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"Carpenter's yard and laundry," Vincent van Gogh
I have just got back to my studio and am writing you at
once. I cannot tell you how delightful it is to be better
again, nor can I tell you how beautiful all things appeared to
me on the way from the hospital; and how the light seemed
clearer and the spaces more infinite, and every object and
figure more important. But there is still one drawback, for
next Thursday I must go to see the doctor again and tell him
how I feel; he has warned me that I may have to go to the
hospital clinic for another fortnight, or a shorter or longer
period, depending on what's necessary, or even be readmitted.
At all events, it would be a piece of good luck if I did not
have to go back.
I must go there as soon as I feel some trouble, and even if
I don't feel anything in particular, I must go next Tuesday to
be examined. The channel by which the urine is excreted has to
be widened little by little, but this cannot be done violently
or hurriedly. Gradually the bougies they use get bigger, and
every time one is introduced, things are stretched a little
more; this is not only very painful but also extremely
nauseating, as the thing is left inside for some time. There is
bleeding when the bougie is taken out; afterwards one feels
relatively free for some days, and the soreness it caused
gradually disappears. And I am now here during one of those
intervals. In the meantime I can urinate pretty easily,
consequently I feel swell, as if this were something highly
extraordinary. Only it will have to get quite normal again,
which will take time. The feeling of recovery makes one forget
all possible catheters, bougies and syringes. But one sees the
doctor arriving with them after all, and that is not a pleasant
Well, those are the little miseries of human life.
But pregnancy and confinement is something we call a
“grande misère.” Sien's last letter was very
melancholy; she has not been delivered yet, but awaited it
every hour. Now that the waiting has lasted for days, I am very
anxious about it, and it was especially to visit her that I
asked the doctor if there were any possibility of his giving me
a short leave instead of walks in the garden. So tomorrow
morning I am going to see her with her mother and her child,
Sunday being the only day for visitors. The last letter from
her was not written by her but by the nurse, who asked if we
could not come sometime. But maybe we shall not be allowed to
see her after all. Poor girl; she is plucky enough though, and
not easily frightened. No, according to that last letter there
was no real danger, but she was very weak. I cannot tell you
how I long for her now, and there have been moments when I was
not sorry I had to suffer a little too, rather than stand there
in perfect good health, for then it would have been too
If everything goes well, however, Sien will be back this
month; may it be so. But the proverb goes, “Mal de
mère dure longtemps.” This still throws a gloomy
shadow over the delightful feeling of recovery. I long for
tomorrow and dread it at the same time.
The first person I met here in the Schenkweg was my friend
the carpenter, who has already helped me many a time with some
little jobs, and by making the perspective instrument, and who
is at the same time foreman for the owner of the studio about
which I wrote you. His boss happened to be in the yard (of
which you have the drawing, the one with the meadows in the
distance), and they coaxed me to go with them,
and showed me they had left the room that would be my studio
unpapered, awaiting my decision. I said I could not decide even
All right, said the man, but I could choose what I liked
from different papers; then he would paper it, and I was not
committed to anything.
And though I said I did not want this because I had to go
back to the hospital, they have already started it, as they
wanted to show me the finished job before Tuesday.
I must say the house is exceedingly comfortable, and looks
very neat and well built. The enormous attic alone would be a
beautiful studio, though the room on the north would have to be
used as such. And the price is very low indeed; in town it
would be twice as much. Three guilders a week for a large upper
floor is very little, even compared to neighbourhoods like the
Noordwal or the Buitensingels, and the location is excellent
for a painter. The view from the attic window is enchanting.
However, I did not want to make any decision because I am ill,
as well as Sien. But as soon as we are better, I shall take it.
There is air and space, delightful for working in and keeping
healthy; light from the north, and in the other room, from the
south. There is a little kitchen, which I hope to draw often,
also with a little window looking out on the courtyard.
Then I must not forget to tell you that while in the
hospital, I had an unexpected visit from Mr. Tersteeg, which in
a way greatly pleased me, though we did not speak about
anything in particular, as it was not necessary. But I was very
glad to see him. And then a few days later Iterson also came,
but I cared much less for that. And then Johan van Gogh came; I
thought he was in Helvoirt, but it seems that at present he is
living here in the Stationsweg.
In case you send me something at the beginning of this
month, will you address the letter to the hospital? Then it
will be all right, because the porter promised to keep the
letters for me in case of absence (according to the rules of
the hospital - as long as one has not left definitely and asks
for it). On Tuesday I have to pay the hospital again, and the
rent, too; I have the money left for it.
The most delightful thing about the whole recovery is that
the love for drawing revives, and also the feeling for things
around me which seemed almost extinct for a long time and had
left a great void. I am again interested in everything I see.
And then, I have not smoked a pipe for almost a month, and it's
like renewing an old acquaintance. I cannot tell you how happy
I am to sit here in the studio again after having been
surrounded by chamber pots, etc., for so long, though the
hospital is also beautiful, very beautiful, especially the
garden with all those convalescent people - men, women and
children. I made a few scratches, but as a patient one is not
free to work as one should, nor is one fit for it. Well, adieu,
write soon and believe me, with a handshake,
Yours sincerely, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 29 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 1 July 1882 in The Hague. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 209.
This letter may be freely used, in accordance with the terms of this site.