Letters of a Javanese princess/Chapter 38

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XXXVIII[1]

May 26th, 1902.

IHAVE read your last letter over many times; in it you write so sympathetically about the Javanese people. It is very pleasant that you should have such friendly thoughts towards the brown race. If I could only have you here with us there are so many things about my people which I should be glad to show you. Where can one study and learn to understand a people better than in the heart of that people? and here we have a true Javanese environment. You know that all of you would be welcome at any time.

It is charming of you to wish to have me with you, but alas! for the present I may only appreciate your good will. To travel alone to Buitenzorg belongs just now to the realm of forbidden fruit. But who knows when a change may come! So much that seems to us today to be absolutely impossible, appears tomorrow as an accomplished fact. The Javanese are a nation filled with memories and fairy tales, in dreams and fairy tales the most wonderful things happen, and my heart which is Javanese through and through, holds fast to the illusion that there can still be miracles, even as there were in the far distant past.

If you knew of the dreams of some Javanese girls that you know, possibly you might be surprised at them, think them strange, but you would not, I hope, merely shrug your shoulders in pity. You know, do you not, that we are possessed by the idea of going to your country? But you do not know why. What one naturally thinks when one speaks of visiting strange lands, is of seeing and understanding new things, enjoying oneself, and perhaps also of learning accomplishments.

But when we feel so much for the suffering of our people, is it strange then that there should be in us a great longing to do something that will help them? What has that to do with our desire to go to your country? We wish to gather knowledge and bring back to our people the treasures of other lands, of your own country first of all. We do not wish to change the spirit of the native Javanese, but to cultivate the goo which is latent in them. That is the goal which we have set before our eyes.

It is such a pity that we live so far from each other. How nice it would be if we could exchange thoughts and ideas. Things can be expressed so much better in spoken than in written words. But our correspondence is very pleasant to me, we meet at so many points. How gladly I should teach you to know and understand my people. A wonder artist must rise up in Java to tell of our race in beautiful words to his fellow countrymen. Just as Fielding has written of the Burmanese. Now we have only that notorious book by Veth[2] that has brought so many pens into motion, and caused a storm of anger to break forth.

Every land has its own individual faults. India just as well as every other country on this round earth. Poor India, in foreign lands one knows so bitterly little of you, and a book like that of Veth will certainly not gain you sympathy. Augusta de Wit[3] writes with understanding, and in beautiful language about India. We always read her articles in the Gids with much pleasure.

In everything that concerns nature and art, and in "dreams," Borel is delightful. On other subjects he has less good to say, he goes hand in hand with his friend Veth. Have you read what Borel has written about the gamelan? We think it a little jewel. And did you see the article by Martine Tonnet about the Wajang Orang at the court of Djokaarta? That too is a jewel. I wish that Borel would go there, he might feel inspired to break into charming poetry. The dance [4] of the Princes of Solo and Djokaarta must be magnificent. It is the dance of dances it is said. It is a pity that we cannot go to Djokaarta. We have often been invited, but it would be so wearisome to dress in court costume, and at court every one must be dressed (like a bride).

Do you know that fairy story by Marie Marx-Koning? We think it very fine. It seems to me that she must be a great admirer of Van Eeden. "T'Vioolje dat weten wilde," reminds me of "De Kleine Johannes." Do you not like that too? It is so true in thought, and in style it is charming.

I read what you wrote of your little protegé with great interest, and also what you said of the poor in Holland. I hear much of the misery of the poor there when winter comes. Poor, poor simple creatures! I correspond with a Frieslander; she tells me about conditions in Holland, especially in Friesland. In the winter time she has often sat down on the ground beside poor people who lived in little hovels of straw. The middle of winter, no work, nothing to eat, no fire, no clothes, no warm covering, and crying children. It is bitterly hard.


  1. Mevrouw de Booij-Boissvain.
  2. "Java; Geographisch, Ethnolgisch, Historisch," 3 vols. Haraam 1875-80, by Professor Veth of Leyden.
  3. "Facts and Fancies about Java," by Augusta de Wit.
  4. For a description of the deince of the Princes at the court of Soerakaarta, see "Un Sejour dans I'ile de Java" by Jules LeClercq. Chap. 14, p. 169.