Thanks for your letter I received this morning. This time, I
would like to write you in a way I seldom do. I propose in
particular to tell you in detail how I live here.
As you know, I live in Montmartre. In the same building a
young Englishman has his lodging, he is also employed at the
store. He is 18 years old; he is the son of a London dealer of
paintings. He had never left his paternal home before he came
here, and he was very rough-hewn during the first weeks of his
stay. He eats six to eight sous worth of bread morning noon and
night (N.B. bread sold in Paris is very good) and supplements
his meals with several pounds of apples or pears. He is as
skinny as a toothpick, he has two rows of solid teeth, big red
lips, twinkling eyes, a pair of big ears which stick out from
his head, a razor-cut pate (black hair), etc. At first
everybody laughed at this young chap, even I. But bit by bit I
grew to like him, and I assure you that at the moment I am glad
to have his company in the evenings.
He has a naïve and unspoiled heart and he is very good
at his work at the store. Every evening, we go home together,
we eat a little in my room, and then I read aloud, every
evening, mostly from the Bible. We would like to read it from
one end to the other. In the mornings, usually between five and
six, he comes to wake me up, we have breakfast together in my
room, and we leave about 8 for the store.
Lately, he is eating a bit more reasonably and he is now
collecting prints, which I am helping him to do.
Yesterday we went to Luxembourg together, and I showed him
the pictures that I like the most. In truth, the simple people
know things better than the intelligent ones.
Alone, Benediction of the Harvest, Recall of the
The Pilgrims of St. Odille, Noah
Fields in winter
Pond, and Autumn Evening
Church at Gréville
Spring and Autumn
The End of Winter, The Churchyard
Christ in the Garden of Olives, and Malaria
Also the picture (I cannot recall the name) of a convent
where the monks receive a stranger and suddenly perceive that
it is Jesus. On the wall of the convent is written, “Man
proposes and God disposes,” “He that receiveth you
receiveth me, he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent
At the store, I do all the work that is given into my hands.
Old son, we do this work all our lives, give me the power to
consecrate my strength.
Did you do what I advised you to do, get rid of the works of
Michelet, Renan, etc.? I think this would give you peace of
mind. However, do not forget the piece by Michelet about the
woman's portrait by Ph. De Champaigne; similarly, do not forget
Renan. But throw away their works. “If you have found
honey, mind that you do not eat too much, and become
disgusted”, you read in the book of Proverbs, or
somewhere like that. Do you know Erckmann-Chatrian: Le
Conscrit, Waterloo, and most of all L'Ami Fritz and
Madame Thérèse? Read these works, if you
can find them. A change of diet stimulates the appetite
(provided that we take care to look for a plain food,
because it is not written for nothing: Give us this day our
daily bread), and the bow cannot always be kept bent.
I hope you will pardon my telling you these things. I know
you are intelligent enough to find them out for yourself. Don't
find everything all right. Learn to distinguish for
yourself between what is relatively good and evil, and
let that feeling show you the way under God's guidance, for
boy, we need God's guidance so much. Look for light and
freedom, and do not ponder too deeply over the evils of the
Write again soon and in a little more detail. My compliments
to everybody, especially to Mr. Tersteeg and family, and be as
happy as you can. À Dieu, believe me always,
Your loving brother, Vincent
At this time, Vincent was 22 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 11 October 1875 in Paris. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 042.
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