van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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 42 letters relate to psychology - depression...Excerpt length: shorter longer  
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(July 1880)
... your land, your fatherland, is all around. So instead of giving in to despair I chose active melancholy, in so far as I was capable of activity, in other words I chose the kind of melancholy that hopes, that strives and that seeks, in preference to the melancholy that despairs numbly and in distress. I accordingly made a more or less serious study of the books within my reach, such as the Bible and Michelet's La révolution Française, and then last winter Shakespeare and a little Victor Hugo and Dickens and Beecher Stowe and recently Æschylus and then various less classical writers, a few great minor masters. You know, don't you, that Fabritius and Bida are counted among the minor masters? Now anyone who becomes absorbed in all this is sometimes considered outrageous, `shocking,' sinning more or less unwillingly against certain forms and customs and proprieties. It is a pity that people take that amiss.
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(24 September 1880)
... clothes, one of them in an old army cape. Although this trip nearly killed me and I came back spent with fatigue, with crippled feet and in more or less depressed state of mind, I do not regret it, because I saw some interesting things and the terrible ordeals of suffering are what teach you to look at things through different eyes. I earned a few crusts here and there en route in exchange for a picture or a drawing or two I had in my bag. But when my ten francs ran out I tried to bivouac in the open air the last 3 nights, once in an abandoned carriage which was completely white with hoarfrost the next morning, not the best accommodation, once in a pile of faggots; and once, and that was a slight improvement, in a haystack, that had been opened up, where I succeeded in making myself a slightly more comfortable little hideaway, though the drizzle did not exactly add to my enjoyment. Well, and yet it was in these depths of misery that I felt my energy revive and...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(22 January 1882)
... many things get dilapidated. And sometimes one involuntarily becomes terribly depressed, if only for a moment, often just when one is feeling cheerful, as I really am even now. That's what happened this morning; these are evil hours when one feels quite helpless and faint with overexertion. I think it was really because I had arranged with Mauve about what I would do with a model out-of-doors, and then all at once I thought, Perhaps I cannot do it because in two days I shall not have a cent left, and than Mauve will think I was afraid. So I got up again to write you once more because I felt so anxious. Having to think about too many other things against my will hampers me so much in my work; even when I am in front of my model, I do not know how I shall pay him or whether I shall be able to go on the next day or not. And I must, I must be calm and quiet in order to work - it is difficult enough anyhow. And especially now I must keep up my spirits; but I felt...
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(26 January 1882)
... agreed to keep up courage through all. But I am so angry with myself now because I cannot do what I should like to do, and at such a moment one feels as if one were lying bound hand and foot a the bottom of a deep, dark well, utterly helpless. Now I have recovered enough so that I got up again last night and rummaged around, straightening things. When the model came of her own accord this morning, though I only half expected her, I put her into the right pose with Mauve's help and tried to draw a little; but I could not do it, and I felt miserable and weak the whole evening. But if I rest a few more days, it will be over, and I need not be afraid of its coming back soon if I am careful.
Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh
(22 June 1882)
... this whole business of lying here ill. Except for Sien, her mother, and for Father, I have not seen anybody, which is indeed for the best, though the days are rather lonesome and melancholy. Involountarily I often think how much more gloomy and lonesome things are now than, for instance, when I went to Mauve for the first time this winter. It stabs me to the heart and depresses me whenever I think of it, though I try to throw the whole thought overboard like useless ballast. I heard from one of the attendants that Breitner left the hospital recently. I believe that the doctor in this ward is a little more abrupt than in the more expensive wards; so much the better. Perhaps they are less afraid to hurt the patients a little here than in the more expensive wards, and, for instance, they often put a catheter into the bladder quickly, without “ceremony” or fuss. Well, so much the better, I think, and I repeat, I find it just as interesting here as in a ...

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