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Dear Father and Mother,
You have probably received my telegram, but you will be glad
to hear some more particulars. On the train I wrote down a few
things, and I am sending them to you, so that you will know all
about my journey.
In thought we will stay together today. Which do you think
is better … the joy of meeting or the sorrow of parting?
We have often parted already; this time there was more sorrow
in it than there used to be, but also more courage because of
the firmer hope, the stronger desire, for God's blessing. And
didn't nature seem to share our feelings, everything looked so
grey and dull a few hours ago.
Now I am looking across the vast expanse of meadows, and
everything is very quiet; the sun is disappearing again behind
the grey clouds, but sheds a golden light over the fields.
These first hours after
our parting - which you are spending
in church, and I at the station and on the train - how we are
longing for each other and how we think of the others, of Theo
and Anna and the other little sisters and the brother. Just now
we passed Zevenbergen; I thought of the day you took me there,
1 and I stood on the steps at Mr. Provily's, looking
after your carriage on the wet road; and then of that evening
when my father came to visit me for the first time. And of that
first homecoming at Christmas!
Saturday and Sunday.
On the steamer I thought often of Anna - everything reminded
me of our journey together.
The weather was clear, and the river was especially
beautiful, and also the view, seen from the sea, of the dunes,
dazzling white in the sun. The last I saw of Holland was a
little grey church spire. I stayed on deck until sunset, but
then it became too cold and rough.
At dawn the next morning on the train from Harwich to London
it was beautiful to see the black fields and green meadows with
sheep and lambs and an occasional thornbush and a few large oak
trees with dark twigs and grey moss-covered trunks; the
shimmering blue sky with a few stars still, and a bank of grey
clouds at the horizon. Before sunrise I had already heard the
lark. When we were near the last station before London, the sun
rose. The bank of grey clouds had disappeared and there was the
sun, as simple and grand as ever I saw it, a real Easter sun.
The grass sparkled with dew and night frost. But I still prefer
that grey hour when we parted.
Saturday afternoon I stayed on deck till the sun had set.
The water was fairly dark blue with rather high white-crested
waves as far as one could see. The coast had already
disappeared from sight. The sky was one vast light blue,
without a single little cloud. And the sunset cast a streak of
glittering light on the water. It was indeed a grand and
majestic sight, but still the simpler, quieter things touch one
so much more deeply.
The train for Ramsgate left two hours after I arrived in
London. That is still about four and a half hours by train. It
is a beautiful route; for instance, we passed one part that was
quite hilly. At the base the hills are covered with scanty
grass, and at the top, with oak woods. It reminded me of our
dunes. Between the hills was a village with a grey church
overgrown with ivy like most of the houses. The orchards were
in full bloom and the sky was a light blue with grey and white
We also passed Canterbury, a city with many medieval
buildings, especially a beautiful cathedral, surrounded by old
elm trees. I have often seen pictures of it.
You can imagine, I was looking out the window for Ramsgate a
long time before we got there.
At one o'clock I arrived at Mr. Stokes's; he was not home
but will be back tonight. During his absence his place was
taken by his son (twenty-three years old, I think), a teacher
in London. I saw Mrs. Stokes at dinner. There are twenty-four
boys from ten to fourteen years. (It is a pleasant sight to see
them at their dinner.) So the school is not large. The window
looks out on the sea. After dinner we took a walk out on the
shore; it was very beautiful. The houses on the shore are
mostly built of yellow stone in simple Gothic style, and have
gardens full of cedars and other dark evergreens. There is a
harbour full of ships, shut in between stone jetties on which
one can walk. And then there is the unspoiled sea, and that is
very beautiful. Yesterday everything was grey. In the evening
we went with the boys to church. On the wall of the church was
written: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of
The boys go to bed at eight o'clock, and they rise at
There is another assistant teacher, seventeen years old. He,
four boys and myself sleep in another house near by, where I
have a little room that is waiting for some prints on the
And now enough for today. What happy days we spent together!
Thanks, thanks for everything. Love to all and a handshake
Your loving, Vincent
Thanks for your letters, they arrived just now. I shall
write soon, when I have been here a few days and have seen Mr.
To boarding school.
At this time, Vincent was 23 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to His Parents. Written 14-17 April 1876 in Ramsgate. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 060.
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