London, April 1875

My dear Theo,
I’m sending you herewith a small drawing. I made it last Sunday, the morning a daughter (13 years old) of my landlady died.1
It’s a view of Streatham Common,2 a large, grass-covered area with oak trees and broom.
It had rained in the night, and the ground was soggy here and there and the young spring grass fresh and green.
As you see, it’s scribbled on the title page of the ‘Poesies d’Edmond Roche’.3
There are beautiful ones among them, serious and  1v:2 sad, including one that begins and ends

Sad and alone, I climbed the sad, bare dune,
Where the sea keens its ceaseless moaning plaint,
The dune where dies the wide unfurling wave,
Drab path that winds and winds upon itself again.4

and another, ‘Calais’

How I love to see you once again, o my native town,
Dear sea nymph seated at the waters’ edge!
I love the soaring spire of your bell-tower,
Lovely in its boldness and its elegance,
Its fretted cupola, through which we see the sky.5

You’ll probably be curious about what goes with the etching by Corot6 and so I’ve copied that out as well.

The pond
to Corot

We watched the pond, its water leaden, drear,
Form crease upon crease slowly in the breeze,
And the mud, enfolding in a softened line
The prow and black sides of a boat aground;

The woods’ high crown, leaf by fallen leaf,
Lay strewn upon the ground; the sky was filled with mist;
We two, in whispers, almost furtively,
Were sadly saying, ‘Summer’s past:

These slopes have lost their accustomed grace;
No more green foliage, no more golden light
Trembling in the trembling water or touching tops with gold!’

This idyll may yet come before our eyes again,
If you would have it so: are you not the master
Who re-created it after its first creator’s hand?


Warm regards, and I wish you the best. Adieu



Br. 1990: 032 | CL: 25
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: London, between Tuesday, 13 and Sunday, 18 April 1875

1. Elizabeth Parker, the daughter of Mr and Mrs John Parker, with whom Van Gogh boarded in Kennington, died on Sunday, 11 April of pneumonia. See Bailey 1990, p. 54.
2. In south London.
3. The poetry of Edmond Roche was published in Poésies posthumes. Paris 1863 (with a preface by M. Victorien Sardou, and etchings). The copy containing Van Gogh’s little drawing is not known.
4. The poem ‘La dune’ consists of two parts, both of which begin with the stanza quoted. Van Gogh says that the poem ‘begins and ends’ with this stanza, but he must have been misled by the page layout (see Roche 1863, pp. 48-50). Its first and last lines are conflated to form the last two lines of the poem’s final stanza.
5. Van Gogh quotes lines 1-2 and 9-11 from the poem ‘Calais (fragment)’. See Roche 1863, pp. 67-68.
6. The etching Ville-d’Avray: L’étang au batelier (Ville d’Avray: The pond with boatman), 1862, serves as an illustration to the poem ‘L’étang’ in Roche’s Poésies posthumes (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. p290 M/1977). Ill. 1704 [1704]. See Robaut 1965, vol. 2, pp. 102-103, cat. no. 3125.
7. Roche 1863, p. 99 (with several small variations). Ville-d’Avray is where Corot painted in his younger years.