Saint-Rémy, 20 January 1890
The other day I saw some patients suffering from influenza,
and I am curious to know whether you have had it too, which I
am inclined to think. I saw one patient who had a rather
disquieting nervous complication with distressing climacteric
Are you enjoying yourself in Paris? I can well imagine that
it gives you the impression of too large, too confused a city.
This is what always goes against the grain with us, who are
rather accustomed to simpler surroundings.
Please write to me one of these days if you feel like it,
for I should very much like to hear from you that you have
recovered from your illness. I am more or less afraid of the
effect Paris will have on me if I go back there, which will
probably happen in the spring. I have been forcing myself to
forget Paris as much as possible throughout the year on account
of the trouble and excitement which a prolonged stay there
causes me. As far as the painters are concerned it is right to
say, One works better in the country; there everything speaks a
distinct language, everything is firm, everything explains
itself. And in a big city, when one is tired, one cannot
understand anything, and feels lost.
I hope that the picture of the women in the orchard of olive
trees will be a little to your liking - I sent a drawing of it
to Gauguin a few days ago, and he told me that he thinks it
good, and he knows my work well and would not hesitate to say
so if he thought there was nothing in it. Of course you are
quite free to choose another one to replace it if you like, but
I dare believe that you will come back to this one in the long
It is not cold here these days, and next month I am going to
work outdoors as hard as I can. Ah, speaking of the difference
between the big city and the country, what a master Millet is.
He, that wise and sensitive man, paints the countryside in such
a way that you go on feeling it even in the city. There is
something so unique, so good in this work, down to its very
depths, that you feel comforted when you look at his pictures,
and one asks oneself if he made them like that expressly in
order to comfort us. I now see the true character of the
Provence country better than in the beginning - and it is so
very, very similar to our own country, although it manifests
itself quite differently in the people, seeing that the manner
of farming and work in the fields is not the same as that on
the moors and fields of the North.
I often think of Holland, of our youth in the past - for the
very reason that I feel entirely in the country here. And yet I
am aging, you know, and it seems to me that life is passing by
more rapidly, and that the responsibilities are more serious,
and that the question of how to make up for lost time is more
critical, and that it is harder to do the day's work, and that
the future is more mysterious and, dear me, a little more
Within the next few days I hope to write a little word to
Mother; we owe much to you, all of us, you who take care of her
so faithfully, and we shall try to keep her with us as long as
possible. I expect that Theo is going to be made very happy
shortly, but for all that I also have something of an idea that
the preceding days of waking and watching and the day itself
have their great anxieties, and, for that matter, I cannot
refrain altogether from participating in them. And Jo,
according to what he writes me, is so plucky and brisk. Well,
in point of fact this is how we should always face things. I am
so fond of my friend Gauguin because he has found the means of
producing children and pictures at the same time; at the moment
he is horribly distressed and uneasy in his mind because one of
his children met with an accident and he was not there, and
unable to assist.
Did you meet Bernard yet? I should very much like him to
come here for a while in order to see the pictures I did here
lately; I ought to write him a letter, but I am waiting for a
letter from him at any moment. I suppose he has a lot of
trouble fighting his way through. He is a Parisian from top to
toe, and to my mind he is a model of vivacity. He uses his
brains quite in a manner of Daudet, but then more ingenuously,
and naturally much less fully.
And yet, my dear sister, to what an extent doctors,
engineers, in short lots of people, have more practical,
stabler ideas than artists! As for me, I often think with a
deep sigh that I ought to have been better than I am. Let me
stop talking of it at once, or else it might discourage me.
Well, the fact is that one cannot retrace one's steps, and the
steps one has taken greatly influence the future.
I hope you are going to see a lot of beautiful things, and
above all that you are in good health now. Have you read
anything these last few days or recently? - I haven't, not a
If you have half an hour to spare, I recommend myself for a
letter from you.
I embrace you in thought.
1. Written in French.
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Wilhelmina van Gogh. Written 20 January 1890 in Saint-Rémy. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number W19.
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