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Jeanne Clant van der Mijll-Piepers

Jeanne Clant van der Mijll-Piepers (1842-1923) is almost only known for her Dutch translations of dramas by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, which recently for performances still have been preferred over modern translations. These translations were written after 1900, but long before that Clant van der Mijll-Piepers was a well-known figure in literary circles. From 1871 on, she published literary reviews and also short stories and poetry. These publications though were issued under a pseudonym: “Holda”. Her literary friends sometimes called her “Holda” as well, in favour of her given name Jeanne.

She was quite active in the literary field. The Nederlandsche Spectator was the literary magazine in which, between 1871 and around 1900, she published articles on recent publications and some of her poems. Her novels were published between 1876 and 1900. She wrote poetry not only in Dutch, but also in German. Some of them have been set to music later. Her ease in foreign languages shows also through her many translations from different languages. Beginning with a translation from English in 1874, she later translated from German, and from Danish and Norwegian (Henrik Ibsen) and French (Maurice Maeterlinck), after 1900.

Her literary connections in the Netherlands
Jeanne Clant van der Mijll-Piepers was a good friend of the well known writer Carel Vosmaer, co-founder of the Nederlandsche Spectator. They knew each other through family; he was married to a half sister of her husband. By Vosmaer's literary opponents, such as Conrad Busken Huet, the closeness of their friendship was openly slandered as being an extramarital affair (Maas 1989, 82). It is probably because of their similar understanding of literature that Clant van der Mijll-Piepers got involved in Vosmaer's magazine. She was one of the progressive women, like Elise A. Haighton en Mina Kruseman who let their voices be heard through this magazine (Maas 1986, 30). The statement in one of her articles: “Progressing are we anyhow, despite whatever one does to stem the spirit of the times” is characteristic for her attitude.

With Multatuli, author of the most famous 19th-century Dutch novel Max Havelaar, Clant van der Mijll-Piepers also was acquainted. She was exceptionally enthusiastic about his work. In the Nederlandsche Spectator she repeatedly drew attention to it. Her own poems should have been influenced by Multatuli. The always severe Conrad Busken Huet titles them: “less fortunate imitations of his poetry”. In Multatuli’s correspondence it shows that he himself was fond of her, but not uncritical towards her poems. This friendship probably also was instigated by Vosmaer, who was a great admirer of Multatuli (and vice versa). His short story Idylle (1875) describes a visit to Multatuli and his second wife Mimi Douwes Dekker, made by himself and Clant van der Mijll-Piepers.

Clant van der Mijll-Piepers in the Nederlandsche Spectator
The larger part of her texts in the Nederlandsche Spectator nowadays would be called "columns", she herself titled them Allerlei-praatje (talk about everything). Her contributions were regular: between 1871 and 1890 about twice a year, after that until 1900 a total of three times. In 1907 a last one: a letter about one of her Ibsen translations, and only here did she not use her pseudonym “Holda”.

Her articles show that she was a forward-thinking woman. She spoke for example in favour of free development for young children and of mixed schools for boys and girls. This would improve (secondary) education of girls. Progressive on the whole was she not, though. When it comes to women’s emancipation, her voice was moderate. She had the opinion that women should be allowed education and work, that marriages should be based on true mutual love, but she did not see the benefits of women’s suffrage.

Do they really think that suffrage will give them more influence than education of their own minds and hearts? And could not they be satisfied with the direct influence they undoubtedly and unhindered, simply and naturally practise on their husbands, brothers, sons and cousins, who all sooner or later will be called to play their role in society? Nobody denies that powerful influence of women. (NS 1885, 322)

Clant van der Mijll-Piepers as a translator
Besides many plays by Maeterlinck, a single work by Charles Dickens or Eliza Lynn Linton, she chiefly translated works by Scandinavian authors. Among them Violin by Jenny Blicher, Magnhild by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and almost every play by Ibsen.

These Scandinavian works have quite a lot in common. First of all, women’s emancipation is an important theme in the works of all three mentioned writers – either as a dream difficult to reach, or as a necessity for woman’s happiness. Also criticism on society’s moral and marriages without love are issues. The writers raise several taboos, like unequal marriages, affairs, guilt, unequal chances for men and women.

It is striking that Clant van der Mijll-Piepers does seem to attach importance to spread the modern Scandinavian ideas on women’s emancipation, but that she does not primarily do this by translating female writers. The work of (prominent) men is what she chooses. By this she appears to hold on to the point of view she carried out in the Nederlandsche Spectator twenty years before: that a woman principally could practise a powerful indirect influence on affairs that eventually are to be fought out and taken care of by men.


  • Maas, Nop, De Nederlandsche Spectator. Schetsen uit het letterkundig leven van de tweede helft van de negentiende eeuw. Utrecht/Antwerpen, Veen, 1986.
  • Maas, Nop, De literaire wereld van Carel Vosmaer. The Hague, SDU, 1989.
  • Straasheijm, Johanneke, “Ägna er åt broderiet, Holda”, Kulturförmedlaren Jeanne Clant van der Mijll-Piepers (1842-1923) och Ibsens “Nora”. En historisk-biografisk studie, unpublished dissertation, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, 2007.
  • Vosmaer, Carel, Bladen uit een levensboek en andere verhalen, ed. Nop Maas, Utrecht, L.J. Veen, 1988.

Johanneke Straasheijm, September 2007

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