I am again anxious for your letter; as it is already
February 3 (and the postman for today has passed), I write you
as a precaution. If you have written a few days later than
usual, it's all right, but remembering what happened with that
letter this winter, I'm telling you in case you wrote before
Then you would perhaps do well to inquire.
I have noticed that the postman sometimes gives letters for
the Schenkweg to people who live there, instead of delivering
them himself. It is sometimes a big detour for the postman; I
know it because now and then the man has asked me to deliver a
few things for him - which I did, of course, but I couldn't
help thinking of the letter that got lost. Well!
The weather has been very stormy here these days, especially
last night. It will be very rough at sea.
How is your patient? From what you write, I see things that
touch me deeply, that are really noble (for instance, that
she paid the debts of the man who deceived her).
That not being “at home” of the Deputy reminded
me of the name Punch gives to the secretary for home affairs
(the “Home Secretary” is his title). Punch always
calls this personage the “seldom-at-home”
secretary. How many of those “seldom-at-home”
people there are. And Dickens called the lot of them the
Many people are standing sighing before the door of those
“how-not-to-do-it” institutions, and the sighs
there are no less deep, perhaps, than they were on the old
Bridge of Sighs.
On such a day one would like to have the company of a
friend. That sometimes clears up the leaden mist.
On such days I am sometimes terribly worried about the
future and am melancholy about my work, and feel quite
But it is dangerous to speak or think too much about it, so
enough of it.
In spite of this, I have been working on a watercolour,
another sketch of diggers, or rather, road menders, here on the
Schenkweg; but it's rotten.
Not just with crayon, but the whole thing sponged, and the
shadows softened, the lights intensified.
I am reading Ut mine Festungstid [From the Time of my
Detention in a Fortress] by Fritz Reuter; it is very witty. The
Germans have their special humour, quite different from that of
the English. Herkomer has painted among other things a
peasant's carnival, something like Peasant Brueghel, which has
this humour very strongly.
Speaking of Herkomer, some time ago I read a kind of
biography of him, though rather incomplete. But the following
For some time he lived and painted in an empty house, or one
that wasn't finished perhaps, because he couldn't pay any
Then he came to the Graphic and was relatively free of care.
But even when employed there, he was still but little
respected. So little that his first sketch of the “Last
Muster at Chelsea Hospital” - a drawing which differs
relatively little from the final composition, but has a certain
rough aspect - was almost rejected.
Nobody in the Graphic administration approved of it
except the manager (it would greatly astonish me if this
manager were still on the job).
Through his efforts the sketch was published, and he asked
Herkomer if he could do it for him again, more elaborately.
So this is the origin of a picture which has since gained
the wonder and admiration of the best, in Paris as well as in
Now almost everybody would admire the first sketch, too.
The biography also tells that he is not a man who
works easily; on the contrary, ever since the beginning he has
had to struggle with a kind of awkwardness, and no picture is
finished without severe mental effort.
I can hardly understand why, even now, many call him rough.
I can hardly think of any work more profoundly sensitive than
When you come, I will show you the wood engravings of the
almshouse for women; it is not so well known, but no less
beautiful than that of the old men's. Something like the
“Sewing Class at Katwijk” by Israëls.
Well, write soon, if you haven't done so already.
I am anxious to know how your patient is. My best wishes for
her and for everything. Also, my congratulations on Father's
birthday. I sent Father a drawing which I had done in line with
his criticism of the first lithography of the old man. Not
because I thought Father was exactly right, but I thought, Now
I know how you would like to have it, I will try and make it
that way for you. But I'm afraid I didn't succeed. Even though
one tries hard, one doesn't always succeed in pleasing other
people. Father didn't exactly write that he didn't like it, but
it was between the lines. It may be that it wasn't good after
all. Well, they will show it to you whenever you go there, but
don't mention it to them. Adieu.
Yours sincerely, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 29 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 3 February 1883 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 263.
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