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My dear Theo,
A few words to wish you and your fiancée all
happiness these days. It is a sort of nervous affliction with
me that on festive occasions I generally find difficulty in
formulating good wishes, but you must not conclude from that
that I wish you happiness less earnestly than anyone else, as
you well know.
I have still to thank you for your last letter,
I waited several days before answering, not knowing which
day you were leaving for Amsterdam. Besides I do not know
either if you are getting married in Breda or in Amsterdam. But
if as I am inclined to think it will be in Amsterdam, then I
have assumed that you would find this letter there by
By the way - just today our friend Roulin came to see me. He
told me to give you many greetings from him and to congratulate
you. His visit gave me a lot of pleasure; he often has to carry
loads you would call too heavy, but it doesn't prevent him, as
he has the strong constitution of the peasant, from always
looking well and even jolly. But for me, who am perpetually
learning from him afresh, what a lesson for the future it is
when one gathers from his talk that life does not grow any
easier as one gets on in life.
I talked to him so as to have his opinion as to what I ought
to do about the Studio, which I have to leave in any case at
Easter, according to the advice of M. Salles and M. Rey.
I said to Roulin that having done a good many things to put
the house into a far better state than when I took it,
especially as regards the gas I had put in, I considered it as
a definite piece of work.
They are forcing me to leave - very well - but I should be
pretty well justified in taking away the gas and making a
rumpus about damages or something only I haven't the heart to
The only thing I feel I can do in this business is to tell
myself that it was an attempt to make an abiding place for
unknown successors. Besides, before seeing Roulin I had already
been to the gas works to arrange it this way. And Roulin was of
the same opinion. He expects to stay in Marseilles.
Just now I have on the easel an orchard of peach trees
beside a road with the Alpilles in the background. It seems that there was a fine article
in the Figaro on Monet, Roulin had read it and been struck by it, he said.
Altogether it is a rather difficult problem to decide whether
to take a new flat, and even to find it, especially by the
M. Salles has spoken to me of a house at 20 francs which is
very nice, but he is not sure if I could have it. At Easter I
shall have to pay three months' rent, the removal, etc. All
this is not very cheering or convenient, especially as there
seems no prospect of any better luck anywhere.
Roulin said or rather hinted that he did not at all like the
disquiet which has reigned here in Arles this winter,
considered even quite apart from what has fallen on me.
After all it is rather like that everywhere, business not
too good, resources exhausted, people discouraged and ... as
you said, not content to remain spectators, and becoming
nuisances from being out of work - if anybody can still make a
joke or work fast, down they come on him.
Write to me soon if you can find the time.
Roulin's family was still in the country and though he earns
slightly more, the separate expenses are greater in proportion,
and so they are not really a farthing better off and he was not
without very heavy anxieties. Fortunately the weather is fine
and the sun glorious, and people here quickly forget all their
griefs for the time being and then they brim over with high
spirits and illusions.
I have been re-reading Dickens's “Christmas
Books” these days. There are things in them so profound
that one must read them over and over, there are tremendously
close connections with Carlyle.
Roulin, though he is not quite old enough to be like a
father to me, has all the same a silent gravity and tenderness
for me such as an old soldier might have for a young one. All
the time - but without a word - a something which seems to say,
We do not know what will happen to us tomorrow, but whatever it
may be, think of me. And it does one good when it comes from a
man who is neither embittered, nor sad, nor perfect, nor happy,
nor always irreproachably right. But such a good soul and so
wise and so full of feeling and so trustful. I tell you I have
no right to complain of anything whatever about Arles, when I
think of some things I have seen there which I shall never be
able to forget.
It is getting late. Once more I wish you and Jo plenty of
happiness, and a handshake in thought.
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written c. 5 April 1889 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 583.
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