van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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 20 letters relate to food-and-drink - malnutrition...Excerpt length: shorter longer  
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(22 July 1883)
... must not only manage to live ten days on it, but I have so many things to pay for at once that from the start those ten days which are ahead are bound to mean starvation. And the woman has to nurse the baby, and the baby is strong and growing, and it often happens that she has no milk for it. And it happens to me, too: when I am sitting in the dunes or somewhere else, I have a faint feeling in my stomach because there isn't enough to eat. The whole family's shoes are patched and worn out, and there are many more of such small miseries which put furrows in one's face. Well, I should not care, Theo, if I could only stick to the thought, It will come out right, we must go on. But now your saying, “I can give you little hope for the future,” is like “the hair that finally breaks the camel's back” to me. The burden is sometimes so heavy that one extra hair is enough to make the animal sink to the ground. Now what am I to do?...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(23 July 1883)
... and then, as soon as I receive the usual amount, I have to pay out so much that little is left for the ten days ahead, on the last of which one walks around with a very weak, faint feeling in one's stomach, and then such a path through the dunes gets the aspect of a desert. And one feels oneself sinking, and one cannot get or pay for the necessary things. And then the inner struggle - shall I be able to go on and continue going along this road? What can I do about it? At all events write soon whether you have found something in the photographs. You don't see anything absurd in them, such as one might infer from Tersteeg's remark that he “would rather have nothing to do with it,” do you? After all, I am too calm and collected for that. Adieu, a firm handshake in thought, Yours, Vincent ...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(24 or 25 July 1883)
... it will be high time to use it. For my strength is failing, it is abnormal for me to get tired when I've walked a short distance - e.g. from here to the post office - but that is actually the case. Oh, I don't give in of course, but I must try to remedy it. Still, my health is not thoroughly or chronically upset; it has not been caused by excesses, but by too long a period with insufficient and unsubstantial food. Now, what is most pressing this year is the painting. I remind you once more of what I already wrote last year, which has slipped your mind, I think: here I have to pay the regular retail price for colours. Wouldn't it be possible for you to get me colours from Paillard or someone, in a certain quantity at the wholesale price from the manufacturer himself? -Undoubtedly that would be a step toward the possibility of the colours not being lacking. And I should be very glad if we could arrange it so that you deducted 10 francs from your remittance...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(27 July 1883)
... think it's a question of a few days. In a few days, when I shall have had some more nourishing food than recently, I think I shall get rid of my worst depression; but it is more deeply rooted than that, and I wish I could get to the point where I had plenty of health and strength, which is after all not impossible when one is out-of-doors a great deal and has a task one loves. For it is a fact that now all my work is too meager and too dry. Recently this has become as clear as daylight to me, and I haven't the slightest doubt that a general thorough change is necessary. I intend to talk over with you, after you have seen this year's work, whether you agree with me about some measures; and if you agree with me, I think we shall succeed in overcoming the difficulties. We must not hesitate, but “avoir la foi de charbonnier.” I hope they will change the banknote. I'm so glad you have managed to send something, for I think...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(c. 2 August 1883)
... too. Well, it's nothing but weakness. I have repeatedly put off taking more nourishing food because there were other things more pressing, but it has lasted a little too long. But you will understand that the work is rather important, and I could not drop it now for the very reason that so much of it is already done. When you come, you will see for yourself that it is necessary to go on steadily. You are right in saying that what I wrote you about the finances weighs on your mind, but on the other hand, we cannot now be far from the moment when I shall make something that is saleable, even if it be for a small price. The work becomes more and more clear to me. And when I think it over, it is only a question of hurrying or slackening speed, and we shall make up for it later, even for the past; but after all it is a damn thorny, difficult and hard time we are going through now. If it were possible for me to get enough money to have sufficient...

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