Letter T 6
Paris, 2 May 1889
My dear Vincent,
Many thanks for your letter, which shows us that at least
your physical strength leaves nothing to be desired, seeing
that you say you have too much of it; however, this is
something you should not rely on; feeling one's strength
does not mean having much of it; but if it is really true, all
the better. Now there is one thing in your letter which I
entirely disapprove of, and I am going to tell you what it is,
and after that you may do what you like. I mean your plans to
join the Foreign Legion. 1
It is meant as an act of despair, isn't it? For I don't
think you have developed a taste for that profession
spontaneously. The fact is that you can do no painting at the
moment; that you are in a state of convalescence, and this fact
has given you the idea that you will never be able to paint
again, and so you tell yourself that three months of being
taken care of without being able to work cost money and don't
bring any in. But you forget that, suppose they let you work
when you are a soldier, you will be kept like a boy in a
boarding school, and that, if you are already afraid of the
supervision of an establishment like the one at St.
Rémy, you will have a great deal more to fear from
the practices of military life. Viewed as a whole, this idea is
born of an exaggerated dread and causing me expense and worry,
and you consequently bother your head unnecessarily. Last year
was not a bad one for me as far as money is concerned, so you
may count on what I sent you before without any scruple and
without fear of causing me trouble. If it is not repulsive to
you to go to St. Rémy, say for only a month, you
will be examined by medical specialists, and you will probably
be able to profit by their advice.
On the other hand, the director of the establishment at St.
Rémy tells me in a letter he wrote me that he will
not pledge himself to anything with reference to allowing you
to go out before he has examined you, but I suppose that after
he has seen you, there will be no doubt about his leaving you
free to go out in order to work.
ought to know is that from one point of view you are not to be
pitied, though it may not seem so.
How many are there who would be glad of having done the work
you have accomplished; what more do you ask; wasn't it your
cherished wish to create something, and if it was granted you
to make what you have made, then why do you despair that a time
will come when you will do good work again? However bad society
may be at present, there are still ways of living in it;
witness Puvis de Chavannes, Degas, and others. I feel sure that
if you have the will, you'll be able to take up your work again
very soon. For all that don't think that I am without fellow
feeling for your disillusionment when, for example, you went
back to your studio and found it all moldy because of the
Yet be of good heart; your disasters will surely come to an
The kindest regards from my wife, who is in good health. She
is getting quite accustomed to the house. A hearty
1. See Vincent letter 588.
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Theo van Gogh. Letter to Vincent van Gogh. Written 2 May 1889 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number T6.
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