Letters from Turkey, by Mary Wortley Montagu

Letter 1.

From Rotterdam. — Voyage to Helvoetsluys — general view of Rotterdam — remarks on the female dresses there.

To the Countess of ——.

Rotterdam, Aug. 3. O. S. 1716.

I FLATTER, myself, dear sister, that I shall give you some pleasure in letting you know that I have safely passed the sea, though we had the ill fortune of a storm. We were persuaded by the captain of the yacht to set out in a calm, and he pretended there was nothing so easy as to tide it over; but, after two days slowly moving, the wind blew so hard, that none of the sailors could keep their feet, and we were all Sunday night tossed very handsomely. I never saw a man more frighted than the captain. For my part, I have been so lucky, neither to suffer from fear nor seasickness; though, I confess, I was so impatient to see myself once more upon dry land, that I would not stay till the yacht could get to Rotterdam, but went in the long-boat to Helvoetsluys, where we had voitures to carry us to the Briel. I was charmed with the neatness of that little town; but my arrival at Rotterdam presented me a new scene of pleasure. All the streets are paved with broad stones, and before many of the meanest artificers doors are placed seats of various coloured marbles, so neatly kept, that, I assure you, I walked almost all over the town yesterday, incognito, in my slippers without receiving one spot of dirt; and you may see the Dutch maids washing the pavement of the street, with more application than ours do our bed-chambers. The town seems so full of people, with such busy faces, all in motion, that I can hardly fancy it is not some celebrated fair; but I see it is every day the same. ’Tis certain no town can be more advantageously situated for commerce. Here are seven large canals, on which the merchants ships come up to the very doors of their houses. The shops and warehouses are of a surprising neatness and magnificence, filled with an incredible quantity of fine merchandise, and so much cheaper than what we see in England, that I have much ado to persuade myself I am still so near it. Here is neither dirt nor beggary to be seen. One is not shocked with those loathsome cripples, so common in London, nor teased with the importunity of idle fellows and wenches, that chuse to be nasty and lazy. The common servants, and little shop-women, here, are more nicely clean than most of our ladies; and the great variety of neat dresses (every woman dressing her head after her own fashion) is an additional pleasure in seeing the town. You see, hitherto, I make no complaints, dear sister; and if I continue to like travelling as I do at present, I shall not repent my project. It will go a great way in making me satisfied with it, if it affords me an opportunity of entertaining you. But it is not from Holland that you may expect a disinterested offer. I can write enough in the stile of Rotterdam, to tell you plainly, in one word that I expect returns of all the London news. You see I have already learnt to make a good bargain; and that it is not for nothing I will so much as tell you, I am your affectionate sister.


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