I have just returned from a visit to the Reverend Mr.
Jeremie Meyes. I found him at home this time, but he had to go
to the church-warden's committee, so I only saw him for a
moment. I also saw his wife and the two youngest children, and
Mrs. Meyes read aloud part of a letter from their son, who is
at the Naval institute at Den Helder. Now that I myself am in
for examinations, I sympathize with others who have to take
them; judging from some expressions, I can imagine how they
feel. Everybody who wants to reach a social position must go
through a time of great difficulties and exertion - success may
depend on trifles. If one says or writes a word amiss at an
examination, it may cause failure. But it is better to think of
those who succeed and overcome the obstacles than of those who
Of course you know that Uncle Hein has died; we must thank
God that the end was comparatively calm and that he is at rest
Write me as soon as you can when you intend to go to Etten
and if we can arrange it so that we can travel together. I
should like very much to use this opportunity to stay over one
train in Haarlem, and especially to stay over at Dordrecht -
couldn't we go together at Dordrecht?
I had a few writings, which I wanted to keep in good
condition, bound; it was a pleasant feeling to get them home. I
had it done at a nearby bookbinder's, in one of the narrow
streets of Kattenburg where they publish all kinds of religious
works. The shop belongs to two brothers whose looks remind me
of two things, namely a barn owl and the lion's head on
I have walked a great deal this week; there is no harm in
knowing the city well.
Today while I was working I had in front of me a page from
the Cours de Dessin Bargue (the drawing examples) part 1, No.
39, “Anne of Brittany.” It was hanging in my room
in London with No. 53; “A Young Citizen” was
hanging in between. What I liked and admired in the beginning,
I like and admire still. The expression on Anne of Brittany's
face is noble, and reminds one of the sea and rocky coasts. I
should like to know her history someday. She is a real king's
daughter. De Lemud would have drawn her figure well.
So another year has almost passed by, in which many things
have happened to me; I look back on it with thankfulness. When
I think over the time I spent at Braat's and the months of
study here, upon the whole they have really been two good
things. Boy, if next Christmas I might be at the university and
had overcome the difficulties at the start, as I am now over
the beginnings of Latin and Greek, how happy I should be.
“Indefessus favente Deo” [unwearied by God's
favour] is a good state to be in; it is a saying that Mendes
loves. He spoke to me about it last Saturday.
Today I wrote to Harry Gladwell, and also sent your regards.
I hope that he will go home for Christmas.
Today I sent you for your St. Nicholas two maps from Stieler
- the British Isles, and Normandy and Brittany. Put them up in
your room for a while, promise that you will; I copied them
both carefully, as you know, that of England even twice. On the
one that turned out best I wrote the divisions of the country
and the names in Latin and changed the surrounding countries to
the way they were in the time of the Romans - for example, Lake
Flevo instead of the Zuider Zee. In order to do this I went
earlier than usual to Mendes's for a few mornings, and there
compared my map with that of Britannia, Caledonia, and Ierne in
the Atlas Antiquus by Sprüner Menke. I do not need these
any more, and it is a good thing for you to have them to look
at for a time. At the Reverend Mr. Meyes's I also heard about
Stieler's maps; the son who is at the Naval Institute at Den
Helder owns a complete Atlas, and one of the things he wrote in
his last letter was that he had copied the map of the
You know, perhaps, that Uncle Cor also has an Atlas; it is
kept in the room where the large picture by Bernier hangs. Some
time ago I saw at Uncle's a large drawing by Bosboom,
“The Vestry,” also two by Miss van Bosse that were
very beautiful, especially the one representing a farmyard.
Along with the maps you will receive Gruson's Histoire des
Croisades. I gave this same little book to Mendes, who was glad
to have it. Even if you have no time to read it from the
beginning to the end, you might look through it; the most
eloquent passages will strike you instantly. If the work of
Thijs Maris is beautiful, this is, too.
As Uncle Jan sent a box to Etten, I sent Cor for his St.
Nicholas a lithograph after J. Maris, representing a little
girl returning from the churchyard. There is a proverb,
“Quand il n'y a plus rien, il y en a toujours
encore” [when there is nothing left, there is always
something still], and I experienced it this morning when I
thought I could not give a St. Nicholas present to anyone. I
have found something for everybody, though it is not much;
Father and Mother are getting a map which I drew.
Twilight is falling, and the view of the yard from my window
is simply wonderful, with that little avenue of poplars - their
slender forms and thin branches stand out so delicately against
the grey evening sky; and then the old arsenal building on the
water - quiet as “the waters of the old pool”
mentioned in the Book of Isaiah - down by the waterside the
walls of that arsenal are quite green and weather-beaten.
Farther down is the little garden and the fence around it with
the rosebushes, and everywhere in the yard the black figures of
the workmen, and also the little dog. Just now Uncle Jan with
his long grey hair is probably making his rounds. In the
distance the masts of the ships in the dock can be seen, in
front the Atjeh, quite black, and the grey and red monitors -
and just now here and there the lamps are being lit. At this
moment the bell is ringing and the whole stream of workmen is
pouring toward the gate; at the same time the lamplighter is
coming to light the lamp in the yard behind the house.
You will probably be very busy these days, but if you have a
moment, write me; let me know as soon as you can when you will
go to Etten. Couldn't we go together to Dordrecht, Friday or
Saturday before Christmas? One must take as much advantage as
one can of the journeys and trips one makes.
My kindest regards to the Roos family, also to the
Haanebeeks and v. Stockums if you happen to go there; does Mr.
Tersteeg know these maps by Stieler? À Dieu, Theo, if I
do not write again before we meet safe and sound, goodbye for
the present, a warm handshake in thought, believe me
Your loving brother, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 24 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 4 December 1877 in Amsterdam. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 115.
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