Dear Theo, I want you to hear from me soon again. Yesterday
I had a good letter from Etten, from which I learned that you
had already been there and are expected back Saturday night to
spend Sunday at home also; probably you are there at this
moment, and it will be a good Sunday.
This morning I was at early service in the North Church.
Afterward I just took a walk through the city, the canals are
especially beautiful now that the leaves of the trees have
their autumn hues. Then I went to the English church and heard
a very good sermon on, “Take no thought, saying, what
shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be
clothed, etc. [see Matt. 6:25; Luke 12:22].
I love that little church, and probably many a person there
has memories of things and places which are known to me, also.
Have you ever seen or read a book by Esquiros, Life in England
(or England and the English Life)? I haven't, but I think it
must be an interesting book.
When you have a chance, don't forget that fragment by Jules
Breton and that other one by Michelet.
After coming home I sat up working a long time. That is
already a week ago now, the days fly by.
How beautiful that engraving after Ary Scheffer, “The
Holy Women at the Tomb of Christ,” is - I am so glad I
have it. The old woman especially is splendid.
Have you got something new for your collection? Go on with
it, for it is a good thing.
This morning I saw the Minister of Marine, Taalman Kip, who
visited Uncle and lunched here; how much character is in that
face and in those grey eyes - he reminded me of old Mr. Goupil
or somebody like Guizot.
I do not know why, but for a whole week I have been thinking
of that picture and the etching after it, “A Young
Citizen of the Year V” by Jules Goupil. I saw the picture
in Paris, indescribably beautiful and unforgettable. The many
pictures about the days of the Revolution - for instance,
“The Girondins” and “Last Victims of the
Terror” and “Marie Antoinette” by Delaroche,
and that “Young Citizen” and other pictures by
Goupil, and the ones by Anker and so many others - what a
beautiful unity they form, together with books like those by
Michelet, Carlyle, and also Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. In
all of them there is something of the spirit of the
resurrection and the life - that lives though it seems dead,
for it is not dead, but sleepeth.
I should like to read more widely, but I must not; in fact,
I need not wish it so much, for all things are in the word of
Christ - more perfect and more beautiful than in any other
That etching by Jules Goupil was hanging in my room in
London for a long time, in the days when I was so full of
Michelet and other French authors; I think Harry Gladwell has
it now. I had a short note from him after he arrived back in
Paris. On a day like this I should like to walk again with him
in the twilight, along the Seine, around Notre Dame. Paris is
so enchantingly beautiful in autumn, and that spot above all.
How pretty the winter chrysanthemums will be in the little
gardens in London - they continue to bloom there all the winter
Have you planned this winter to read any books,
“coûte que coûte”? Sometimes it is
right to carry a thing through and to do it with a will. Uncle
Jan has also read widely, and there is much that is fine in
him. A spiritual affinity and an attachment and love like that
between Father and Uncle is a good fruit of life. Though the
fire may occasionally merely smoulder because of the pressure
of daily cares and troubles, sometimes it flares brightly and
brilliantly and gloriously - for instance, as it did that
evening last winter when those two went to the Hoeve
De top van de Hekla is wit van sneeuw,
Maar `t vuur in zijn binnenst gloeit eeuw na eeuw.
Gij, schoon het winter op `t grijzend hoofd,
De liefde, Gods vlam, is in `t hart niet verdooft.
[The top of the Helka is white with snow,
But the fire within her glows century after century.
Although it be winter on thy greying head,
Love, the flame of God, is not extinguished in thy
We have seen what this means, and we know something about
it. Such a fire of spirit and love is a force of God's opposed
to the dark and evil and terrible things of the world and the
dark side of life; it is a force of resurrection stronger than
any act and a ray of hope which gives consciousness and
security to the depths and the secret of the heart. It is
expressed in words which are simple but eloquent, “I
Well, boy, I have still some work to do and must wind this
up. Have a good time, try to find something in art and in
books; it is written, “Seek and ye shall find,”
and, “He who needeth wisdom, desireth it from God.”
And that is what we need.
How is Carolien? Remember me to her and also to the Roos
family, and Mauve and Tersteeg if you meet them; a warm
Your loving brother, Vincent
The portrait of Johan van Gogh reminds one a little of the
“Young Citizen.” It makes me think of
“sorrowful yet always rejoicing,” a quality one can
find in many things.
At this time, Vincent was 24 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 21 October 1877 in Amsterdam. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 111.
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