Return to Calke

By the time you read this, I will have gone back to Calke Abbey for a few more days. The cataloguing of the books in store was always going to take a while: there are about 5000 items. And not just books and journals, but also many, many music scores. But Calke wouldn’t be Calke if there weren’t some very quirky volumes hiding on the shelves.So, especially for my faithful Dutch audience [*waves*], I thought I’d show some pictures of a Dutch phrase book for the discerning English chap travelling to our shores… This pamphlet is in the Calke collection courtesy of Richard Harpur Crewe (1880-1921), the only son of the last Harpur Crewe baronet. Before he became seriously ill, Richard travelled across Europe several times by car. He clearly also visited the Netherlands on at least one occasion and appears to have bought this phrase book in Rotterdam to judge from the stamp on the front cover.


The front cover of The Englishman on the Continent: How to make yourself understood! Dutch (ca. 1910)

Two caveats: bear in mind that it was written in the early 20th century and that the language may be a bit archaic. Secondly, I’m not entirely sure whether the pronunciation guide was written by a native speaker! However, the blurb on the front cover promises the reader that this phrase book will ‘help you along splendidly’. Whether it was any use to Richard remains to be discovered…


The coat of arms of the town of Rozenburg, on the edge of the Nieuwe Waterweg (New Waterway) forming part of the Port of Rotterdam.

He may have visited Rozenburg as part of his stay – a sad reminder perhaps of what was there before the town and island were swallowed up by the petrochemical industry of the Maasvlakte (nowadays when traveling from Europoort to Rotterdam I imagine that this is what Giedi Prime must look like). The town still has a historic windmill, but most of its pre-20th century architecture seems to have gone.


IMG_1137Unfortunately, I’ve not had a chance to find out what other places Richard visited or whether there are any photographs left of his visit (he was a very keen amateur photographer with his own darkroom at Calke). We can only guess whether he ever used the chat-up line below or strolled around Kalverstraat (the liveliest of streets – plus ça change!) to do some shopping. I can only imagine what Mejuffrouw would have made of the Englishmen struggling to get their head around the pronunciation of vowels and tricky diphthongs!





Thankfully, the phrase book includes a section which allows the visitor to bemoan the difficulties of the Dutch language … in Dutch. Having said that, anyone trying to learn this wonderful language has my everlasting admiration.


Tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.