van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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Letter from Reverend Salles to Theo van Gogh
Arles, 02 March 1889


I have just received your letter and felt I must add some further comments.

Your brother is interned in the hospital on the orders of the police and as a result of the petition signed by neighbors. This petition, which I have read, certifies that his appearances and his acts are those of a lunatic and that there is a real danger to leave him at liberty.

Since his admission to hospital the commissioner has made an inquiry of the signatories of the petition. You understand, it is all done discreetly and without noise: depositions have been collected in writing and filed. I have read some and my impression it is that they are exaggerated. Evidently to the point where the neighbours fear your brother and they have overexcited each other. The acts that they reproach your brother with (supposing that they are true) do not justify accusing a man of insanity and to request his imprisonment. They say that the children flock around him and run after him, that he, on his part, chases them, and he could hurt them; that he drinks in excess (the café owner, his neighbor, has told me exactly the opposite), and finally that women fear him “because he has seized some by the waist and has engaged in touching their persons.” This last expression appears several times in the depositions.

Unfortunately the act of madness that necessitated his first admission to the hospital has resulted in a most unfavorable interpretation of all the eccentric acts the poor young man has engaged in. In any other person they would perhaps not be noticed, but for him they immediately take on particular importance.

I hope, despite the conviction of the central commissioner and his resolution to incarcerate your brother, that we will succeed in keeping him here and that we will be able to avoid what you, with just reason, fear.

As I told you yesterday, everyone in the hospital is well disposed to him and, after all, it is the physicians and not the commissioner who must be judges in these cases.

Yours Faithfully, Salles.

P. S.: I fully take note of what you tell me in your letter and I will make my duty to do as you wish when I believe it necessary. For the moment your brother is well enough and can attend to his own business.

At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Reverend Salles. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 02 March 1889 in Arles. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number to.

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