Nuenen, 2nd half September 1884
Just a word to tell you that I have been to Utrecht to visit
I also had an interview with the physician with whom she is
staying, because I wanted to get his advice as to what I must
or must not do, for the sake of the patient's health and
future, i.e. either continue our relation or break it off.
In this matter I want no other advice except that of a
physician. And I have heard that her health is greatly shaken -
though she is recovering - that in fact, according to the
doctor, who has known her from childhood, and who was also her
mother's physician - she had always had a very frail
constitution and will always have; that for the moment there
are two dangerous things, that she is too weak to marry,
at least for the moment, but that at the same time a separation
would be dangerous too.
So some time will have to pass, and then I shall receive a
definite hint of what will be best for her, separation or
I spent almost the whole day with her then.
I went to see Rappard for a moment, but he wasn't in
Last week I made the sketch for the last of the six pictures
Wood-gatherers in the snow, so he has all six of them to
copy; when he has finished this one and they are thoroughly
dry, I shall work them up into pictures. I wish you could see
all six of them together in the panels for which they are
destined. His copies are very correct as to the drawing, but I
think his colour is bad; and as for mine, the warm grey, often
bituminous, tone in which I kept the whole thing harmonizes
with the woodwork and the style of the room. Goodbye.
You should not have the impression that what you write,
“that it is evident she is like an angel of
patience,” is correct.
This is decidedly not the case; it is the very thing I asked
the doctor about - “She has always had a highly irritable
temper,” he said.
I do not think it impossible or improbable that you - sooner
or later when you put your theory on marriage into practice
yourself - that is to say, after you have gained a nice
secure position for yourself and ask a girl in marriage - you
will think of me once in a while.
It is true that I myself have twice met with great sorrow,
sorrow of a totally divergent nature. So be it - but you will
live to see that your own theory on this subject is not always
sure to yield the results that one would be inclined to expect.
When you have gained a secure position, then you will find a
wife and children and domestic happiness. This is a beautiful
promise society makes, but does society keep this promise?
Generally speaking, society disappoints everybody in
all kinds of behaviour.
I say this quite good-naturedly and not by way of reproach -
not at all!
Il y a du bon en tout mouvement énergetique, I often
Theo, now that I know more than at first what made her so
desperate - do you want to know what it was? That night her
family spoke to her approximately in the same tone -
as you did to me. Well, then I decidedly
lost my temper with you - this is over now - and she
would have taken it in extremely bad part if she had my
temperament. Well, the things that were said - naturally
not the things you said, but what her
sisters said - made her so desperate and so
excessively melancholy that she did what I wrote you about.
Looking at it from your point of view, I , who am
more of a philosopher, can say - at least on reflection,
He now thinks that way, let him.
But she, when they expostulated with her, believed she
had done something frightful. And this without having done
anything she ought not to have done. She took it so much to
heart that she felt deserted by everyone and everything.
[Written in the margin] She is still greatly incensed by her
sister's conduct, though it is subsiding - and, for that
matter, the sisters have withdrawn a good deal of what they
said. One of them, however, goes on being sulky, and this one
also tried to speak to me, but I gave her as good as I got.
All yours, Vincent
[Enclosed herewith] I think it deeply pathetic that this
woman (while she was so weak and defeated by five or six
other women that she took poison) says kind of
triumphantly, as if she had gained a victory and as if she had
found rest, “I too have loved at last.”
She had never really loved before.
As for me, these days are sometimes full of an anguish which
makes me sick, which can neither be diverted nor
stilled, as with much forethought I have always respected
her on a certain point that would have dishonoured her
socially (though if I had wanted it, I had her in my power), so
that socially she can maintain her position perfectly, and
if she understood it well, she would have a
splendid opportunity to take her revenge and get satisfaction
from those very women who defeated her. And I will lend her a
helping hand in this, but she does not always understand, or
else she understands too late. Well.
It is a pity that I didn't meet her before, for
instance, ten years ago. Now she gives me the impression of a
Cremona violin which has been spoiled by bad, bungling
And the condition she was in when I met her proved to be
rather too damaged.
But originally, it was a rare specimen of great value, and
even now she has, in spite of drawbacks, great
The only thing I ever saw again of Kee was a picture taken a
year later; was she changed for the worse? On the contrary,
That disturbing the tranquillity of a woman, as
theological people call it (sometimes theologians sans le
savoir), is sometimes the breaking of stagnation or
melancholy, which steals over many people and is worse
than death itself. Some people think it terrible to
hurl them back into life, into love, and one must consider very
carefully how far one may go. But if one does it with motives
other than egoism, well, then the women themselves will
sometimes get angry, and may even hate instead of love,
But they will not easily despise the man who did it, while
they do despise the men who have extinguished the manliness in
themselves. Well, those are the deep things of life. But as for
anyone who does not think about them or laughs at them, Mouret
justly calls him a “dupe,” and in his anger, even
At this time, Vincent was 31 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 2nd half September 1884 in Nuenen. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 377.
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