Wednesday, March 19, 2014

WRITERS | Are They More Suicidal? Why? (Updated Jan. 7, 2016)

Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. She took her own life in 1963.
She had tried before.
March 19, 2014–This is an exploratory post. I would be especially interested in comments, either below or by email (  I'm asking a question... I don't know where it will lead me.

Many writers have committed suicide or have engaged in suicidal behavior. Both Inez Milholland and Edna St. Vincent Millay engaged in such behavior.

Is suicide brave or cowardly? Does it depend on the type of challenge? Does the ability to see life from a unique perspective also mean impatience with the world as it is? I provide a list below showing writers identified on a Wikipedia page as having taken their own lives. Many like Stephen Haggard were poets but had other careers, such as acting.

It appears that a large number of writers seem to have taken their own lives. Possibly the statistical frequency or probability is no higher than in the general population, but it does not seem so, perhaps because most people are more like cats who crawl away to be alone when they feel mortally sick or wounded whereas writers by profession make more of a to-do about staging their own death.

If writers are indeed more prone to suicide, the most satisfying explanation is that they lived on the edge, that their level of emotional intensity was so high they could not live after being rejected by the one they love, or failing in their writing-career aspirations, or not being able to accept the world as it is. But there are less uplifting interpretations.

Writer Suicides

UPDATE: Jan. 7, 2016–Today there is a poem on the Writer's Almanac site called "Suicides"  by Faith Shearin. The subject is really about writers' suicides. It starts with a list of three writers who committed suicide:
  • one "who walked into a river with her pockets full of stones" [don't know who that was]
  • one "who started her car with the garage door closed" [presumably Anne Sexton] and
  • the youngest "went into the kitchen and placed her head where she had so often placed chickens or hams" [Sylvia Plath, whose suicide may have prompted Sexton's].
It ends with the complaint that now she had "outlived all of them." She continues:
I was sad that they could not describe the other world, that they offered no map to old age. Was it dangerous to write? I began to walk more carefully beside rivers, to eat cold food, to let someone else back the car out of the driveway. – From Telling the Bees. © Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2015.
Jilted Lovers

Let's look at the most famous writer suicides:
  • Stephen Haggard shot himself after an Egyptian woman he was seeing said she wanted to break off their adulterous relationship. His career as an actor was doing reasonably well, so a broken heart theory works here.
  • Sylvia Plath (1932-1963), author of The Bell Jar collection of poems, was married to poet Ted Hughes, who by multiple accounts was abusive toward her. Born in Jamaica Plain, Mass., she was a model for Mademoiselle magazine, won a Pulitzer and a Fulbright. Hughes was reported as having adulterous affairs. She put her head in an oven and sealed the sides. He burned her final diaries. Sample lines from her poetry: 
“Never Try to Trick Me with a Kiss” – Never try to trick me with a kiss
/Pretending that the birds are here to stay;
/The dying man will scoff and scorn at this.
“Lady Lazarus.” Dying / Is an art, like everything else…” 
  • Anne Sexton (1928-1974) also committed suicide via carbon monoxide. She and Plath took writing courses with each other, so it could have been a copycat suicide. Born in Newton, Massachusetts, she was a professional model, married at 18. Her psychiatrist recommended she take up writing poetry. She won a Pulitzer and a Guggenheim. The cause of her suicidal wish may have been sexual relationship with her second psychiatrist. She locked herself in the garage and turned on the engine of her car. Sample lines from her poetry:
"Wanting to Die." - …Suicides have a special language.
/Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
/They never ask why build.
  • If we include the lovers of poets, we get more people. For example, when I was in Brazil I was told firmly that the reason Elizabeth Bishop's Brazilian architect lover Lota de Macedo Soares took her own life was that Bishop wanted to end their long relationship.
Failure to Achieve Goals

Some poets and writers take their own lives, or engage in suicidal behavior, because they want to make some point through their death. Lord Byron going off to fight. Inez Milholland signing up to be an Italian war correspondent, and then charging on with a whistle-stop train campaign against Woodrow Wilson and continuing despite severe illness (one reason being that Alice Paul sent telegrams saying Inez must not let down the team).

Is there something about writing that leads to a kind of desperation? Edna St. Vincent Millay, addicted to drugs and alcohol (her death was an accident–she fell down stairs in the year after her husband died–but her addictions came from inside). Or the alcoholism of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and their circle. These three writers were successful, but under the pre-eBook system of acceptance and rejection of poems, articles and books, editors could appear to be tyrants.
  • Were the odds against getting into print and then selling enough copies too discouraging to reassure many writers of their talent, of their own value?
  • Despite being considered successful by history, were the writers not up to their own expectations? Was the required effort too great? 
  • I read once that only two poets in the 20th century made an adequate living from their poetry - Millay and W. H. Auden. In Millay's case the finances were helped by her having married a successful businessman, Eugen Boissevain, about whom I have written a lot in this space.
Chronic Illness

Does the seeming prevalence of suicides among writers reflect an unwillingness to accept life as it is? Does writing take a toll on one's health? 
  • Arthur Davison Ficke had an adulterous relationship with Edna St. Vincent Millay that her husband condoned. Ficke took his own life, it seems, not because of rejection by her but because of his own chronic illnesses.
  • Seven cast members of Saturday Night Live have died. Given the youthfulness of the cast, this seems higher than one would expect (SNL has had 118 cast members, making the death rate 6 percent). Three can be said to have taken their own lives - Charles Rocket (who had been discharged from the show), plus John Belushi and Chris Farley, who both died of drug overdoses at 33. Phil Hartman was apparently killed by his wife Brynne, who then killed herself; she was said to be envious of his career success. The other three died of illnesses.

Here's a list of writer-suicides, with a few names that I have discussed or thought about in bold face:

Francis Adams (writer), Jacques d'Adelswärd-Fersen, Jane Arden (director), José María Arguedas, May Aim
Shirley Barker, Thomas Lovell Beddoes, Michel Bernanos, John Berryman, Konstantin Biebl, Jens Bjørneboe Barcroft Boake Joe Bolton (poet) Arturo Borja Tadeusz Borowski Karin Boye Bozhidar Herman Brood
Paul Celan, Ana Cristina Cesar, Nicolas Chamfort, Thomas Chatterton, Chen Mengjia, Danielle Collobert, Hart Crane, Arthur Cravan, René Crevel
John Davidson (poet), Deng Tuo, Deborah Digges, Thomas M. Disch, Tove Ditlevsen, Pierre Drieu, La Rochelle Yulia Drunina, Stephen Duck, Jean-Pierre Duprey
Daniel Evans (Welsh poet)
Gabriel Ferrater, Arthur Davison Ficke, Humberto Fierro, John Gould Fletcher, Veronica Forrest-Thomson, André Frédérique, Misao Fujimura
Francesco Gaeta, Ángel Ganivet, Adam Lindsay Gordon, José Agustín Goytisolo, Gu Cheng, Karoline von Günderrode, Vilmundur Gylfason
Stephen Haggard (grandnephew of author H. Rider Haggard, whose books were favorites of Will Woodin, FDR's first Treasury Secretary), Hai Zi Beatrice Hastings
Paolo Iashvili, Kaan İnce
Ingrid Jonker, Tor Jonsson, Attila József
Misuzu Kaneko Kostas Karyotakis Kitamura Tokoku Heinrich von Kleist Stanisław Korab-Brzozowski Velga Krile
Napoleon Lapathiotis Mariano José de Larra Jan Lechoń Vachel Lindsay Gherasim Luca Lucan Leopoldo Lugones
Vladimir Mayakovsky Charlotte Mew Veronica Micle Branko Miljković Jon Mirande Yukio Mishima
Henry Neele Neobule Gérard de Nerval Ernesto Noboa y Caamaño
Piet Paaltjens Cesare Pavese Alejandra Pizarnik, Sylvia Plath, Sophie Podolski Antonia Pozzi Dragoș Protopopescu
Qu Yuan Antero de Quental
Rajalakshmi José Antonio Ramos Sucre Liam Rector Jacques Rigaut Amelia Rosselli Raymond Roussel
Mário de Sá-Carneiro Anne Sexton Eli Siegel José Asunción Silva Medardo Ángel Silva Edward Stachura Avram Steuerman-Rodion Alfonsina Storni Thomas Thackeray Swinburne
Galaktion Tabidze, Robert Tannahill Sara Teasdale Salvatore Toma Jaime Torres Bodet Georg Trakl Marina Tsvetaeva
Allen Upward
Jacques Vaché, Johannes Vares, Reetika Vazirani Juhan Viiding Ilarie Voronca
Rachel Wetzsteon Rafał Wojaczek
Peyo Yavorov Sergei Yesenin Yun Hyon-seok

MUSIC | The Trapp Family Camp (Personal Comments)

Fr. Wasner conducting the original Trapp Family Singers
in 1941. They went on tour in North America in 1938.
Maria Augusta Trapp's 1949 memoir, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, which was the basis of the Sound of Music Broadway show and movie has been republished by Morrow and is #9 on the NY Times best-seller list this week (Sunday edition, March 16).

Georg von Trapp was given his title by the Austro-Hungarian empire for services in World War I. After the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the von Trapps were Italian citizens and moved to Salzburg. Maria and her seven step-children and two biological children went on tour in 1938, and lived in Merion, Pa. in 1939, when the tenth child, Johannes, was born.

The Trapp Family Music Camp started in 1946 in Vermont and the Lodge was built for it. Georg von Trapp died in 1947 and is buried at the Stowe farm. As family members got married, substitutes were recruited. The group had its last concert in 1956. Some differences between the movie and the real story are described in a 2005 report along with a description of what happened subsequently:
[After the Trapp Family Singers broke up in] 1956, Maria, Johannes, Rosmarie, and daughter Maria went to New Guinea to do missionary work. Later, Maria ran the Trapp Family Lodge for many years. Of the children, Rupert became a medical doctor; Agathe a kindergarten teacher in Maryland; Maria was a missionary in New Guinea for 30 years; Werner was a farmer; Hedwig taught music; Johanna married and eventually returned to live in Austria; Martina married and died in childbirth; Rosmarie and Eleonore both settled in Vermont; and Johannes managed the Trapp Family Lodge. Maria died in 1987 and was buried alongside Georg and Martina.
Comment (John): The book came out the year our Granny died, 1949. The book is how we heard about the camp. We went to the Trapp Family Music Camp in Stowe in its first year at the new Lodge, 1950. When we got back to Montreal, we entered, as a family, a contest to prepare an album of descriptions of musical instruments.  We did one on the different types of recorders. We won second prize (we wuz robbed)...

Trapp Family on Tour in the USA in 1946. Johannes in
the middle would be seven years old. Fr. Wasner and
Georg von Trapp are in front.
When we went to Europe the first time in 1947, to visit relatives in Holland, on the boat (the Cunard RMS Ascania I think) we were called the "Lunch-Hour Marlins" because we went from 12 (Olga) to 2 (Lis). So in 1950  at the Trapp Family Camp, our ages would have been 15 to 5. The Trapp Family Camp was very important for us as a family - it was our first real introduction to choral singing and musical instruments.

We learned to sing many hymns in four parts (most of the musical repertoire was sacred music, since the neglected-by-history musicologist and conductor for the Trapp Family was Fr. Franz Wasner).

We also all started playing recorders. Olga afterwards continued teaching us and I also took recorder lessons in Montreal. Later we learned to play other instruments, but the singing was the most important takeaway.

Like Sheila (see below), I remember Agathe being especially patient. She became a teacher of young children. She died in 2010 at 97, leaving just four of the Trapp children left.

When we were at the Camp in 1950 the breakup of the Trapp Family Singers was already imminent. Some of the step-daughters wanted to become regular Americans and date/marry young men in the area. For as long as she could, Mrs. Trapp told them they were required to dress up in Austrian outfits to perform and make a success of the Singers and the Camp. Brigid’s story about Hedwig fits with the general stress that my older sisters observed among the step-daughters, who were doubtless watching the biological clock.

The Rodgers & Hammerstein Broadway show with Mary Martin opened in 1959. The movie with Julie Andrews opened in 1965.

Olga:  The original book that came out in 1949 is what brought us to  the camp. Mother bought it and afterwards took us to a concert in Montreal where she learned about the Trapp Family summer camp in Stowe, Vermont. The Marlin Family descended on it in 1950, when Dad was settled in his new job with ICAO.  Mother found out that that Maria was not altogether pleased to have another big Catholic family there headed by a forceful woman. For the five eldest children, it was an unforgettable experience - total immersion in music.

Monsignor Wasner with Pope John
Paul II.
Brigid: I was 14 in 1950. My strongest memories are of the saintliness of Fr. Wasner, and the slight clash between Mother and Mrs. Trapp. For example, Maria Trapp was telling the story  about her struggle with her daughter Lorli (Eleonore), when Lorli was a little girl. She wanted Lorli to clean up her mess.  They had a big argument with Lorli saying "No!" until finally Lorli said, “Yes”.  So Mrs Trapp hugged her and put her to bed. But Mother pointed out that Lorli had never cleaned up the mess! In 1950, Lorli was grown up–about 18, and very pretty.  Mrs. Trapp seemed to prefer her biological children to her stepchildren, but she did save them all by bringing them out to America in 1938. However, when Hedwig wanted to marry a local farmer, Mrs. Trapp forbade her to, because she was their only soprano! She even locked Hedwig in her bedroom. But Hedwig was headstrong, tore up bedsheets and let herself out of the window, where her lover was waiting. They eloped. Mrs Trapp never forgave her. They got someone else, but it was the beginning of the end for the group. We heard this story later.

Sheila: I have memories of Agatha teaching me the recorder. I really liked her and she was very kind and patient. I also was very fond of Father Wasner. I remember mother thinking that Maria was in competition with her over who was the holiest. For example, If mother knelt in church, Maria would also kneel.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Toward Peace in Ukraine

When the Soviet Union broke up between 1989 and 1991, I was involved in several initiatives to encourage economic conversion of military resources to civilian use. Ultimately, the cost of orderly transition was too great, and the conversion happened in a disorderly way - cold turkey.

During one of my visits to Moscow during that period, I remember spending an afternoon on a boat ride on the Volga River, much of time listening to Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was calmly and knowledgeably talking to a group of Americans and Russians, tracking events marking the end of the Soviet Union.

On another occasion around that time I went to Kharkiv under USIA auspices to make some suggestions for economic conversion to a group of the city's planners. Kharkiv then ranked second only to St. Petersburg in the former Soviet Union as a center for military training. I said that the city's three airports and its tank factory would make it a good location for distributing high-value goods, as in Memphis, Tenn., and they needed to bring in a developer. The city fathers asked me: "Chto eto, devyeloper?" ("What's a developer?") The city has since become a major regional book distribution center for Bertelsmann, a huge German publisher, with the capacity to ship 20 million books per year.

Fast-forward to 2014. Although his signals change from day to day, Vladimir V. Putin has clearly been engaging in risky behavior by massing troops on Ukraine's border and engaging in language provoking the West. His underlying motivation seems to be to restore some of what was lost in the breakup of the Soviet Union. This improved his popularity in 2008 when he invaded Georgia and it seems to be working again:
  • His ratings are rising fast as Russians who have been polled seem to be buying the propaganda that Russian nationals need protection from Ukrainian protesters he labels "fascist".
  • Putin's peak popularity in 2008, when he invaded Georgia, was achieved without much resistance from Europe or even the United States under President George W. Bush.
With an eye to these polls, Putin is enjoying a challenge to the temporary regime in Kiev. One pretext is that the change in Ukraine's government was not based on elections. The other is that the new government in Kiev threatens Russian minorities in Crimea (and - who knows? - elsewhere in Ukraine). But:
  • The temporary regime in Kiev, a Ukrainian living in the United States recently assured me, is less corrupt than the one that was forced out. 
  • The more important difference is that it is friendlier to Europe, and the European Union would surely clamp down on corruption once an Association Agreement was signed.
  • Most important, elections will be held in May. Democratic elections will determine a permanent government.
The dangers created by Putin's behavior are huge. U.S. and European leaders have been talking only about political and economic sanctions, but these could be catastrophic for Russia, which is under pressure economically. This is in no way parallel to the Falklands crisis, where the opponents were two countries of unequal power and the stakes were small.

The more worrisome parallel is Europe in 1939. The United States and its European Allies looked weak to Hitler and some in the United States blame Britain's Prime Minister Chamber for attempting to appease Hitler.  A thoughtful article in this week's New Yorker on Hollywood's involvement in U.S. propaganda in World War II describes Frank Capra's horror at the appeal of Leni Riefenstahl's propaganda movie for the Nazi party. His first reaction was: "We can't win this war."

But public opinion turned and the Allies produced the leadership, technology and materiel they needed.
  • Britain replaced Chamberlain with Churchill and again, as in the First World War, young men fought heroically. 
  • When Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, no one on the west believed his claim that Poland provoked the invasion. He had been massing the Wehrmacht on the Polish border and looked for a pretext to invade.
  • A photo of a Polish "urchin" playing amidst bombed-out rubble was motivation enough for a soldier.
  • The United States produced its own leader in FDR, and within a year of D-Day, Hitler was dead and the war in Europe was won.
  • Capra's years-later answer to his own fears about his country's survival was "It's a Wonderful Life", showing the strength of small-town America.
If Putin thinks that the only polls he needs to look at are within Russia, or in the Crimea, he should think again:
  • The CNN/ORC International Poll released today shows Putin's unfavorability rating in the United States jumped to 68 percent, from 54 percent just before the Sochi Winter Olympics opened last month.
  • It shows 69 percent of Americans surveyed thinking Russia is a serious threat to the United States, an increase of 25 percentage points since 2012 - the highest number since the Soviet Union broke up. 
  • More than 70 percent of U.S. respondents see no justification for Russia's actions in Ukraine.
  • Nearly half believe a new Cold War is likely in the next few years.
In this environment, Senator McCain's opportunistic call for Obama to raise the threats against Putin is worrisomely political. He calls for NATO expansion and restoration of missiles in Eastern Europe. He refers to cuts in the defense budget as an Obama initiative instead of what it was, a Congressional bi-partisan agreement to reduce the deficit.  Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who served both Bush and Obama, is bravely taking the right path by calling for a de-escalation of military tension.
In the middle of a major international crisis, ... domestic criticism of the president ought to be toned down, while he's trying to handle this crisis.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's stern warnings to Putin speak of severe economic and political sanctions, but not military ones. Her defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Monday:
Sanctions hurt both sides, that’s quite clear. But if you look at the numbers, Russia has 15 percent of its GDP depending on trade with Europe, Europe only 1 percent [dependent on Russia]. That means that the reliance on a functioning business relationship with Europe is much, much bigger in Russia.
Putin's popularity sank quickly after his invasion of Georgia was followed by economic difficulties in Russia. It could happen again. The world has changed since 1939 and U.S.-European combined action could cause unacceptable disruptions in Russia without firing a shot. Meanwhile, Europe has taken the brunt of two world wars and is not about to rush into another one. Neither should Russia, which lost more lives than any other country. Neither should we respond with escalated  military threats in the face of Putin's saber-rattling. As Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind."

Friday, March 7, 2014

BOISSEVAIN | Olga's Letters from East Java, 1908-1909

Olga Boissevain van Stockum, seated,
with her husband Bram and their
first two children, Hilda (b.1908)
 and Willem (b.1910).
Hilda van Stockum lovingly preserved letters to and from Olga Boissevain van Stockum when the van Stockum family was in Indonesia in 1908-1910. The Dutch Navy sent Olga's husband, naval officer Bram van Stockum to Java to captain a ship to ferry soldiers around (small rebellions required a response) and supervise target practice with large guns. The family of three – Hilda was just a few months old – traveled by commercial ship together to Java. Then they had to separate while Bram took command of a ship. Olga was left to care for her infant daughter. Here are some letters to her mother and husband about the experience.

Olga Boissevain van Stockum to Her Mother Emily,  Middle Fragment, November 1908 

[Baby Hilda, now 9 months old, gets into…] a sitting position all by herself. She sits alone too. But she doesn’t creep yet. She prefers rolling herself to wherever she wants to be.

She has such a sweet way of crinkling up her nose when she laughs. She has the most delightful laugh I ever heard: it comes deep out of her little tummy and rolls and ripples so that her whole little body shakes.

She strokes me so gently sometimes, her little head to one side and her hand on my cheek. She is admired by every one who sees her– such a curious contrast between her dark eyes and dark curling eyelashes and her golden fair hair – very pretty. She is a tremendous fatty and so heavy. The doctor was in raptures about her, said he’d never yet seen such a healthy child in India.

I’ve now decided not to wean her till she’s ten months. Then I’ll take three or four weeks to do it, so she’ll be weaned when she is eleven months. Mind you tell me when Teau [Caterina Boissevain de Beaufort, the youngest of the 11 Boissevain children and by most accounts the most beautiful, who nonetheless, sadly, was the first of them to die, in 1922] is going to wean hers [i.e., Nella, who was a near-twin of Hilda because Olga married late]. They don’t as a rule feed babies here longer than nine months themselves, but I prefer doing it, because November is so unbearably hot and I think it silly to change in the worst month.

I was so awfully pleased with baby the other day. I showed her a picture book and at each new picture I showed her, she shrieked with joy. I was thunderstruck at it, because I didn’t think a child of 8 months would be able to recognize things on a picture. So to see if such was the case, I showed a page with nothing but writing on it…and her joy was just as great!!

She gets half a pisang [fried banana] every day and some stewed rice with bouillon and a few spoonfuls of egg. She enjoys it all very much. She is not a bit shy, and laughs at everyone.

How I do wish I could see her beside Nella and Alfie. I am sure they’d make a trio anyone might be proud of. Hilda sings and shouts the whole day long “Buwa, Buwa!” Is her favorite cry. The baboe [Indonesian nanny] thinks she calls her doll “Buwa!” but it is only a cry of joy.

She is never out of my sight, except for half an hour in the morning while I dress, breakfast and bathe and then I am the whole time inclined to run and see if she is all right. She is absolutely the joy of my life, for it would be like a prison here if she wasn’t there to rejoice me.

But all the same I’ll be terribly happy to have Bram once more and be able to speak with someone. I miss him terribly. He is such splendid company and keeps me alive and full of interest in the world's goings-on. He always has theories or plans or thoughts to speak about.

Now the only sound there is in the world for me is baby’s laugh and baby’s talk. She can play like a big child already - bites my cheek and blows on it. The first time she did it accidentally, thought it funny, laughed... and immediately did it again on purpose.  [End of fragment.]

Olga to Her Husband Bram, December 1908

Dear Bram,
Here we are, oh how I wish you were with us! Jan [one of Olga's three younger brothers] was at the station to help us, the darling. We were within an hour at Modjokerto, having taken two badots there. We arrived in five more minutes at the steam tram.

For two hours we rode in that tram. It was full of gentlemen, which was embarrassing as I had to feed the baby. Hilda was sweet and coquettish with the gentlemen. Everyone admired her.

At Modjewarrow I was supposed to find a carriage with a boy, sent there by Stine, but when I got out of the tram there was no one and I heard to my dismay that there wasn’t a carriage to be had. I looked at the nameplate to see if I was at the right station and got a fright when I read Modjowarnie. I thought I’d made a mistake. I felt very lost in the wide wide world, not knowing the language.

After a long anxious wait the man came with two dogcarts and it seems I got off at the wrong stop. We had a ride of an hour along bumpy roads – the horses that pulled us were wild and full of tricks–sometimes they balked or went backwards.

At last we got to Karengan. There Stine sat on horseback, wearing a white divided skirt and a big tjappel [container of food] on her head, a monkey on her shoulder and a great welcome in her mouth. I had to get with Baby in the tandoe [rickshaw or sedan carriage - see photo] because we had to cross three rivers – but afterwards we got out and walked up the mountain with Stine.
COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Draagstoel Tjiandjoer Preanger Tandoe TMnr 10013866
Tandoe like one used by Olga and baby in Indonesia.

Oh Bram, it is so curious here! The house is a row of barns of woven mats with openings for doors and windows and made very cosy by Stine. The primeval forest is quite close and sometimes, very seldom, they hear tigers. This morning there was great emotion because a snake was discovered close to the veranda where Baby sat in her playpen. But luckily it was not a poisonous one. Stine has seen small poisonous snakes here.

Her husband seems nice; quite and content, but taciturn. Stine I love. She is so calm and efficient. She is sweet to Baby. I am sorry for her to see Hilda after her own loss. It is nice that she knows all the van Stockums.

The only drawback here is the monkey, which has attacked me twice already and which goes along on all our walks. His teeth have been shaved off but he managed to wound me all the same. Yesterday evening Stine and I took a beautiful walk to a meadow with a view on the mountains.

In the morning and evening it is nice and cool here, without mosquitoes. It is such fun to see Stine pottering around all morning: making butter and mincemeat, feeding beasts and in between gossiping with me. She doesn’t wear a sarong or kabaai.

I wish you were here, the primeval forest makes me think of you all the time. But for you it will be nice to hear how much I enjoy all this. Stine is so sweet to me.

To Family,  December 1908

Dear Freddie, Maurits, Johnny, Hilda, Maurits, Tom, Alfie, George, Valti, Gemma and Tollie. Good Heavens! I’m out of breath writing all your names! It’s quite a job writing to so many nieces and nephews at the same time. Thank you for your letters.

I’ll try to take care, John, but it is difficult for our Baboe is very strict with Hilda and me. Of course Uncle Bram’s ship did not founder; he is much too good a sailor. But it NEARLY happened, for he went with his ship where sailors seldom go and got close to a reef that wasn’t on the map.

Tom and Alfie, nice of you to write me. I liked your drawings. Did you hear I’ve been to a primeval forest? Just like Uncle Bram! There were all sorts of scary animals. It took a long time to get there. Mrs. Nering Boegel waited to conduct us to her house but because we had to go along narrow paths she straddled a horse like a man. So she cut her skirt in two. It looked all right when she was riding but when she walked you had a peep of her legs all the time. She wore a large native sun hat and a monkey sat on her shoulder, called Jacko.

We had to climb the mountain and because we had to cross rivers and there were no bridges I had to sit in a rickshaw and was carried up by the natives. Hilda loved it and kept saying “buwa, buwa,” which meant, I think, “How beautiful it is here and what an interesting life I have.”

When we approached the forest we had to get out for we had got to Mrs. Nering’s house. It really isn’t a house at all, just some sheds made of woven whattles, so you could see through the holes between the weaving. In the bathroom was a little brook that came from the mountain into one side of the bathroom and went out another. It was quite cold for Indonesia. It was a very decrepit bathroom for as I washed myself in the stream I could see through a hole what was happening in the kitchen. And sometimes the wind blew the roof up into the air and then you could see a big bird flying over your head. You get a fright when that happens to you.

From Villa Wedom, Lawang, Java, December 1, 1909 

Dear Family,
I must again thank you so many dear people for their presents. So I’m sending one big letter to you all.
Mary, I’m delighted with the dresses… they fit me beautiful and look elegant.
Rosie and Mies, your dressing gowns were most welcome.
Hilda, I thank you in the name of our daughter for the brooch.
Mary, thank for the little doll.
I congratulate Robert and Rosie [Phibbs] with their new daughter Kathleen (what a sweet name) and Alfred and Mies with the birth of Herman.
And I thank Charles not only for his sweet letter, but especially that he sent on Hessie’s letter and for everything he did for Hessie. If everything Charles did for her gives Hessie back her old vitality, then Charles has earned his place in Paradise.
Polly, you too have been splendid. The black dress fits beautifully and our admiration for all the little bits you transformed into sleeves knows no bounds. The little pinafore for Hilda fits her exactly so you see, we are simply overwhelmed with splendid apparel. I was going about in rags so it came in the nick of time. Most of the white shirts I took with me are in rags and the only proper dress I had left was the green voile and that would burst open occasionally as the silk lining was worn out, so you can understand how well off I now feel.
And Hilda, your scarf looks so neat, thanks very much.
And Em, how sweet of you to send me Adama van Scheltema’s poetry. What a lovely family I have!

But now I want to tell you about our gala week.

Hilda and I stood at the station to fetch Fik and Teau. I’d been busy all day decorating the house with flowers and making a delicious sponge cake for them, and arranging their room… but I was ready much too early, and I’d been pacing about impatiently. Teau was hanging out of the window waving her arms and Fik was looking a little bit less dangerously out of another window. It was a tremendous emotion when they at last embraced me.

When Teau saw our darling little daughter she did have to cry a moment, thinking of Nella left behind in Holland. Hilda did not understand it all. She never saw me act so familiarly with people and she was much impressed. I thought Teau changed… but advantageously so. She looks more like Hessie. Her face has lost something piquant she had but something more beautiful has taken its place.  She told me that Jan had also said she was looking like Hessie. They loved our little house and we had a gezellig tasty meal. Afterwards we went to the cupola on the hill and enjoyed an Indonesian night. The Smeroe (a volcano) was spitting fire and Teau was enthusiastic. I too, for it was the first time I had seen it, but for the honor of my house I pretended it was a daily occurrence. Only the next day I told them it had been new to me too. Teau was indignant and when Bram heard about it he called me a volcanic snob.

The day after their arrival we made a beautiful trip to the waterfall. First we drove and then we walked for half an hour where we could see the falls. We stood at the edge of what looked like an extinct volcano. It was a kind of hollow formed by mountains and at its rim, opposite where we stood, a little river rushed down. The walls of the crater where grown over with ferns and flowers and trees, reminding us of the Glen in Sligo. At the bottom was a little lake, which churned and danced and chuckled with pleasure under the continuous stream of wild foaming river water. First the little river curled calmly over the edge and then you saw the drops beginning to realize how lovely it was to fall through the air and they became wildly enthusiastic and disappeared in a mist, but the others went on falling, more and more quickly, till at last they reached their gay little brothers in the lake.

It was a lovely sight. We saw all this best when we were down near the lake, but it was difficult for us to reach it, as we had Hilda and no help, and the path was so steep that many ladies gave up.
Fik carried Hilda first, but both he and I were very nervous and so I took her and went as best as I could, slithering down with her. At a certain moment I could no go any more, my knees wobbled and my arms were aching. I sat down in despair while Teau and Fik went on. Then an Indonesian rescued me. He put Hilda in a slendang and went down with her.

We had a lovely morning there. Teau and I sat on rocks, chatting, Hilda throwing her shoes in the water (which Teau had to rescue with great danger to her own shoes) and Fik searching for and finding rare fishes. It was so lovely and gezellig! Hessie will be able to imagine it for she must have been as lonely in Ruxton as I was here. The next day the trunk came with my new clothes and as Fik had to go on business to Sourabaia, Teau and I fitted and sewed and chattered.

You should have seen Hilda’s beaming face when she saw all the beautiful things and was given Mary’s doll! She was sweet.

The day after we did another beautiful tour. We drove to a sacred wall which had formed a little lake where one could fish and bathe. It was surrounded by monkeys. Fik started fishing right away. Teau amused herself, letting Hilda wet herself in the lake, but with tragic results, for though I’d brought a clean suit for her it began to pour rain and we had to seek shelter with Hilda. We fled to a house in the vicinity that then turned out to be a hotel and we plopped down only to be ousted by the proprietor who said he’d rented everything. We had to wrap Hilda in a towel and Teau carried her to our carriage and there we sheltered in a little Indonesian shop that Teau thought most interesting. We then had a cold, wet, long journey home.

It was a lovely change for me but Teau and Fik want all the warmth and sun they can get. We walked with them also through primeval forest, but saw no monkeys. They were enthusiastic about the lovely landscape here. I told them of the only visit I made here. I live a very lonely life here. Hilda and I are usually alone in the house and if I need help, I have to go a little farther to where my servants live. So under those circumstances I thought it wise to pay a call to my nearest neighbour. Teau though it so interesting that she wanted to come with me.

My neighbor is a widow and when I first arrived at her house I suddenly wondered whether I had to speak Malay or Dutch to her. She wore a sarong and kabaai and her face looked brown and wrinkled but luckily she said: “What do you want?” in Dutch.

I then asked if I could pay her a visit the next day. I came and she had provided a banquet… the most lovely tartlets, cookies and cherry cobbler, and she beamed with pleasure when she saw how I enjoyed it all. She told me she made everything herself. For a time she made all sorts of Indonesian and European sweetmeats which she sold. Once she had 60 florins worth of stuff in her larder, when people burgled her house and made off with it. Now she doesn’t do it any more because she doesn’t want to tempt the natives.

She cooks her own meals on a paraffin stove and her sister tells me it is always delicious. She was flattered that I wanted to visit her. A while ago she had prepared a feast for 20 widows in Lawang and everyone had been delighted. But she thought the life of a widow very difficult. You were facing everything alone, though she told me in confidence that she hated all men.

She is English–that is, her father, she says, was an Englishman–but she does not know the language. Her mother married her father when she was only 14 and had 24 births and two marriages. When I told all this to Teau, she wanted to visit her too. We’ll go there on her return. The days have fled by and I am longing for Bram. The nice days are gone before you realize it, while the boring ones drag.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Letters from an Irish Grandmother, 1907-1910

Capt. Bram van Stockum, his wife Olga
Boissevain van Stockum, and their two 
eldest children, Hilda and Willem, c. 1915.
The following letters from Emily to her daughter Olga have been transcribed and lightly annotated. Emily lived most of the year in Amsterdam, but spoke and wrote little Dutch. The letters are being prepared for publication by Boissevain Books LLC and are © by the publisher on behalf of the Estate of Hilda van Stockum.

Emily MacDonnell Boissevain to Olga Boissevain van Stockum from Drafna, July 25, 1907 
Drafna, Naarden Thursday, July 25, 1907 Dearest Olga, I am awfully sorry you are not coming on Saturday, Hilda [de Booy, Olga's sister, after whom Hilda van Stockum was named] was so looking forward to being here with you. However I’ll try & keep her here till the following Saturday. I enclose you Gordhart’s letter, for which many thanks. As you are not coming here yet, I send you a basket of vegetables, salad is our largest commodity at present. I had to laugh at your being anxious about Bram [van Stockum] because he was a few hours late - mercy on us, how will you come through life, & how will you nurse a baby [i.e., Hilda, who will be born in seven months]? Every time you are anxious or worried will mean pain to the poor little child. So you will have to get yourself in order before that time, you had better tell Bram to stay away unexpectedly very often, & then you’ll get accustomed to it. And then if you only knew how angry it makes a man to think that there is continual supervision over him. And if an accident happened you’d be one of the first to hear it. And isn’t it stupid to worry about troubles before they are there. It is so un-philosophical. Forgive me going on about this, but I can’t help it, I feel so strongly about it, & as I know those emotions are so bad for you, I am sure you will do your best to keep calm, & don’t be angry with me for my tirade! Kathleen leaves us on Sunday I am sorry to say. When you come here, bring your clothes with you for Polly to alter. With fond love, Ever yr. loving mother

Emily to Olga from Drafna, July 29, 1907 
Drafna, Naarden Monday, July 29th [1907] Dearest Olga, I wonder when you will be coming here? It seems a sin to have that cottage empty all this time. Polly told me to tell you that if you send her the material she can make the blouse she promised you now. Kathleen left us yesterday, & we are sorry she has gone. Nella went with her, but will be home in a fortnight. And at the last minute Robert decided to go also, as far as London, but I believe he will go to Gliffars, he has still a few days holiday. Flevo is upset, all their summer plans are upset, for Henk has her "examen" in Trigonometry & “Wutbrunde” on the 1st of September, so has to work hard till then, & he & Em & Alfie were to have started next Monday for the Glen, and on the 15th to have met their father in London, & gone with him a boating excursion on the Thames, which Cor cannot do without Henk, as he wants help with the rowing, & Em & Alfie can’t go alone to Ireland. But nothing will matter if only Henk can pass, but it is so difficult to find anyone to work with him [─] everyone is away on holidays and he must have help, for he has had “onvooldvench” for those “vakken” the whole year. Sissie Cruijs has passed her exam out of the H.G.S. & was No 1. We saw the little boy van Hamel and the niece the other day, & I promised to fetch him here one day this week, and bring him home in the donkey carriage. We were driving past the house and he recognized us. I’ll send you more vegetables tomorrow or next day. Best love from yr. loving mother. I’ll look for your Balzacs. I don’t recollect exactly how the currie was made, but when you are here, I’ll try and tell you.

1908: Emily to Olga from Drafna, May 6, 1908 [?] 
[Beginning fragment] Drafna, Naarden Friday, May 6th, 1908 [?] Dearest Olga, You are down in the depths! But that is nothing, when you are a couple of months further all will be different. The first 3 or 4 months are always bad, & it is a pity for you that Bram has to be away from you now. I am sorry to hear that your stomach is out of order, for that means that you can take little food, & I know the doctor will want to feed you up. But your own sense will tell you that it is no good taking food you cannot digest. Try a warm milk diet, small quantities at a time. Only you, yourself can find out what you can best take. But one thing I must tell you, and that is that lying in a room, even close to an open window is not at all the same as being in the open air, even a balcony is not as good. To heal your lung you must breathe the pure fresh air, & your window wide open at night, & plenty of blankets if it is cold. It is a bother that you are in the family way, for of course it makes it more difficult to heal the lung, and that is the first thing you have to think of now. Have a little patience, and you’ll find after a couple of months you’ll begin to feel more cheerful about yourself. I saw enclosed advertisement in the D. O. H. [Damned Old Handelsblad] and thought it might be something for you, if your sister in law has to go away in June, for you’ll want somebody then to look after you & the baby & the house, I can write to her & see her if you like. I am glad you like the caps, & I am sure your… [unfinished fragment]

Emily to Olga from Drafna, May 8, 1908 
Drafna, Naarden Friday, May 8, 1908 Dearest Olga, I wish I could picture you somewhere! For of course I have not a notion where you are, and it is so hard to write before I know something about you. It is a week yesterday since we got your telegram from Padang so in a little more than a fortnight, I’ll be getting a letter from you, telling us where you are, and all about you and the baby. You will have [heard] of the birth of Teau’s & Rosie’s babies, within 24 hours of each other, but Teau won the race! She followed your example in an easy confinement, everything went so beautifully and the doctor was not half an hour in the house before the child was born, & now the nursing goes splendidly. On Sunday she will be down stairs, I went to stay with her the first ten days, but came back yesterday, as four of Hessie’s children are here, and want a lot of minding, nurse is completely [occupied] for Eugen, so Nella had her hands full. I had long promised to go to Teau when her child was born, but then when Hessie’s children came, I decided I wouldn’t go, but Teau was so disappointed, and said she felt so lonely with only a strange woman about her, and she looked so pathetically at me that I succumbed! Her child is really very like yours, a nice little round head, lots of black hair, dark eyes, eyebrows and eyelashes, a nice little mouth and beautiful little ears. Rosie’s child is just like all her others, it is a larger child than Teau’s but of course pretty. I have let Drafna for three months July, August and September, and Nella & I will go for the month of July to Zandvoort and take Johnnie with us, Hessie was in a way how she would get him to the sea side, so I settled that plan, we haven’t yet decided what we’ll do in August and September. Polly will go first to Teau & Hessie & then to England for 6 weeks. So those are the Drafna plans as far as we know them. Emile will be the “bruidgrus” [?] on Tuesday next the 12th and marries on the 27th. Nuvya was married last week on the 29th in London, I was sorry not to go to it, for I would have seen them all, but Teau kept us so long waiting. I haven’t yet got accustomed to the idea of your being in India, it seems so strange to me that I cannot believe it, everything was decided so suddenly. With father [it] is different[,] he is coming home so soon, but you are beginning a new life out there, and your little child growing up without knowing any of us, and other children perhaps coming, so if you don’t write me everything you do, I’ll feel quite out of your life. And write me all you know of Bram, and how often you see him, every little derail is interesting. Hilda will tell you all about her trip to Paris. Everything went off beautifully. Tomorrow I dine at Charles & Marie’s, it is his birthday, 40 years of age! I can scarcely believe it. I direct this letter to Bram, because I suppose that is the best way of your getting it. Mind write to me, if you know how I am longing to hear all about you. Fondest love from yr. loving mother

Emily to Olga, from Drafna, June 4 [1908] 
Drafna, Naarden Thursday, June 4 [1908] Dearest Olga, I cannot say how happy I feel! I knew you were happy with Bram & your baby, but now your letters tell me of content & satisfaction and a sort of feeling of being ready to like & make the best of everything, & then to know that you feel so well, & that baby goes on so splendidly, indeed I am thankful. Your descriptions of the arrival in Padang & your reception by Jo and tante Da, & the account of their houses was simply lovely. I never got such a good idea of India before. How nice and kind tante Da is for you, just her old self, giving, giving. And now you have got this nice invitation from the Valettes so I suppose you will be there now. I an so glad you were able to nurse baby entirely yourself, without any bottle, & I hope you will be able to go on till she is 9 or 10 months old. Father said he was going to look out for a baboe for you, and that will be a help for you, & I know they are not expensive. Nella was so touching by your writing to her, she was so happy with her little Godchild. Teau is perfectly happy, and is a splendid nurse, all goes beautifully. She had a most easy confinement, I think I told you in another letter all that was to be told, but it is so hard to know what I have, & have not written, specially as I have you & father to write to, & of course both of you want to know pretty much the same things. Fik is so busy getting ready for his promotion, that they can’t come down to stay here, which is a great disappointment to both parties, but Teau does not like to leave him, & I think she is right. His promotic is fixed for the 8th of July, and he & Teau have lovely plans for next year, and they are taking shape. Prof. Weber wants him to come and help him with his book that he is writing, & to do that he must go live near them, as Weber has a laboratorium and that is at Eerbeek in Geldesland, and Schoonpoe has had a talk with him about it, and he will buy some ground and build a house there for them. Teau is out of her mind with delight, and next month she and Schoonpoe go down to choose a site for the house. She hates living in Amsterdam. So that is all the news about Teau. Mary is back from Baden, & says her knee is ever so much better, and she must know it best, but she looks weak, but is as full of energy as ever, and last Sunday sang in the Groote Kerk in Naarden, & Hessie who was there said it sounded excessively well, and her voice quite strong. Charles and Marie are in London for a week enjoying themselves, going to operas & theatres, & seeing the latest new things. That is something that Dutch people don’t understand -- going away from your business for a week’s pleasure. Robert is back from his walking tour in the Schwartjwald, & is now at his new work, & so happy that he has done with the banking business, & looking forward to being sent this autumn to the West for three months. That will be a grand holiday for him! Marie and her baby are well. They come down to Flevo tomorrow for the “Pinkster dagen.” Hilda & her family come to us. We brought the van Halletjes home yesterday to Hattem to the new cottage where Hessie is now settled, and she will certainly be there a year, for the new house will only be began next week, and could not be dry for them by the winter. But they are most comfortable quite enough room, & a lovely dry spot in the middle of pinewoods & heather, & Hessie is so happy. Johnnie has gone to Zandvoort with Robert’s children, & will stay there two months, the first plan was that Nella and I would go with him there in July, but I am happy to say that is not necessary. Nella & I are now going to London on the 18th and we go to see the matron of an Hospital there that Hercules recommended, for Nella to go as sick nurse, & before she could make an application, she must have a personal interview. She has not yet decided where she will go, for we are also going to see some place in Zurich that Miemke de Vries recommends. And most probably this summer I will go with her to some place in Switzerland to see what can be done for her rheumatism, we have to be roofless for three months, so we can go where we like and do what we like, the only compensation for the home being broken up. Robert and Rosie have let their house in the van Eeghen straat and taken one in the Koningsinne weg, a very nice one, quite large enough and only f700 a year. I sent your letter to Mia, & she was so happy to read, I am now going to send you two letters to Aunt Minnie and Auntie Fan, I know how they will love it. Tell me in a private bit, whenever you hear anything from Andy Jameson, & also all about your money affairs, everything about you & Bram & the baby will interest me, so you need never puzzle your head as to what you’ll write, & if you haven’t much time, then send a post card. I’ll try and keep you up with the family, but I cannot get through them all in one letter! With fondest love Ever yr. loving mother

Emily in Switzerland to Olga in Java, August 3, 1908
Monday, August 3, 1908 Pension Hopp [Kopp?], St. Moritz, Switzerland Dearest Olga, I hope by this time that you are better, for the last few letters, you haven’t been feeling well. Hildasays it may be that you are acclimating, but it also may be that you are in the family way, & for baby’s sake I hope that will not happen yet. It would be a pity if you had to wean her before she was a few months older. Here it would be nothing, but in Ind[ones]ia it is so hard to get good milk & milk is absolutely necessary for a child under the year, & indeed till they are two years old it must be the principal food.  I think Hilda and Moni [Koni?] each had a cow for their children, I know it is very expensive, but if you can manage it at all, I would look on it as a necessary expense, you must make enquiries about it.  I fancy you three have had what we would call here an influenza, I did not think it existed in Ind[ones]ia, but that would be a reason for you feeling weak a long time afterwards. You are more than good about writing to me, I get a letter every week, and also what you write is so delightful, you tell me everything about you & Bram and baby, & I can picture your daily life and can understand how happy you must be while Bram is with you. I don’t believe in Soerabaya being the healthiest spot for you to live in, & was glad you were going to a cooler place when Bram was away. And then to Madoera, I don’t know anything about that, & have no map here to show me where it is, but is it not an island or an island near Soerabaya? I am delighted Bram is busy drawing the “Gastroscope,” I heard about it from Willem and I asked him to send it to me for Hercules, for I am sure he would like to know all about it, & Willem told me he had not got it yet, but that was some time ago. I am sure Jan will miss you very much when you leave Soerabaya, even though he may not see much of you. He must have had a very lovely time those first years he was in Ind[ones]ia. I have put by post from Gorringe two Enzock “Tidies”, which are the same pattern as the flannel ones that I used to have, you put them over a napkin, also two little bodices. I told them to send them as thin as possible for Indian wear, & if you put two buttons at the sides, then fasten the “Tidies” in that way to the bodice, it is much nicer than [?]rings, & you need not use any safety pins. I have also sent you two pinafores and two little low dresses, which I hope will fit and which I hope are the right pattern. Till I get home I cannot see Jan’s picture, so do not know exactly what dress he had on when it was taken. But mind tell me if the dresses fit, & if the other things are not you want, when once we are home I can easily get Polly to make you what you want, but then you must let me know, perhaps Gorringe may enclose the bill to you, but if he does, then send it back to me. I suppose baby will be soon getting a tooth, when she is about 7 or 8 months. I hope your money affairs are all right. Did you ever anything more from J? We are expecting him and Harrie here next week. Fancy Harrie is engaged to be married, she at last made up her mind to accept a young officer a Mr. Kirkwood, who seems to be very much in love with her, she met him last year for the first, & saw a great deal of him, but couldn’t make up her mind, & he went on to India, but came back a few months ago, & she saw more of him, and a couple of weeks ago accepted him & he returned to India last week, and comes back next year to marry her. But she has not told her parents yet, and they know nothing of it, however when she gets here, she intends telling her father. Only she does not want her mother to be meddling about it, she is such a disagreeable woman, and always specially nasty to Harrie. We see a good dial of Violet and tante Lisette who are at the Hulm [Kulm?], which is not far from us. This Pension is very good, but I can’t say I like pension life, I prefer an hotel, but then that would be too expensive for us, & I must say we don’t trouble ourselves much about the people in the house, for we are out all day, & don’t speak to anyone at meal times, & after supper in the evening, we take our books. I am sure they all hate us, for keeping so apart, but I can’t stand those Germans & I am sick of their language, so I pretend I don’t understand them! Nella is very satisfied with her masseuse, who is rubbing away all her gouty lumps, if I really think it is necessary I will let her go to Groddack for a month, but perhaps he would allow her to live with me in a pension in Baden, while he treats her. Charles is here now, being treated for his knee. Valhenburg is engaged to be married to a Miss Foekema. I feel quite content that he is not my son in law! My girls deserve a better sort. Fondest love from yr loving mother.

Emily to Olga from Drafna, November 29, 1908 [?] 
Drafna, Naarden Monday, November 29 Dearest Olga, I missed writing to you last week. I hope you were not very disappointed. And you are so good about writing to me. Now I have just got your letter of the 1st of November. I am so glad you are more comfortably settled, & hope you won’t economize too much in your food, your health comes above everything. It would be lovely if you were able to have your own house while Teau was with you, and she will be able then to tell me everything about it. I am glad father sent you a little bit of money, for it will help towards the extra expenses while Teau is with you. Oh! how I am longing for the letters telling me everything about you and little Hilda, & Bram, & also to hear about the talks you have had, and whether Jan was with you, and what is settled about Edmée. I hope he has put an end to that engagement. Mind you send us a telegram if that is the case, father will repay you. I sent Teau the copies of the correspondence between us, and the mother, and Edmée. She will have shown them to you of course. We got a letter today from Teau written after she had been to Colombo. I suppose posted in Sabang, or Singapore. She was enjoying her journey immensely. Her baby is the joy of the house here and so well. I saw in the D. O. H. ["Damned Old Handelsblad"] an article from the “Necheland” written by H. E. v A. asking why they don’t make their own torpedoes in Holland. I suppose Erwin is the writer. Wouldn’t it be a good thing for Bram if they did so? He might come at the head of it. Eugen was over with us yesterday for a day, and went back last night to Hamburg. Hessie is home again, & went down to see her on Friday, & it was a real happiness to see her at the head of her house again, singing and dancing with her children, and taking care of them all, and she looks so well. Eugentjie is improving, and looks first rate, and is now allowed to walk about for five minutes every day. Freddie is a darling boy, & so happy to have his mother back again, & Jan was getting so fearfully unhappy, there was no getting a word from him, but that will get better now that Hessie is home. Yes, I am happy that you are with Bram, & though it is lonely for you to be five days alone, still it makes all the difference to him that he can be with you every week for a couple of days. So I hope yours and Hilda’s health will remain all right in Lawang till you leave it in December next year. My fond love to Bram and kisses for Hilda from yr. loving mother

1909: Emily to Olga from Drafna, January 19, 1909 
Tuesday, January 19 [1909] Dearest Olga, I got your letter of the 18th & 21st this morning so I heard baby was better at the same time that I heard she had been ill. I am so sorry for you, but I suppose it was the remains of the illness that she had while she was at Nering Bogel’s. I have got her photo, and I am more than delighted with it, she is a little beauty, & looks so clever & healthy. Of course every one knows a photo cannot do justice to a child, the perpetual movement and coloring and expression are wanting, but I am quite satisfied with this photo. I told Hilda about your baboe having given the child wrong things to eat, & she says you cannot trust one of them, that is why she had to get a juffrouw for the children. They are just a degree better! What Bram says about drinking milk from a bottle is true for a little infant, but a child of Hilda’s age drinks slower out of a cup than out of a bottle, & it is easier to keep the cup clean. I suppose you will have weaned it by this time, for when you get this letter it will be a year old. Father hasn’t been yet to see Mevrouw van Stockum, but I’ll manage that he goes soon, I never thought about it, though I had fully intended going myself next week, when I will be in town. Father and I go to the Amstel Hotel on Monday next for a month, and Nella goes to Teau. I don’t think I wrote yet to thank you for having told me what you think about Jan’s health. I am so glad I know a little more about him. His letters to Edmée & to us only tell us that he is perfectly well, and feels strong. I am helpless for I do not dare to let out to anyone, that you told me about his health, I wouldn’t for anything [want it to get back to him so] that he got to know it so I didn’t even tell father. I am afraid there is not much chance of his getting over here, though I know Edmée has a faint hope of it. But I heard through her this morning that Stemberg, the man whom he disliked, & who worked so against him in the office, has been sent to another “afdeeling” so Jan won’t be bothered with him any more, & if he is happier at his work, & [knows] that he has a prospect of marrying not too far off, that will act beneficially on his health. It would be too good to think of his getting anything to do here in Europe. I feel so sure that in the end he will have to come back her, I cannot believe in Ind[ones]ia agreeing with him. But father won’t allow me to say so, that is why I know it is no good saying anything to father. But you needn’t be afraid of writing whatever you like to me. It is so much nicer to know that you open your heart to me. I hear that Mr. Thompson is going to Europe, & Rose[?] coming in his place. That is also nicer for Jan, isn’t it? I am bringing little Hilda home on Friday, she has been here now three [weeks?]. Cabeth is here now also, she was so delicate after the measles that I got her here for three weeks. Groddiek is in Amsterdam for four days, & Mary & Cor have gone to the Amstel Hotel for that time, as they wanted to go to theatres &c with him. He dined at Flevo on Saturday with Han and Hilda, Fik & Teau and the Prest & Walla. The poor Prest, I don’t think he was edified by him. Mary had an idea that they were kindred souls! Nella & I have kept out of his way, though I am really grateful to him, for what he has done for Nella’s rheumatism & her fat. She is nearly 10 kilos lighter than she was last winter, & is strong and healthy and able to do everything with her hands now, she can bike and play the organ, & cut bread and carry parcels, in fact, I never have to consider her hands now, & he has done her morally no harm, but “forewarned is forearmed”. Hessie will be moving into her new house the week after next. I will be glad when she is settled there. The winter is passing on well with Eugentje had a slight attack of croupy cough, but is all right again, & the others have remained all so well, & look different creatures from when they were in Frankhuis. Hessie herself isn’t so very strong, but that is the result of overtiring herself last summer. She tried to do without nurses, and had one child of a year that couldn’t walk, another invalid child that mightn’t walk, & four healthy spoilt ones who kept her busy morning and night, and only one servant. Result was a breakdown, & now a nurse, a Juf, a governess, 3 servants, one child away here, & Freddie going to school, so now she can have rest for a little. The other day little Hilda said she was going to have 14 children when she married, but “I want to be very healthy and strong so I am going to get 14 verpleegsters [nurses] to mind them for fear I would overtire myself.” She speaks from experience! But Hessie is not severe enough with her children, and they get too much for anyone. Mind tell me always all you can about your money affairs and whether you got money from Mr. J[ameson, of whiskey fame, related to the MacDonnells and the Marconis ]. I was awfully sorry to hear about the disappointment of Bram not coming for Xmas. But how nice for you if he can remain with you till June. Fondest love from yr loving mother I am so glad I have baby’s [Hilda’s] photo, I can picture her now to myself.

Emily to Olga from Amsterdam, January 26, 1909 
Amstel Hotel, Amsterdam 26th January, 1909 Dearest Olga, I got your letter of the 29th of December yesterday, when I was just leaving for Amsterdam, we are going to stay here for a month. It was so nice hearing about your Xmas, especially as those exchange[s] of telegrams made us know all about each other then, & Xmas is only a month gone. Of course we thought Bram had by some chance turned up at the last moment, & we were all so happy for you. Your description of baby at the Xmas tree, was exactly as Teau’s was at our tree, stretching out her little arms to the lights, & screaming with pleasure. I am glad you are going to wean the child, & I would throw away all the bottles when she is a year old, she must learn to eat and drink properly, and the stomach must get gradually accustomed to solid food, and not only fluid. But I cannot possibly prescribe what food. Teau’s baby gets now porridge (though a sieve) in the morning, and a boterham & milk out of a cup. At ten she gets a “pap” of Mellin’s food, at one she gets a plate with a potatoe mashed, with some carrots, or spinach through it, and a little gravy. At four she gets a little bouillon with rice, or biscuit, or bread in it, and at six she gets another “pap” of Mellin’s food, and then sleeps from seven till seven, & when she wakes in the morning she gets a crust of bread with a cup of milk. The bouillon is made from one ounce of tralfo oleisch & a breakfast cup & a half of cold water and a very little salt, & put down to come to a boil & then simmer for a couple of hours till the meat is nearly a pap, so soft, then through a sieve, & there remains over about a breakfast cup full, & that is for two days but Teau’s baby is now only 9 months old, as they get older they get more. We always made the bouillon for the babies in the nursery, on the “theistoof.” Teau only weaned her baby a month ago, and she got her fist bouillon at Drafna, & loved it & when she went home, Teau’s cook (your Saarlje) made it so badly that the baby refused to take it, & Teau had to put an egg in it to make her take it. Babies know so well when a thing is to their taste! Jan will have certainly told you that there is a small chance of Fik and Teau going to Java in October for several months, & they would leave the baby with me. It is a great secret yet, as it is not quite decided. He would be going for vischery onderyock [fishery exploration] and they would be travelling about to all the different islands. I wonder where you will be then, where do you think. You can fancy how excited Teau is about it, it would be lovely for her. Hancy Stark the dentist is in Java, he heard that Father lost his rheumatism in the last, and he had been suffering fearfully from it for some months, so he went, & arrived in Batavia cured! He took his dentist’s chair & instruments with him, & if he came short of money would begin a practice, so if he comes to Soerabaya, I advise you go to him, and make a [p. 2, on Amstel Hotel letterhead] bargain beforehand; he’ll never ask you a high price for father’s sake, & “auld lang syne.” Cor de Vos is going to marry a young dentist in Hilversum, 10 yrs. younger than herself, she is 36, & her eldest sister, the married one (divorced) is going to marry the brother (also a dentist & 14 years younger than herself). Groddeck has come & gone, & father & Nella never laid eyes on him though he was five days in Amsterdam. Father goes today to see Mevrouw van Stockum. He didn’t know she was in Amsterdam, or he would have gone sooner. He has written to Bals. Did you know that Dr. van Stockum’s son is in London at the Shipping Department of Eugen’s office? He told me he would be nice to him for your sake. I have got quite a tender feeling for Edmee, & I really believe she is fond of Jan, & if she had only been brought up differently, but to live with a vulgar snob (as the mother) must have had some effect on her, but she is young enough to come under good influences, she would see how her eyes were opened [?] by the few days in contact with our girls, the reality, truth, unselfishness, general love, mutual admiration, fearlessness of opinions, I mean, not afraid to say what they thought of themselves & others, and never posing, it was all a revelation for her. She was very quiet, but happy. I am so glad that I am able to say truly that I like her. But I could see that she was accustomed to “pose” and to be the central figure. Ever yr. loving mother

Emily to Olga from Drafna, March 22, [1909] 
Monday, March 22, 1909 [Day matches date.] Dearest Olga, On Saturday I sent off four dresses for you by the Oranje” and two pr. of drawers for baby with pattern, I think they will be the right length for her now, but as she grows taller you make the “pijpen” longer. When they are so small it is ugly to have “pijpen”. Your dresses are two white piqués and two white muslins, the pattern is from two dresses of Mary, & I got Polly to make what I thought you wanted, but under the muslin, you’ll have to wear a petticoat, I think Annatje gave you some, made all in one. The little jacket must be fastened with a broach & safety pins, or a tie in front, but I left the neck bare, for I think that prettier than a high neck without a band or collar, and if you want your neck covered you can always wear a shirt or blouse underneath. If these fit you, and you like the pattern, then in September I will send you four more. It was awfully hard to understand what you wanted, but I think them very pretty, and fit for wearing in the daytime. Teau tried them on, and they looked so nice on her. I hope you are not getting too thin. I have just got your letter about Jan. If I had got it a day sooner, I could have had a talk with Eugen about him, for Eugen has been with us the last week. He got influenza and the doctor in London told him to go away for a change, so he came here, & Harrie & Violet were with us on their way home from St. Moritz, so we have been having a grand time. Eugen doesn’t change, he is as full of life as ever, and where he is, he finds happiness, and livens up those around him. He has improved in many ways, is more considerate, and takes life a little more earnestly, & has more pleasure in reading and intellectual conversation. He has such a chivalrous nature, there is something grand & noble in it. He has nothing mean or small about, he has a large and liberal view on the actions of everyone, though being young (especially so for his years) he often condemns & takes too one-sided a view, but he is improving in that way. He is completely natural and truthful. Like all my children he is developing late. I am awfully fond of him, & I love the way he admires and believes in Father. I am so happy that he & Jan write to each other again. I believe that is since he is now convinced that Jan is not in love with Loulric. I know he thought it still a year ago. Good bye love. Mind tell me exactly about the dresses. Ever yr. loving Mother

Emily to Olga from Drafna, April 22, 1909 [?]
Friday, April 22 [1909] Dearest Olga, Your mother wrote me such a nice letter, to put my mind at rest about you, & saying what care they would take of you, & look after your food, & not let Hilda be a trouble to you, it was just sweet of her. She said that if Hilda had come to us you would have fretted too much after her. And she tells me you have got a little servant for her, so that will be a help to you. Have you yet got any of the letters from Lawang? I wrote to Jan to make enquiries about them, because the little dress I made for Hilda ought to have arrived, & I directed one letter to Teau to Lawang, thinking she would be with you, & now she was in Soerabaya, & so got no letter that mail from me. Mind when you write next to me tell me something about your health. Have you still verhooging? Are you in the family way? Is Bram coming to see us? Fondest love from yr. loving mother

Emily to Olga, End Fragment, May [?] 1909 [?] 
Drafna, Naarden [p. 2.] Next Monday she gives a large children’s party in the small “zaal” [hall] of the Concertgebouw [the concert hall in Amsterdam that Charles Boissevain lobbied for in his newspaper],  & pas and mas and friends may come also, & there is a man to play the piano for dancing & Eugen is going to show the “toover [?] lantern”, & father has made a “stukje” for Cateau de Booy to act, & everyone intends to have great fun. I expect Eugen here on Thursday. And Hilda & Han & family, & Charles & Marie come to us on Friday. We are going to have a tiny tree for baby Nella, on the hall table, & I will leave it there all Xmas time & we will light it every evening. You will certainly have one also. Best love from yr. loving mother

Emily to Olga, End Fragment, June [?] 1909 [?] 
Hotel Englischer Hof, Baden-Baden, p. 2 [In a letter I?] ... had from father [Hercules MacDonnell] he told me of the [how] disappointed they all had [been] about not being able to go on the trip with Bram, it was too bad. And now I wonder were you luckier, & and if you & baby went, & how it agreed with you, I am longing to hear all about it. There was a report in Amsterdam that Jan’s engagement was broken off. We traced [it] to Talitta Voute (Holtzman) in all probability, but Ind[ones]ia is an awful place for “praatjis”.  I daresay it begin when people heard that Mrs. de la V. was going to Europe with her daughter, & they concluded that this trip would end in the same way as the last! I daresay it is nothing Mrs. de la V. would like better. I have been hearing about her from people who knew her while in Ind[ones]ia, & they say she is an aanstellerij mensh, with a difficult temper, and then they shrug their shoulders and say “she is a Couper”. And they say the scandal about the eldest daughter’s first marriage was entirely her fault. I hope to Heavens Jan and Edmée will be able to live far away from her the first couple of years. I wouldn’t give up the thought of seeing Jan soon, only for the sake of that. Now good bye. I go in to Lucerne today & to Genoa tomorrow. Best love to Bram. Ever yr. loving mother

Emily to Olga from Zandvoort, June 15,1909 [Unfinished fragment] 
Tuesday, June 15, 1909 [Day matches date.] Villa Admiral de Kuijter, Zandvoort Dearest Olga, I think I wrote to you last week from Flevo, where I had gone to nurse Nella who had a bad abscess in her throat. She is now better, & I went down there on Sunday hoping to bring her back with me here, but the doctor thought it safer to wait till the weather was milder, for we are having a spell of cold north wind. So I go to Flevo tomorrow, and hope to return here with her on Thursday. She does not go back to “Erica” the Herstillings oord for children. Her time there is up on the 1st of July, and she is not yet strong enough to do the work there. Poor Nella, she is unlucky [love affair?]! She is going to Ireland [Sligo] for July and August, & she loves that. I told you that Aunt Minnie and Jole were over here for 3 days staying at Teau’s & Flevo, & I hear from Teau that Aunt Minnie was perfectly delighted at the reception she got from all the children, & they were all awfully nice to her, but then they are all fond of her & really glad to see her. And she lost her heart to Alfred, the only one she had never seen. I am so sorry about the dresses, I thought they looked so nice, & would be just what you wanted for morning wear. You have time now to write to me, & tell me exactly what you want in the way of dresses, and I get Teau to bring them to you, & you will have them in the beginning of November. I can get you one dress at Duhr’s for my expense, & then I can send you a couple of nice white blouses if you have skirts to wear with them. The dress from Duhr could be for evening wear with a V shape in front. You must write me exactly what you want, & then I can see what I can afford to send you. In September I can get everything in order, so that Teau can take it with her. Why does Bram now think that Ind[ones]ia will not be good for your nerves? He could have known that all along. It is the worst possible place for people with nerves. If you come home with Teau, of course you come to Drafna, & I’ll have a corner for you and little Hilda. While Teau is away, I am to have her baby & nurse. Will Bram have to stay in Ind[ones]ia long after you? Just won’t he hate it. I haven’t said anything yet to father about your coming, for I thought that will be time enough next winter. I [fragment ends here]

Emily to Olga from Drafna, December 20, 1909 [beginning fragment] 
Monday, December 20, 1909 [Day matches date.] Dearest Olga, Just got your letter of the 20th Nov. And the next day Fik and Teau will have been with you. How you will have talked! And we are still waiting for news of how the engagement was broken, & whether Jan was very cut up, or whether he was prepared for it, and whether Teau knew all about it before she sailed on the 28th. I trust to you to tell me everything. You are such a faithful correspondent, couldn’t be better. I have never had to wonder why I don’t hear from you. I hope you’ll get father’s letter all right, in which he encloses f25. If it had been double that, he would have been happy to give it for the sake of the good news! I thought Bram was already commandant of the Wachtschip, it was in the paper that he was appointed. You must tell me exactly what his title is now, also whether he is sure that he will be allowed to stay a year longer in Ind[ones]ia. I don’t trust those “Marin” people, they know how to tease, & if they think he wants to stay in Ind[ones]ia, they will order him home perhaps! But keep me au fait of what his work is, for if people ask me I don’t like giving wrong answers. Just yesterday I told somebody he was commander of the Wachtschip, & now in your letter this morning I hear he is still at the torpedoes. I can understand he likes that work best. Hilda had her bruiloft last Thursday, & Nella and I went in to her early in the morning, to help to settle her flowers and presents. She got such a pretty ring from Han. We gave her “groenten lepels.” And she is getting, from the cousins, a beautiful Deventer carpet for her drawing room, and she got a lovely old Dutch Press from Charles and Marie. Heaps of flowers, and the reception was nicely full, & afterwards all the brothers and sisters dined with her; we were 18 in all.

1910: Emily to Olga from Drafna, February 21, 1910 
Monday, February 21st, 1910 [Day matches date.] Dearest Olga, Thank you for your nice long letter of the 19th and also the one of the 24th about Dr. van der Sande. We know you would feel his death very much, as he had been attending Hilda so shortly before, & Fik and Teau knew him also. I am of course wondering what you will decide about coming home. It is a great excitement for us. I am sending you by post two little calico dresses, which Polly made for Hilda, they fit baby Nella exactly, but we only tacked the hem so that you can make it as long or short as you like. But now I won’t be able to send you any warm clothes as I had at first intended. Anyhow if you come back in May it is not so very cold, & I can always post something to you to Port Said, if I know it in time. Thanks for sending me Jan’s letter. I dare say I’ll hear from him in a few weeks, when he has got my letters without mention of Edmée. After I heard from him that the engagement was broken I wrote him one letter saying how I felt for him, and after that I haven’t mentioned the subject, and I told him I wouldn’t speak of her any more. But I knew Jan would keep quiet & to himself for a time. It will be good for him if Teau is able to stay with him for a little. I am longing to know whether you went to Soerabaya to consult Dr. de Voyd, but against you get this I daresay I’ll have a letter from you. Did you get the letter from father with f100 in it, and another with f10? Mind acknowledge them when received. I am sorry to hear about Mevrouw [Mrs.] van Stockum not being so well, I know how fond Bram is of her. Best love from yr. loving mother

Emily to Olga, March 10, 1910 
Drafna, Naarden Thursday, March 10th [1910] [Day matches date] Dearest Olga, Still waiting for news of you, or rather Bram. I fancy we can get a letter next week telling us what his illness is, & when you are coming home. You would certainly have telegraphed to us if it was anything very bad, so that is consoling. Fancy, Jole is engaged to be married to a Mr. Durham Verscholje, whose sister is Lady Crofton. I think you know her. I hear he is a very nice man, and excessively clever, an inventive genius. He is a mining engineer, and earning about £1,200 a year, so they will marry soon. Neville is also engaged to a Miss Forsyth, a girl in Calcutta, I believe very handsome, and a splendid horsewoman and dancer; that is all I know of her! The very latest news in the family is that Han and Hilda [de Booy] have bought a small piece of Drafna ground, & are going to build a Cottage there for summer use, & hope to have it ready by July. I am expecting Hessie & Eugentje here every minute. They are coming to stay here for at least a fortnight. I feel so happy at the idea of having them. Johnnie and Maurits are now settled in Zandvoort, and go daily to that nice school in Bloemendaal. The idea is to have them there for a couple of years if it agrees with them. Mrs. Trot van Stockum comes here this afternoon to pay us a visit. She was yesterday at Mom’s and slept there. I would have asked her to lunch here today, only Hessie is arriving just at that hour, so she comes for tea. Ever yr loving mother

Emily to Olga from Drafna, May 2, 1910 
Monday, May 2 [1910] [Day matches date.] Dearest Olga, Bram was here on Saturday & lunched with us, at least with father & me, for there was no one else here, and no one at Flevo either. I hope he will be able to come here some Sunday, for otherwise I don’t know how he will get to see them, & of course they all come to me, and ask me how they are to see Bram, & I can’t tell them, I don’t even know his address in Amsterdam. He told me he couldn’t come to dinner here as he was busy every evening, so I told him to come to lunch whenever he could.  I hadn’t a notion that he was going to stay any time in Amsterdam, I thought he had only left you for a few days, so I understand that you think it dreadful his going away, you will miss him! I hope everything is going smoothly, & that you are doing all the doctor told you. We are having such lovely spring weather, & everything looks so fresh and green, and the nightingales are singing so beautifully, life is worth living at present! But I want to know that you are getting on well. You ask me about the name. I advise you call your boy after Willem, if he would like it. I never liked the name Jan, & then Jan van Stockum doesn’t sound a bit nice. Why does your mother [Mrs. van Stockum Sr.] think it will be in October and not November? I hope to hear from you soon. Ever yr. loving mother

Emily to Olga from Drafna, May 13, 1910 
Drafna, Naarden Friday, May 13, 1910 [Day matches date.] Dearest Olga, Letters are unpleasant things if mine gave you to think for one minute that the family had been complaining of not having seen Bram. No one has said a word to me, but I would have liked him to have shown them, that he considered himself one of the family & was happy to accept from them anything they could do for you out of love. So you needn’t make yourself unhappy about quarrels and unpleasantness that don’t exist! And you needn’t think you’ll have to ask Charles for money, for I have only to tell him you want it for your cure, & you will get it at once. Bram was here yesterday to get some things out of his trunks, and told me he thought of bringing you to Holland in August. You must tell me where you would like to go? And shall I look out for something for you for that month? And where? I told Bram yesterday that I wished he would bring you here for the month of June. This is the healthiest spot for lung patients, I told him the great Sanatorium is close to us! It would be a lovely month for you to be with us, & Fik & Teau on & off here, and no other logées. And then we could make your plans for the rest of the summer. I told him he mustn’t think of going to Hessie in July or August for it would be really too much for her. She gets her boys home then for the holidays. Don’t you worry yourself about your family, they are all very nice & loving! Ever yr. loving mother

Emily in Zandvoort to Olga, June 21, 1910 [?] 
From Villa Admiral de Kuijter, Zandvoort Monday [?], June 21, 1910[?] [Date does not match day of week in 1910.]
Dearest Olga, Last Thursday I was able to bring Nella here, and she is gradually getting stronger, she was awfully pulled down. Her throat attack was worse than she ever before had, and I thing the reason was, that she didn’t give in soon enough, she only took to her bed when she couldn’t stand on her feet any longer, there was so much to do, 13 children to be washed, dressed and fed and no servant to help, and the two “zusters” [sisters] ill. I am so sorry that her philanthropic work was cut short, it is disheartening for her. She was delighted with a letter she got from you last week, and also one from Jan. she stays with us here till the 30th of June, when we go traveling, and she goes first to Teau, and then to Ireland. We are going to London for a few days, as I have at last got Girenks [?] to come and meet me there, I haven’t seen him for two years, and I have so much to talk to him. And then we go from London to Paris, and so on to Switzerland. I think you may rest easy about our being in Drafna next summer, I am almost sure Father won’t sell it, he refused an offer the other day. He is going to sell the bit along the “straatweg” and he’ll get a good price for that, and then we keep the rest of Drafna, and house and stable. Attie has bought the bit of ground near “klein Drafna,” that “dennen bosch” opposite Brouwer, just beside our place, and they are building a wooden house there, for summer use and weekends, Attie is so happy to come near us. I sometimes get so angry when I am writing letters to you, there are such heaps and heaps of things I want to tell you, and which I know would amuse and interest you, but it is important to wish them, it takes too long, if I only think of the hundreds of things that passed through my head while I was writing this! Hilda came down here yesterday for dinner, and the way that girl can talk, she is most entertaining, and her life is so full and active, it is most interesting to hear her. She is also a good wife and mother, and it has not always been easy for her with Han, for he is full of old fashioned ideas and customs and without actually going against him she has managed to get him to take a broader view of things. If she had given in to everything, he would have made her live a very cramped life, sitting at home darning or knitting stockings, ready to receive him when he chose to pop in on her. And she is fit for more than that, and happily he begins to see that a little bit, but it was a struggle. And she is such a good mother, looks after her children well, morally and physically. Tom [de Booy] has always been an easy and a good child, with the highest cifers in his class that he can get, but happily he is now sometimes naughty, or he would have been a prig! And Hilda had a difficulty in not letting Han spoil him, by always consulting his wishes, and making everything smooth for him. Alfie has developed so nicely, he is a very clever child, and a sense of humor, and witty and innocent and a good heart, the makings of a fine man, full of fun and mischief, the saving of John. Olga is a nice gentle little thing too young to say much about her yet, she has always odious “jufurouwen”, and has now got an English heavy lump, who is going away in the autumn, and then Hilda gets Polly’s niece Ethel, (Annie’s daughter) and that will be I hope a nice companion for Olga. I don’t know your address any more, as I suppose you will have left Lohman’s Pavilion by this [time], so I hope your name is known well enough in Soerabaya for you to get this. I am going out now to pay a visit to Suge van Tienhoven, she has built herself a little house here beyond “Zuid Zandvoort,” you know she got a f2,500 lot in a lottery last year, and this house is one of the results. I had a postcard from Hessie last week, and she says she is really improving but will have to stay the whole month of July in Laag Soiren. Best love to you and Bram and little Hilda. Your loving mother.

Emily in Gunten, Switzerland, to Olga, August 9, 1910
Hotel & Pension Hirschen, Gunten on Lake Thun, Berne, Switzerland Tuesday, August 9th, 1910 Dearest Olga, Last week I wrote to you telling of our visit to Bram’s mother, but this week I have nothing particular to tell you, we are here on the Thunersee, enjoying ourselves beyond words, after making little excursions on the steamers, to Interlaken, Spinz [?], Thun etc. Tomorrow we hope to go to Adelboden for a day, to pay a visit to Sisi & Mia Boissevain, who are there for some weeks. Last Tuesday we paid a visit to Charles and Marie in Grünig where they are for the summer with their whole family & Anna!!! And an under nurse. They all have their meals together, at a separate table from the other guests, & it was a sight to see the tableful and Charles, the proud & happy father, I was so glad to see them all there, Charles away from his business, and not preoccupied, & taking nice walks and excursions with his boys, who are fine manly fellows, Charlie remains our favorite, but Menso is also a nice boy, & does not give the impression of being so pedantic as he seemed to be. They are both of them nice with their parents, & fond of them. I am happy to say Bobbie is being sent to Snuk this winter to go there to the gymnasium, & will live with “Leeraar” [?]. I wish he had been sent to a good “Kostschool”, but any thing is better than his staying at home, he is a troublesome boy, & everyone in the house was against him, which is ruinous for a boy’s character. I just had a letter from Marie & she tells me Menso & Charlie have just climbed the Wetterkom successfully, that is a stiff climb. I have no letters worth enclosing, except one from An, which tells about Drafna, Nella & Teau, my chief correspondents write too intimately for me to forward their letters. Teau is beginning to realize how hard it will be for her to part from her little girlie. I am not going to advise her to do it, for if she feels it so very strongly, it might make her ill, & makes me feel the responsibility very much. It would be great disappointment for you I know. Best love to Bram and a kiss for the baby. Love yr loving mother

Emily to Olga from Drafna, October 5, 1910 [?] 
Tuesday [?], October 5, 1910 [?] [Day of week doesn’t match date] Dearest Olga, The telegram from Samarang arrived this morning, and of course Teau is in a state of doubt now as to what to do. Fik is in town today and she went to see him to consult him as to what they will do. I know she longs to take her child with her, but as she would have to leave it for three months, she is not sure what is the wisest thing to do. We of course know nothing about Lawang, but I suppose Fik and Hilda will be able to tell us what sort of place it is. The telegram says: “Bram & Olga residing healthy Lawang”, so we suppose you are settled there while Bram is on the Wachtschip. If we could afford to send Nella out to help you with the two children then it would be easy but that can’t be. And two children of the same age would be too much for you alone. So poor Teau is rather unhappy, not knowing what to decide, so I hope Fik will settle everything. Han & Hilda [de Booy] dine with us today, so Hilda will put in her word of advice. If I was Teau I would take the child with me, but I won’t give any advice, but I thought her quite right not to bring the child to Soerabaya. I hope the climate in Lawang will do you good, & that you will lose that “verhooging”. In the long run that would undermine your constitution. That is what Hilda always had. Ever your loving mother

Emily to Olga from Drafna, October 20, 1910
Drafna, Naarden Thursday, Oct. 20, 1910 Dearest Olga, I am so glad that you arrived home without being too tired, and found your house and all in order. The cook might to be very happy with the old blue dress, for by cutting away all the bad part, she would make a very nice dress for a small person. I missed you so awfully when you went, I cannot tell you how I enjoyed having you, old clothes and all! But I hope Bram won’t disappoint me about little Hilda, I really saw nothing of the child, and I would so love to have her without father or mother, and when your baby is born, I’ll come down to see you, and sleep at Hessie’s and hope that Bram will let me take little Hilda back with me for a week, and he will surely be going to Amsterdam in that time, so he wouldn’t nip her, but we need not settle anything till the time comes. I don’t think you ought even to think of going with Bram to the west. A year goes by so soon, and you have now mapped out your time, so that you really can be economical, and need cost Bram very little. I saw Hilda yesterday and she is so well, and I expect to have her here on Saturday week, I told her to wait till after the birthday, and told her Hessie was staying till Monday or Tuesday, so that she would be sure to see her. She hopes to go to you when your child is born. I had to tell her all about you, and the scolding I gave you about your clothes, and I told her you bore it like an angel. I forgot to give you the wedding cake for you and Hessie. Fancy father went to see Hilda yesterday, and got into a tram and went to her house instead of the “Ziekenferplizing”. I told him it was just something for Olga to do, and that it was easy to see she was his daughter! Best love to Bram. Ever your loving mother

Emily to Olga from Drafna, November 8, 1910 [?] 
Monday[?], November 8, 1910 [?off by a year from the calendar] Dearest Olga, Your letter of October 11 came this morning. I hope soon to hear from you that your malaria is quite over, you certainly let it go on too long, & that is why it is so hard to get rid of. I am also very glad that Fik decided to leave baby Nella here, but that telegram was hard on Teau, for it made her just long to take her with them. And she is so well & happy here, it would have been a sin to disturb her. Father tells me that he wrote to you last mail begging of you to send us a telegram if it was finally decided that the engagement was broken, for it is not likely that Jan would telegraph it, and we are so anxious to know that there is an end to it all. If you telegraph: [“]Boissevain. Naarden. Broken.[”], then we know what that means, & father will at once send you a “postwissel” for the amount of the telegram. It will be such a relief to us all, for we are so afraid that she may have written to Jan in such a strain, that he will have pity on her, and not give her up. Teau will have got a telegram from us on her arrival in Batavia, saying that Edmée had written offering to break [the] engagement. I wanted Teau to know exactly how matters stood, before seeing Jan, as she thought it so horrible that she couldn’t talk out really what was in her mind about Edmée. Yesterday we had a visit from Henk Boelen, who lives in Soerabaya & will see Jan soon. It was nice of him to come here, & he can tell Jan all about us. Marie was here for the day. Charles had gone to Hamburg for the weekend to see Eugen. Mary is back from Baden, and is certainly the better of [for] her stay there. And on Saturday Nella fetched Johnnie from Noordwijk, where he has been for seven weeks, & he looks a different creature, so well and strong. He goes back to Hattem tomorrow. Please go on sending me Jan’s letters, you can’t know what it is for me, it is a bit of himself. He was so young when he went away. Don’t mind Bram, though I agree with Bram all the same! But this is exceptional & I am his mother! Yr loving mother

Emily to Olga from Drafna, November 16, 1910 
Drafna, Naarden Dearest Olga, Last night I got your letter of 18 October. I am sorry to hear you have got “verhooging,” I thought you would be all right when once you got to a proper climate, but perhaps by degrees your temperature will learn to behave itself. Have you got books to read? And have you sewing work to do? Or can you take up some study. You must not get into the habit of being unhappy from Monday to Friday. Of course you miss Bram, and of course it is nicest to have him with you, but haven’t you learnt the lesson yet to take life as it is, & make the best of it? Why, don’t you know that if you are unhappy, it affects your health. You must give yourself some work to do, that will really occupy you while you are alone, and with such a man as Bram to refer to, & to help you, it will not be difficult, and then with that dotie [cute] child for recreation, & also having to do everything for her, oh! You mustn’t let yourself be unhappy. Begin & write an account of your life in India, it will be nice for little Hilda afterwards, & I would love to read it! Do you want any books? And what sort? Father will be only too happy to send you some if he knows what sort. Am I writing you a horrible sermon? But it is for Bram’s sake, as well as your own, think of what a difference it makes for him if he knows he leaves you happy or if when he comes to you he can see you have been fretting for him. But I fancy when you are settled in your own house in December it will be different. And when you get this you will have had Teau and Fik with you and I dare say that will have done you good. We have heard nothing from Edmée and are just longing to know how things stand with her and Jan. You’ll telegraph to us as soon as you know anything? I am longing to hear Teau’s account of you and Hilda. Fondest love from yr. loving mother