Correspondence 1654-1658

“The End of His Days”,
page 2 of 10

This public officer and custom was probably derived from the Romans, who used to send a public crier about, inviting the people to the solemnization of a funeral. In the northern counties of England each village had its regular “bidder,” who announced his “funeral-bidding” by knocking on each door with a great key. Sometimes he “cried” the funeral through the town with a hand-bell. In New York the fashion was purely of Dutch derivation. In Holland the aanspreecker was an official appointed by government, and authorized to invite for the funerals of persons of all faiths and denominations who chanced to die in his parish.

In New York, ever bent on fashions new, the aanspreecker, on mournful mission intent, no longer walks our city avenues nor even our country lanes or village streets; but in Holland he still is a familiar form. Not, as of old, the honored schoolmaster, but simply a hired servant of the undertaker, he rushes with haste through the streets of Dutch towns. Still clad in dingy black of ancient fashion, kneebreeches, buckled shoes, long cloak, cocked hat with long streamers of crape, he seems the sombre ghost of old-time manners. Sometimes he bears written invitations deep bordered with, black; sometimes he calls the death and time of funeral, as did the Roman prœco; and sometimes, with streamers of white, and white cockade on his hat, he goes on a kindred duty, — he bears to a circle of friends or relatives the news of a birth.

Before the burial took place, in olden times, a number of persons, usually intimate friends of the dead, watched the body throughout the night. Liberally supplied with various bodily comforts, such as abundant strong drink, plentiful tobacco and pipes, and newly baked cakes, these watchers were not wholly gloomy, nor did the midnight hours lag unsolaced. The great kamer in which the body lay, the state-room of the house, was an apartment so rarely used on other occasions than a funeral that in many households it was known as the doed-kamer, or dead-room.


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