I sense what Father and Mother instinctively (I do
not say intelligently) think about me. They
shrink from taking me into the house as they might from taking
a big shaggy dog who is sure to come into the room with wet
paws - and is so very shaggy. He will get in everyone's way.
And his bark is so loud. In short, he is a filthy
Very well, but the beast has a human history, and although
he is a dog he has a human soul, and what is more one so
sensitive that he can feel what people think about him, which
an ordinary dog cannot do.
And I, admitting that I am a sort of dog, accept them for
what they are.
The dog appreciates that if they do keep him, they are only
putting up with him, only just tolerating his presence
“in this house,” so he will try to track down a
In fact this dog used to be Father's son once upon a time,
and it was Father who left him out in the streets a little too
long, so he was bound to become rougher, but seeing that Father
forgot this many years ago and has never thought deeply
about what the bond between father and son means, we had best
say nothing about it.
And then - the dog could easily bite - he could easily
become rabid - and the village policeman would have to come
round and shoot him.
Oh yes, all that is perfectly true, no doubt about it.
On the other hand, dogs can also be guard dogs. But there's
no need for that, they say, it's peaceful here, there's no
question of any danger. So I shall say no more about it.
The only thing the dog regrets is that he came back, because
it wasn't as lonely on the heath as it is in this house -
despite all that kindness. The poor beast's visit was a
weakness, which I hope will be forgotten, and which he will
avoid repeating in the future.
Because I have had no expenses since I have been here, and
because I have twice received money from you, I paid for the
journey myself and also for the clothes Father bought me
because mine weren't good enough, and at the same time I have
repaid the 25 guilders to friend Rappard. I'm sure you'll be
pleased about this, everything was such a mess.
Dear Theo, enclosed is the letter I was writing when I
received yours. Which I shall now answer, having carefully read
what you say.
I shall start by saying I think it noble of you that,
believing that I am making things difficult for Father,
you take his part and give me a brisk dressing-down. I value
this in you, although you are taking up arms against one who is
neither Father's enemy nor yours but who would nevertheless
like to present a few serious questions for Father's
consideration and yours, who tells you what I am telling you
because that is the way I feel, and who asks: Why is this
In many respects, your answers to various passages in my
letter bring out certain aspects of the matter with which I am
not unfamiliar myself. Your objections are partly my own
objections, but they are not sufficient. So once again I
appreciate your goodwill and likewise your desire for
reconciliation and peace - which, indeed, I have never
Even so, brother, I could easily raise a great many
objections to your suggestions, except that I think that would
be tedious and there is a shorter way. There is a desire for
peace and reconciliation in Father and in you and in me. And
yet we do not seem able to bring peace about.
Well, it is my belief that I am the stumbling block, and so
it is up to me to find a way of not to “making things
difficult” for you or for Father any longer. And I am
now prepared to make things as easy as possible and as peaceful
as possible, for both of you.
So you are also of the opinion that I am the one who is
making things difficult for Father and that I am a
Well, I shall do my best in future to keep everything from
you and from Father, I shan't visit Father again and, if you
approve, shall stick to my proposal that (for the sake of our
mutual freedom of thought, and for the sake of not making
things difficult for you as well, a view I fear you are
inadvertently beginning to take) we put an end to our financial
arrangement by March. I ask for a little grace for the sake of
order and to allow myself time to take a few steps which,
though they have very little chance of success, my conscience
does not allow me to put off in the circumstances.
You must take this calmly and in good heart, brother - it is
not an ultimatum to you. But if our feelings differ too
greatly, well then, we must not rush to sweep everything under
the carpet. Isn't that more or less your opinion as well?
You do realize, don't you, that I'm sure you have saved
my life and I shall never forget that. Even after
we have put an end to relations which, I fear, would place
us into a false position, I shall still not only be your
brother, your friend, but I shall also owe you an infinite debt
of loyalty because you held out your hand to me and because you
have gone on helping me…
Money can be repaid, not kindness such as yours.
So leave me to carry on by myself - I am only sorry that a
complete reconciliation has not proved possible, and wish it
might still come about, but you people do not understand me,
and I am afraid you never will.
Please send me the usual by return of mail, if you can, then
I shan't have to ask Father for anything when I leave, which I
ought to do as soon as possible.
I gave all the 23.80 guilders you sent on December 1 to
Father, for 14 guilders borrowed and 9 guilders for shoes and
trousers. I gave all the 25 guilders you sent on December 10 to
Rappard. I still have a quarter and a few cents in my pocket.
So that is the financial position, which you will understand if
you also take into account that I paid for the expenses in
Drenthe over a long period out of the money from November 20,
which arrived on December 1, because of some hitch that was
later put right, and that I paid for my journey, etc., out of
the 14 guilders (which I borrowed from Father and have since
From here I shall go to Rappard's. And from Rappard's,
perhaps to Mauve's. My intention is thus to try to do
everything in a calm and orderly fashion.
There is too much in my candidly expressed opinion of Father
which I cannot take back in the circumstances. I appreciate
your objections, but many of them do not convince me, others I
have already thought of myself, even though I write as I do. I
have put my feelings in strong terms, and they have naturally
been modified by my appreciation that there is much good in
Father - that modification has been substantial, of course.
Allow me to tell you that I never knew that someone of 30
was `a boy', particularly when he has probably had more
experience than most during those 30 years. But do think of my
words as the words of a boy if you want. I am not responsible
for how you view what I say, am I? That is your
And as far as Father is concerned, l shall take the liberty
of putting what he thinks of me from my mind the moment we
It may be politic to keep what one feels to oneself, but it
has always seemed to me that serenity is a duty, especially for
a painter - whether people understand what I say, whether they
judge me rightly or wrongly, is neither here nor there as far
as I am concerned, as you once pointed out to me.
Well, brother, even if there is a separation in whatever
way, know that I am your friend, perhaps much more than you
realize or understand - and even Father's friend. With a
Ever yours, Vincent
In any event I am neither Father's enemy nor yours, nor
shall I ever be.
At this time, Vincent was 30 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 17 December 1883 in Nuenen. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 346.
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