On Monday last, I travelled from Ramsgate to London. That is
quite a stroll, the moment that I started on my way, it became
very hot, and the same heat waited for me on my arrival at
Canterbury. That evening, I pushed on a little bit too long;
finally I halted in a place where there were many beech trees
and some elms at the edge of a pond; there I rested for a
while. The following morning at half past three, when the birds
started singing to salute the first light of dawn, I started
off again. Ah! That was a good walk!
At midday I had made Chatham, where one can see in the
distance, in the middle of partial flooding of low-lying
meadows, the Thames where the boats go; I thought the weather
was always grey in these parts.
It was there that I met a cart, which took me a few miles
further, but then the driver went into an inn, and as I
supposed I would have to wait a long time, I continued on my
way. I arrived at the fall of night in the familiar suburbs of
London and I wound my way through the town by long, long
`roads'. I stayed two days in London, I walked many times from
one place to another in the city to make certain visits,
particularly to a pastor to whom I had already written. I have
enclosed a copy of this letter, I sent it to you to let you
know that I started to write with the sentiment of
“Father, I am not worthy” and “Father, have
pity on me”.
Don't breathe a word to anyone about this new idea, Theo. My
salary at Mr. Stokes's is probably very small, just enough for
room and board, then a few hours of freedom to give particular
lessons; if there is no free time to spare, I earn all in all
eight pounds per year.
I continue with my story. I stayed one night with Mr. Reid,
the following night with Mr. Gladwell, where they showed great
gentleness toward me. Mr. Gladwell kissed me goodnight that
evening and it did me good; may it be given to me in the future
to prove my friendship for his son now and then. I wanted to go
on to Welwyn that very evening, but they kept me back literally
by force because of the pouring rain. However, when it began to
let up a little about four o'clock in the morning, I set off
First a long walk from one end of the city to the other,
about ten miles (twenty minutes walking each mile). I arrived
at five o'clock in the afternoon at our sister's house, I was
happy to see her. She looks well, and her room has Good Friday,
Christ in the Garden of Olives, Mater Dolorosa, etc. not
framed, but surrounded by ivy, surely very pleasing.
My boy, you will think on reading my letter to the pastor:
”He is not so bad, he's good!” But I am sure he is.
Whatever he may be, think of him once in a while. A firm
Your loving brother, Vincent
A clergyman's son who, because he has to work for his
living, has neither the time nor the money to keep up studies
at King's College, and is in any case already a few years older
than is usual for those who go there and has not yet even
started the preliminary studies in Latin and Greek, would, all
this notwithstanding, be very glad to find a position connected
with the church, albeit the position of a university-educated
clergyman is beyond his reach.
My father is a clergyman in a village in Holland. I went to
school when I was 11, staying on until I was 16. I then had to
choose a profession and did not know which to choose. Through
the kind offices of one of my uncles, a partner in the firm of
Goupil & Cie, art dealers and publishers of engravings, I
obtained a position in his business in The Hague. I was
employed in this business for 3 years. From there I went to
London to learn English and, after 2 years, moved on to Paris.
Various circumstances have, however, compelled me to leave
Messrs. G. & Cie., and for the past two months I have been
teaching at Mr. Stokes's school in Ramsgate. But since my aim
is a position in connection with the church, I must look
Although I have not been trained for the church, perhaps my
past experience of travels, of living in different countries,
of associations with various people, poor and rich, religious
and irreligious, of work of various kinds, days of manual
labour followed by days of office work, &c., perhaps also
my ability to speak various languages, may in part make up for
my not having been to a university.
But the reason I would much sooner give for commending
myself to you is my innate love of the church and everything to
do with the church, which may lie dormant from time to time but
always reawakens; and, if I may say so, although with a sense
of great inadequacy and imperfection: the Love of God and of
And also, when I think of my past life and of my father's
house in the village in Holland, a sense of: `Father, I have
sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy
to be called thy Son: make me as one of thy hired servants. Be
merciful to me a sinner.'
When I lived in London I often attended your church and have
not forgotten you. Now I would ask for your recommendation as I
look for a position, and also that you keep your fatherly eye
on me should I find such a position. I have been left a good
deal to myself, and I believe your fatherly eye will do me
good, now that:
The early dew of morning
has passed away at noon.
Thanking you in anticipation for what you may feel able to
do for me…
At this time, Vincent was 23 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 17 June 1876 in Ramsgate. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 069.
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