Bravo on going to Etten May 21, so happily four of the six
children were at home. Father wrote to me at length how
everything went on the day. Thanks also for your last
Did I write to you about the storm I watched recently? The
sea was yellowish, especially close to the shore. On the
horizon a streak of light, and above it immensely large dark
grey clouds, from which one could see the rain coming down in
slanting streaks. The wind blew the dust from the little white
path among the rocks into the sea and shook the hawthorn bushes
in bloom and the wallflowers that grow on the rocks. To the
right, fields of young green corn, and in the distance the
town, which, with its towers, mills, slate roofs, Gothic-style
houses and the harbor below, between two jetties sticking out
into the sea, looked like the towns Albrecht Dürer used to
I watched the sea last Sunday night as well. Everything was
dark grey, but on the horizon the day was beginning to break.
It was still very early and yet a skylark was already singing.
And the nightingales in the gardens by the sea. In the
distance, the light from the lighthouse, the guard ship,
That same night I looked out of the window of my room at the
roofs of the houses you can see from there, and at the tops of
the elms, dark against the night sky. Above the roofs, a single
star, but a beautiful, big, friendly one.
Enclosed is a little drawing of the view from the school
window through which the boys follow their parents with their
eyes as they go back to the station after a visit. Many a one
will never forget the view from that window.
You really ought to have seen it this week, when we had days
of rain, especially at dusk when the lamps are lit and their
light is reflected in the wet streets. On such days Mr. Stokes
can sometimes be in a bad temper, and if the boys make more of
a noise than he likes they occasionally have to go without
their bread and tea in the evening. You ought to see them
looking out of the window then, there is something so
melancholy about it. They have so little apart from their meals
to look forward to and to see them through from one day to the
I wish you could also see them going down the dark stairs
and through the narrow passage to where they have their dinner.
The sun does shine pleasantly in there. Another peculiar place
is a room with a rotten floor where there are six basins in
which they wash, and a dim light is all that reaches the
washstand through the broken panes of the window It is
certainly quite a melancholy sight. I should like to spend, or
to have spent, a winter with them, just to see what it is
The youngsters have made an oil stain on your little
drawing, please forgive them.
Enclosed, a few lines for Uncle Jan. And now, good night.
Should anyone ask after me, my greetings to them. Do you still
visit Borchers from time to time? If you see him, remember me
to him as well as to Willem Valkis and everybody at the
Rooses'. A handshake in my thoughts from
Your loving Vincent
[Enclosed was a sketch of the square as seen from the school window.]
At this time, Vincent was 23 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 31 May 1876 in Ramsgate. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 067.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.