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Letter from His Parents to Theo van Gogh
Zundert, 1879

From Reverend Van Gogh to Theo

20 January 1879

We are glad to be able to tell you that Vincent has been accepted for the evangelization in the Borinage - provisionally for six months. He gets fifty francs a month - surely not much, but his boarding house costs him thirty francs. It seems he works there with success and ambition, and his letters are really interesting. He devotes himself to that job with all his heart and an eye for the needs of those people. It is certainly remarkable what he writes; he went down, for instance, in a mine, 635 meters.

From Reverend Van Gogh to Theo

12 February 1879

We are beginning to worry about him again. I am afraid he is wholly absorbed by the care for the sick and the wounded and by sitting up with them.

[…] He also spoke about a plan of renting a workman's house and living there alone. We have tried to dissuade him from it. We are afraid he would not keep it in good shape and it would again lead to eccentricities.

From Mrs. Van Gogh to Theo

27 February 1879

Verhaegen, a colporteur, to whom Pa also sent his letters in the beginning, where Vincent had been lovingly received during the first eight days; he was the one who had found that good boarding house at Denis.

[…] And now I have to tell you that Pa has gone to Vincent this week. We were worried about all the bad weather he had, and especially because while I was away, there had been a very unpleasant letter from him, confirming what we had already suspected, that he had no bed, and that there was nobody to watch his things but far from complaining he said that that was nobody's concern, etc. We were preparing a parcel for him, but we both thought that it would be so much better if Pa himself would take it to him.

Mrs. van Gogh to Theo.

May 1879

Vincent wrote that he would do his best to draw costumes and tools.

Mrs. van Gogh to Theo.

2 July 1879

This week a letter from Vincent; we are always thinking about him with anxiety; poor boy, shortly after my visit to him he wrote that he had such a melancholy feeling when we said goodbye, as if it could have been for the first, but also for the last time. But now there has been a meeting, but that they hadn't said anything to him; before, they had always found fault with him. We have the idea they still want to wait and see for some time, but if he doesn't suit himself to their wishes and adopt the behaviour they demand of him, they can't accept him. He could still achieve so much, if only he knew how to control himself. Poor boy, what a difficult, unrewarding, much missing young life, and what is he going to do next?

Reverend van Gogh to Theo.

19 July 1879

You know, don't you? that Vincent's situation in Wasmes does not become any clearer. They have given him three months to look for something else. He does not comply with the wishes of the Committee and it seems that nothing can be done about it. It is a bitter trial for us. We literally don't know what to do. There is so much good in him, but he simply doesn't want to cooperate.

Reverend van Gogh to Theo.

7 August 1879

Last Friday [25 July], Vincent writes, he started on a trip to Maria Hoorebeeke in Flanders; he arrived there - on foot - on Sunday afternoon, intending to meet the Reverend Pietersen, who was in Brussels. Thereupon he went to that city, and he met him on Monday morning. After consultation with him, he is now in Cuesmes again, where he has found shelter; he hopes to find a small room there to stay for the time being. At present his address is: Chez M. Frank, Evangéliste à Cuesmes (prés de Mons) au Marais. In Brussels, he visited the families he had met there earlier - what impression will he have made?

From Mrs. Van Gogh to Theo

19 August 1879

But now I must tell you something new, which is that Vincent, after much pressure from our side to visit us at home because we were worrying so much about him and he had nothing to do there, suddenly stood before us last Friday [August 15th]. The girls were boating with the Gezink family, and all at once we hear, “Hello father, hello mother,” and there he was. He is reading books by Dickens all day long, and does not speak apart from giving answers - sometimes correct, sometimes strange ones; if only he adopted the good things from these books. For the rest, about his work, about the past or the future, not a word…Tomorrow, he and Pa will go to Prinsenhage, where CM's boys will come to see the paintings; they are going by train. Pa and Vincent will go on foot, maybe he will talk a little bit then.

From Reverend Van Gogh to Theo

11 March 1880

Vincent is still here - but alas! it is nothing but worry. Now he is talking about going to London in order to speak with the Reverend Jones. If he sticks to that plan, I'll enable him to go, but it is hopeless.

From Reverend Van Gogh to Theo

5 July 1880

Indeed that letter Vincent wrote to you gave me some pleasure. But oh! What will become of him, and isn't it insane to choose a life of poverty and let time pass by without looking for an occasion of earning one's own bread - yes, that really is insane. But we have to put up with it. None of all the things we tried has helped in any way. Maybe you should write back to him; in the last days of June I sent him 60 francs, which he acknowledged; some time later we sent him some clothes. Thinking of him always hurts, and we do think so continuously of him.

[Lines added by Mrs. Van Gogh] We can agree with what you write about Vincent, but if reading books gives such practical results, can it then be called right? And for the rest, what kind of ideas his reading gives him. He sent us a book by Victor Hugo, but that man takes the side of the criminals and doesn't call bad what really is bad. What would the world look like if one calls the evil good? Even with the best of intentions that cannot be accepted. Did you answer him? If not, do so in any case; we were so glad that he thought of you, and we were so sad that he didn't want to have anything to do with anybody when he was here. We haven't heard from him for a long time now and shall write to him again.


At this time, Vincent was 26 year old
Source:
His Parents. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 1879 in Zundert. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number .
URL: http://webexhibits.org/vangogh/letter/8/etc-fam-1879.htm.

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