My dear Theo,
A few more lines before you leave; just now things are going
well. The day before yesterday and yesterday I went out into
the town to get things to work with.
However it may be in other quarters, I saw that I still have
friends among them.
In case of need M. Salles will undertake to find me within a
few days an apartment in another part of town. I have sent for
a few more books so as to have a few sound ideas in my head. I
have reread Uncle Tom's Cabin, you know Beecher Stowe's book on
slavery, Dickens's Christmas books and I have given Germinie
Lacerteux to M. Salles.
And now I am returning to my portrait of “La
Berceuse” for the fifth time. And when
you see it, you will agree with me that it is nothing but a
chromolithograph from the cheap shops, and again that it has
not even the merit of being photographically correct in its
proportions or in anything else.
But after all, I want to make an image such as a sailor at
sea would dream of when he thinks of a woman ashore.
They are very attentive to me at the hospital these days,
and this as well as many other things upsets me and makes me
Meanwhile I imagine that you would rather get married
without all the ceremony and congratulations of a wedding, and
I'm quite sure in advance that you will avoid them as much as
If you see Koning or others and especially the Mauve cousins
and Lecomte, don't forget to give them my very best
Certainly you are right after all, damn well right - even
allowing for hope, the thing to do is to accept the probably
disastrous reality. I am hoping once again to throw myself
wholly into my work, in which I've fallen behind.
Oh, I must not forget to tell you a thing I have very often
thought of. Quite accidentally I found in an article in an old
newspaper some words written on an ancient tomb in the country
between here and Carpentras.
Here is this very, very, very old epitaph, say dating from
the time of Faubert's Salammbô.
“Thebe, daughter of Thelhui, priestess of Osiris, who
never complained of anyone.”
If you see Gauguin, you should tell him that. And I thought
of a faded woman, you have the study of her at home, the woman
who had such strange eyes whom I also met accidentally.
What does it mean, this “she never complained of
anyone”? Imagine a perfect eternity, why not, but don't
let us forget that even in those old days reality had this -
“and she never complained of anyone.”
Do you remember that one Sunday good old Thomas came to see
us and said, “Ah but - are those the kind of women to
make a man horny?”
It is not exactly a question of being horny, but from time
to time in your life you feel thrilled through and through as
if you were actually striking root in the soil.
Meanwhile you talk to me of “the real South,”
and I have said that after all it seemed to me it was rather
for men with a more well-balanced mind than mine to go there.
The “real South,” isn't it rather there that you
would find reasonableness, patience, serenity enough to make
you like that good “Thebe, daughter of Thelhui, priestess
of Osiris, who never complained of anyone.”
Compared with this I feel utterly ungrateful.
That is the happiness, the serenity, I am invoking for you
and your wife on the occasion of your marriage, so that you may
have this “real South” within your soul.
If I want this letter to go today, I must finish it. A
handshake, a pleasant journey, many kind regards to our mother
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 29 March 1889 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 582.
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