Saturday, March 27, 2021

ART AUCTION | HvS Art Being Auctioned

Hilda van Stockum (1908-2006), "Pears in Window"
 (1987). Images copyright by the Estate of
Hilda vanStockum Marlin, administered
 by Boissevain Books, LLC. 
March 28, 2021—Art by Hilda van Stockum is periodically auctioned.

(Update: Her art was auctioned also August 5, 2021.) 

Details may be found here: 

and here:;

Copyright to all images is held by the artist or the artist's estate for 70 years after the death of the artist.

The artist's estate is managed by Boissevain Books LLC. The managing partner and president is currently John Tepper Marlin, the artist's son and one of the artist's six children, five of them living (in four countries, on three continents). Email

Hilda van Stockum Marlin died in 2006. Rights enure to her estate until 2076.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

ORSON WELLES | He Was in My Dad's Dublin Crowd

Young Orson Welles
April 5, 2021—Orson Welles was the topic of the next event at 192 Books and the Paula Cooper Gallery, at 22nd Street and Tenth Avenue in Manhattan, on March 25. The location (a block away from where Alice and I live in New York City) is at 192 Tenth Avenue

David Thomson authored of more than twenty-five books, including The Biographical Dictionary of Film, biographies of Orson Welles and David O. Selznick. Thomson has used his biography of Welles as a base for a more comprehensive review of the history of movie directors, The Light in the Dark.

Michael Barker interviews. He is co-president and co-founder, with Tom Bernard, of Sony Pictures Classics, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Previously he was an executive at United Artists (1980–1983) and co-founder of Orion Classics (1983–1991). This talk is recorded—

A Family Connection

Orson Welles has a connection to my parents, Spike Marlin (1909-1994) and his then-fiancée Hilda van Stockum (1908-2006). My father was a student at Trinity College, Dublin and my mother was a student at the Dublin School of Art in 1931, when Welles, 16 years old, got a part at Dublin's Gate Theate playing the Duke in a new play, Jew Suss. Stories of Welles's early days in Ireland are brilliantly told here:

One evening Welles came to dinner— a week early. Probably it was a confusion over the word “next” as in “next Thursday” (...but not this Thursday). Even then, Welles had made himself famous (his theater career began at 16 in 1931), and my mother was in conniptions. She pulled a dinner together... 

The life of Orson Welles has been the subject of three recent documentaries. My sister Lis tells the story that our Dad Spike (and maybe Hilda, says my sister Brigid) were having breakfast in New York City when Welles suddenly said, “Must go, I am getting married this morning!" His first marriage was in 1934, so it must have been to Virginia Nicolson, to whom he stayed married until 1940. He married Rita Hayworth in 1943 and stayed with her until 1947. He married Paola Mori in 1955 and stayed with her until 1985. His biography lists two "partners": Dolores del Río (1940–43) and Oja Kodar (1966–85). He seems to have been serially monogamous until 1966. All that must be in Thomson's biography.

Six of the Trinity Crowd in Dublin, 1930-32

These are his contemporaries that Orson Welles glommed onto in Dublin:

  • John Cyril Donnelly. Born in Dublin, Ireland on 2 Apr 1912 to John Herbert Donnelly (1876-1956) and Gertrude Mabel Robinson (1885-1982). He passed away on 29 Jun 1948 on Pershing Av, Lima, Peru. 
  • Christopher ("Christo") Gore-Grimes.
  • David Grene, who went to the University of Chicago. One of his sons is at Trinity College, Dublin and the other has a band focusing on Irish music. Alice and I have met the latter. David was deeply distressed, says his son, about Willem’s love affair with the Provost’s daughter Pic Gwynn.
  • Ervin Ross ("Spike") Marlin, who married Hilda van Stockum. They had six children, one of whom is your blogger (#5, second youngest). 
  • Owen Sheehy ("Skeff") Skeffington. He wrote a book. When Spike was in Dublin during the war, working for the OSS, he looked up Skeffington. Lis says that when she started at Trinity, Skeffington “gave us an introductory lecture. He said everyone loves Ireland because Ireland has never done anything for another country so nobody owes it anything.”
  • Willem van Stockum, brother of Hilda van Stockum (my mother), who married Spike Marlin. He had a love affair with Pic Gwynn, who wanted to marry him but was overruled by her father, Trinity College Provost Edward John Gwynn. (A father could do that kind of thing then.) Gwynn was doubtless concerned about someone taking his daughter away to Holland or the United States. That was the objection of Marconi's Irish mother to the marriage of Guglielmo Marconi to Inez Milholland (they were engaged for months). In a twist of fate, Willem's uncle Eugen married Inez instead of Marconi (she proposed to Eugen on a boat in 1916; Marconi said that Eugen was better suited to her). Inez said later, "The radio is wonderful but on reflection I wouldn't want to be married to one." Willem never married. He volunteered for air force service when his country was invaded and he trained in Canada. He piloted a bomber during the week of D-Day. A monument has been erected in France, near Laval, to him and his crew.  The story of Pic and Willem is well told in Time Bomber by Robert Wack (2014), for example on pages 27, 84-85.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

CATHOLIC WRITERS | Hilda van Stockum (1908-2006)

Hilda, probably Christmas 1944, with her children.
From right to left, clockwise: Olga, Sheila, John,
Brigid, Randal. Lis was Catherine in the second
and third books of the Canadian trilogy. Photo ©
by permission of Estate of Hilda van Stockum.

[The following is an excerpt from Walter Romig, The

Second Book of Catholic Authors, 2012. Romig was born in 1905 so he would be 116 years old in 2021. This is a scanned version of the book via HathiTrust. Google describes it the book as being in the public domain. Since the comments by Hilda van Stockum are as of circa 1944, the book must have appeared around that time.]

A YOUNG FRIEND of mine, around nine years old, when asked at school to write about her past life, began dramatically: 

“I was born in the slums of Amsterdam while my heartless mother was enjoying herself in Pans.”

Nothing as exciting happened to me. I was born in a comfortable house in Rotterdam in 1908, with both my parents very much in attendance and suitably impressed. In fact, I have learned that they made quite a fuss over me. 

My father was an officer in the Royal Dutch Navy, and we moved about quite a bit. That may have been the reason I didn’t go to school until I was ten years old and already knew how to read and write. I read so voraciously, in fact, that I knew all about school long before I went there, and the day that I was first told to stand in the corner was a red-letter day for me! I’ve tried to express this delight in my book Pegeen, where a little girl also goes to school late and enjoys experiencing what she had so often read about. 

Another happy day was when I first discovered that I could write down my own stories. I immediately began a long tale [p. 304 of book] about two little girls called Mientje and Cateau, their adventures interrupted by sums and grammar and punctuated with inkblots. However, what worried me most was the cramp in my fingers I got from writing. Being only eight at the time, the physical effort was greater than the mental, and I remember wondering whether grownups also had to go through such agony whenever they wrote. 

In the first years of my life my mother spoke English with me. Her mother was Irish and had spoken English with her. Later on, when my brothers were born and Dutch nurses came into the house, my mother stopped talking English with us and I forgot a great deal of it. But I believe the ease with which I express myself in English is due to the fact that it was my chief language as a baby. 

My parents were not Catholic; I was the first in both families to come back to the Faith. The first time I felt an interest in the Catholic Church was when I was six years old. My father and mother never talked to me about religion, but they once left me to be cared for by a Catholic nurse who had pictures of Christ in her bedroom. I didn’t know who He was and asked about Him; so she put me on the bed and talked to me for an hour. She was terribly shocked that I should be so ignorant, and seemed to blame my parents, so I did not love her, but the story she told impressed me. A little later, I got a children’s Bible and I said I wanted to go to church. My parents, both agnostics, sent me with the servants to the village church: a whitewashed, chilly affair with nothing that would appeal to a child. There was only a black-coated man talking a long time in a peculiar voice. I decided that I had been fooled; it wasn’t a church at all; and 

I didn’t ask to go again. 

But one day when I was walking with my mother, we passed a Catholic Church, and I immediately dragged my mother inside. 

“This is a church!’* I cried, sniffing the incense. “This is what I meant; this is where God is!’’ Mother thought it all very dangerous and unsuitable and quickly hurried me away. [p. 305 of book] 

Before I went to school, my father used to give me geography lessons with an orange and a candle. I remember being exceedingly troubled at the idea of becoming an angel and flapping around between all the big round worlds in a space that never ended. The way my father talked about it, I calculated that 

there wasn’t much chance of my ever meeting another angel except once in a thousand years or so, and even when you did meet one there wouldn’t be much to do but sit on one of those round worlds and have a chat. Even if you fell off it made no difference, because there wasn’t anywhere to fall to. I remember being so troubled about it that I had to get out of my bed and go to my parents to be consoled. They were playing chess together and looked very cosy and comforting. They convinced me that my fears were more funny than tragic. 

Of course there isn’t space enough to tell all that happened in my life so far, but it seems to me the best thing will be to tell roughly what events brought me into the Church. You see, most other Catholic authors are born Catholics and have to tell how they became authors; but I was born with an ever-wagging tongue, and can more fitly describe how I became a Catholic. 

When I was sixteen, we moved to Ireland, and there, of course, I came in close contact with the Catholic Church. I attended the art school in Dublin and argued about philosophy with the other students. I read Freud and Shaw and Dostoievsky and interested myself in the Montessori system of education. Presently I heard that there was a Montessori school in Waterford, and I wrote a 

letter to the Mother Superior of the convent which ran the school, asking if I might see it. I got a kind letter back, inviting me to come, and so one day I walked up the driveway to the convent door. 

I was eighteen then. I wore a bright red dress, close cropped hair, and was gaily swinging my round straw hat by its elastic band. I never saw such merriment as when the Sisters caught sight of me. When they had laughed their fill they explained that they had expected and dreaded the arrival of an elderly, severe-looking schoolmistress, with pince-nez and notebook. [p. 306] 

They couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw me ambling up the driveway. It was a great relief to them; and they promptly proceeded to spoil me. I was a vegetarian in those days, and so they pressed lettuce and fruit on me every hour, for fear I would waste away in front of their eyes. They let me help with the housework, and in the evenings I sat in the room where the novices weren’t even allowed and talked my head off to a circle of appreciative listeners. This visit made a deep impression on me. 1 hadn’t known nuns could be so natural and so merry, and their cordiality and gifts touched my heart. When the Mother 

Superior gave me a badge of the Sacred Heart to wear I carried it about for a long time until it got lost. 

When I was nineteen, I went back to Amsterdam to study art, and there, in a library, I found G. K. Chesterton, who has since been my guiding light among mortals. I bought all his books, and felt how the sweeping broom of his intellect was cleaning the attic of my mind. 

In 1931, 1 went back to Ireland and met my husband, who was then studying at Trinity College, Dublin, and a friend of my brother’s. We married in 1932, and he went off to America, his native country, to get a position, and send for me when he had things settled. While he was gone, I came in contact with what is called “the Oxford Group,’’ and experienced an emotional conversion. I thought I had discovered the secret of life, and made a fool of myself trying to convert fellow Christians to my own recent immature faith; but I was blissfully ignorant of that, 

and very happy. It was around that time that I wrote A Day on Skates (1934). After a while, I discovered that the Oxford Group was good as an irritant to startle you out of your own groove, but entirely unfit as a daily spiritual guide. So I searched among churches, and chose one that wouldn’t be too particular about dogma, landing in the Episcopal church. But the Episcopal church has many mansions, and as I practiced religion and grew in wisdom, I wandered higher and higher until I became a bigoted Anglo-Catholic. Those were the days when I would poke my head into a church and sniff. I could tell whether it 

was “high” or “low.” 

[p. 307] In February, 1934, I arrived at last in New York, where my first baby [Olga—Joan in The Mitchells trilogy] was born in November of the same year. When she was three months old, my husband got a position with the gov- 

ernment [he was hired by Henry Morgenthau for the Farm Credit Administration] and we moved to Washington, D.C., where my four next 

babies were bom and where my widowed mother came to join us. 

Meanwhile, even the Anglican church proved unsatisfactory and distressingly illogical; so finally, in 1939, the light dawned and I became a Catholic. The Cottage at Bantry Bay, and, Francis on the Run, its sequel, were written in the Anglican days. They were inspired by an Irish family which I knew very well. The three later books, Kersti and Saint Nicholas, Pegeen, and, Andries, were all written after I entered the Church. My mother entered a year after I did and just before the Nazi invasion of Holland, which gave her the strength to bear that 

terrible blow. 

I feel very fortunate and very happy, and I hope in some way through my books to give children a feeling for the beauty of life and its fun. And also its holiness. And the only advice I have for Catholic authors is to love God and neighbor as much as they can. For without love, nothing is ever created. 

Original Editor's note: Hilda van Stockum is, in private life, Mrs. Ervin Marlin. Her later books for younger readers, illustrated by the author, include Kersti and Saint Nicholas, 1940, Viking; Pegeen, 1941, Viking, Andries, 1942, Viking.

Blogger's Note: I am John Tepper Marlin, considerably older than I was in the photo at two years old in 1944; I was Timmy in The Mitchells trilogy. I live in New York City and East Hampton, New York; and Vero Beach, Florida. Olga (Joan) lives in Nairobi, Kenya. Brigid (Patsy) lives in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire,  England. Randal (Peter) lives in Ottawa, Canada. Sheila (Angela) lived outside of Watford, Hertfordshire, England, but sadly is deceased, leaving four daughters and their families. Lis (Catherine) lives in London.  If you want to reach any of my living sibings, contact me at TepperMarlin [at] I am also Hilda van Stockum's executor and handle rights including permissions for reproduction of her art and writing. Most of her 25 books for children are still in print and under copyright until 2056. English-language editions are published by Bethlehem Books, Purple House Press and Boissevain Books. Translations of her books are available in French, Danish, Dutch, Hebrew, Japanese, Portuguese and German. She has also translated books from German and Dutch into English—and her French was pretty good as well. 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

MONTESSORI | St. Anthony's School, London

Maria Montessori
November 15, 2020—My sister Sheila Marlin O'Neill was a Montessori-trained teacher who started several Montessori Schools and maintained them until her death. Her Montessori-trained children (fourth generation, since Hilda van Stockum's mother was also Montessori-trained) have continued one of the schools, at Garston Manor near Watford.

I have been interested in the chain of Montessori training. Sheila and Lis both went to Sion Hill in Blackrock, Dublin, where the Dominican Sisters used Montessori methods (see below). 

One of the trainings that Sheila took was at St. Anthony's School in London. Such a school exists ( but it is not run by a religious order (it seems to have been owned by two different private equity firms in succession and is now owned by Alpha Plus).

Here is an excerpt from a book about Montessori Schools and training, which refers to Sister Stephanie, O.S.F. (Order of St Francis) as Headmistress of St. Anthony's School and is Honorary Secretary of the Catholic Montessori Guild. I would love to know more about her.

Maria Montessori believed that game-playing was at the heart of learning. It took a while for teachers in religious schools to get used to the idea that game-playing had a place in a  Catholic education. More here:

Here is an explanation (from 2012!) why I am looking for Sister Stephanie and the story of St. Anthony's School:

I am also trying to contact the Council of Catholic Montessori Schools.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

MOTHER'S DAY | An Appreciation for Hilda van Stockum

With Mom in 2005, when she was 97, the
year before her death.
May 10, 2020 (Mother's Day in the USA)—We celebrated Mother's Day today. That always-on-Sunday celebration was invented in the United States by Anna Jarvis. Her mother had held Mother's Friendship Days to reunite families and neighbors separated during the U.S. Civil War. Her daughter, Anna Jarvis, carried on the torch.

On May 10, 1908, the first official Mother's Day celebrations took place in the United States. That's also when three-month-old Hilda was on a boat with her parents to Java. (In 1914, Woodrow Wilson designated the second Sunday of May as Mother's Day.)

So, in a year when my Mom would have turned 112, our family's honoree today was Alice Tepper Marlin. Our daughter Caroline made a magnificent dinner for us to share. As we are hunkered down to avoid spread of the coronavirus, it was a good time for reflection.

Caroline with her Mom, Hachikō and John.
Artwork by Brigid Marlin. Photo by SL.
Alice and I remembered to each other our joint vivid experiences of our mothers in the past half-century (the 49th anniversary of our meeting was in March). Alice was especially grateful for our long vacations with the Marlin children and grandchildren: "Hilda and Spike organized the vacations so that the cousins would get to meet one another, form memories and bonds," she says. "Hilda favored the simpler life, self-reliance, home remedies for ailments, family time."

Caroline added: "She encouraged children to exercise their imagination. They were provided with writing and painting materials and they made things. They had performances."

In this time of "social distancing," when people must stay away from events and shopping where people congregate, we are thrown back on our own resources. The Marlin children, and then the grandchildren, had a chance to work on common vacation projects. I especially remember our vacations at Rosturk Castle in Mulranny, County Mayo, Ireland, especially as I have learned more about the man who had the idea for the castle, Colonel Vaughan, and started building it in 1867. He was from a one-time recusant Catholic family. Of the 13 Vaughan children who grew up in Courtfield, Ross, Herefordshire, six became priests and five became nuns. Another interesting vacation spot we spent summers in was Skibbereen, in southwest Ireland, when all the young cousins were thriving. Other memorable vacation homes were in Robin Hood, Maine; a vineyard villa in the hills outside of Florence; and a French chateau in la Ferté St Cyr.

Alice loved all these vacations. She missed out on big family gatherings in her childhood because her only sibling left home to go to Bryn Mawr College when Alice was eight. She also had an intellectually gifted mother, who went to Barnard College and then earned an advanced degree at  Columbia University. Alice's mother was a scientist. She chose the Baldwin School for Alice after much research, and instilled in Alice a respect for learning, especially science.

Mom's skillful understanding of what children need probably originated from her own mother, who was sent scads of instructions by her own Irish mother when she brought HvS to the East Indies when she was a few months old. HvS had six children to practice on, and was trained by Maria Montessori, who established a training center in Dublin. Mom was very proud of the book she did for Montessori course, and told me several times how much she misses having the book she did as part of the course. She thinks she loaned it to someone connected with a Sisters of Loreta convent in Dublin and somehow it was never returned. We have a bad copy of the book, and would dearly love to get back the original to republish it.

I intend to keep writing more about HvS, and her Dutch-Irish mother (Olga Boissevain), and her Irish mother (Emily Heloise MacDonnell). My niece Christine Schintgen would like to do a biography of HvS as a literary lion in the children's book field. I would like to focus on Hilda van Stockum as a correspondent with and about her family during World War II.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

BIRTH | Feb 9–Hilda van Stockum (110 in 2018)

Hilda (73) and Spike (70) in
February 9, 2018–Hilda van Stockum was born 110 years ago.

She died in 2006, at 98.

Her obituary was in The New York Times and many other newspapers

Her family still misses her.