LETTERS OF A JAVANESE PRINCESS
RADEN ADJENG KARTINI
TRANSLATED FROM THE ORIGINAL DUTCH
AGNES LOUISE SYMMERS
WITH A FOREWORD BY LOUIS COUPERUS
LONDON: DUCKWORTH & CO.
First published in 1921
“When you sail from Chambra fifteen thousand miles on a course between south and southeast, you come to a great island called Java. And experienced mariners of those Islands who know the matter well say that it is the greatest Island in the world and has a compass of three thousand miles. It is subject to a great King and tributary to no one else in the world. The people are idolaters. The Island is of surpassing wealth, producing black pepper, nutmegs, spikenard, galingale, cubebs, cloves and all other kinds of spices.
“This Island is also frequented by a vast amount of shipping, and by merchants who buy and sell costly goods from which they reap great profit. Indeed, the treasure of this Island is so great as to be past telling.”
The letters of Raden Adjeng Kartini were first published at the Hague in 1911 under the title, “Door Duisternis tot Licht,” (from Darkness into Light). They were collected and edited by Dr. J.H. Abendanon, former Minister of Education and Industry for Netherland-India. Many of the letters were written to him and to his wife “Moedertje.” Dr. Abendanon has given me permission to publish this English version, which is a selection comprising about two-thirds of the original book.
I also wish to acknowledge my debt to Dr. Leonard Van Noppen, who, when Queen Wilhelmina Professor of Dutch Literature at Columbia University, first called my attention to the book and told me something of Kartini’s story.
When the letters of Raden Adjeng Kartini were published in Holland, they aroused much interest and awakened a warm sympathy for the writer. She was the young daughter of a Javanese Regent, one of the “princesses” who grow up and blossom in sombre obscurity and seclusion, leading their monotonous and often melancholy lives within the confines of the Kaboepaten, as the high walled Regent’s palaces are called.
The thought of India, or as we now say, perhaps more happily, Java, had a strange fascination for me even as a child. I was charmed by the weird mystery of its stories, which frightened even while they charmed me. Although I was born in Holland, our family traditions had been rooted in Java. My father began his official career there as a Judge, and my mother was the daughter of a Governor General, while my older brothers had followed their father’s example and were officials under the Colonial Government.
At nine years of age I was taken to the inscrutable and far off land round which my early fancy had played; and I passed five of my school years in Batavia. At the end of those five years, I felt the same charm and the same mystery. The thought of Java became almost an obsession. I felt that while we Netherlanders might rule and exploit the country, we should never be able to penetrate its mystery. It seemed to me that it would always be covered by a thick veil, which guarded its Eastern soul from the strange eyes of the Western conqueror. There was a quiet strength, “Een Stille Kracht” unperceived by our cold, business-like gaze. It was something intangible, and almost hostile, with a silent, secret hostility that lurked in the atmosphere, in nature and above all, in the soul of the natives. It menaced from the slumbering volcanoes, and lay hidden in the mysterious shadows of the rustling bamboos. It was in the bright, silver moonlight when the drooping palm trees trembled in the wind until they seemed to play a symphony so gentle and so complaining that it moved me to my soul. I do not know whether this was poetic imagination ever prone to be supersensitive, or in reality the “Quiet Strength,” hidden in the heart of the East and eternally at war with the spirit of the West. It is certainly true that the Javanese has never been an open book to the Netherlander. The difference of race forms an abyss so deep that though they may stand face to face and look into each other’s eyes, it is as though they saw nothing.
The Javanese woman of noble birth is even more impenetrable. The life of a Raden Adjeng or a Raden Ajoe, is a thing apart. Even the Dutch officials and rulers of the country know nothing of the lives of these secluded “princesses,” as we like to call the wives and daughters of the Regents, though they themselves lay no claim to a title which in Europe ranks so high.
Suddenly a voice was heard from the depths of this unknown land. It rose from behind the high protecting wall that had done its work of subjection and concealment through the ages. It was gentle, like the melodious song of a little bird in a cage—in a costly cage it is true, and surrounded by the tenderest care, but still in a cage that was also a prison. It was the voice of Raden Adjeng Kartini, which sounded above the walls of the close-barred Kaboepaten. It was like the cry of a little bird that wanted to spread its wings free in the air, and fly towards life. And the sound grew fuller and clearer, till it became the rich voice of a woman.
She was shut in by aristocratic traditions and living virtually imprisoned as became a young “princess” of Java; but she sang of her longing for life and work and her voice rose clearer and stronger. It penetrated to the distant Netherlands, and was heard there with wonder and with delight. She was singing a new song, the first complaint that had ever gone forth from the mysterious hidden life of the Javanese woman. With all the energy of her body and soul she wanted to be free, to work and to live and to love.
Then the complaint became a song of rejoicing. For she not only longed to lead the new life of the modern woman, but she had the strength to accomplish it, and more than that, to win the sympathy of her family and of her friends for her ideals. This little “princess” lifted the concealing veil from her daily life and not only her life, her thoughts were revealed. An Oriental woman had dared to fight for feminism, even against her tenderly loved parents. For although her father and mother were enlightened for noble Javanese, they had at first strongly opposed her ideas as unheard of innovations.
She wanted to study and later to become a teacher—to open a school for the daughters of Regents, and to bring the new spirit into their lives. She battled bravely, she would not give up; in the end, she won.
Raden Adjeng Kartini freed herself from the narrow oppression of tradition, and the simple language of these letters chants a paean “From Darkness into Light.” The mist of obscurity is cleared away from her land and her people. The Javanese soul is shown as simple, gentle, and less hostile than we Westerners had ever dared to hope. For the soul of this girl was one with the soul of her people, and it is through her that a new confidence has grown up between the West and the East, between the Netherlands and Java. The mysterious “Quiet Strength” is brought into the light, it is tender, human and full of love, and Holland may well be grateful to the hand that revealed it.
This noble and pure soul was not destined to remain long upon earth. Had she lived, who knows what Raden Adjeng Kartini might not have accomplished for the well being of her country and her people; above all, for the Javanese woman and the Javanese child. She was the first Regent’s daughter to break the fixed tradition in regard to marriage; it was customary to give the bride to a strange bridegroom, whom she had never seen, perhaps never even heard of, until her wedding day. Kartini chose her own husband, a man whom she loved, but her happy life with him was cut short by her early death.
It is sometimes granted to those whom the gods love to bring their work to fruition in all the splendour of youth, in the springtime or the summer of their lives. To have worked and to have completed a great task, when one is young, so that the world is left richer for all time—is not that the most beautiful of all the gifts of the gods?
 See Couperus’ novel “Een Stille Kracht.”
 “Door Duisternis tot Licht”—title under which Kartini’s Letters were first published in Holland.
These letters which breathe the modern spirit, in all of its restless intensity, were written by a girl of the Orient, reared in an ancient and outworn civilization. They unfold the story of the writer with unconscious simplicity and present a vivid picture of Javanese life and manners.
But perhaps their chief interest lies in their value as a human document.
In them the old truth of the oneness of humanity is once more made manifest and we see that the magnificent altruism, the spirit of inquiry, and the almost morbid desire for self-searching and analysis that characterize the opening years of the Twentieth Century were not peculiar to Europe or to America, but were universal and belonged to the world, to the East as well as to the West.
Kartini, that was her only name—Raden Adjeng is a title—wrote to her Dutch friends in the language of the Netherlands. In her home circle she spoke always Javanese, and she was Javanese in her intense love for her land and people, as well as in dress and manners.
She did not live to see the work that has been accomplished in her name during the last ten years. Today there are “Kartini Schools” in all parts of Java. The influence of her life and teachings is perhaps greater than that of any other woman of modern times because it reaches all of the thirty-eight millions of Javanese and extends to some extent throughout the entire East.
She did not desire to make of her people pseudo-Europeans but better Javanese. Not the material freedom for which during the three hundred years of Dutch rule the Javanese of the past had sometimes waged a bloody warfare, but the greater freedom of the mind and of the spirit.
The Dutch rule had become enlightened. In local affairs the Javanese had self-government under their own officials. But they were bowed down by superstition and under the sway of tradition. The “adat,” or law which cannot be changed, was fostered by religion. They were imbued with all the fatalism of the Mohammedan, the future belonged to “Tekdir” or Fate and it was vain to rebel against its decrees. But Kartini rebelled against “Tekdir.” She refused to believe in the righteousness of the ancient law that a girl must marry, or breaking that law, bring everlasting disgrace upon her family.
She realized that the freedom of woman could only come through economic independence. And personally she said that she had rather be a kitchen maid, than be forced to marry a strange and unknown man. For in well-bred Javanese circles girls were brought up according to the most rigid Mohammedan canons and closely guarded from the eyes of men.
Dr. Abendanon, the compiler of Kartini’s letters, says that although he had lived for twenty-five years in Java, she and her sisters were the first young girls of noble birth that he had ever seen.
Kartini wanted to go to Holland to study, to return home when she had gained a broader knowledge and experience, equipped for teaching the daughters of her own people. She wished to help them through education, to break with the stultifying traditions of the past. Although always a Mohammedan, marriage with more than one wife was abhorrent to her. True progress seemed impossible in a polygamous society for men or for women. Furthermore polygamy was not commanded or even approved of by Mohammed himself; it had been merely permitted.
After years of conflict between her affection for her family and the principles in which she believed, Kartini won the entire confidence both of her father and of her mother. Her mother was an exponent of the best ideals of Oriental womanhood, excelling in care of the home and filled with love and sympathy for her husband and children.
Kartini was an innovator who sought to break new paths for her people, but in reaching out for the new and untried she gained rather than lost in respect for the old fashioned virtues of her kind. Her interests were human, and not merely feministic—which cannot always be said of our own feminism.
Kartini’s biography is brief, and her life almost uneventful so far as outward happenings go.
She was born on the 21st of April, 1879, the daughter of Raden Mas Adipati Sosroningrat, Regent of Japara. His father, the Regent of Demak, Pangèran Ario Tjondronegoro, was an enlightened man who had given European educations to all of his sons and who is described by his grand-daughter Kartini as—”the first regent of middle Java to unlatch his door to that guest from over the sea—Western civilization.”
The Regent of Japara went still further as became the next generation. He sent his daughters to the free grammar school for Europeans at Semarang so that they might learn Dutch.
Kartini’s best friend at school was a little Hollander, Letsy, the daughter of the head master. A question of Letsy’s, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” both puzzled and interested her. When she went home after school was over, she repeated the question anxiously, “What am I going to be when I grow up?” Her father, who loved her very dearly, did not answer but smiled and pinched her cheek. An older brother overheard her and said, “What should a girl become, why a Raden Ajoe of course.” Raden Ajoe is the title of a Javanese married woman of high rank, while the unmarried daughter of a regent is Raden Adjeng.
In Kartini a spirit of rebellion was awakened which grew with the years. Even as a child she vowed that she would not become merely a Raden Ajoe, she would be strong, combat all prejudice and shape her own destiny. But she was soon to feel the weight of convention pressing upon her with inexorable force. When she reached the age of twelve and a half she was considered by her parents old enough to leave school and remain at home in seclusion according to the established usage. Some day there would have to be a wedding and a Javanese bridegroom was chosen by the girl’s parents and often never seen by his bride until after the ceremony, as her presence was not required at that solemnity.
Kartini implored her father, on her knees, to be allowed to go on with her studies. But he felt bound by the hitherto unbroken conventions of his race and she went into the “box” as it was called, passing four long years without ever once going beyond the boundaries of the Kaboepaten.
During those years reading was her greatest pleasure, and her father was proud of her intelligence and kept her supplied with Dutch books. She did not always understand what she read, but would often be guided through the difficult places by her father or by her favourite brother Kartono, who felt a warm sympathy for his sister.
But the spirit of progress slowly awakened even in slumbering Java, and when Kartini was sixteen, she was released from her imprisonment.
Her first journey into the outside world was to accompany her parents to the festivities held in honour of the coronation of Queen Wilhelmina.
This caused a great scandal in conservative Javanese society. But Kartini and her sisters did not have the freedom for which they longed, they could not go out into the world and fight its battles. They could only take well chaperoned little excursions and meet the guests, both men and women, of their father’s household. They were free very much as a delicately nurtured Victorian young lady would have been free, half a century ago.
In 1901 the Minister of Education and Industry for Netherland India was Dr. J.H. Abendanon. He took a deep interest in the well-being and progress of the native Javanese, and realized the need of schools for native girls. At that time there was none in Java.
He had heard of the enlightened Regent of Japara, and of the example which he had set to his fellow countrymen in educating his own daughters. Accompanied by his wife Dr. Abendanon went to Japara to obtain the assistance of the Regent in interesting the native official world in his project.
A school for native girls had been the dream of Kartini and her sisters. With her, the idea had become almost an obsession. Her longing for education had gathered force and widened in its significance. It no longer meant the shaping of an independent career for herself, but a means to an end of work among her people.
Dr. Abendanon, in describing the first meeting with Kartini, said that when she and her sisters came forward in their picturesque native costume they made a most charming impression, but the charm was heightened when they spoke to him in fluent Dutch. Kartini said that a girls’ school was the subject nearest her heart but asked that it also be a vocational school, fitting the girl for self-support should she desire it.
The influence and friendship of the Abendanons became a great comfort and support to Kartini. Mevrouw Abendanon was called Moedertje (little mother) and many letters were written to her.
Kartini was never able to go to Holland and study. Although her disappointment was intense, she became convinced that her influence among her own people would be stronger if she remained at home, free in their eyes from the possibility of contamination by foreign ideas.
Acting upon the advice of Mevrouw Abendanon, she opened a school at home for little girls. With the help of her sisters she instructed them in elementary branches, in sewing and in cooking.
At last she obtained the permission of her father to continue her own studies at Batavia. But she did not go to Batavia. Nor did she leave the house of her parents in the way that she had planned.
She fell in love like any Western girl, and was married in 1903 to Raden Adipati Djojo Adiningrat, Regent of Rembang. He had been educated in Holland, and had many enlightened ideas for the advancement of his people.
The dreams of Kartini were as his own, she had his full sympathy and their work in the future would be carried on together. Both of them were interested in the ancient history of Java, the sagas and stories of the past. They wished to make a collection of these, they also felt a warm interest in the revival of Javanese art, in wood carving, textile weaving, dyeing, work in gold and copper and tortoise shell.
After Kartini was married her little school was continued at Rembang, and some of the wood carvers who had been working under her supervision at Semarang were anxious to follow her to her new home.
“Although I am a modern woman what a strange bridal dower I shall have,” she writes to Mevrouw Abendanon in discussing the plan for moving the little children she was teaching and the wood carvers to Rembang.
A charming picture of the married life of Kartini is given in her own letters. There was a year of hard work and increased responsibility, but also of great happiness.
On the 17th of September 1904, four days after the birth of her son Siengghi, she died.
In 1907, the first Raden Adjeng Kartini school was founded at Batavia. Its inception was largely due to the efforts of Dr. Abendanon. The Governor General of Netherland-India, the Queen Mother of Holland and many other influential persons gave it their active support. A society at the Hague known as the “Kartini-fonds” had been formed and under its patronage there are now schools at Malang, Cheribon, Buitenzorg, Soerabaja, Semarang and Soerakarta, as well as at Batavia. There is also a large number of native Kartini schools under the direct management of native Javanese.
The long slumber of Java has ended. The principles for which Kartini suffered and struggled are now almost universally accepted by her fellow countrymen. A Javanese girl, even though of noble birth, may now earn her living without bringing disgrace upon her family. Women choose their own husbands, and plural marriages are much less frequent among the younger generation.
The time was ripe. It has been said that great men are the products of great movements. There must always be some one to strike the note of leadership, so firmly convinced of the righteousness of a given cause that he (or she) goes blindly forward, forgetful of personal interest and of all selfish considerations, combatting the world if need be, holding its ridicule as of no account; and what is perhaps hardest of all, bringing sorrow and disappointment to those that love them.
The prophet burned at the stake amid execrations and the conqueror who receives the plaudits of the multitude, alike await the judgment of posterity. Only in after years can we weigh the thing that they have wrought and gauge its true value.
Kartini has stood the test of time. To the modern progressive Javanese she is a national heroine, almost a patron saint. Her influence and her work live, and are a vital factor in the prosperity and happiness of her country.
AGNES LOUISE SYMMERS.
Rye, New York April, 1920.
 Dr. Abendanon was the head of the Department of “Onderwijs, Eeredienst and Nijverheid.” Eeredienst is religious administration and observance, as in Holland the church is a state institution.
LETTERS OF A JAVANESE PRINCESS
Japara, 25 May, 1899.
I have longed to make the acquaintance of a “modern girl,” that proud, independent girl who has all my sympathy! She who, happy and self-reliant, lightly and alertly steps on her way through life, full of enthusiasm and warm feeling; working not only for her own well-being and happiness, but for the greater good of humanity as a whole.
I glow with enthusiasm toward the new time which has come, and can truly say that in my thoughts and sympathies I do not belong to the Indian world, but to that of my pale sisters who are struggling forward in the distant West.
If the laws of my land permitted it, there is nothing that I had rather do than give myself wholly to the working and striving of the new woman in Europe; but age-long traditions that cannot be broken hold us fast cloistered in their unyielding arms. Some day those arms will loosen and let us go, but that time lies as yet far from us, infinitely far. It will come, that I know; it may be three, four generations after us. Oh, you do not know what it is to love this young, this new age with heart and soul, and yet to be bound hand and foot, chained by all the laws, customs, and conventions of one’s land. All our institutions are directly opposed to the progress for which I so long for the sake of our people. Day and night I wonder by what means our ancient traditions could be overcome. For myself, I could find a way to shake them off, to break them, were it not that another bond, stronger than any age-old tradition could ever be, binds me to my world; and that is the love which I bear for those to whom I owe my life, and whom I must thank for everything. Have I the right to break the hearts of those who have given me nothing but love and kindness my whole life long, and who have surrounded me with the tenderest care?
But it was not the voices alone which reached me from that distant, that bright, that new-born Europe, which made me long for a change in existing conditions. Even in my childhood, the word “emancipation” enchanted my ears; it had a significance that nothing else had, a meaning that was far beyond my comprehension, and awakened in me an evergrowing longing for freedom and independence—a longing to stand alone. Conditions both in my own surroundings and in those of others around me broke my heart, and made me long with a nameless sorrow for the awakening of my country.
Then the voices which penetrated from distant lands grew clearer and clearer, till they reached me, and to the satisfaction of some who loved me, but to the deep grief of others, brought seed which entered my heart, took root, and grew strong and vigorous.
And now I must tell you something of myself so that you can make my acquaintance.
I am the eldest of the three unmarried daughters of the Regent of Japara, and have six brothers and sisters. What a world, eh? My grandfather, Pangèran Ario Tjondronegoro of Demak, was a great leader in the progressive movement of his day, and the first regent of middle Java to unlatch his door to that guest from over the sea—Western civilization. All of his children had European educations; all of them have, or had (several of them are now dead), a love of progress inherited from their father; and these gave to their children the same upbringing which they themselves had received. Many of my cousins and all my older brothers have gone through the Hoogere Burger School—the highest institution of learning that we have here in India; and the youngest of my three older brothers has been studying for three years in the Netherlands, and two others are in the service of that country. We girls, so far as education goes, fettered by our ancient traditions and conventions, have profited but little by these advantages. It was a great crime against the customs of our land that we should be taught at all, and especially that we should leave the house every day to go to school. For the custom of our country forbade girls in the strongest manner ever to go outside of the house. We were never allowed to go anywhere, however, save to the school, and the only place of instruction of which our city could boast, which was open to us, was a free grammar school for Europeans.
When I reached the age of twelve, I was kept at home—I must go into the “box.” I was locked up, and cut off from all communication with the outside world, toward which I might never turn again save at the side of a bridegroom, a stranger, an unknown man whom my parents would choose for me, and to whom I should be betrothed without my own knowledge. European friends—this I heard later—had tried in every possible way to dissuade my parents from this cruel course toward me, a young and life-loving child; but they were able to do nothing. My parents were inexorable; I went into my prison. Four long years I spent between thick walls, without once seeing the outside world.
How I passed through that time, I do not know. I only know that it was terrible. But there was one great happiness left me: the reading of Dutch books and correspondence with Dutch friends was not forbidden. This—the only gleam of light in that empty, sombre time, was my all, without which, I should have fallen, perhaps, into a still more pitiable state. My life, my soul even, would have been starved. But then came my friend and my deliverer—the Spirit of the Age; his footsteps echoed everywhere. Proud, solid ancient structures tottered to their foundation at his approach. Strongly barricaded doors sprang open, some as of themselves, others only painfully half way, but nevertheless they opened, and let in the unwelcome guest.
At last in my sixteenth year, I saw the outside world again. Thank God! Thank God! I could leave my prison as a free human being and not chained to an unwelcome bridegroom. Then events followed quickly that gave back to us girls more and more of our lost freedom.
In the following year, at the time of the investiture of our young Princess, our parents presented us “officially” with our freedom. For the first time in our lives we were allowed to leave our native town, and to go to the city where the festivities were held in honour of the occasion. What a great and priceless victory it was! That young girls of our position should show themselves in public was here an unheard-of occurrence. The “world” stood aghast; tongues were set wagging at the unprecedented crime. Our European friends rejoiced, and as for ourselves, no queen was so rich as we. But I am far from satisfied. I would go still further, always further. I do not desire to go out to feasts, and little frivolous amusements. That has never been the cause of my longing for freedom. I long to be free, to be able to stand alone, to study, not to be subject to any one, and, above all, never, never to be obliged to marry.
But we must marry, must, must. Not to marry is the greatest sin which the Mohammedan woman can commit; it is the greatest disgrace which a native girl can bring to her family.
And marriage among us—Miserable is too feeble an expression for it. How can it be otherwise, when the laws have made everything for the man and nothing for the woman? When law and convention both are for the man; when everything is allowed to him?
Love! what do we know here of love? How can we love a man whom we have never known? And how could he love us? That in itself would not be possible. Young girls and men must be kept rigidly apart, and are never allowed to meet.
I am anxious to know of your occupations. It is all very interesting to me. I wish to know about your studies, I would know something of your Toynbee evenings, and of the society for total abstinence of which you are so zealous a member.
Among our Indian people, we have not the drink demon to fight, thank God!—but I fear, I fear that when once—forgive me—your Western civilization shall have obtained a foothold among us, we shall have that evil to contend with too. Civilization is a blessing, but it has its dark side as well. The tendency to imitate is inborn, I believe. The masses imitate the upper classes, who in turn imitate those of higher rank, and these again follow the Europeans.
Among us there is no marriage feast without drinking. And at the festivals of the natives, where they are not of strong religious convictions, (and usually they are Mohammedans only because their fathers, grandfathers and remote ancestors were Mohammedans—in reality, they are little better than heathen), large square bottles are always kept standing, and they are not sparing in the use of these.
But an evil greater than alcohol is here and that is opium. Oh! the misery, the inexpressible horror it has brought to my country! Opium is the pest of Java. Yes, opium is far worse than the pest. The pest does not remain for ever; sooner or later, it goes away, but the evil of opium, once established, grows. It spreads more and more, and will never leave us, never grow less—for to speak plainly—it is protected by the Government! The more general the use of opium in Java, the fuller the treasury.
The opium tax is one of the richest sources of income of the Government—what matter if it go well or ill with the people?—the Government prospers. This curse of the people fills the treasury of the Dutch Indian Government with thousands—nay, with millions. Many say that the use of opium is no evil, but those who say that have never known India, or else they are blind.
What are our daily murders, incendiary fires, robberies, but the direct result of the use of opium? True, the desire for opium is not so great an evil as long as one can get it—when one has money to buy the poison; but when one cannot obtain it—when one has no money with which to buy it, and is a confirmed user of it? Then one is dangerous, then one is lost. Hunger will make a man a thief, but the hunger for opium will make him a murderer. There is a saying here—”At first you eat opium, but in the end it will devour you.”
It is terrible to see so much evil and to be powerless to fight against it.
That splendid book by Mevrouw Goekoop I know. I have read it three times. I could never grow tired of it. What would I not give to be able to live in Hilda’s environment. Oh, that we in India had gone so far, that a book could cause such violent controversy among us, as “Hilda van Suylenburg” has in your country. I shall never rest till H.v.S. appears in my own language to do good as well as harm to our Indian world. It is a matter of indifference whether good or harm, if it but makes an impression, for that shows that one is no longer sleeping, and Java is still in deep slumber. And how will her people ever be awakened, when those who should serve as examples, themselves love sleep so much. The greater number of European women in India care little or nothing for the work of their sisters in the Fatherland.
Will you not tell me something of the labours, the struggles, the sentiments, of the woman of today in the Netherlands? We take deep interest in all that concerns the Woman’s Movement.
I do not know the modern languages. Alas! We girls are not allowed by our law to learn languages; it was a great innovation for us to learn Dutch. I long to know languages, not so much to be able to speak them, as for the far greater joy of being able to read the many beautiful works of foreign authors in their own tongue. Is it not true that never mind how good a translation may be, it is never so fine as the original? That is always stronger—more charming.
We have much time for reading, and reading is our greatest pleasure—we, that is, the younger sisters and I. We three have had the same bringing up, and are much with one another. We differ in age, each from the other, but one year. Among us three there is the greatest harmony. Naturally we sometimes have little differences of opinion, but that does not weaken the tie that binds us together. Our little quarrels are splendid, I find them so: I love the reconciliations which follow. It is the greatest of all lies—do you not think so too?—that any two human beings can think alike in everything. That cannot be; people who say that must be hypocrites.
I have not yet told you how old I am. I was just twenty last month. Strange, that when I was sixteen I felt so frightfully old, and had so many melancholy moods! Now that I can put two crosses behind me, I feel young and full of the joy of life, and the struggle of life, too.
Call me simply Kartini; that is my name. We Javanese have no family names. Kartini is my given name and my family name, both at the same time. As far as “Raden Adjeng” is concerned, those two words are the title. I told Mevrouw van Wermeskerken, when I gave her my address, not to put Kartini alone—that would hardly reach me from Holland, and as for writing mejuffrouw, or something of that kind, I have no right to it; I am only a Javanese.
Now, for the present, you know enough about me—is it not so? Another time I shall tell you of our Indian life.
If there is any light that you would like thrown upon any of our Indian affairs, please ask me. I am ready to tell you all that I know about my country and my people.
 Mejuffrouw Zeehandelaar.
 Queen Wilhelmina.