Wednesday, 17 November 2010

A Lonely Father Yearns For His Daughter (1865)


Towards the end of the long Cape winter in 1865,  Johannes Jacob Hofmeyr wrote the enclosed letter to his daughter Geertruide Aletta. Johannes was born at Welgemeend and, as the oldest surviving son, presumably still lived in the large Hofmeyr family home on the slopes on Table Mountain. Geertruide had married the "capitalist landlord" Johan Frederik Wicht and moved to Mermaid Cottage (see Rapallo in previous blog) which was then an isolated home overlooking the ocean in rural Sea Point (close where the Pavilion is now). Today it is a scant 30min drive by car but to Johannes it seemed very far away indeed. He was 54 years old. His wife, also Geertruida, had died three years earlier, which may account for his loneliness and he was "so depressed".
Mermaid Cottage (Rapallo)


In his letter he frets about his grandchildren, Hennie and Johanna. Though Hans Heinrich "Hennie" died at the age of 20, Johanna, who "should be kept out of the evening air" went on to live a long and colourful life.


Johan Frederik Wicht
Johanna never married - apparently her father Johan Frederik never approved of her suitors. When her father died in 1907, he left Rapallo to his  grandchildren with the proviso, however, that Johanna, should enjoy the use of it during her lifetime. Johanna was left "comfortably" off by her father and became a well know sight in Cape Town in her chauffeured Rolls Royce at a time when few people in the city possessed motor cars. But by 1912, life in Cape Town became "intolerably provincial" for Johanna and she packed up and went to Europe, taking her car, chauffeur and aide along with her! Rapallo was left in charge of a relation as caretaker until such time as the she might come back. 


Johanna in London 1930
But Johanna never returned - she wandered all over Europe in her Rolls Royce. When World War I broke out, she took refuge in Switzerland which she found very pleasant indeed and remained there until she died 30 years after she left South Africa. 




The letter was recently give to me by Jo and Jan Wicht. Jan is the brother of Joan Fulford (nee Wicht) who we met recently, just before she tragically died in a car accident on Hospital Bend. 


Johannes wrote his letter in1865 in what I presume was then known as Cape Dutch:


Zaterdag, Kaapstad den 26 Augustus 1865
Lieve Kind! Uwen brief van donderdag den 24ste dezer heb ik gisteren den 25ste dezer ontvangen, reg verblijd was ik daaruit te vememen dat gij allen door des Heren goedheid behouden ter plaatze uwer bestemming zijn aangekomen ik heb veel onrust uitgestaan om de sterke wind maar tot mijn blijdschap vernam ik uit u brief dat de wind tog niet zoo sterk gewaayd heeft, en dat Hennie en Johanna dien nagt goed geslapen hebben, Frits was gisteren bij mij, zoo dat ik u brief hem eigenhandig overgegeven heb hij is nog wel pas tog de kindertjes goed op houd hun uit de avondlugt, wij zijn ook nog redelijk wel, uitgezondert dat ik nog zoo zwaarmoedig ben schrijf mij tog spoedig weder, zoen Hen nie en Johanna voor ons en zijt ook gij van ons allen gegroet en in den geest omhelst. Voorts beveel ik u allen aan de genade en bescherming des Heeren aan. Met alle liefde en hoogagting noeme ik mij u heilwenschende  Vader Johannes Hofmeijer PS: lk verwagt eerstkomendnde maandag of diengsdag weder een brief van u verzuim tog niet te schrijven het kost tog maar een penny ik zou wel wenschen alle dagen een brief van u te ontvangen. Stel mij nu niet teleur ik hoop als er niets in den weg komt zeker een brief maandag of diengsog van u te ontvangen. De Heere zij en blijve met u en uwe kinderties. Leef wel U Vader
J:Hofmeijer


The English translation is: 


Saturday, Capetown, the 25 August 1865
Dear Child
Hans Heinrich (Hennie)
Your letter of Thursday the 24th of this (month) I received yesterday the 25th of this (month). I was really glad to read that you all have arrived safely through the Lord's goodness at your destination. I was very worried about the strong wind but I was glad to read in your letter that the wind did not blow that strong, and that Hennie and Johanna have slept well that night. Yesterday Fritz was with me, so I personally handed him your letter. He is well. Take care of the little children. Keep them out of the evening air. We are also still fairly well, except that I am so depressed. Write me again soon.  Kiss Hennie and Johanna from us and receive greetings and hugs in the spirit from us all. Furthermore I ask God’s grace and protection for you all. With all love and regards, I call myself your good wishing Father
Johannes Hofmeijer
P:S: I expect this coming Monday or Tuesday again a letter from you! Do not fail to write. It only costs one penny. I wished I could receive a letter from you every day. Do not disappoint me now. I hope that if nothing intervenes, to surely receive a letter on Monday or Tuesday from you. May the Lord be and stay with you and your little children
Live well. 
Your Father J. Hofmeijer


Note the spelling of Hofmeijer - I would be interested to know when it became Hofmeyr.

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