[The first part of the letter is missing.]
…If you think it necessary for me to explain matters
more clearly, well, here you are. You say yourself that you
want me to leave the woman, yes, leave her completely. All
right, but I can't and I won't. Do you understand, my friend?
Such a thing would be treacherous - I am thinking of the old
Scripture word, “Hide not thy face from thy
neighbour,” and now I tell you flatly, No, Theo.
(And in case you want to assume that I intend to do this, that
or the other thing, you may think exactly what you want; I
shall do what I want, Deo volente.)
I know quite well that this is a delicate point, related to
money matters - not only in the sense you refer to in your
letter, but primarily in another sense. If I accept money from
you and do something which you definitely object to, it would
be wrong. I have always discussed everything candidly with you,
and shown myself exactly as I was; I have aimed at
straightforwardness, but I never acted without seeking your
advice. Well, if this should stop and we should no longer
associate with each other in private life, something like a
false position would emerge. And this I reject.
I have spoken without reserve about Father, I have spoken
without reserve about you with reference to this summer - why?
To induce you to adopt my point of view? No, but because I
should consider myself dishonest if I kept such things locked
inside my mind. The fact is that I am not perfidious, and if
there is something I object to in a person, I say so and am not
afraid of the consequences, however serious.
I cannot change, I am made this way. I myself want to clear
up the situation, and then I say, Stop a bit, for I think quite
differently about this or that, and I cannot keep up the same
cordial intercourse with you as before. (I am not saying I
won't have any intercourse at all with Father or yourself - I'm
not as stubborn as that.)
But if something is broken, I feel it. And I say, What is
broken, is broken. If I do, at least I regain my
serenity; I should lose my serenity if I were not frank enough.
I am not afraid to face the future as long as I need not be
involved in things which I feel to be dishonest.
And if you want still another reason, then listen to this:
In order to keep the woman from ruin, I should even be willing
to swallow my pride over this or that principle as far as money
is concerned, and more than once I did so for her sake and the
children's; but if the woman were not there, I should be
prouder than ever. (This is what I told you in The Hague in
reply to something you said about being good friends with H. G.
T., when you said, “Yes, that's what I thought.”)
And as I see it the situation is this: under the circumstances,
if I get no support, e.g. from you, I can do practically
nothing for the woman; for I think myself that it is not
in my power to assist her, at least not at once. So you
have me at your mercy, you particularly, along with many
others, none of whom can agree with me. And yet you will not
be able to force me to renounce her, whatever your
financial power. And seeing that I shall make no concessions in
the matter of the woman - and I will clearly declare it, loud
enough for even ears that are most hard of hearing - I announce
in advance that I have resolved to share with her all that is
my property and I do not wish to accept any money from you,
except what I may regard as my property without arrière
As I myself do not coerce anyone, so I do not want to be
coerced myself; I who respect the liberty of others insist on
my own liberty.
As for the woman and her children, she is attached to me,
even after the separation, and I to her. And now I
should in some way agree, tacitly or not tacitly, to abandon
her? No, this time I shall make no such agreement. I do not ask
you to be responsible for any expenses whatever; on the
contrary, I tell you that you may reduce the money or stop
sending it altogether, but she shall have her share of all I
I should be a coward, brother, if I were ambiguous about
this. And if it should come about that I have nothing myself,
all right - this would be the very worst that could happen, and
perhaps there might be others besides you who would be willing
to make life possible for me. And if not, so be it.
In short, rest assured that I believe I am entitled
to do anything which does not hurt anyone else and it is my
duty to live up to the liberty which not only I myself but
every human being has an unlimited and natural right to - this
liberty, I say, being the only station in life one
should live up to. Before I act, I most decidedly ask myself,
Shall I hurt anyone by doing this or that? but unless it is
irrefutably proved to me that I shall hurt someone by doing a
particular thing, I need not refrain from doing it.
At this time, Vincent was 30 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written late December 1883 in Nuenen. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number .
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