My dear brother,
Many thanks for your letter of December 22, containing a
50-fr. note. First of all I wish you and Jo a Happy New Year
At the moment of writing, I have not yet seen M. Peyron, so
I do not know if he has written anything about my pictures.
While I was ill, he came to tell me that he had heard from you
and to ask whether or not I wanted to exhibit my pictures. I
told him that I would rather not exhibit them. There was no
justification for that and so I hope they were sent off anyway.
But anyway I am sorry not to have been able to see M. Peyron
today, to ask him what he has written you. Anyway, it doesn't
seem very important on the whole, since you say that it starts
as late as January 3, so this will still reach you in time.
What a misfortune for Gauguin, that child falling out of the
window and his not being able to be there. I often think of
him, what misfortunes that man has in spite of his energy and
so many unusual qualities. I think it is splendid that our
sister is coming to help you when Jo has her confinement.
May that go well - I think about you two a great deal, I
Now what you say about my work certainly pleases me, but I
keep thinking about this accursed trade in which one is caught
as in a net, and in which one becomes less useful than other
people. But there, it's no use, alas! fretting about that - and
we must do what we can.
I do not know what M. Peyron is going to advise, but while
taking what he tells me into account, I think that he will dare
less than ever to commit himself as to the possibility of my
living as I used to. It is to be feared that the attacks will
return. But that is no reason at all for not trying to distract
oneself a little.
For cooping up all these lunatics in this old cloister
becomes, I think, a dangerous thing, in which you risk losing
the little good sense that you may still have kept. Not that I
am set on this or that by preference. I am used to the life
here, but one must not forget to make a little trial of the
However that may be, you see that I write comparatively
What you write about M. Lauzet's visit is very interesting,
I think that when I send the canvases which are still here, he
will certainly come back once more, and if I were there, I
think I also should start lithographing.
Perhaps these canvases in question will be the very thing
Above all, I must not waste my time, I am going to set to
work again as soon as M. Peyron permits it; if he does not
permit it, then I shall be through with this place. It is that
which keeps me comparatively well balanced, and I have a lot of
new ideas for new pictures.
Oh, while I was ill there was a fall of damp and melting
snow. I got up in the night to look at the country. Never,
never had nature seemed to me so touching and so full of
The rather superstitious ideas they have here about painting
sometimes depress me more than I can tell you, because
basically it is really fairly true that a painter as a man is
too absorbed in what his eyes see, and is not sufficiently
master of the rest of his life.
If you saw the last letter Gauguin wrote me, you would be
touched to see how straight he thinks, and for so powerful a
man to be almost helpless is unfortunate. And Pissarro too, and
Guillaumin the same. What a business, what a business.
I have just received a letter from Mother and from Wil
Just now you and Jo will have many anxieties at times, and a
bad time to get through, but these are the things without which
life would not be life, and it makes one serious. It is a good
idea to have Wil there.
As for me, don't worry too much. I fight calmly against my
disease, and I think that I shall soon be able to take up my
And this will be another lesson to me to work
straightforwardly and without too many hidden meanings, which
disturb one's consciousness. A picture, a book, must not be
despised, and if it is my duty to do this, I must not hanker
after something different.
It is time for this letter to go. Once more thanks for yours
and a good handshake for you and Jo, believe me,
Ever yours, Vincent.
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 1 or 2 January 1890 in Saint-Rémy. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 620.
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