My dear Theo,
Even before receiving (this very moment) your kind letter, I
had had a letter this morning from your fiancée
announcing the engagement. So I have already sent her my
sincere congratulations in reply, and herewith I repeat them to
My fear that my indisposition might prevent you from making
that very necessary journey which I had so much and so long
hoped for, now that this fear has disappeared, I feel myself
quite normal again.
This morning I was again at the hospital to get another
dressing, and I walked for an hour and a half with the house
surgeon, and we talked a bit about everything, even about
What you tell me about Gauguin gives me tremendous pleasure,
that is to say that he has not given up his project of
returning to the tropics. That is the right road for him. I
think I see light in his plan, and I approve of it heartily.
Naturally I regret it, but you understand that provided all
goes well with him, that is all I want.
If you can, get to talk a little to C. M. about the future
of his business, and whethter his son will be able to keep it
going as long as C. M. himself has; he should even make it his duty
to listen to you. And C. M., together with his son, should try to
keep the house founded by him going - didn't he introduce into Holland
all the artists who were not with the Goupil's etc., etc?
Then Tersteeg must admit the impressionists, or at least believe
in Eug. Delacroix, and then Tersteeg and you would give yourselves
a very strong hand which Boussod would have to count on.
What is the `89 Exhibition going to be? Don't forget the
“Anatomy Lesson” for M. Rey. He had already told me
before this morning that he was fond of painting, though he
knew nothing about it, and that he wished to learn. I told him
he ought to turn collector, but that he should not try
to paint himself. That means that perhaps we shall find two
friends in the doctors here, Rey and the Paris doctor, of whom
I have spoken before.
I told them that Brias of Montpellier had a certain family
likeness to us, and that therefore we were only
continuing in the South what Monticelli and Brias began.
I have had to pay quite a number of things on leaving the
hospital, and though I am in no sort of a hurry for several
days, it would be nice if you could send me 50 francs or so
within the next few days.
I think the mistake in old Gauguin's calculations was that
he is rather too much in the habit of ignoring the inevitable
expenses of house rent, charwoman, and a lot of worldly things
of the kind. Now all those things are weighing more on
our shoulders, but once we have accepted them, other
artists could stay with me without having those expenses.
They have just told me that during my absence the owner of
my house here made an arrangement with a fellow who has a
tobacco shop to turn me out and give this tobacconist the
This has rather upset me, for I am not much disposed to have
myself turned out of this house practically in disgrace when it
was I who had it repainted inside and out, and had gas put in,
etc. - in fact, who had made habitable a house which had been
shut up and uninhabited for a considerable time, and which I
took in a very poor condition. This is to warn you that perhaps
at Easter, if the owner persists, I shall ask your advice about
it, and that in all this I only consider myself a
representative defending the interest of our artist friends.
Besides, between now and then it is more than likely that a
good deal of water will have gone under the bridge.
And the great thing is not to worry about it. Has Bernard
given you back Silvestre's book? I shall need the exact title
to make the doctors in question read the book.
I fight this insomnia by a very, very strong dose of camphor
in my pillow and mattress, and if ever you can't sleep, I
recommend this to you. I was very much afraid of sleeping alone
in the house, and I have been afraid I should not be able to
sleep. But that is quite over and I dare to think that it will
not reappear. My suffering from this in the hospital was
frightful and yet through it all, even when I was so far gone
that it was more than a swoon, I can tell you as a curiosity
that I kept on thinking about Degas. Gauguin and I had been
talking about Degas before, and I had pointed out to Gauguin
that Degas had said …
“I am saving myself up for the Arlésiennes.”
Now you know how subtle Degas is, so when you get back to
Paris, just tell Degas that I admit that up to the present I
have been powerless to paint the women of Arles as anything but
poisonous, and that he must not believe Gauguin if Gauguin
speaks well of my work too early, for it has only been a sick
man's so far.
Now if I recover, I must begin again, and I shall not
again reach the heights to which sickness partially led me.
I should have liked very much to give another picture to
Rivet, just because I quite agree with you that it would be
well to put M. Rey in touch with Rivet.
But you could quite well tell Rivet that it would be a good
thing to send M. Rey back here to the hospital with the
doctor's degree he is trying to get.
He is very, very useful here and they will be desperately in
need of a doctor here at Arles in the time to come, with
cholera and the plague, etc., continuing so threatening in the
region of Marseilles. Now Rey was born here, and would be no
use in Paris or elsewhere, whereas once furnished with the full
medical authority of Paris, he would do real miracles here in a
time of calamity.
Certainly we have no right to meddle in medical affairs.
Only Rivet himself will perhaps be of the same opinion, at any
rate in so far as an Arlesien is not a Parisian and vice
Did you stop at Breda? Naturally I am inclined to think so.
Reassure mother especially with regard to me.
Have you seen the portrait of me which Gauguin has, and have you seen
the portrait which Gauguin did of himself during those last few days?
If you compare the self- portrait Gauguin did then with the
one that I still have of him, which he sent me from Brittany in
exchange for mine, you will see that on the whole he himself
got rested here.
What has become of Haan and Isaäcson? I did hope
vaguely to see them here one day if Gauguin had stayed longer
with me, and with this in mind I had even taken two little
rooms which were going to be vacant in the house, which I am
now occupying completely (the rent is 21.50 a month). I dare
not urge this any more, seeing that Gauguin has gone, and
especially considering that the journey South costs a good
Give them my kind regards when you see them again. Roulin
wants to be remembered to you. He was very pleased with what
you said of him in your letter of today, but then he fully
deserves it. With a handshake, and of course you know how I
wish you happy days with your fiancée.
Ever Yours, Vincent
Regards to André Bonger if he is there too.
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 9 January 1889 in Arles. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number 570.
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