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My dear Theo,
I have sent off two cases of canvases recently, D 58 and
59, by goods train, and it will be at least a week or so before
you get them. There are lots of daubs among them, which you
will have to destroy, but I have sent them, such as they are,
so that you will be able to keep what seems passable to you. I
have put in some fencing masks and some studies of Gauguin's
and the book by Lemonnier.
Having taken the precaution of paying 30 francs in advance
to the manager, I am naturally here still, but they cannot keep
me indefinitely and it is more than time to decide. Bear in
mind that shutting me up in an asylum will be expensive in the
long run, though probably less so than taking a house again;
I should like to enlist. What I am afraid of is - as my
accident is known all over town here - that they would refuse
me, but the thing I dread, or rather the thing that makes me
faint-hearted, is the possibility, the probability of a refusal
here. If I had some acquaintance who could shove me into the
Legion for five years, I should go.
Only I do not want this to be thought a fresh act of madness
on my part, and that is why I speak of it to you, as well as to
M. Salles, so that if I did go, it would be in all serenity and
after mature consideration.
For bear in mind, to go on spending money on this painting
when things might come to such a pitch that you would be short
of money for your own housekeeping would be atrocious, and you
know well that the chances of success are abominable. Besides,
I am so convinced that it is an irresistible force
majeure that has frustrated me. Moreover, in the future
there might possibly be our sister to be provided for.
Possibly, I say, but however this may be, if I knew I'd be
accepted, I'd join the Legion. The thing is I have become timid
and hesitant since I have been living like a machine.
However, my health is very good and I am working a little. I
am doing an avenue of pink flowering chestnuts and a little
cherry tree in flower and a wisteria plant and a path in the
park splashed with light and shade.
This will make a pendant to the garden which is in the
If I talk about enlisting for five years, don't go thinking
that I am doing this with the idea of sacrificing myself or of
doing a good deed.
I have been “in a hole” all my life, and my
mental condition is not only vague now, but has
always been so, so that whatever is done for me, I
cannot think things out so as to balance my life. Where
I have to follow a rule, as here in the hospital, I feel
at peace. And it would be more or less the same thing if I were
in the army. Now if I certainly run a great risk here of being
refused because they know that I am a madman or an epileptic
probably for good (though according to what I have heard, there
are 50,000 epileptics in France, only 4,000 of whom are
confined, and so it is not extraordinary), perhaps I
should soon be provided for after speaking, for instance, to
Détaille or Caran d'Ache in Paris. This idea would
really be no wilder than any other, so let's think it over, but
think in order to act. Meanwhile I am doing what I can and I
have good will enough for any kind of work, it does not
matter what, painting included.
Besides, I have said once and for all, if at present there
is a decision to be made, it is better that you and M. Salles
should make it for me. And mind, I shan't say No to anything,
not even to going to St. Rémy, in spite of the
obstacles of higher terms than we had hoped for, and of not
having full liberty to go outside to paint. We really must
decide, because they cannot keep me here indefinitely.
I told the manager that I'd be glad to pay them 60 francs,
for instance, instead of 45 if I could stay here
But their terms are fixed, it appears.
So although up till now nobody has said anything to me, I
think it would be right to go. I might go and stay again at the
night café, where I have stored my furniture,
but...I should be in daily contact there with the very people
who used to be my neighbours, for it is next door to the house
where I had my studio.
However, nobody says anything to me now in town, and I
actually paint in the public garden without being much bothered
by anything but the curiosity of passers-by.
I have reread the article on Monet in Figaro and I like it
much better than at first.
Don't let's lose heart too much over material things, but at
least try to be sensible about them. It is to the good that
if necessary I can go and lodge in the night
café here and even board here, for the people
there are friends of mine, naturally enough, since I have been
and am one of their customers. It has been very hot today and
that always does me good. I have worked with more spirit than I
have yet had.
With a good handshake for you and also for your wife.
Ever yours, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 36 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 2 May 1889 in Arles. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 589.
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