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My dear Theo,
You will probably be back in Paris at the moment when this
letter arrives. I wish you and your wife a great deal of
happiness. Thank you very much for your kind letter and for the
100-franc note it contained.
Out of the 65 francs which I owe, I have paid only 25 francs
to my landlord, having had to pay three months' rent in advance
for a room which I shan't be living in, but where I have sent
my furniture, and having besides had expenses of 10 francs or
so for moving, etc.
I settled my bill at the hospital today, and there is still
almost enough for the rest of the month out of the money I
still have on deposit. At the end of the month I should like to
go to the hospital in St. Rémy, or another
institution of this kind, of which M. Salles has told me.
Forgive me if I don't go into details and argue the pros and
cons of such a step.
Talking about it would be mental torture.
It will be enough, I hope, if I tell you that I feel quite
unable to take a new studio and to stay there alone - here in
Arles or elsewhere, for the moment it is all the same; I have
tried to make up my mind to begin again, but at the moment it's
I should be afraid of losing the power to work, which is
coming back to me now, by forcing myself and by having all the
other responsibilities of a studio on my shoulders besides.
And temporarily I wish to remain shut up as much for my own
peace of mind as for other people's. What comforts me a little
is that I am beginning to consider madness as a disease like
any other and accept the thing as such, whereas during the
crises themselves I thought that everything I imagined was
real. Anyway, the fact is that I do not want to think or talk
about it. You'll spare me any explanations, but I ask you and
Messrs. Salles and Rey to arrange things so that I can go there
as a resident boarder at the end of this month or the beginning
So let's try it three months to begin with, and afterward we
shall see. Now one's board ought to be about 80 francs, and I
shall do a little painting and drawing without putting such
frenzy into it as a year ago. Do not be grieved at all this.
Certainly these last days were sad, with all the moving, taking
away all my furniture, packing up the canvases that are going
to you, but the thing I felt saddest about was that you had
given me all these things with such brotherly love, and that
for so many years you were always the one who supported me, and
then to be obliged to come back and tell you this sorry tale -
but it's difficult to express it as I felt it. The goodness you
have shown me is not lost, because you had it and it remains
for you; even if the material results should be nil, it remains
for you all the more; but I can't say it as I felt it.
Meanwhile you do understand that if alcohol has undoubtedly
been one of the great causes of my madness, then it came on
very slowly and will go away slowly too, assuming it does go,
of course. Or the same thing if it comes from smoking. But I
should only hope that it - this recovery [probably a word has
been omitted here] the frightful superstition of some people on
the subject of alcohol, so that they prevail upon themselves
never to drink or smoke.
We are already ordered not to lie or steal, etc., and not to
commit other crimes great or small and it would become too
complicated if it was absolutely indispensable to have nothing
but virtues in the society in which we are very undeniably
planted, whether it be good or bad.
But you would do me a service by discussing the question
frankly with M. Salles and M. Rey.
I should think that with an allowance of 75 francs or so a
month there must be a way of interning me so that should have
everything I need.
Then, if it is possible, I'd very much like to be able to go
out in the daytime and draw or paint outside. Seeing that I go
out every day now here, and think that this could continue.
Paying more, I warn you, would make me less happy. The
company of other patients, you understand, is not at all
disagreeable to me; on the contrary, it distracts me.
Ordinary food suits me quite well, especially if
they gave me a little more wine there, as they do here usually a
half-liter instead of a quarter for instance.
But a private room - it remains to be seen what the
arrangements of an institution like that would be. Mind you Rey
is overburdened with work, overburdened. If he writes to you,
or M. Salles, better do exactly what they say. After all we
must take our share, my boy, of the diseases of our time - in a
way it is only fair after all that, having lived some years in
comparatively good health, we should have our share sooner or
later. As for me, you know well enough that I should not
exactly have chosen madness if I had had a choice, but once you
have an affliction of that sort, you can't catch it again. And
there'll perhaps be the consolation of being able to go on
working a bit at painting.
How will you manage not to speak too well or too ill of
Paris and many other things to your wife? Do you feel in
advance that you will be quite capable of keeping exactly the
golden mean all the time and from all points of view?
Rey is a very nice fellow, a tremendous worker, always on
the job. What men the modern doctors are! If you see Gauguin or
write to him, remember me to him.
I shall be very glad to hear any news you can give me of our
mother and sister, and if they are well; tell them to look upon
this affair of mine - I mean it - as nothing to be inordinately
distressed about, because I may be comparatively unfortunate,
but after all, in spite of that, I may still have some almost
normal years before me. It is a disease like any other, and now
almost everyone we know among our friends has something the
matter with him. So is it worth talking about? I am sorry to
give trouble to M. Salles, and Rey, and above all to you too,
but what is one to do? My head isn't steady enough to begin
again as before - then the important thing is not to cause any
more scenes in public, and naturally, being a little calmer
Goodbye, write when you can.
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 21 April 1889 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 585.
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