van Gogh's letters - unabridged and annotated
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Letter from Reverend Salles to Theo van Gogh
Arles, 18 March 1889

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Dear Sir,

You will doubtlessly have understood that my last letter had crossed itself with yours. I have here in my hand the one that you wrote on the 16th and, after having paid a visit to your brother, I will give you his news.

I will hasten to tell you that, to my great surprise, I found him reasoning perfectly and having full understanding of his condition. On entering the hospice the porter handed me a letter he had just received for him, and which I recognised as coming from you. He thought that your brother would not be in a state to understand it. But I had hardly entered his room when, noticing the considerable improvement in him, I did not hesitate to give it to him. He read it in my presence, and even communicated to me the last part of it, where you speak to him of a friend, a fellow painter, who wants to come to Arles.

Your brother has spoken to me with calm and perfect lucidity about his situation, and also of the petition signed by his neighbors, the existence of which which the commissioner cannot ignore. This piece distresses him a great deal. If the police, he said to me, protected my liberty by preventing the children and even the grown-ups from gathering around my domicile and climbing up the windows as they did (as if I was a curious beast), I would have remained calmer; in any case I haven't hurt anybody and I am not dangerous to anyone.

He understands, that goes without saying, that he has had a bout of insanity and this thought grieves and revolts him at the same time. I told him that, once he is completely recovered, he must agree that it would be in his best interest and in view of his peace of mind to move to another quarter. He appears to have accepted this idea, while calling my attention to the fact that perhaps it would be difficult to find an apartment elsewhere after what has happened.

In summary, I have found your brother transformed and, God willing, this improvement will be maintained.

There is something in his state which is indefinable, and it is impossible to account for the so abrupt and sudden changes that have happened to him. It is evident that while he remains in the situation where I have seen him, there is no question that he will remain confined; no one that I know has this sad courage.

He told me that he will hasten to write to you.

The best to you, and from the bottom of my heart.

Your very devoted, Salles.

At this time, Vincent was 35 year old
Reverend Salles. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 18 March 1889 in Arles. Translated by Robert Harrison, edited by Robert Harrison, number to.

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