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My dear Theo,
I have been so completely out of sorts mentally that it
would have been useless to try to write an answer to your kind
letter. Today I have just come home provisionally, I hope for
good. I feel quite normal so often, and really I should think
that if what I am suffering from is only a disease particular
to this place, I must wait here quietly till it is over, even
if it returns (and let's say that it won't).
But this is what I told M. Rey once and for all. If sooner
or later it is desirable that I go to Aix, as has already been
suggested, I consent beforehand and I will submit to it.
But in my character as a painter and a workman it is not
permissible for anyone, not even you or a doctor, to take such
a step without warning me and consulting me about it, also
because since up till now I have always kept a comparative
presence of mind in my work, I should have the right to say (or
at least to have an opinion on) whether it would be better to
keep my studio here or to move to Aix altogether. This so as to
avoid the expenses and loss of moving as much as possible and
not to do it except in case of absolute necessity.
It seems that people here have some superstition that makes
them afraid of painting, and that they have been talking about
it in the town. Very good, I know it is the same thing in
Arabia, but nevertheless we have loads of painters in Africa,
Which shows that with a little firmness you can modify these
prejudices, at least as far as painting in spite of it is
The unfortunate thing is that I am rather inclined to be
affected by the beliefs of others, and to feel them myself, and
I cannot always laugh at whatever foundation of truth there may
be in the absurdity.
As I have already been staying here for more than a year,
and have heard almost all the ill that could be spoken of
myself, Gauguin and painting in general - why shouldn't I take
things as they come and wait for the upshot here? To what place
worse could I go than where I have twice been: in the
The advantages I have here are what Rivet used to say,
“They are a sickly lot, all of them,” so that at
least I do not feel alone.
Then, as you well know, I am so fond of Arles, though
Gauguin has uncommonly good reason to call it the dirtiest town
in the whole South.
And I have already met with such friendliness from my
neighbours, from M. Rey, and from everyone at the hospital
besides, that really I would rather be always ill here than
forget the kindness there is in the very people who have the
most incredible prejudices against painters and painting, or at
any rate have no clear, sane idea of it as we have.
Then they know me now at the hospital, and if it comes on
again, nothing would be said, and they would know what to do at
the hospital. I have no desire at all to be treated by other
doctors, nor is there any necessity.
The only thing I should like to be able to do is go on
earning with my hands what I spend. Koning wrote me a very nice
letter saying that he and a friend would probably be coming
South to me for a long time. It was in reply to a letter I
wrote him some days ago. I do not dare persuade painters to
come here after what has happened to me, they run the risk of
losing their wits like me; the same applies to De Haan and
Isaäcson. Let them go to Antibes, Nice, or Mentone, it is
Mother and our sister have also written, the latter was
terribly distressed about the patient she was nursing. At home
they are very, very glad about your marriage.
Now mind, you must not think too much about me, nor fret
yourself. It will probably have to take its course, and we
cannot change much in our fate by taking precautions.
Once more let us try to resign ourselves to our fate
whatever it is. Our sister wrote that your fiancée had
just been staying some time at home. That is good. Well, I send
my love with all my heart, and don't let's lose courage.
Ever yours, Vincent
Address next letter to Place Lamartine.
Kind regards to Gauguin. I hope he is going to write me. I
shall write him too.
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 17 February 1889 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 577.
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