Thursday, October 9, 2014

Inez Milholland's Mother-in-Law - Emily MacDonnell

Inez Milholland probably met her mother-in-law Emily at most twice. That might be considered a blessing by men who did not get along with their mothers-in-law. However, she was a dutiful mother as can be seen from her letters to my grandmother.

In fact, when the two women met, my mother was probably there at well.  The couple went to visit her husband Eugen Boissevain's Dutch relatives and my mother (Emily's granddaughter) told me before she died that Inez, who was described as smelling of flowers, brought her a kewpie doll.

These little children with wings were an update on cherubs, who were drawn in medieval paintings to represent infants who miscarried died in childbirth or soon afterwards. I have a few of them in the house.

Emily Héloїse MacDonnell

Emily Héloїse MacDonnell was born in Dublin in June 1, 1844, two years after her future husband Charles Boissevain, who was born in Amsterdam on October 28, 1842.

She grew up in Dublin and Sligo, daughter of Judge Hercules Graves MacDonnell and Emily Ann Moylan, who famously eloped from Dublin to London, allegedly the first to elope by horseless carriage.

How Emily and Charles Boissevain Met and Married

Emily was entranced by Charles' humor and good spirits and they were married. Like Trojan Aeneas settling in the area that became Rome, inferretque deos Latio (he brought his household gods with him to Latium), Emily brought with her to Holland the household gods of Protestant Dublin. 

Emily's Life as an Expatriate

Emily was proud of her Anglo-Irish background and spoke English almost exclusively to her 11 children during her long years as Charles' wife. She did learn enough to write a few letters in Dutch, but they are rare. 

After the death of Charles, she lived alone with the family governess, Polly, meeting separately with visitors based on Emily’s higher status.  Yet she bonded like a Viking conqueror with the country in which she settled.  Emily never traveled alone, and only visited where she had relatives. 

Emily MacDonnell Boissevain’s life and letters reveal much of the culture and concerns of her times, especially the ties between Holland and Indonesia. She traveled sparingly and mostly back to her native country to spend summer weeks in Sligo. Her letters provide a unique cross-cultural window on Britain, Ireland and Holland, with some interesting sidelights on the United States.  The letters especially show how much of Ireland she brought with her to Holland.
Emily’s Father Hercules MacDonnell and His Family

Emily’s family is traced back to Somerled, the first Lord of the Isles in the 12th century (see genealogy).  Her grandfather Rev. Richard MacDonnell was Provost of Trinity College, Dublin.  Her parents were Judge Hercules Henry Graves MacDonnell and Emily Ann Moylan; we have letters from Judge Hercules MacDonnell to his granddaughter Olga.   
Judge Hercules MacDonnell had an even better-known brother, Richard, who became in turn, Britain’s Governor-General (or equivalent) of Gambia, St. Vincent and Lucia, Nova Scotia, South Australia and Hong Kong.  Following that he was knighted and retired to the south of France.  His wife was called Blanche.  Any map of South Australia will show the MacDonnell range of mountains at the northern extremity, named after Richard.  Some ports and rivers are also named after him and his wife.  

The MacDonnell family can be traced back to Alastair Carrach, grandson of the 1st Lord of the Isles in Scotland, who founded the Keppoch branch of the great Clan Donald.  In 1431, part of Keppoch lands were forfeited and given to the MacIntoshes, causing a feud between the MacIntoshes and the MacDonnells of Keppoch.  The MacDonnells were warriors and the 9th chief of the clan, who was exiled for most of his life, served in the Swedish army.  The 12th chief of the clan was murdered along with his brother in 1663.  Coll, the 15th chief of the clan, was noted for his fierceness and was called “Coll of the Cows;” he resisted by the power of the sword MacIntosh attempts to retake his lands.   His son Alexander, the 16th chief, died fighting for the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden.  At some point the MacDonnells emigrated to Ireland where they became part of the Protestant (Presbyterian or Church of Ireland) ruling gentry.  

The motto of the MacDonnell family was “toujours prêt” (always ready).  In Dutch, a word pronounced like “prêt” means “fun” and this meaning of the word is more descriptive of the flavor of the atmosphere in the home that Emily MacDonnell made with Charles Boissevain.  “Fun” is a good description of the goal of Olga Boissevain, their third daughter, according to her daughter.  Another MacDonnell family motto was “per mare, per terra.”  This has less of an association with “fun” because it was adopted as its motto by the U.S. Marines.
Emily’s Mother Emily Ann Moylan

Hercules MacDonnell was a lawyer (a barrister, arguing in court) when he married Emily Ann Moylan, who was referred to in the press at the time as the niece of Lady Jodrell.  Since his religious father did not approve of the marriage to Miss Moylan (either because she was too young or was not Church of Ireland; the stories do not say), the two eloped to London via Liverpool, whence they traveled via “horseless carriage” on the just-completed railway line connecting the two cities.  They were said to be the first couple in history ever to use the horseless carriage as a vehicle for elopement.  

Coincidentally, Lady Jodrell’s daughter eloped at virtually the same time, because her parents considered her too young to marry, so that the Moylan-Jodrell cousins’ elopements were covered by the press at the same time, as in the clip shown on the previous page.
Emily’s Sayings 

Emily’s bon mots were frequently quoted.  Here is a sample of two:

To Tom and Alfred de Booy, who had been stealing fruit:  “Next time you want to eat the peaches in my orchard ask me beforehand.

To Laurens Boissevain who ran from home to Grannie: “ You ran away because you reasoned about your father and mother, now feel what your heart says.”  (Laurens went back).


Based on a summary prepared by Randal Marlin from published sources on May 24, 2002.

Somerled (1125?-1164)
Founder of the Kingdom of the Isles.  Slain at Renfrew.
Reginald or Ronald or Randal MacSomerled (1158?-1207)
Donnell MacRonald (1190?-1249)
Founder of the clan MacDonnell.  Attacked Derry with 70 ships in 1211. 
Angus Mor MacDonnell (1268?-1294)=Daughter of Colin Campbell
Died in Isla.
Angus Oge MacDonnell (1298?-1326)=Agnes O’Cathan
A.k.a. Ronald, the subject of Sir Walter Scott’s poem “The Lord of the Isles”  Fought at Bannockburn in 1314.  
Died in Isla, buried in Iona.
John or Eoin MacDonnell (1320?-1387)=Ami nin Ruarie of Ulster
Was made prisoner at Poitiers in 1356
Marcus MacDonnell (1367?-1407?)=
Migrated to Ireland from Scotland.
Turlough MacDonnell (1386?-1435)
In 1431 lands of the MacDonnells of Keppoch were given to the MacIntoshes, starting a feud between the families.
Carragh MacDonnell (1416?-1466)
Builder of Tynekill.  Slain at Offaly.
Turlough Oge MacDonnell (1480?-1540?)
Colla or Calva, also called MacTurlough MacDonnell (1510?-1570)
Obtained grant of Tynekill estate from Queen Rlizabeth, including a castle and 1,000 acres of land.  In return had to pay the Queen a head rent and also maintain
 on her behalf heavily armed soldiers called gallowglasses  Was slain at Shrule, Mayo, 1570.  This is the key starting point
 for records.  Corley Boy MacDonnell expressed a common attitude toward the Crown when he accepted a patent for the Glens
 of Antrim and then had a fire built and burned the patent from the end of his sword, saying “By this title I hold my lands.” 
Hugh Boy or MacColla MacDonnell (1540-1618)
He was pardoned for his rebel activities in 1600.
Fergus MacDonnell (1575-1637)=
James MacFergus MacDonnell (1617-1700?)=Margaret
James served as Colonel of the Confederate Catholics.  He got a re-grant of Tynekill in 1637, but forfeited Tynekill four years later, when at the age of only 24 he became a conspicuous rebel leader.  A price of £400 was put on James’s head, plus a free pardon.  James survived, but lost his property.  However, Margaret was allowed by decree of 1664 to live there until she died.
Fergus Charles MacDonnell (1660?-1730?)=?
Moved to Wicklow, raised all his children as Protestants despite (or because) his father lost Tynekill by being a rebel Catholic.
[Continued from previous page]
Charles (“Sorley”) MacDonnell (1691?-1767)=Mary Hall
Charles was a royalist, called his youngest son George after George II.
Richard MacDonnell (1729-1805)=Daughter of Captain Sandys
Robert worked as a revenue officer in Cork through his friend Mr. Lowther, MP, “Father of the Irish House of Commons.” 
Robert MacDonnell (1764-1821)=Susanna Nugent (1766-1822?)
Robert was a wealthy man until the overthrow of Napoleon ruined him. 
Rev. Richard MacDonnell (1787-1867) = Jane Graves (1791?-1882)
Born in Douglas, near Cork.  Married 1810.  Provost of Trinity College, Dublin.  Jane Graves was daughter of the Dean of Ardagh, one of whose descendants was the poet Robert Graves.  They had 14 children.
Hercules H. Graves MacDonnell (1819-=Emily Ann Moylan (1822-1883)
Third son of Richard and Jane MacDonnell (older brother Sir Richard Graves was Gov. of Gambia, South Australia, Nova Scotia and Hong Kong; mar. Blanche Anne Skurray).  Was an attorney, Justice of the Peace for County Dublin, Secretary to the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests for Ireland.  Mar. Emily Ann Moylan in 1842; she was born in Paris.  They had eight children.  
Emily MacDonnell (1844-1931)=Charles Boissevain (1842-1927)
[continues with #41 of the Boissevain Genealogy that follows]

1. Lucas Boissavin 1660-1705, m. 1700 Marthe Roux
Lucas Bouyssavy of Bergerac, Dordogne, died in 1685, the year Louis XIV revoked Henry IV’s Edict of Nantes.  In about 1895 Lucas Jr., now Boissavin, 
fled to Belgium and Holland. Marthe also fled Bergerac and they were married in Rotterdam September 1, 1700.
2. Jérémie Boissevain 1702-1779
5. Gédéon Jérémie Boissevain 1741-1808
8. Daniel Boissevain 1772-1834
17. Gédéon Jérémie Boissevain 1796-1875

Source: Barthold Hubert Boissevain, Stamboek der Boissevains [Genealogy of the Boissevain Family], Amsterdam: Jacob van Campen, 1937, plus updates by JTM.  Numbers for patrilineal descendants are from the Stamboek.  Names of persons mentioned frequently in Dutch letters are underlined.  Names of persons referred to frequently in footnotes to the letters are in bold face


Emily and Charles.
To me she was always a little, but formidable old lady, who was the heart of her family, adored by husband and children, but a little daunting to the grandchildren, all 50 of them.  Maybe the older ones knew her as a younger woman; I came at the end of the family.  Luckily my grandmother lived long enough for me to get to know and love her, but when I was a child we were always at odds.  I wasn’t Irish looking; I took after my father.  I had few “feminine” qualities.  My grandmother liked to see girls doing needlework, but for me the needles never did anything but prick.  I was a bookworm, which in those days was frowned on, because girls were supposed to be playing and exercising in the fresh air to get nice complexions.  But I was too fascinated by the bound volumes of the “children’s corner” of my grandfather’s newspaper, and could not wait to read the next installment of the current adventure story.  
I was introverted in those days, and found it difficult to make conversation with my Granny, who spoke Dutch with an accent.  I was my grandfather’s favorite, and was placed beside him at table.  He encouraged me to write verses and stories and declared I’d inherited his talents.  But the great attraction I felt for him was because of his naughtiness.  He was always doing forbidden things: putting marmalade and cheese on the same piece of bread and then declaring with a naughty twinkle and a sigh of satisfaction, after consuming this concoction: “It was just as if an angel peed on my tongue.”  That’s the sort of thing I loved Grandfather for.  Granny wasn’t angry.  She laughed, but we weren’t allowed to imitate him.  I don’t think my Grandfather ever knew that my Granny ruled him.  She was so full of deference and respect!
He met her in Ireland where he had gone as a young and handsome reporter for the little commercial paper, which employed him (as he worked his way up he made it into the most important Dutch daily newspaper).  He reported some trade event, on the lines of the modern expos, and probably it included the annual horseshow.  My great-grandfather Hercules MacDonnell invited him to stay at his home, Sorrento Cottage, in Dalkey, where he met the numerous family.  The oldest girl, Emily Héloïse, was strikingly beautiful.  As it happened, my grandfather got ill, and he was nursed by my great-grandmother and her daughter Emily.  Perhaps it was not surprising that my grandfather fell in love with the charming young nurse.  At any rate, married they were.  
I asked my Granny once what made her marry a foreigner like that.  Wasn’t it a big step for her to take?  “Oh,” she said, “he made me laugh so much I hadn’t the breath to say ‘no’.”
My grandmother had had a glorious youth in Ireland.  My grandfather wrote a poem about her, in which he describes how she jumped from the rocks into the sea and rode bareback on her pony.  She herself wrote my mother about her teen years and all her admirers.  With one she went for walks, with another she practiced archery.  One she always met accidentally on her way to church and with one she went to visit the poor.  But she did not like that much [visiting the poor], she added.  She must have missed all that freedom later.
They were married in London and there is a legend that they quarreled after they left the church, because my grandfather claimed her arm, as was his right as a husband in Holland.  But Granny acknowledged no such right and refused to allow anything so immodest.
So the Irish rose was transplanted among the stiff Dutch tulips, and not without friction.  She did everything wrong… and as the Boissevain family consisted of endless cousins, aunts, uncles and great-aunts, their disapproval made a big noise.  In those days the activities in Holland of a proper lady were greatly restricted.  You could not go out in the mornings because then the domestic servants did the shopping and it would be awkward to meet them.  You can imagine the horror the family felt when they saw Charles’s wild Irish wife out at eleven in the morning, skating on the canals arm in arm with her cook.
However, nature soon put an end to these exploits.  My Granny presented my grandfather with eleven children: five boys and six girls, one more clever and handsome than the other.  She acquired a Yorkshire nanny called Polly, who became such a member of the family that she stayed with them till her death.  And she made the clothes of the children and grandchildren out of the then so-popular Liberty cottons.
There must have been lean years, but my grandfather describes his home life in these words: “I am always struck anew by the intimacy of our family life: I see the family sitting by lamplight, in the room with red drapes, grouped around their mother, who is their spring of action, their source of love.”  It’s a vivid picture by a fond family man.  He was so proud of his family he kept theirs photographs in his pocket to show at the drop of a hat.  He was nicknamed “The Kangaroo”.  Once he visited a Turkish Emir and boasted of his eleven children.  “That’s nothing”, said the Amir, “I have 26.”  “Ah, that is a large number,” said my grandfather, impressed, “but I have only one wife!”  It was the Emir’s turn to be very impressed.
There are charming letters of my grandmother to my grandfather, which tell of her difficulty with such a large family.  One problem was the noise at table when they all talked at once, and the dreadful stillness when no one talked.  She tried to let them talk one by one, but only Mary, the oldest girl, responded and in the end she gave up: rather the noise than the silence.
And on another occasion she had to punish her second son Alfred for teasing the little girls, and she locked him in a room.  He kicked and kicked at the door till he kicked out a panel.  Then he stuck his handsome head through the opening and cried:  “I didn’t do it, Mother, I didn’t do it!”  She writes that it was difficult for her not to laugh.
Yes, we get the feeling of an Irish household rather than a staid Dutch one.  Once my uncle Alfred had a serious quarrel with his wife.  He had been given a little inheritance and he proposed to give his wife half for new slipcovers and with the other half they would go to Paris and have fun.  Aunt Mies was aghast.  To spend money for fun when they needed new sheets as well was wicked.  She went and complained to her friend, my mother.  “You are suffering from different religions,” said my mother.
“What do you mean?”  They both belonged to the Walloon church (rather like the Anglican).  “Yes,” said my mother, “you were brought up to feel that in order to be a virtuous spouse and housewife you must think first of the necessities of your home, and last of all of your own enjoyment.”  “That is truth,” said aunt Mies seriously.  “So my brother is very fair,” said my mother.  “He gives you half for your religion.  But he, on the other hand, was brought up to think that the one thing we must do is to enjoy ourselves in the beautiful world God has created for us, and that the last thing we should do is to bore ourselves with necessities.”  Aunt Mies looked at my Granny and thought, and then agreed: “That is true too,” she said.  “Therefore,” said my mother, “aren’t you a little mean not to enter into his religion while he generously enters into yours?”  They had a wonderful time in Paris.
My Granny was always ready for a lark.  She went to football matches to see her boys play, and later, when they were young men, she’d sit up with them talking and drinking whisky till late at night.  Her husband’s numerous admiring females did not bother her at all.  “Isn’t it time you wrote to your Scottish Thistle?” she’d ask, “Who was that?” grandfather would ask.  “Oh, how shameful of you Charlie, have you already forgotten her?”  
Her morals were very broad too.  She wanted my grandfather to smuggle wine to her relatives in London and Ireland.  My grandfather said he could not do it.  He was known everywhere to be an honest man, he could not let himself down.
“Nonsense,” said my Granny.  It’s just because they trust you that you can smuggle so easily”.  My grandfather remained adamant.  But the next time he crossed the North Sea and was bowed past the customs with by deferential officials he opened his suitcase in his hotel room and right on top, without any attempt to hide them, lay a row of bottles.  I don’t know what happened to my Granny, but she survived.
My Granny did not believe in illness.  If her children chose to succumb to such an indignity, she did not cosset them – that would only encourage them to be ill again.  Many a weary day did my mother lie in bed, unattended, with a raging appendicitis [breaks off here]. 
EMILY’S LETTERS (1907-1910)
Emily to Olga from Drafna, July 25, 1907
Drafna, Naarden
Thursday, July 25, 1907
Dearest Olga,
I am awfully sorry you are not coming on Saturday, Hilda 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 became he was a few hours late, mercy on us, how will you come through life, & how will you nurse a baby?  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. 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. [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].  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” of the Concertgebouw, & 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 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 Iole 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” 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 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 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

My mother, born Olga Emily Boissevain, later Mrs. Bram van Stockum, was the middle one of eleven children -- five brothers and sisters above her in age and five below.  Charles used to carry the photographs of the children in his pocket to show to anyone who was interested, and therefore was nicknamed “The Kangaroo.”  Once he dined with an Eastern potentate who boasted of having four more children, but had to acknowledge the greater achievement of my grandfather when he revealed the astounding fact that he had them all by one wife
The oldest child of Charles was a son called Charles E H (“Charles Eh Hah”).     Charles EH was the wealthiest of the 11 “Careltjes” He married a woman who was became the first female member of the Dutch Parliament – Marie Pijnapple; they had ten children.  It was not surprising that my grandparents ended up with 125 grandchildren, all of whom were welcome to visit them.
My grandfather was the owner and editor of the Amsterdam Handelsblad, the most successful daily paper in Holland, and wrote a feature called “From Day to Day” in the most frivolous part of the paper, which also included a children’s section.  We grandchildren often, on arrival at their grandparents’ house, made a bee-line to their library where all these wonders could be found.  I earned a scolding from my Granny for doing so:  
“The first thing you do when you visit anywhere, is to present yourself to your hostess and greet her.  I didn’t even know you had arrived.”
So in future I did as she told me, and as the drawing room was next door to the library not too much time was wasted.  But I have to confess I was not the most popular guest.  Those who had not learned to read yet fared much better.  But I was my grandfather’s favorite and was always put beside him at table, so I was the one who witnessed the first time he lost a tooth.  He was very unhappy about it because he had kept all his teeth till he was eighty.  I sympathized very much because going to the dentist was one of my phobias and no doubt my grandfather appreciated my heart-felt sympathy.  At any rate, I was acknowledged to be his favorite and perhaps this was partly because I had a talent for making up verses.  He said I had inherited this talent from him – besides writing a daily column in his paper – he had also written books, mostly on his travels.  I have a literary criticism of his work by some literary bigwig of his time a very superficial criticism, I think, though I’m biased, of course.  But it’s nice to have it all the same.
If creativity and complexity go hand in hand, then large families lend themselves to being creative.  The Boissevain family is a large and creative one and its components were focused on houses.  The Charletjes are the 11 children of Dutchman Charles Boissevain, Editor of the Amsterdam Handelsblat, and his Irish bride Emily MacDonnell.
The Charles Boissevain clan lived in a semi-circle stretching from the seaside resort town of Zandvoort to the west, then 20 miles east through Haarlem to Amsterdam, another 15 miles east to Naarden-Bussum (served by a single train stop), Baarn, and Blaricum, and finally 45 miles northeast to Hattem, near Zwolle, where the van Halls lived.  The center was at Bussum, where Drafna was located.  Drafna was described by Tom de Booy as having “a special atmosphere [as] the throbbing center of the Boissevain clan.”  The De Booys built a house called De Sparren near Tante Trot’s house.  In Hattem were Astra, built by the van Halls, and Kleine Astra, where the van Halls stayed while they were building their house.  The de Beauforts (the family Teau married into) also lived near Hattem. 
The importance of houses may be conveyed by the fact that Teau de Beaufort composed a play about houses.  Each character was given a house to play.  They had to memorize their lines.  I remember an embarrassing play.  I was 10 years old and was given the part of a seaside resort house (probably the one at Zandvoort).  But my father was there and he took the liberty of changing some of Teau’s lines.  I thought her father’s changes were good (he had a good ear for meter), but Teau and her fellow authors did not want to recognize any line changes.  As a result, I never learned the changed lines properly and she was prompted with the original text, which she hadn’t studied.  It was a disaster for me.
Moving with Mother Around the World
But to answer her question briefly, after we left Holland I lived in Ireland with my mother and two brothers till I married, so Ireland is a part of my youth.  I was very happy there.  Irish people are very natural, full of humor (but with an underlying melancholy) and their defects are endearing rather than off-putting.  My mother was poor.  She had to be helped by relatives, but she always saved on necessities and spent her money on luxuries.  We went often to the cinema in the sixpenny seats,  with a lot of street urchins who loudly cheered the hero and booed the villain.  It added style to the picture.  Later, when we made friends with the Dutch consul we had the best seats and wonderful dinners with six courses.  In return he had home-cooked meals in our cottage kitchen, which his homesickness proclaimed “Typically Dutch” (which it was not, but we let him think so).  He became a real Dutch uncle to us.
Actually we didn’t mind being poor.  With Mother it was fun, our exercises in economy were amusing.  We got a goat which we learnt to milk, and two ducks.  But as Mother had only a sitz-bath for their ablutions they soon forsook us for the pond next door, belonging to a farmer, who probably gathered in their eggs along with those legitimately  his.  So that was not a good idea and only Mother could have thought of it.  I’m prouder of our attempt to make our own Christmas tree by tying living branches to a dead firtree!
When I went to America I tasted American poverty, which is quite different from the Irish variety.  We were in New York, in the depth of the Depression.  My husband was a bit run down and had to be built up but the diet he was prescribed would have left me without anything to eat, so he generously compromised.  Actually, that was easy as I was getting my first baby and the last thing I wanted was food!  My great joy in those days was to go walking in Central Park and make friends with adorable negro babies.  I’m afraid, though I was happy in my marriage and the prospect of my baby, I was very homesick for my mother and wept over the toilet articles (silver brush and comb) she had given me.  Later on, of course, when my husband got a job in the civil service and moved to Washington, life brightened up and we never looked back.   (Spike said he never felt so rich as when he had a Government job in the Depression.)
When I think of Washington I see glittering white buildings amid pink cherry blossoms.  Well, I had all my children in Washington, except Olga, who was born in New York.  And I remember a very humdrum suburban life with all the ups and downs that would make modern ladies squirm.  But I loved it, and I had my mother with me.  She and my brother Willem came to America in the 1930s and made their home with us.  When Spike had to leave for Europe on account of the war, we took a lodger.  He was one of those sent by the English government to help the war effort in the navy,  and he became a great friend of the family.  He was more or less my mother’s age and they had long arguments about the war.  I think I have described it all in my Mitchells trilogy, which also describes our move after the war to Canada.
Mother’s Death
In 1999 I had a dream in which I relived my mother’s death 50 years earlier.  Of course what I dreamed was very much what I felt when she was dying.  I knew she was dying, but I tried to brush the knowledge aside.  I was by her bed.  She was leaning against her pillows and her forehead was the only thing to look at.  Death was starting on her forehead.  First, a little area became white and cold and then her face froze.  I wanted to leave her, but I saw she was frightened and I knew she wanted me there.   Because she was frightened, I could not leave her.  I wanted to run away, but I knew that was cowardly – my mother and daughters needed me; I had to stay.  
In my imagination there was a large cross looming at my right, somewhat out of my sight.  If I ran away, I would not only desert my mother, but also the cross and its victim.  I could not do it.  I kept looking at my mother’s face.  Her forehead was dying – it was starting there – it was getting bluish white.  My mother’s eyes were fixed on me with a plea for help – yet what could I do?  If I did not watch her, what might happen?  Her forehead seemed to be melting and the rest of her face disintegrating – yet this was my mother.  What could I do for her – how could I stop this strange melting that changed my mother’s face?  
She looked at me.   She asked: “Am I dying?”  And there was great fear in her face.
I knew I had to reassure her.  It was not good for her to get into a panic.  She asked: “What did the doctor say?  Did he say I was going to die?”  What was she feeling?  The doctor’s words lingered in my ear:  “She is dying, she may not reach the morning.  I cannot stay – I have other patients.  You stay.”  He had given me all the responsibility.  I felt very alone – I prayed to God, and yes, now I felt a cross looming over me, with a victim hanging from it.  I averted my eyes – I must stay.  I could not desert the cross.
My mother’s face became more distorted.  She was in agony, but I could not help, nor go away.  The invisible cross beside me was commanding me to stay.  
“Did he say I was going to die?”  My mother was panicked.  “No,” I said firmly.  He hadn’t actually said it.  My mother’s face was full of fear – she seemed to be slipping away, not wanting to realize that it was really death that was awaiting her with open jaws.  She was hanging back, clinging to life.  I felt the cross close to me.  A wooden cross, heavy and splintery, reaching to the top of the ceiling.  What could I do?  I looked at my mother – I looked reassurance, I got behind her and held her shoulders.  “It will be all right,” I murmured.  “God is waiting for you.  You’re going to Him now.”  
Suddenly Olga, my daughter was there – I felt immense support.  She was praying.  She was going to stay through the night, to keep my mother company – I did not have to fear I would be left alone, Olga was good at praying.  Another daughter joined us. The prayers became stronger.  Mother listened and joined in too, haltingly, painfully.
Cocks crowed outside as dawn wakened threads of light.  Mother had calmed down, was even trying to sleep a little.  My daughter and I kept on praying.  Another daughter had quietly joined us.  The doctor came.  He felt Mother’s pulse, and nodded: “She’ll be all right,” he said.  But Mother was still anxious.  Her eyes pleaded with the doctor who shook his head.  At last he left and following him I asked when he could come back.
“I’ll send people who’ll give her the last rites,” he said.  “But I can’t stay now.”  I accompanied him to the front door and he said he’d try to return later.  I went to the kitchen and told Nora, our Irish servant, that Mother was on the point of dying.
“If she does,” said Nora, “open the windows, so her soul can find the way to Heaven.  Don’t cry.  That might keep her back.”
I hastened to my mother who looked much worse.  She really looked as if she had reached the end.  It really seemed to be the end.  I held my mother’s hand and looked at her.
She asked again: “Am I dying?” 
“No,” I said, “not yet.”  She looked relieved.  I went on saying the rosary and was glad to see more of my children joining us.  Mother became waxen pale and really looked as if she were going to die soon.  When it happened, I hurried to the kitchen and asked Nora what I must do. 
“Open the windows!” she said, “Then her spirit can find its way out.”  I did so and I whispered: “Go Mother, go.  Don’t stay here.  I can manage.  You must let your soul free to reach Heaven and the boys.  God be with you.”   Then, peace came into my soul.
To Emily from Java, Middle Fragment, November  1908
…into a sitting position all by herself.  She [Hilda] 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 dark eyes and dark curling eyelashes and golden lair 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 is going to wean hers.  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 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 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 some one.  I miss him terribly.  He is much splendid company and keeps me alive and full of interest in the worlds going on:  he always has theories or plans or thoughts to speak about and 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.  She is….
To Bram from Java, December 1908
Dear Bram,
Here we are, oh how I wish you were with us!  Jan was at the station to help us, the darling.  We were inside an hour at Modjokerto, took two Badots there and arrived in five 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].  Hilda was sweet, coquetting 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 on her head, a monkey on her shoulder and a great welcome in her mouth.  I had to get with Baby in the tandoe because we had to cross three rivers – but afterwards we got out and walked up the mountain with Stine.  
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, from Java, Same Place, later…
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 bit letter to you all.  Mary, I’m delighted with the dresses… they fit me beautiful and look elegant.  And Rosie and Mies, your dressing gowns were most welcome.  Hilda, I thank you in name of our daughter for the brooch.  Mary, thank for the little doll.  I congratulate Robert and Rosie 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 overwhelms 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 sorrounded 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 neighbor.  Teau thought 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 in 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. 

Notes on Editing and Comments

In transcribing Emily’s letters, there were several challenges that were shared to a lesser degree by the other materials:
1. Her handwriting.  Emily’s writing is basically clear but her capitalizations of letters like B, K, M and W are idiosyncratic, making many surnames difficult to decipher.  This challenge had to be met first by our patient typist of Emily’s letters, herself appropriately named Emily - Emilia Mercedes Henriquez.  
2. Her grammar and references to place names and surnames.  When I started editing other family letters I fixed up the language in the interest of making the language more accessible to modern American readers.  This may be acceptable for translations from the Dutch, but Emily to the end wrote almost entirely in English and I have been firmly advised by friendly professors like Vassar’s Barbara Page that in this case I should keep the transcription as close as possible to the original, however ungrammatical Emily might be.  With this collection of letters I have therefore sought to be faithful to Emily’s usage, even using the ampersand (“&”) instead of “and”, and keeping spelling even if archaic or incorrect.  I have also put comments for the reader in square brackets [like this] indicating my suggested additions or questions. 
3. Putting a year on the letters, which were not sorted.  Hardly any letter has a year and many have only a day of the week, and I inherited them in no particular order!  Frequently I have footnoted with triumph the sentence that gives away the year.  The combination of a day of the week and a date can help provide a year.  Sometimes a year has been penciled later onto the letter that appears to be wrong from the content.  The very first letter from Emily dates back to 1880; I’m grateful to Engelien de Booy for helping me to date the first letter and others.  

In this “Voyage to Java” I include only the letters Emily sent from 1907 to 1910.  Other letters of hers are being transcribed. This is a tiny augmentation of the literary output by or about the Boissevain Careltjes.  

23,200 words Dec 20, 2013 

No comments:

Post a Comment