van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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 10 letters relate to feelings - guilt...Excerpt length: shorter longer  
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(22 or 23 August 1883)
... what. I do not ask, either. But if she wants to come with me, do let her. Leaving her would mean driving her back to prostitution - how could this be done by the same hand that tried to save her? For my work and as an economy measure, Drenthe is the best thing we can do, in my opinion, and I think you will see it in the same way. So leaving her out of the question for the moment, we shall execute that plan if you approve of it. At the time of departure I shall say to the woman, “Will you come or stay?” If she comes with me, I think I shall have more influence on her there, and make her behave better.
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(6 or 7 September 1883)
... to Drenthe because of the money. Oh, Theo, you will understand how I feel these days, so very melancholy about the woman and the children - but it could not be helped; at the same time, all my thoughts are concentrated on the work, and I feel a great energy, because now I can do things which were impossible before. Dear brother - if you could know my feelings exactly, how I spent part of myself on the woman, forgetting every other thing, just concentrating on saving her, if you could feel exactly my melancholy view of life - which, however, does not make me indifferent to it, on the contrary, I prefer feeling my sorrow to forgetting it or becoming indifferent - if you could feel exactly how I find my serenity in “worship of sorrow” and not in illusions, the perhaps, even for you, brother, my inmost soul would be different and more detached from life than even you can imagine now. I shall certainly not speak much about the woman any more, but I shall continue...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(11 and 12 September 1883)
... I left, the parting was not very easy. I have provided her with all kinds of things as well as I could, but she will have a hard time. I have taken only a very few colours with me, but nevertheless some, and I hope to begin the attack soon. The colour of the Veluwe was rich. I shall wait here for your next letter. I am staying at a village inn quite near the station. The address is: A. Hartsuiker, Innkeeper, Hoogeveen. Later I may go farther into the heart of the country, but I must wait till I have some stock of colours. I shall write more soon; for the moment I've seen nothing but what I tell you, the scene through the carriage window and the barroom here, which is nothing special. I only want to tell you I am here. Goodbye, tomorrow I am going out investigating. A handshake, Yours sincerely, Vincent When you receive this, be so kind as to mail a postcard at once to see whether it reaches me all right. I got up very early this morning...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(c. 15 September 1883)
... those ovens, those turf huts, etc. I often think with melancholy of the woman and the children, if only they were provided for; oh, it's the woman's fault, one might say, and it would be true, but I am afraid her misfortunes will prove greater than her guilt. I knew from the beginning that her character was spoiled, but I hoped she would improve; and now that I do not see her any more and ponder some things I saw in her, it seems to me more that she was too far gone for improvement. And this only increases my feeling of pity, and it becomes a melancholy feeling because it is not in my power to redress it. Theo, when I meet on the heath such a poor woman with a child on her arm, or at her breast, my eyes get moist. It reminds me of her, her weakness; her untidiness, too, contributes to making the likeness stronger. I know that she is not good, that I have an absolute right to act as I do, that I could not stay with her back there, that I really could not...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(c. 17 September 1883)
... if our intentions were not thwarted. Personally, I would rather have stayed with the woman, though it would have been doubly difficult; but as far as I could see, it was impossible under the circumstances. And if I constantly imagine her as a phantom, it is not as a reproachful one, but I am melancholy because I did not have the means to act toward her as I should have wished. Times are hard, and you will have your share of it.

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