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[Letter to the Van Stockum-Haanebeek family]
London, October 1873
Dear Carolien and Willem,
Many thanks for your letter of this morning, it was a
delightful surprise. I am glad you are doing so well.
Our Anna has passed her English and her needlework
examinations; you can imagine how delighted she is, as are we
all. Pa and Mother have proposed that she stay at school until
next April, and then try French; but she doesn't have to if she
doesn't want to. I should like so much to find something for
her here; you know we have occasionally spoken about it.
You have already heard that Theo is going to The Hague. I
believe it will be a change for the better, though he will find
it hard to leave that beautiful, pleasant Brussels.
Some time ago I received a letter from your Pa, also, to
which I have replied, and so you will probably have heard that
all is still going well with me here, and some particulars
about my new lodgings.
What you say about winter is quite right; I completely
agree. For myself, I can hardly decide which season I like
best; I believe I like them all equally. It is worth noting
that the old painters hardly ever painted autumn, and that the
modern ones have a predilection for it.
Enclosed are a few small photographs, which I hope you will
like. Here you see hardly any albums like those in Holland, but
so-called scrapbooks into which you put photographs like the
ones in this letter (that is why we have the photographs
unmounted here). The advantage is that you can arrange your
photographs on the same page any way you like. I advise you to
get a sort of copybook with white paper, and begin by putting
these in it.
“A Baptism” is after Anker, a Swiss who has
painted a variety of subjects, all equally intimate and
delicate of feeling. “Puritans Going to Church” is
after Boughton, one of the best painters here. An American, he
likes Longfellow very much, and rightly so; I know three
pictures by him inspired by The Courtship of Miles
Standish. Seeing these pictures has induced me to read
Miles Standish and Evangeline again; I don't know why, but I
never realized these poems were so fine as I think them
“Le bon frére” is after Van Muyden, a
Swiss painter, “encore plus de modestie que de
talent” [more modesty than talent as yet]. Mr. Post in
The Hague has this picture. If you should ever come to our
shop, ask them to show you his (Van Muyden's)
“Refectoire.” There are no more than four or five
copies of this photograph in existence, as the negative is
broken. Show it to Mr. Tersteeg some time.
The “Lune de Miel” [The Honeymoon] is after
Eugene Feyen, one of the few painters who pictures intimate
modern life as it really is, and does not turn it into fashion
I know the photograph “Der Wirthin
Töchterlein” [The Landlady's Little Daughter], and I
admire it very much. It is a good thing you appreciate
Bourguereau. Not everybody is capable of perceiving the good
and the beautiful as keenly as you do.
And now I am going to stop; I enclose another picture of
autumn, this one by Michelet.
I hope you will be able to read this; I have written on
without considering that one must take care a letter is
intelligible. À Dieu; the best of luck to you all; many
kind regards to all at the Poten, and any other friends you may
Je vois d'ici une dame, je la vois marcher pensive dans un
jardin peu étendu, et défleuri de bonne heure,
mais abrité, comme on en voit derrière nos
falaises en France, ou les dunes de la Hollande. Les arbustes
exotiques cont déjà rentrés dans la serre.
Les feuilles tombées dévoilent quelques statues.
Luxe d'art qui contraste un peu avec la très-simple
toilette de la dame, modeste, grave, où la soie noire
(ou grise) s'égaye à peine d'un simple ruban
Mais ne l'ai-je pas vue déjà aux musées
d'Amsterdam ou de La Haye? Elle me rapelle une dame de Phillipe
de Champagne (n.v. au Louvres) qui m'était entrée
dans le coeur, si candide, si honnête, suffisamment
intelligente, siimple pourtant, sans finesse pour se
démêler des ruses du monde. Cette femme m'est
restée trente années, me revenant
obstinément, m'inquiétant, me faisant dire
“Mais comment se nommait elle? Qui lui est-il
arrivé? A-t-elle eu un peu de bonheur? Et comment se
nommmait s'est elle tirée de la vie?”
[From here I see a lady, I see her walk pensively in a not
very large garden, bereft of its flowers early in the season,
but sheltered, as you see them behind our cliffs in France or
the dunes of Holland. The exotic shrubs have already been put
back in the conservatory. The fallen leaves reveal a number of
statues. An artistic luxury which contrasts with the lady's
very simple, modest, dignified dress, of which the black (or
grey) silk is almost imperceptibly brightened by a lilac
But haven't I seen her already in the museums of Amsterdam
or The Hague? She reminds me of the lady by Philippe de
Champagne (N.B. in the Louvre), who took my heart, so candid,
so honest, sufficiently intelligent, yet simple, without the
cunning to extricate herself from the ruses of the world. This
woman has remained in my mind for thirty years, persistently
coming back to me, making me say: “But what was she
called? What has happened to her? Has she known some happiness?
And how has she overcome the difficulties of the
- JULES MICHELET, “Les aspirations de
At this time, Vincent was 20 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to . Written October 1873 in London. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 11a.
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