My dear Theo,
Thanks for your kind letter, thanks for the good news it
contained and also for the 100-franc note. I was very, very
glad to hear that you feel easier in your mind since your
marriage. Then one thing that gave me great pleasure was your
saying that Mother looks as if she were growing younger.
Naturally very soon, or even now already, her mind will be
running on seeing you with a child. That is dead certain.
I very much regret for your sake and for your wife's too
that you are not living at Ville d'Avray, for instance, instead
of in Paris. But that will come, I hope. The great thing now is
that you should pick up again instead of wearing yourself
I went to see M. Salles and took your letter for the
director of the asylum at St. Rémy, and he is
going there today, so I hope it will be fixed up by the end of
the week. .
But if not, naturally I can always do painting or drawing as
long as it will work, and I do not in the least say No to that.
As for coming to Paris or going to Pont-Aven, I do not feel I
can, besides most of the time I have no very keen desire or
Sometimes, just as the waves pound against the sullen,
hopeless cliffs, I feel a tempest of desire to embrace
something, a woman of the domestic hen type, but after all, we
must take this for what it is, the effect of hysterical
overexcitement rather than a vision of actual reality.
Besides, Rey and I have laughed about it sometimes, for he
says that love is a microbe too, which does not surprise me
much, and could not shock anyone, it seems to me. Isn't Renan's
Christ a thousand times more comforting than so many papier
mâche Christs that they serve up to you in the
Duval establishments called Protestant, Roman Catholic or
something or other churches? And why shouldn't it be so with
love? As soon as I can, I am going to read Renan's Antichrist.
I haven't the slightest idea what it will be like, but I
believe beforehand that I shall find one or two ineffable
things in it.
Oh, my dear Theo, if you saw the olives just now...The
leaves, old silver and silver turning to green against the
blue. And the orange-coloured ploughed earth. It is something
quite different from your idea of it in the North, the tender
beauty, the distinction!
It is like the pollard willows of our Dutch meadows or the
oak bushes of our dunes, that is to say the rustle of an olive
grove has something very secret in it, and immensely old. It is
too beautiful for us to dare to paint it or be able to imagine
it. The oleander - ah! that speaks of love and is beautiful
like the Lesbos of Puvis de Chavannes, with women on the
seashore. But the olive is different, if you want to compare it
to something, it is Delacroix.
This letter ends abruptly. I wanted to talk to you about
lots more things, but it is just as I have already written, my
ideas are not orderly.
I will send shortly, by goods train, two cases of pictures,
of which you must not hesitate to destroy a good number.
I had a letter from Wil, who is going back to Mme. D.'s, a
very nice letter. Ah! Cancer - it is cruel and difficult; by
the way, it is very curious, but do you know that during all
this strange and inexplicable commotion which has taken place
in Arles, and in which I was mixed up, there was a perpetual
talk of cancer? I understand that according to the belief of
these virtuous natives who know the future so well, it appears
- I believe that according to them I must be blessed with that
particular malady. About which I naturally know nothing, but
all the same it's an occurrence which remains absolutely
inexplicable to me; besides, for the most part I have
completely lost the recollection of those days in question, and
I can reconstruct none of it. Even if it were so, I should try
to console myself by thinking that diseases like this are
perhaps to men what ivy is to the oak.
A good handshake, and many thanks. Goodbye for now.
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 25-28 April 1889 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 587.
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