to explain it to myself. In the latter city I had always something in view, something to see. I was ever on the wing, and always amused. Here I am seated as tranquilly with our botanical books, or work, or ink-stand before me as if I had resided here all my life, & had seen everything. . . . There does not seem to be any bustle in this great city; it is as quiet as Charleston. . . .

A month later, Mrs. Pinckney seems to have decided to be “on the wing” again for she, accompanied by her husband and some friends, decided to visit Haarlem, as she wrote her niece, Eliza Izard.

. . . . The country is even more flat than that of Carolina, but the beautiful green meadows, the number of country seats with their neat gardens, bridges & summer houses, the numerous windmills, the trees with the buds, some opening into leaf render’d the view so agreeable that we forgot hills were necessary to form a perfect landscape. After an hour’s ride we crossed the Haarlem meer, or lake of Haarlem, & had it on each side with its numerous sails, during the greater part of the distance to Haarlem. If you will take the trouble of looking on the map you will see that we crossed it from east to west, & that Amsterdam appears quite close to its east side and Haarlem immediately opposite on the west. We drove through Haarlem, which is so clean that you might eat off the stones, & has many handsome houses and canals border’d with trees running through the principal streets, to [our] lodgings . . . .

The next morning . . . . [w]e called on professor [Martin] Van Marum, a gentleman of extensive knowledge great modesty and politeness who conducted us to ye Tylerean [Teylers] Museum, where we saw many curious objects, which it would take me too long to describe—among others the largest electrical machine ever made—it frightened me almost to look at it, but as the day was damp, the hall large & no fire place, he shewed us the experiments with a very powerful, but much smaller machine in a dry room. We all took many sparks. He was also so obliging as to perform a very curious chemical experiment, generating water out of 2 different kinds of air, & then he shewed us how to decompose
it. . . .

Mary Stead Pinckney’s last letter was written from The Hague on August 23rd, 1797. The Pinckneys returned to Paris the following month; General Pinckney, now assisted by John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry, attempted to come to an understanding with France but their efforts ended in failure. The Pinckneys left Paris in April 1798 to return to America.

(Land was reclaimed from the Haarlemmer Meer in mid-nineteenth century. Martin van Marum was the first director of the Teylers Museum; his electrostatic generator was built in 1784.)

Mary S. Pinckney’s letterbook is at the Library of Congress. Excerpts from Letter-book of Mary Stead Pinckney, November 14th, 1796 to August 29th, 1797 (N.Y.: The Grolier Club, 1946), pp. 60-61, 66-68. See also In the Words of Women, pp. 325-6. The aquatint of “Haarlem Meer from the Amsterdam Road” is by Samuel Ireland from his Picturesque tour through Holland, Brabant and part of France made in the autumn of 1789. Read about the electrostatic generator HERE.

posted June 21st, 2018 by Louise, Comments Off on “it is as quiet as Charleston”, CATEGORIES: Amsterdam,Haarlem Meer,Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth,Pinckney, Mary Stead

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