It is Saturday again and I write once more.
Last Wednesday we took a
long walk to a village an hour's distance from here. The road
led through meadows and fields, along hedges of hawthorn, full
of blackberries and clematis, and here and there a large elm
tree. It was so beautiful when the sun set behind the grey
clouds, and the shadows were long. By chance we met the school
of Mr. Stokes, where there are still several of the boys I
knew. The clouds retained their red hue long after the sun had
set and the dusk had settled over the fields, and we saw in the
distance the lamps lit in the village. While I was writing to
you, I was called to Mr. Jones, who asked if I would walk to
London to collect some money for him. And when I came home in
the evening, hurrah, there was a letter from Father with
tidings about you. How I should like to be with you both, my
boy. And you will be longing to see Mother, and now that
I hear that you are going home with her, I think of the words
“I have been ill, my mind was tired, my soul
disillusioned and my body suffering. I whom God has endowed at
least with moral energy and a strong instinct of affection, I
fell in the abyss of the most bitter discouragement and I felt
with horror how a deadly poison penetrated my stifled heart. I
spent three months on the moors, you know that beautiful region
where the soul retires within itself and enjoys a delicious
rest, where everything breathes calm and peace; where the soul
in presence of God's immaculate creation throws off the yoke of
conventions, forgets society, and loosens its bonds, with the
strength of renewed youth; where each thought takes the form of
prayer, where everything that is not in harmony with fresh and
free nature quits the heart. Oh, there the tired souls find
rest, there the exhausted man regains his youthful strength. So
I passed my days of illness . . .. And then the evening! To be
seated before the big fireplace with one's feet in the ashes,
one's eyes fixed on a star that sends its ray through the
opening in the chimney as if to call me, or absorbed in vague
dreams too much to look at the fire, to see the flames rise,
flicker, and supplant one another as if desirous to lick the
kettle with their tongues of fire, and to think that such is
human life: to be born, to work, to love, to grow and to
Mr. Jones has promised me that I shall not have to teach so
much in future, but that I may work in his parish, visiting the
people, talking with them, etc. May God give His blessing to
Now I am going to tell you about my walk to London. I left
here at twelve o'clock in the morning and reached my
destination between five and six. When I came into that part of
the town where most of the picture galleries are, around the
Strand, I met many acquaintances: it was dinnertime, so many
were in the street, leaving the office or going back there.
First I met a young clergyman who once preached here, and with
whom I then became acquainted, and then the employee of Mr.
Wallis, and then one of the Messrs. Wallis himself, whom I used
to visit now and then at his house, now he has two children;
then I met Mr. Reid and Mr. Richardson, 1 who are
already old friends. Last year about this time Mr. Richardson
was in Paris and we walked together to Père
After that I went to van Wisselingh, where I saw sketches
for two church windows. In the middle of one window stands the
portrait of a middle-aged lady, oh, such a noble face, with the
words “Thy will be done,” over it, and in the other
window the portrait of her daughter, with the words,
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence
of things not seen.” 2 There, and in the
gallery of Messrs. Goupil & Co., I saw beautiful pictures
and drawings. It is such an intense delight to be so often
reminded of Holland by art.
In the City I went to see Mr. Gladwell and to St. Paul's
Church. And from the City to the other end of London, where I
visited a boy who had left the school of Mr. Stokes because of
illness and I found him quite well, playing in the street. Then
to the place where I had to collect the money for Mr. Jones.
The suburbs of London have a peculiar charm, between the little
houses and gardens are open spots covered with grass and
generally with a church or school or workhouse in the middle
between the trees and shrubs, and it can be so beautiful there,
when the sun is setting red in the thin evening mist.
Yesterday evening it was so, and afterwards I wished you
could have seen those London streets when the twilight began to
fall and the lamps were lit, and everybody went home;
everything showed that it was Saturday night and in all that
bustle there was peace, one felt the need of and the
excitement at the approaching Sunday. Oh, those Sundays and
all that is done and accomplished on those Sundays, it is such
a comfort for those poor districts and crowded streets.
In the City it was dark, but it was a beautiful walk along
the row of churches one has to pass. Near the Strand I took a
bus that took me quite a long way, it was already pretty late.
I passed the little church of Mr. Jones and saw in the
distance another one, where at that hour a light was still
burning; I entered and found it to be a very beautiful little
Catholic church, where a few women were praying. Then I came to
that dark park about which I have written you already and from
there I saw in the distance the lights of Isleworth and the
church with the ivy, and the churchyard with the weeping
willows beside the Thames.
In the London streets they sell scented violets everywhere,
they flower here twice a year. I bought some for Mrs. Jones to
make her forget the pipe I smoke now and then, especially late
in the evening on the playground, but the tobacco here has a
touch of gloom about it.
This morning the sun rose so beautifully again, I see it
every morning when I wake the boys, à Dieu.
Your loving brother, Vincent
Reid was an English art-dealer; Richardson was the
travelling representative for Theo's firm.
Hebrews XI i.
At this time, Vincent was 23 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 7 October 1876 in Isleworth. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 076.
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