Thanks for your letter and for the church certificate. It is
a pity you were not in Etten at Whitsuntide: I certainly hope
you will be able to go some other Sunday. Was it easy to get
that certificate? Thanks for the trouble.
Yesterday morning, I went to church; in the sermon was the
text: “I quarrel eternally with mankind,” I heard
an explanation that after a period of disappointment and pain,
one gets to a time of life where our fervent desires and wishes
are fulfilled at a stroke. At ten o'clock in the morning I
heard Uncle Stricker speak on Acts 2:1-4 - a very fine,
sincere, warm sermon. This morning I am going to hear Uncle
again; I must go now, and when I come back I will write you
what the text was.
It is rainy today, and it was a long walk along the
Buitenkant to the North Church. Near the Schreyers tower, where
there is a view of the Ij, the city looked like a picture by J.
Maris. The text was I Corinthians 12:13: “For by one
Spirit are we all baptized into one body.”
There are some beautiful churches here. This week I walked
to the Zuider Zee; along the dike to Zeeburg, one passes the
Jewish churchyard, and I visited it. It is very simple, full of
elderberry trees and old headstones with Hebrew inscriptions;
occasionally the latter are covered with high dark-green
Yesterday (Sunday) afternoon I went to Baarn 1
with Uncle Jan. How beautiful it is there! We walked through
the avenues of pine trees and beeches in the wood, and saw the
sun set behind a coppice. You can imagine how beautiful the
wharf and the docks and the banks of the Ij are in the evening;
for instance, yesterday when we came home, there was such a
delightful smell of tar, it reminded me of the pine woods.
Do you know that old English engraving, “The Vicar's
Daughter,” which hangs at Uncle Cor's? I was struck by it
yesterday; look at it when you go to Baarn someday. Its mood
reminds one of “Die Abendglocke” [The Curfew].
This morning, I glimpsed at church a little old woman,
probably the chair-renter, who made me think of the etching by
Rembrandt where there is a sleeping woman, her head resting in
her hand, after a reading of the Bible. Ch. Blanc has said
really well, and with a lot of truth, like Michelet, if my
memory serves me correctly: There is no such thing as an old
woman. There is also a poem by Genestet :
“She ends her life alone.”
Do you think we too shall be at the evening of our life
before we know it, so to speak? If we feel the days are flying
past us faster and faster, it sometimes does me good to believe
so and to remember that l'homme s'agite et Dieu le mène.
[Man proposes and God disposes.]
Did you have to go to the office in the mornings during
Whitsuntide? I hope you still had a good time.
Last night I was at Uncle Stricker's, where it was very
pleasant. I came home after eleven and sat down to write until
twelve; how I wish we could visit here and there together - I
wish you had been with us last night. Write soon if you have a
Again I have lots of work this morning; I tell you that it
is not easy and that it will get more and more difficult;
nevertheless, I hope to succeed, and I am also convinced that
the habit of study will come to me through practice, and that
my work will improve and become more thorough. I am engrossed
in the study of the Bible, but only in the evenings, when my
day's labours are done, or in the early morning - after all, it
is the Bible that is essential - although it is my duty of
devote myself to my other studies, which I do not neglect.
Before I went to Stricker's I just stepped in the
Trippenhuis to look at some of the pictures. You know which.
Well, Theo, give my regards to the friends you may meet, write
soon, be as happy as possible, a firm handshake from
Your loving brother, Vincent
Twenty miles from Amsterdam, where Uncle Cor had his
At this time, Vincent was 24 year old
Vincent van Gogh. Letter to Theo van Gogh. Written 21-22 May 1877 in Amsterdam. Translated by Mrs. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, edited by Robert Harrison, number 096.
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