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My dear Theo,
Thank you for your letter which I have just received. All
the more because in this case I would rather be in the wrong
than in the right, certainly we are absolutely and entirely in
agreement as to the general argument of your letter. That's how
the thing looks to me too.
The news is that I think M. Salles is busy finding me an
apartment in another part of town. I approve of this, for in
this way I should not be obliged to move immediately - I should
keep some sort of niche - and then I could certainly go for a
trip to Marseilles or farther on to find something better. M.
Salles is very kind and very loyal, and a pleasant contrast to
others here. So there it is. That is all the news for the
moment. If you were to write, try all the same to get them to
give me the right to go out into the town.
As far as I can judge, I am not properly speaking a madman.
You will see that the canvases I have done in the intervals are
steady and not inferior to the others. I miss the work
more than it tires me.
Certainly I should be pleased to see Signac, if he has to
pass through here after all. Then they must let me go out with
him to show him my canvases.
Perhaps it would have been a good thing for me to accompany
him where he was going, and if we had tried to find a new place
together, but there, there isn't much likelihood of that now,
so what's the use of his putting himself out on purpose to come
and see me?
There is one very good thing in your letter, where you say
that one must not let oneself have any illusions about
The thing is to put up with the real facts of your destiny,
and then there you are. I am writing in haste to send off this
letter, which will, however, perhaps only reach you on Sunday,
when Signac will have already left. I can't help it. All I
would ask is that people whom I do not even know by name (for
they took good care to arrange that I should not know who sent
the letter in question) do not meddle with me when I am busy
painting, or eating, or sleeping, or taking a turn at the
brothel, since I haven't a wife. Now they are meddling with
everything. But in spite of everything, I wouldn't give a damn
if it weren't for the grief that I am very unwillingly causing
you, or rather that they are causing - and for the delay in my
If they should continue, these repeated and unexpected
agitations may change a passing and momentary mental
disturbance into a chronic disease.
Believe me, if nothing intervenes, I shall now be able to do
the same and perhaps better work in the orchards than I did
Now let us be as firm as possible and, in short, not let
them tread too painfully on our toes. From the start I have
been faced with very mischievous opposition here. All this stir
will naturally be good for “impressionism,” but you
and I as individuals will suffer because of a pack of skunks
There is some reason for keeping your indignation to
yourself, isn't there? I have already seen in a paper here a
really good article on decadent or impressionist
But what are these articles in papers, etc., to you or me?
As my good friend Roulin says, “It is to act as a
pedestal for others.” But at least you would like to know
for whom or for what, wouldn't you, then you could have no
objection. But to be on a pedestal for something you do not
know, that is trying.
After all this for nothing, provided you go straight to your
goal - a secure home for you is a great gain for me too - and
that done, we can perhaps find another, more peaceful, way of
settling things after your marriage. If sooner or later I
should really go mad, I think I should not want to stay on here
at the hospital, but just now I want to come and go freely.
The best thing for me would certainly be not to live alone,
but I would rather live in a cell forever than sacrifice
another life to mine. For this business of painting is a sorry
poor job nowadays. If I were a Roman Catholic, I should have
the resource of turning monk, but not being precisely that way,
as you know, I haven't that resource. The management of the
hospital is - how shall I say? - Jesuit, they are very, very
able, very clever, very powerful, they are even
impressionistic, they know how to make inquiries of an unheard
of subtlety, but - but that amazes and confounds me - and
In fact this is, in a way, the cause of my silence, so keep
aloof from me in business, and meanwhile I am a man after all,
so you know I will shift for myself in matters of conscience
which concern myself alone.
I shake your hand in thought. Tell your fiancée
and our mother and sister not to worry about me and to believe
that I am on the high road to recovery.
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 22 March 1889 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 580.
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