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Enclosed you will find a note for Mr. Tersteeg; the last
time I wrote to him I was still in Paris and it is time he had
another letter. We have not lost track of each other since I
left The Hague.
The morning is beautiful, the sunlight falls across the
enormous acacias in the courtyard, it lights up the roofs and
windows visible beyond the garden. There are already gossamer
threads in the garden, it makes the morning fresh and the boys
run left and right to warm themselves up.
I intend to recount to them this evening, in the dormitory,
the story of John and Theogenes. I often tell them stories in
the evening, for instance, the Conscript, by Conscience, or
Madame Thérèse by Erckmann-Chatrian, and New
Years Eve by Jean Paul - which I am sending you at the same
time - and Andersen's Fairy Tales, such as The Story of a
Mother, the Red Shoes, The Little Matchseller; King Robert of
Sicily by Longfellow, etc. I sometimes tell them episodes from
Every day we study the Bible; this gives us the best
feelings of joy.
No day passes without praying to God and without talking
about Him. For the moment, my talks about Him leave much to be
desired, but it will get better with His help and blessing.
Did I ever tell you about that picture by Boughton,
“The Pilgrim's Progress”? It is towards evening. A
sandy path leads over the hills to a mountain on which one can
see the Holy City, lit by the sun setting red behind the grey
evening clouds. On the path, a pilgrim on his way to the city.
He is already tired and asks a woman in black, who is standing
on the path and whose name is 'Sorrowful yet always
Does the road go uphill then all the way?
'Yes to the very end.'
And will the journey take all day long?
'From morn till night, my friend.'
The landscape through which the path runs is very beautiful,
brown heathland with birches and pine trees here and there and
patches of yellow sand, and in the distance the mountains
against the sun. Truly, it is not a picture but an
I am writing to you between lessons. Today I took a few
moments off to go for a walk between the hedgerows with 'John
and Theogenes' to study it. How I wish you could see the
playground and the garden beyond, now, in the twilight. The gas
is flickering in the school and one can hear the companionable
sound of the boys at their lessons. Now and then one of them
starts to hum a snatch of some hymn or other, and then there is
something of the “old faith” in me. I am still far
from being what I want to be, but with God's help I shall
succeed. I want - to be bound to Christ with unbreakable bonds
and to feel these bonds. To be sorrowful yet always rejoicing.
To live in and for Christ, to be one of the poor of His
Kingdom, steeped in the leaven, filled with His spirit,
impelled by His Love, reposing in the Father with the repose of
which I wrote to you in my last letter. To become one who finds
repose in Him alone, who desires nothing but Him on earth, and
who abides in the Love of God and Christ, in whom we are
fervently bound to one another.
Thanks for your postcard. Mr. Jones has not yet decided what
he will do. My compliments to all who may ask after me, a
Your loving brother, Vincent
One word more. I have just been telling the story of John
and Theogenes, first in the dormitory, then in the upper room
where there are four more; I told it in the dark, and they had
gradually all fallen asleep before I had finished speaking. No
wonder, for they have raced about a great deal today on the
playground, and then, you see, I do not speak without
difficulty, how it sounds to English ears, I do not know, but
“practice makes perfect.” I think the Lord has
taken me as I am, with all my faults, though I am still hoping
for more profound acceptance.
Tomorrow evening, I must tell the same story to the
assistant and two older boys who could stay up later. We eat
our bread together in the evenings. While I was telling my
story, I heard a piano playing, down below, the tune of
“Tell me the old, old story.”
The hour is very late and the rules do not allow me to work
so late. Soon I am going to smoke a pipe in the courtyard, it
is nice there, also in the little courtyard where a pig has his
liberty during most of the year (he is not there at the
moment). In truth, it is amusing to amble about a while.
Now, good night, sleep well and, if you pray in the
evenings, think of me as I remember you. Good night, my boy. A
The heart that is fainting
May grow full to o'erflowing
And they who behold it
Shall wonder and know not
That God at its fountains
Far off has been raining.
Your loving brother, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 23 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 26 August 1876 in Isleworth. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 074.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.