van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(14 May 1882)
... letter this morning suggests. You mention something that happened to you. I think I am able to recall something about it very faintly in the dim and distant past. If I remember rightly, you were acquainted with a girl from a lower class and … were fond of her and slept with her. Now I don't know who the person was, but I do know that you consulted Father about it and also spoke to me about it. And that Father then made you promise something about getting married, I don't know exactly what - but perhaps it was that while you remained a minor you would not do it without his consent. (The rest - what happened to the woman - I don't know.) Since you were a minor, Father had every right to step between the two of you and I can understand why he did it. Now the difference between your case and mine is that in the first place you and she were considerably younger than X tien and I, and secondly, your future and mine are different, that is, I for my part ply a humble trade...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(c. 11 January 1883)
... sincerely, Vincent Theo had met a young woman who was sick and alone in Paris and had come to her aid [Jo's note]. ...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(c. 13 January 1883)
... activities and surroundings, the better. Certainly, if you could take her into your house at once - I should not mention it. But I am afraid it is impossible, and you yourself could not approve of doing so all at once. Loneliness or idleness is fatal; she must have a chance to talk with good people. I think that it would be delightful for her to be in a homelike atmosphere - for instance, if she could occupy herself with children. I think it rather a pity she has no child. I think it makes the case even more critical. Yes, in my opinion the most practical thing you can do is bring her into some homelike atmosphere. I think that your main thought at present is - This life must be saved - and that you unselfishly think more of her than of yourself. Last year I could think of only one home for her, namely my own, and had I been able to act differently, I shouldn't have taken the woman into my house at once, in order to avoid the difficulties which could not be avoided now. But...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(c. 21 January 1883)
... one must go. You, too, will experience this. One asks oneself, “Must I help this woman and, for the rest, see her only as a friend, or must I choose this woman for my wife, with whom I want to live forever - is she or isn't she the one?” I think you have not been without this struggle, and perhaps are still in the midst of it. It would seem rather unnatural to me if it were otherwise. I, at least, had that struggle, and it was so difficult that for myself I could not answer those questions when circumstances forced me to make a decision. For I thought, I do not have the means to maintain two separate households, but perhaps I have them for one, and so I must tell her how things are, what I might be able to do and what I certainly could not do. Perhaps we'll be able to struggle through together, but I haven't enough unless we live together. Perhaps the struggle is similar for you, but in a different form. I remember a saying of yours last year...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(c. 25-29 January 1883)
... never forgets that first expression- I think it probable that your meeting this woman will take your thoughts back to the period some ten or even twenty years ago, and even further back. Anyway, what I mean is that you will rediscover in her, a phase of your own life you had nearly forgotten - that is to say, the past - and I do not know whether, after having been with her for a year, you will view the present with the same eyes as, for instance, before you knew her. Underneath a figure of an English woman (by Paterson) is written the name Dolorosa; that expresses it well. I was thinking of the two women now, and at the same time I thought of a drawing by Pinwell, “The Sisters,” in which I find that Dolorosa expression. -That drawing represents two women in black, in a dark room; one has just come home and is hanging her coat on the rack. The other is smelling a primrose on the table while picking up some white sewing. That Pinwell reminds one a little...

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