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Dear Father and Mother,
Thank God that Theo has almost recovered, and bravo that he
has already walked with Father in the snow to the Heike [a
hamlet near Etten]; how I wish I could have been together with
you both. It is already late, and early tomorrow morning I must
go to London and Lewisham, for Mr. Jones. I hope to visit the
Gladwells, and it will be late in the evening when I come
Where do Mr. Jones and others get their incomes? Yes, I have
often thought about it myself. A saying here is: God takes care
of those who work for Him. I am longing to speak and consult
with you about this question.
And then you asked me if I still teach the boys; generally I
do so until one o'clock in the afternoon, and then after one
o'clock I go out for Mr. Jones, or sometimes give lessons to
Mr. Jones's children or to a few boys in town. And then in the
evening and between times I write in my sermon book.
Last Sunday I was at Turnham Green early to teach at Sunday
school - it was a real English rainy day. In the morning Mr.
Jones preached about the woman of Samaria and then there was
Sunday school again. I have to teach it on weekdays too; there
are children enough, but the difficulty is to get them together
regularly. Mr. Jones and his boys and I went in the afternoon
to take tea with the sexton, a shoemaker who lives in one of
the suburbs. The view from the windows there reminded me of
Holland; a grass field almost turned into a swamp by the
pouring rain, around it rows of little red houses with their
gardens and the glow of the lighted lamps. In the evening Mr.
Jones preached a very beautiful sermon about Naarman the
Syrian, and then came the walk home.
Last Thursday Mr. Jones made me take his turn, and my text
was: “I would to God, that not only thou, but also all
that hear me this day, were both almost, and together such as I
am, except these bonds.”
Next Sunday evening I have to go to a Methodist church in
Petersham. Petersham is a village on the Thames, twenty minutes
beyond Richmond. I do not know what text I shall take, The
Prodigal Son or Psalm 42:1. In the morning and afternoon there
is Sunday school at Turnham Green.
And so the weeks go by and we are approaching winter and a
merry Christmas. Tomorrow I must be in the two remotest parts
of London: in Whitechapel - that very poor part which you have
read about in Dickens; and then across the Thames in a little
steamer and from there to Lewisham. Mr. Jones's children have
recovered, but now three of the boys have got measles.
This week I had to go with one of the boys to Acton Green
for Mr. Jones - that grass plot which I saw from the sexton's
window. It was very muddy there, but it was lovely when
darkness fell and the fog began to rise and one saw the light
of a little church in the middle of the plain. To our left were
the railway tracks on a rather high embankment; a train passed
by and the red glow of the engine and the rows of lights in the
carriages were a beautiful sight in the twilight. To our right
a few horses were grazing in a meadow surrounded by a hedge of
hawthorn and dotted with blackberry bushes.
While I sit writing to you in my little room and it is so
very, very quiet, I look at your portraits and the prints on
the wall - “Christus Consolator,” “Good
Friday,” “Women Visiting the Tomb,”
“The Old Huguenot,” “The Prodigal Son”
by Ary Scheffer, “A Little Boat on a Stormy Sea,”
and an etching, “An Autumn Landscape,” a view of a
heath that Harry Gladwell gave me on my birthday. And when I
think of you all and of everything here, of Turnham Green,
Richmond and Petersham, then I feel, Hear, O Lord, the prayer
that my mother said for me when I left my parent's roof,
“Father, I pray thee not that thou shouldest take him out
of the world but that thou shouldest keep him from the
evil,” and “O Lord, make me my father's brother, a
Christian and a Christian labourer. Finish Thy work in me that
Thou hast begun and unite us, O Lord, firmly together and may
the love for Thee strengthen that bond more and
And now good night to you both and to Theo and Willemien and
Cor. I am looking forward to hearing from you again. Good
night, I must start early tomorrow morning, a handshake
Your most affectionate Vincent
[Written underneath in pencil]
From the other end of London.
Goodbye, everyone! I started this morning at four o'clock,
now it is two. I have just passed through the old cabbage
fields - now for Lewisham. One sometimes asks, how shall I ever
reach my destination? À Dieu.
At this time, Vincent was 23 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to His Parents. Written 17-18 November 1876 in Isleworth. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 081.
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