Today I sent you some drawings and sketches; what I want to
show you first of all is that what I told you about does not
keep me from my work; on the contrary, I am literally absorbed
in my work and enjoy it, and have good courage.
Now I hope that you will not be angry at my saying so, but I
am rather anxious because you have not yet answered. I do not
believe that you will disapprove of my being with Christine. I
do not believe that you would completely desert me for such a
reason, or for appearances' sake or I do not know what else.
But after what happened with Mauve and Tersteeg, can you wonder
that I sometimes think with a certain sadness, Perhaps
he will do the same?
At least I am eagerly waiting for a letter from you, but I
know that undoubtedly you are very busy and that it is not so
very long since you wrote. But perhaps sooner or later you will
experience it yourself when you are with a woman who is with
child - a day seems like a week, and a week, longer than a
month. And that is why I write you so often these days, as long
as I have no answer.
I wrote to you about intending to take the house next door,
it being more suitable than this one, which seems to get blown
apart so easily, etc. but surely you know, don't you, that I
don't ask imperatively for anything whatever. I only hope that
you will remain to me what you were; I do not think I lowered
or dishonoured myself by what I did, though perhaps some will
think so. I feel that my work lies in the heart of the people,
that I must keep close to the ground, that I must grasp life in
its depths, and make progress through many cares and
I can't think of any other way. I do not ask to be free from
trouble or care, I only hope the latter will not become
unbearable, and this need not be the case as long as I can work
and keep the sympathy of people like you. In life it is the
same as in drawing - one must sometimes act quickly and
decisively, attack a thing with energy, trace the outlines as
quickly as lightning.
This is not time for hesitation or doubt; the hand must not
tremble, nor must the eye wander, but remain fixed on what is
before one. And one must be so absorbed in it that in a short
time something has been brought onto the paper or the canvas
which was not there before, in such a way that later one hardly
knows how it was hammered off. The period of discussing and
thinking must precede the decisive action. There is little room
for reflection or argument in the action itself.
To act quickly is the function of a man, and one has to go
through much before one is able to do it. The pilot sometimes
succeeds in using a storm to make headway, instead of being
wrecked by it.
What I wanted to say to you again is this:I am absorbed in my work and I have
confidence enough so that with the help of such as you, Mauve,
Tersteeg - though we disagreed last winter - I will succeed in
earning enough to keep myself, not in luxury, but as one who
eats his bread in the sweat of his brow. Christine is not a
hindrance or a trouble to me, but a help. If she were alone,
perhaps she would succumb; a woman must not be alone in a
society and during a time like the one in which we live, which
does not spare the weak but treads them underfoot, and crushes
a weak woman under its wheels when she has fallen down.
Therefore, because I see so many weak ones trodden down, I
greatly doubt the sincerity of much of what is called progress
and civilization. I do believe in civilization, even in a time
like this, but only in the kind that is founded on real
humanity. I think whatever destroys human life is barbarous,
and I do not respect it. Well, enough of this. If it might be
that I could rent the house next door and could have regular
weekly wages, that would be delightful. If it cannot be, I will
not lose courage and will wait awhile longer. But if it can be,
I should be so happy, and it would save much of my strength for
work, which is otherwise absorbed by cares.
You will see there are all kinds of drawings in the
portfolio. Keep whatever you think best of what I send, then
you can show them whenever there is a chance. I should like to
get the rest back some time or other. If I thought you would
come soon, I would of course keep these things until you came.
But now it is perhaps as well for you to see the things
together, and I hope that from it you will see that I do not
live idly on your money. Considering it superficially, you
would perhaps view the affair with Christine quite differently
from what it really is. But when you have read this letter and
the previous one, it will be easier for you to understand.
I wish those who mean well by me would understand that my
actions stem from a deep feeling and need for love, that
recklessness and pride and indifference are not the springs
which move the machine, and this step is proof of my taking
root in a lowly station on the road of life. I do not think I
should do well to aim for a higher station or to try to change
my character. I must have much more experience, I must learn
still more, before I shall be ripe, but that is a question of
time and perseverance.
Adieu, write soon. If you can send me something, it will
certainly not be unwelcome. Believe me, with a handshake,
Yours sincerely, Vincent
If I thought my leaving The Hague would please anyone, I
would do it, and go anywhere rather than be in anybody's
But I do no harm to anybody, and after what you wrote me, I
suppose I must not take what Tersteeg said too seriously.
The house which I wrote you about is for rent now, and I am
afraid someone else will take it if I don't do it soon. That is
another reason why I am looking for your letter. For you will
understand that after what happened with Mauve and Tersteeg,
and after what I told you about Christine, I must ask you
frankly: Theo, will these things cause a change or separation
between you and me? I would be so happy if they don't, and will
be twice as glad of your help and sympathy as before; if it
does, it is better for me to know the worst than to be kept in
I like to look things in the face, whether adversity or
prosperity. I have your answer on the problem of Mauve and
Tersteeg, not on the other one. That is something quite apart -
there is a barrier between artistic and personal matters - but
it is right to settle how we look at those things
And therefore I say to you:
Theo, I intend to marry this woman, to whom I am attached
and who is attached to me. If unfortunately this should bring
about a change in your feeling toward me, I hope you will not
withdraw your help without giving me warning some time in
advance, and that you will always tell me frankly and openly
what you think. Of course, I hope that your help and sympathy
will in no way be withdrawn, but that we shall continue to join
hands like brothers, notwithstanding things which the
So, brother, if you have not already written when you
receive this letter, answer me by return post, for after the
things I wrote you, I must be reassured or must know the worst.
Adieu, I hope the sky will remain clear between you and me.
At this time, Vincent was 29 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 12 or 13 May 1882 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 197.
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