If I did not give vent to my feelings every so often, then,
I think, the boiler would burst.
I must tell you something that, were I to keep it bottled up
inside me, might distress me, but which, if I just come
straight out with it, may turn out to be not so bad.
As you know, Father and Mother on the one hand and I on the
other do not see eye to eye about what should or should not be
done with regard to a certain “no, never,
Well, after I'd been listening to the fairly strong
expressions, `indelicate and inopportune' for some considerable
time (just imagine that you were in love and they called your
love `indelicate', wouldn't you, with a certain amount of
pride, take exception and say, Enough!'), at my urgent request
that these expressions not be no longer used, they stopped, but
only to come up with a new order of the day. Now they say that
`I would be severing family ties.'
Well, I have told them over and over again, seriously,
patiently and with feeling, that this is not the case at all.
This helped for a time, and then it started all over again. Now
the complaint was that I kept 'writing letters'.
And when - rashly and wantonly in my view - they kept using
that wretched expression `severing ties,' I did the following.
For a few days I said not a word and took no notice at all of
Father and Mother. A contrecour [reluctantly], but I wanted
them to see what it would be like if ties really had been
Of course they were amazed at my behavior, and when they
said so, I replied, `You see, that's what it would be
like if there were no tie of affection between us; but
luckily there is one and it will not be broken so easily, but I
beg you to appreciate how dreadful that phrase, “severing
ties” really is, and not to use it any longer.' The
result was, however, that Father grew very angry, ordered me
out of the room, and, and cursed me, or at least that is
exactly what it sounded like!
Now while I am very distressed and sorry about it all, I
simply cannot agree that a father who curses his son and
(remember last year) proposes to send him to a lunatic asylum
(which naturally I resisted with all my might) and who calls
his son's love `inappropriate and indelicate' (!!!), is in the
Whenever Father loses his temper he is used to having
everyone, myself included, give in to him. However, I had made
up my mind in God's name to let this fit of temper rage on for
In anger Father also said something about my having
to move away somewhere else, but because it was said in
anger, I do not attach much importance to it. I have my
models and my studio here, elsewhere life would be more
expensive, working more difficult and the models dearer. But if
Father and Mother were coolly and calmly to tell me, `Go,' of
course I should go.
There are things a man simply cannot let pass. If one
hears people saying `you are mad' or `you are someone who
severs family ties' or `you are indelicate', then anyone with a
heart in his body will protest with all his might. To be sure,
I have told Father and Mother a thing or two as well, namely
that they were quite wrong about this love of mine, that they
had hardened their hearts, and seemed absolutely incapable of a
gentler and more humane way of thinking. In a word, that to me
their way of thinking seemed narrow-minded, neither full nor
generous enough; and also that to me `God' would ring nothing
but hollow if one had to hide one's love and were not allowed
to follow the dictates of one's heart.
Now I am quite ready to believe that there have been times
when I have been unable to suppress my outrage upon hearing
`indelicate' or `severing ties', but who would keep calm when
that sort of thing never stops?
Quoi qu'il en soit [be that as it may]. In his anger, Father
muttered nothing more nor less than a curse. But then, I had
already heard something of the sort last year, and thank God,
far from being properly damned, felt new life and new energy
springing up within me. And I firmly believe that it will be
the same this time, only more so, and more forcefully than last
Have my drawings arrived? I made another yesterday, a
peasant boy in the morning lighting the fire in the hearth with
a kettle hanging over it, and another, an old man laying
kindling wood on the hearth. I am sorry to say
there is still something harsh and severe in my drawings, and I
think that she, that is, her influence, is needed to
Well, my dear fellow, it seems to me there is no reason to
take 'the curse' so terribly hard. Perhaps I used too harsh a
method to make Father and Mother feel something they did not
want to hear, yet is not `a father's curse' a great deal
stronger and harsher, going indeed a little too far? Enfin, je
te serre la main, et crois-moi [Well, I shake your hand, and
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 28 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 18 November 1881 in Etten. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 158.
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