My dear Theo,
The reason I am writing you a second time today is that I am
enclosing a few words for our friend Gauguin; as I felt my calm
returning these last days, it seemed to me sufficient so that
my letter would not turn out to be absolutely ridiculous;
besides, if you over-refine scruples of respect or sentiment,
it is not certain that you gain in courtesy or common sense.
That being so, it does one good to talk to the other fellows
again even at a distance.
And you, old man, how are things going? Write me a few lines
one of these days, for I think that the emotions which must
seize the future father of a family, the emotions which our
good father so liked to talk about, in your case as in his,
must be great and fine, but are for the moment rather beyond
your expressing in the rather incoherent medley of the petty
vexations of Paris. After all, realities of this kind must be
like a good mistral, not very caressing but purifying. I assure
you it is a great pleasure to me too, and will contribute much
to relieving me of my mental fatigue and, perhaps, of my
indifference. After all, it is something to get back one's
interest in life, when I think that I am about to pass into the
state of an uncle to this boy planned by your wife. I find it
very funny that she feels so sure it is a boy, but that remains
to be seen.
Anyway, meanwhile the only thing I can do is plod a little
at my pictures. I have one going of a moonrise over the same
field as the sketch in Gauguin's letter, but in it some stacks
take the place of the wheat. It is dull yellow-ochre and violet. Anyway, you will see
it in a short time. I am also working on a new one with ivy.
Above all, old man, I beg you not to fret or be worried or
unhappy about me; the idea you might get into your head of this
necessary and salutary quarantine would have little
justification when we need a slow and patient recovery. If we
can manage that, we will save our strength for next winter.
Here I imagine the winter must be very dismal. Anyway, I must
try to occupy myself all the same. I often think that next
winter I might retouch a lot of last year's studies from Arles.
So just lately, having kept back a big study of an orchard
which had given me great difficulty (it is the same orchard you
will find a variant of but very vague, in the package), I set
myself to work it over again from memory, and I have found the
way to express the harmony of the tones more strongly.
Tell me, have you received those drawings of mine? I sent
you half a dozen once by parcel post and ten or so later on. If
by chance you have not received them yet they must have been
lying at the station for weeks on end.
The doctor here said to me about Monticelli that he always
thought him an eccentric, but that as for madness, he had only
been a little that way toward the end. Considering all the
misery of Monticelli's last years, is there any reason to be
surprised that he gave way under too heavy a load, and has one
any right to deduce from this that artistically speaking he
fell short in his work?
I do not believe it, he had such a power of logical
calculation and originality as a painter that it is still
regrettable that he hadn't the stamina to make its flowering
I am sending you enclosed a sketch of the cicadas here [F
1445, JH 1765].
Their song in the great heat here has the same charm for me
as the cricket on the heart for the peasants at home. Old man -
don't let's forget that the little emotions are the great
captains of our lives, and that we obey them without knowing
it. If it is still hard for me to take courage again in spite
of faults committed, and to be committed, which must be my
cure, don't forget henceforth that neither our spleen nor our
melancholy, nor yet our feelings of good nature or common
sense, are our sole guides, and above all not our final
protection and that if you too find yourself faced with heavy
responsibilities to be risked if not undertaken, honestly,
don't let's be too much concerned about each other, since it so
happens that the circumstances of living in a state so far
removed from our youthful conceptions of an artist's life must
make us brothers in spite of everything, as we are in so many
ways companions in fate. Things are so closely connected that
here you sometimes find cockroaches in the food as if you were
really in Paris; on the other hand, it may be that in Paris you
sometimes catch a real feeling of the fields. It certainly is
not much, but after all it is reassuring. So take your
fatherhood as a good soul on our old heaths would take it,
those heaths which, through all the noise, tumult and fogginess
of the cities, still remain with us, inexpressibly dear -
however timid our tenderness may be. That is to say, let this
be your notion of fatherhood, exile and stranger and poor man
that you are, and henceforth, find strength, with the instinct
of the poor, in the probability of a real, real life of one's
fatherland, a real life at least in memory, even though we may
forget it every day. Sooner or later, such as it is, we meet
our destinies, but certainly it would be a sort of hypocrisy if
I were to forget all the good humour, the happy-go-lucky
carelessness of the poor devils that we were, coming and going
in this Paris that has become so strange, and to let it weigh
us down out of proportion to our real load of cares.
Indeed, I am so glad that if there are sometimes cockroaches
in the food here, you have your wife and child at home.
Besides, it is cheering that Voltaire, for instance, has
left us at liberty not to believe absolutely everything we
Good-bye for now and a good handshake for you and Jo.
In haste, but I wanted not to delay sending the letter for
old Gauguin, you surely have the address.
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 6 July 1889 in Saint-Rémy. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 603.
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