There is something on my mind that I want to tell you about.
You may perhaps know something of it already and it will not be
news to you.
Then I was in a tremendous dilemma about what to do. Should
I resign myself to that “never, no, never,” or
consider the matter not yet settled and done with, keep in good
heart and not give up?
I chose the latter. And to this day I do not regret this
approach, although I am still up against that `never, no,
never'. Since then, of course, I have had to put up with quite
a few “petites misères de la vie humaine,”
[life's little troubles] which, had they been written
about in a book, might well have served to amuse some people,
but which if one experiences them oneself must be deemed
anything but pleasant.
However, to this day I am glad that I left the resignation -
or the “how not to do it” method - to those who
have a mind for it and for myself kept in good heart. You will
understand that in case like this it is surprisingly difficult
to tell what one can, may and must do. Yet `we pick up the
scent as we wander about, not as we sit idly by.'
One of the reasons why I have not written to you about all
this before is that my position was so uncertain and unsettled
that I was unable to explain it to you. Now, however, we have
reached the point where I have spoken about it, not only to her
but to Father and Mother, to Uncle and Aunt Stricker and to our
Uncle and Aunt at Prinsenhage.
The only one to say to me, and that very informally and
privately, that there really might be a chance for me if I
worked hard and made progress, was someone from whom I least
expected it: Uncle Cent. He was pleased with the way in which I
reacted to Kee's never no, never, that is not making heavy
weather of it but taking it in quite good humour, and said for
instance, 'Don't give grist to the never, no, never mills which
Kee has set up, I wish her all the best, but I rather hope
those mills will go bankrupt.'
Similarly, I didn't take it amiss when Uncle Stricker said
that there was the danger that I 'might be severing friendly
relationships and old ties'. Whereupon I said that in my view
the real issue, far from severing old ties, was to see if the
old ones could not be renewed where they were in need of
Anyway, that is what I hope to go on doing, and cast out
despondency and gloom, meanwhile working hard - and ever since
I met her, I have been getting on much better with my work.
I told you that the position has now become more clear cut.
1st. - Kee says never, no, never and then - I have
the feeling that I'm going to have an immense amount of
difficulty with the older people, who consider the matter
settled and done with now and will try to force me to drop
For the time being, however, I think they'll go about it
very gently, keeping me dangling and fobbing me off with fair
words until Uncle and Aunt Stricker's big celebration (in
December) is over [their silver wedding]. I fear they will be
taking measures to get rid of me.
Forgive me for expressing myself somewhat harshly in order
to make the position clear to you. I admit that the colours are
somewhat glaring and the lines somewhat starkly drawn, but that
will give you a clearer insight into the affair than if I were
to beat about the bush. So do not suspect me of lacking in
respect for the older people.
However, I do believe that they are positively
against it and I wanted to make that clear to you. They
will try to make sure that Kee and I neither see or speak or
write to each other, because they know very well that if we
saw, spoke or wrote to each other, there would be a chance of
Kee changing her mind. Kee herself thinks she will never change
her mind, the older people are trying to convince me that she
cannot change it, and yet they fear such a change.
The older people will change their minds about this affair,
not when Kee changes her attitude but when I have become
somebody who earns at least 1000 guilders a year. Once again,
forgive me the hard contours with which I am outlining matters.
If I receive a little sympathy from the older ones, I believe
that some of the younger ones will be able to understand my
You may, Theo - you may hear it said of me that I want to
force things, and expressions like that. Yet everyone knows how
senseless force is in love. No, nothing is further from my
But it is neither unfair nor unreasonable to wish that Kee
and I, instead of not being allowed any contact with each
other, might see, speak or write to each other so that we could
come to know each other better, and even be able to tell
whether or not we are suited to one another. A year of keeping
in touch with each other would be salutary for her and for me,
and yet the older people have really dug in their heels on this
point. Were I rich, they would soon change their tune.
But now you will realize that I hope to leave no stone
unturned that might bring me closer to her, and that is my
To go on loving her
Until in the end she loves me too.
Plus elle disparait plus elle apparait. [The more she
disappears the more she appears.]
Theo, are you by any chance in love as well? I hope you are,
for believe me, even its `petites misères' have their
value. One is sometimes in despair, there are moments when one
is in hell, so to speak, yet there is also something different
and better about it.
There are three stages.
1. Not loving and not being loved.
2. Loving and not being loved (the present case).
3. Loving and being loved.
Now, I tell you that the second stage is better than the
first, but the third! That's it!
Well, old boy, go and fall in love yourself and tell me
about it some time. Keep your own counsel in the present case
and have some sympathy for me. Of course I would much rather
have had a yea and amen, but I am almost pleased with my
'never, no, never'. (I take it for something, although
older and wiser heads say it is nothing.)
Rappard has been here, and brought some watercolours that
are coming on well. Mauve will be calling soon, I hope,
otherwise I shall go to him. I am doing a good deal of drawing
and have the feeling it is improving; I am working much more
with the brush than before. It is so cold now that I do almost
nothing but indoor figure-drawing, a seamstress, a
A handshake in my thoughts and write soon and believe
If you ever do fall in love and get a never, no, never,
don't resign yourself to it whatever you do! But you are such a
lucky dog that nothing like that will ever happen to you, I
They tried to make me promise that I would speak or write
absolutely nothing more about this business, but I refused to
promise that. In my opinion no one in the world should in
fairness demand such a thing of me (or of anyone else in the
same position.) All I did was to give Uncle Cent the assurance
that for the time being I would cease writing to Uncle Stricker
unless unforeseen circumstances should necessitate it. A lark
cannot help singing in the spring.
At this time, Vincent was 28 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 3 November 1881 in Etten. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 153.
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