HAAFNER (Haffner), Jacob Godfried. Halle 1755 — Amsterdam 3.9.1809. Dutch (German-born) traveller and precursor of Indology. His father, originally from Alsace (Colmar), was sent by his catholic parents to monastery, but ran away and studied medicine at Halle, where he also married and adopted Lutheran confession. He brought the boy in 1766 to Amsterdam, where they embarked for Batavia (Jakarta). During the stay at Cape Country the father died, and the poor orphaned boy had to earn his living as a seaman in Eastern seas. This way he learned several Asian languages, in addition to his earlier German, French and Dutch. At the age of 18 he passed the sailor’s examen, but tired of sea life took a place at Negapatnam Dutch factory and served six years there. He learnt book-keeping and finally served as secretary of factor Scheuneman. Quarreled with his boss and quitted Negapatnam in 1779. Now he served at Sadras factory and was used in negotiations with the British, but later became their prisoner of war. He lived in Madras in poverty until 1781, when he obtained a place as book-keeper of Antonio de Souza, a rich Portuguese merchant. A year later, on 24.11.1782 escaped from the starving city through Trankebar to Ceylon. Later he came to Calcutta, where Joseph Fowke took him in his service. Now he became acquainted, among others, with Sir William Jones, whom he assisted translating a Malayālam manuscript.
After twenty years in the East Haafner arrived at Amsterdam in 1787. Now he married and began literary work. He had invested his fortune in French bonds, which became almost worthless after the Revolution, and he had to open a pipe shop. His criticism of missionaries and imperial politics in 1807 aroused heated discussion. As a widow he remarried in 1808. After his death his son, Christiaan Matthias Haffner (1791 — 4.1.1849) published his manuscripts.
Publications: Articles in Algemeene Vaderl. Letteroefening 1801, 1806, 1807.
– Mijne Lotgevallen op eene reize van Madras, over Tranquebar naar het eiland Ceylon. Amsterdam 1806, 2nd ed. 8+268 p. Amst. 1826, French 1811, German 1941.
– Onderzoek naar het nut der zendelingen en zendelingsgenootschappen in de twee latste eeuwen. Haarlem 1807, 2nd ed. 16+295 p. Amsterdam 1823.
– Reize in een Palanquin of lotgevallen en merkwaardige aanteekeningen op eene reize langs de kusten van Orixa en Coromandel. 1-2. 16+454+8+514 p. Amsterdam 1808, 2nd ed. 1827, German 1809, French 1811.
– Reize te voet door het eiland Ceylon. Amsterdam 1810, 2nd ed. 8+60+263 p. Amsterdam 1826, new ed. Haarlem 1852, German 1816, English 1820, Danish 1821.
– Lotgevallen en vroegere zeereizen. 24+316 p. Amsterdam 1820.
– Reize naar Bengalen en terugreize naar Europa. 16+415 p. Amsterdam 1822.
– Proeve van Indische dichtkunde, volgens den Ramayon, naar het oorspronkelyk Sanskriet. 278 p. Amsterdam 1823.
– Edited by his son: Gezammelte Werken. 1-4. Amsterdam 1826-27.
Sources: J.J.M. Heeren, Nieuw Nederlandsch Biographisch Woordenboek 3, Leiden 1914, 516f.; F. Ratzel, A.D.B. 10, 1879, 322f. (as Hafner); *J.Ph. Vogel, Jacob Haafner. Schets uit de laatse jaren der Oost-Indische Compagnie. Amst. 1900; Dutch Indology homepage; Wikipedia, with portrait and further references (see also German and Dutch versions).