A sketch about
Emily Haspels. (3.5.1)
some time now, I have in my
possession all the papers I could find, in the last houses where she has lived.
At a certain time the nieces and nephews had to intervene in the life of
Mimi, because many things started to go wrong, it was no longer appropriate that
she should live on her own.
First her house in Abcoude. She had to leave there because she had already fallen down the stairs once and it was quite a long time before she was discovered. Approximately the same thing happened in Capelle aan de IJssel. On that occasion she broke her hip with the result that after an extended stay in hospital she ended up in a nursing home. This was a hard-to-bear blow to her independence and self-sufficiency. It couldn’t be otherwise, but to her it meant the end of life as she knew it. You have to imagine for someone of whom an assistant and ultimate successor, once said,”…..In many villages she was the first Westerner they had ever seen….” “….She was fanatical about her work in this exciting but inhospitable, undulating country with its countless antiquities and dozens of villages with Tsjerkessen, Yuruken, Bulgarians, Tartars, and Osmali-and Alevi-Turks…” and that as the only woman and before 1940.
Somewhere she says herself, that she was already fascinated by the classical archaeology, fairly early in her studies. First she engrossed herself in Greek vases, but, said the assistant and successor, Professor Hemelrijk; “Her interests had already somewhat changed from the relatively onesided study of vases; her greatest passion was field work and so she participated with the excavations on Lesbos Ithaca, Samos, Delos and finally Thasos (where in 1934 she was in charge of the French excavations.) Just before the war she was put in charge of the French excavations in Central Turkey, the so-called Midas town in the Phrygian tablelands…”
There she encountered a community of refugee families who had escaped from Southern Russia in 1885. They escaped because of their religious convictions.
And, not withstanding the fact that she has a lot of archaeological experience, and was a good photographer (she always illustrates her books with her own photos), now she learns the throwing of knives and shooting with a pistol. In the meantime she has learnt to read and write Turkish which enabled her to publish a text book about vases in Turkish.
She is a special person. However, as I wrote to a lady friend of hers in Turkey recently, she had many facets that were not understood:
- the half-mother which she was for us nieces and nephews and her inability or her unwillingness, as we would say these days to commit to a relationship.
- the immense circle of friends and the sudden stillness after she died.
- the near pathological separation between her work and her private (ie family) life.
She partitioned her life in that way and I think that is the way that she wanted it. However, it did mean that it was difficult even for us, who were so close to her to fully appreciate her. We often experienced it as something strange in her. It was not quite so strange for the four sisters and one brother. None of the five made normal couples. All five had something unusual about them.
The family of the Rev. George Frans Haspels was partially determined by his authorship of strongly Christian books on the one hand and on the other hand by a rather unusual mother. Constantia Charlotte Kleijn van Brandes, daughter of the painter Laurens Lodewijk Klein van Brandes. Once she wrote to a servant: “Janna pray for me. The Reverend is moving again.” Obviously this was a recurring event. This Laurens was the curator of the art collection of Princess Marianne of Prussia in the castle Rheinhartshausen near Erbach. In her youth, Charlotte often had to renew her roots. She also lived partially at the household of the Princess. Later she studied at the Conservatorium and I believe she also sang. Her grandfather, Laurens Kleijn was quite a wealthy man, to such an extent that even we still benefit from it. So there was always money in this family but any extravagance was frowned upon. So you see that Mimi rarely can spend any money on herself. You maybe relatively wealthy but you have to pass that onto the next generation. In a travel journal, “with us on Samos” from 1934 she writes with a certain admiration for these very poor Greeks “elevated above possessions”. Being thrifty is a joy to the Lord.
The family was focused on Germany, but not to the exclusion of other countries in Europe. England did not count in the thought processes at that time. To travel and to experience other cultures was quite normal for this family. So you will see that the sisters move frequently and with ease. The brother also travels widely but shan’t settle in another country. So, at a given moment one of the sisters lives in China with her family in the twenties. They encounter problems with children and Mimi goes over to help. During that time she authors articles about China, which appear in the main Dutch newspapers. They are a captivating read. She was obviously a keen observer of her surroundings. She writes about Sun Yatsen, Mao and many others, but she concentrates how she, as a foreigner experiences the chances. They are the articles from 1924/25/26/27.
It would appear that she may have been engaged to be married, before she went to China.
Mimi always brought home authentic articles from the countries she visited. This time she not only brings a full set of Chinese crockery but also some silver. When we cleaned out the house in Abcoude we found the seven boxes with the China set, still in its original packing. It was so beautiful but it was never unpacked. She was never able to enjoy it.
When you read all this it would appear that she was a somber person, but there was a ray of happiness, not exuberant but with an ability to enjoy, specially the little things in life.
Mimi was the head of the family and everyone had to “report” to her. However you did so with a certain amount of pleasure.
(This sketch was written by George Viets (18.104.22.168). It was first published in the family publication “The Prophet of the Velue” No 15 in August 1988.)