van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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Letter from Félix Rey to Theo van Gogh
Arles, 29 December 1888

Arles, 29 December 1888


I hasten to respond to your letter and to give you the latest on the state of your brother.

I will first of all tell you that it is very difficult to definitively answer all the questions that you ask me. I will, however, give you my personal appreciation. The Protestant pastor M. Salles came to find me this evening, and we went to visit him. He was very calm and it appeared that all was well. When he saw me entering his room he told me that he wanted to have the least possible contact with me. Without a doubt he thought it was I who had locked him up. I have assured him that I am a friend to him and I want to see him well again very soon. I didn't hide the situation from him and explained to him why he was isolated in a room. I told him that his attacks didn't allow us to let him in the wards among our other patients. We talked a good while and we parted as good friends. He begged me to write to you and give you all the news; something he wouldn’t have done at the start of our interview. When I tried to talk to him about the motive that had driven him to cut his ear; he answered me that it was quite a personal business.

In summary, I find that his state is a bit better and I don’t think his life is in danger, at least for the moment. He is eating well enough and his physical strength allows him to weather his attacks. My appreciation is that he will be healed shortly, while retaining this great excitability that is the basis of his character. We will take care of him here for the moment, both for his ear and his not quite sound mental state. His injury is healing and it doesn't give us any concern.

A few days ago we wrote out a certificate of mental alienation. The mayor has signed a decree leaving him temporarily in the care of the hospital while waiting for his transfer to an asylum. During this time the police commissioner will make his inquest, then the prefect will issue the order to take him to Aix or to Marseille.

I was myself an intern in this latter city a few months ago, and I would be happy to recommend him to the colleague who replaced me, who is one of my good friends.

Nevertheless, I will take the liberty to ask you a question and give you some advice. Would you rather have your brother in an asylum close to Paris? Can you afford it? If yes; you should go and find one quickly: his state will certainly allow him to make the journey. This business has not gone so far that it cannot be stopped and for the commissioner to cancel his report. This is all the advice that I have to give you on your poor brother.

You ask me for my appreciation; I have given it to you for what it is worth.

Since I also have a brother I would be delighted to give you any news; also I have lived away from my family. In some months time I will be going to Paris for my doctorate thesis; I would be glad if someone looked out for me during my ordeal.

Please accept Monsieur, the assurance of my best regards.

Rey Félix.

At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Félix Rey. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 29 December 1888 in Arles. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number htm.

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