van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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Letter from Reverend Salles to Theo van Gogh
Arles, 7 February 1889

Dear Sir,

The cleaning woman, who looks after him with a certain devotion, noticing his more than abnormal state, considered it her duty to report it - and the neighbors bought it to the attention of the central commissioner. This man put your brother under surveillance, and this afternoon had him driven to the hospital, where he has been placed in an isolation cell. I have just seen him and his state made a very painful impression on me. He has withdrawn into absolute muteness, hides himself under his bedcovers and sometimes cries without uttering a word. Today, according to the cleaning woman, he has refused all food; all day yesterday and this morning he has spoken little and at times his behaviour has frightened this poor woman, who told me that while he was in this state she could not continue to look after him.

What are we to do now? After I met with the bursar, the intern and doctor Deloy, it was decided that I would write to you to get your opinion. Obviously it is necessary that your brother is put under constant supervision and also receive the special care that can only be given to him in a nursing home or by the family. He cannot remain in the hospital; he would only be cared for poorly there, although they have agreed to keep him for several days more. Tell me if you want to have him close to you or at least in a home located in the neighbourhood of the capital. In this case, the cleaning woman could get a permit for Paris (her husband being an employee at the train station) and she would gladly accompany him. In any case it is necessary to make a quick decision, and we will only act after having received your answer.

I regret, Sir, having to give you such distressing news. Be assured that I will do everything in my power to ease your brother's situation the entire time that he is locked up in the hospital. Tonight I saw that a fire was lit in his cell, for it felt very cold to me, and that someone keeps it going all night. We will see tomorrow if we can install him in a better room.

My very cordial greetings, and believe me, your devoted in Christ, Salles.

At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Reverend Salles. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 7 February 1889 in Arles. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number to.

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