Etten, 22 July 1878

My dear Theo,
I’m enclosing a note in the letter from Pa and Ma;1 was glad to hear things are still going well for you there, and that you also continue to enjoy life. How much I’d like to walk with you there.
As Pa has certainly already written to you, Pa and I went to Brussels last week in the company of the Rev. Jones of Isleworth,2 who stayed here over Sunday.3 The impression we brought home from that journey was satisfactory inasmuch as we think that, with time, a place and position can be found there — that the road is most certainly shorter and less expensive than in Holland, and that it’s therefore best to fix our eyes on Belgium and to go on looking there until we find something.
We saw the Flemish training college, it has a 3-year course while, as you know, in Holland the study would take another 6 years at the very least. And one is not even required to complete the training before competing for a place and position as an Evangelist. What is required is the talent to give easy, warm-hearted and popular lectures or speeches to the people, better short and to the point than long and learned. So less attention is paid to great knowledge of ancient languages and much theological study, although everything one knows about such things is a great recommendation, and more consideration is given to one’s suitability for practical work and one’s natural faith. We aren’t there yet, though, first of all because one doesn’t suddenly possess, nor can one acquire it except by much practice, the gift of speaking to the people with earnestness and feeling and without stiffness and forcedness, but naturally and as though constrained by love4 and as a master of his subject matter, knowing how to say what one has to say to the people clearly and understandably, while what one has to say must have meaning and import and strong grounds to whet his listeners’ interest in it, that they shall endeavour to let their affections take root in truth.5 In a word, one must be a lay preacher to succeed over there.  1v:2
Those gentlemen in Brussels wanted me to come there for a period of 3 months to make closer acquaintance, but in the long run this, too, would be costly, and that must be avoided as much as possible. It’s for this reason that at present I shall continue here in Etten to do some work as preparation, going from here from time to time to pay a visit to the Rev. Pieterszen in Mechelen6 or the Rev. De Jonge in Brussels,7 in so doing becoming more closely acquainted with one another.
How long things go on like this depends entirely on what else they’ll say over there. Both Pa and I have just written to them again.
Pa wants me to write, to the best of my ability, a theme or two to have on hand (I’m now busy, for instance, on Rembrandt’s painting ‘The carpenter’s house’ in the Louvre).8
Yesterday Pa had to preach at Zundert, and I went along. The Aunts9 sent you their regards, we also went to C. van Ginneken who, as you’ve probably heard, is going to marry Marie van Mens10 and has bought the Ropsentuin to put a tannery there.11
Was also at Jan Doomen’s,12 who has been suffering a lot from rheumatism in his leg, and complains that he wouldn’t even be able to walk to Breda any more, but it didn’t bother him so much working in the field or the garden, only in the morning the pain drove him to get up very early. Old age is accompanied by ailments, the old Rev. Meijjes13 would say.
What an outstandingly beautiful wood engraving of ‘A young citizen of the year V’ by Jules Goupil14 was recently published in L’Illustration! Have you seen it? Have managed to get hold of one and it’s now hanging on the wall of the little room here where I’m allowed to take up residence, i.e. the classroom15 that looks out on the garden and against which the ivy grows. But regarding that painting, the magazine said this: ‘Eyes that have seen the spectacle of the dreadful guillotine, a mind that has survived all the sights of the Revolution. He is almost surprised to find himself still alive after so many disasters’.16
It was a remarkable presence in art and will continue to have a similar effect on many and continue to make a deep impression on those with a feeling for high art, like a portrait by Fabritius17 or some other rather mystical paintings from the school of Rembrandt.  1v:3
In the evening, when we rode back from Zundert over the heath, Pa and I walked a way, the sun set red behind the pines and the evening sky was reflected in the marshes, the heath and the yellow and white and grey sand were so resonant with tone and atmosphere. You see, there are moments in life when everything, within us too, is peace and atmosphere, and all of life seems to be like a path across the heath, though it isn’t always so.
And this morning Cor, who’s on holiday, and I went to the heath and the pine-wood again, a way past Molenend,18 and went to fetch heather for his rabbits, which are apparently very fond of it, for it’s their natural food for a good part, as well as a thing or two to fill a flower basket. We sat for a while in the pine-wood, and together we drew a map of Etten and its surroundings with the Bremberg and Haansberg and ’t Slagveld and Geestestraat and Sprundel and Het Heike and Hoeven.19
Anna is but poorly, she’s so quiet and sometimes looks so very weak20 — poor sister — it seems to me that it’s better to be well and truly married than to be engaged, and I should sincerely wish for her sake that she were already safely three years or so further along in life — may God spare her and protect her from all evil, He about Whom it is written that He is our Keeper and our Shade upon our right hand.21
Would you give my warm regards to Soek and all his family (if you happen to go there), also to Frans Braat and Ernest22 and the others if the opportunity should arise? I think about you a lot and am so glad that things are going well for you and that you’re finding things over there that stimulate you and are, as it were, good food for the true life. That too is high art, as are the works of those who work with their heart and with their mind and spirit, just as so many you know and will perhaps meet personally, whose words and works are spirit and life.23 That you too, and, if possible, all of us may become more and more rooted and grounded24 in that same principle, so that our affections take root in truth, this is wished you with a hearty handshake in thought by

Your most loving brother


Br. 1990: 144 | CL: 123
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Etten, Monday, 22 July 1878

1. Vincent had meanwhile gone back to Etten to live with his parents. Mr van Gogh also wrote to Theo on 22 July (FR b985); Mrs van Gogh’s letter had already been written on Thursday, 18 July (FR b995).
2. During Mr van Gogh’s visit to Brussels on 16 and 17 July, the possibility of finding a place for Vincent at the Flemish training college for evangelists was discussed. This college, which had been founded in 1875, was located at Sint Katelijneplein 9. See Fagel, ‘Van Gogh in Brussel’, pp. 23-27; Verzamelde brieven 1973, vol. 1, pp. 180-182 and Lutjeharms 1978. Mr van Gogh had, incidentally, done some preliminary spadework, having corresponded in June with the Rev. Hendrik van den Brink at Roeselare (FR b981, b982 and b997); this was the same Van den Brink in whose house Theo had been a lodger at the beginning of 1873 (see letters 3 and 9). Mr van Gogh’s letter, which was enclosed with Vincent’s, gave Theo a detailed and illuminating account of the visit: ‘I recently sent you a postcard saying that I would be going with Vincent to Brussels. We were there last Tuesday and Wednesday, and spoke to and visited a great many people. We have determined that, with payment from us for his keep, we shall embark on a trial period of three months to see if there is a chance of his succeeding. Vincent spoke perfectly well, and I believe he made a good impression. His stay abroad, and the last year in Amsterdam, have not been wholly fruitless, and he does manage, if he opens up, to give proof that he has already learned and observed much in the school of life. Meanwhile the matter of evangelization in Belgium cannot yet count on permanent funds, but is mostly begun and continued in faith. In general, however, when funds were necessary, they were not lacking.
The Rev. Pieterszen of Mechelen joined us there and took us to see the Rev. de Jonge in Brussels, who had invited us to stay with him. But because the annual fair was taking place in his neighbourhood and there was a chance that we wouldn’t be able to sleep at night because of the noise in the street, he found us accommodation with an elder of the congregation, a certain Mr Geerling, Architect. A most delightful family who received us so cordially.
Evangelists in Belgium are not required to obtain a certain degree or qualification after earlier training, but can be appointed if they give proof of suitability. It was nice that we were accompanied by the Rev. Jones, for whom Vincent had worked in England. He came to visit us the previous Saturday and stayed until Tuesday, at which time he went with us to Brussels. He’s a kind man who made a good impression on all of us. In Brussels he also spoke well on Vincent’s behalf and his very presence meant that these matters were usually discussed in English, which gave Vincent the opportunity to show that he spoke it readily and correctly, for which he received a pat on the back. We are now waiting for a letter with details of when and how, after which he will begin.
May there be something for him. It seems, after all, that he has a certain vocation for this kind of work, though I pointed out all the dark sides to him. But he remains adamant’ (FR b985, 22 July). Cf. Hulsker 1974-1, pp. 31-32.
3. That Sunday was therefore 14 July 1878.
a. A strong motive, strong grounds.
5. Probably an allusion to Eph. 3:17, ‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love’ (see also ll. 95-96).
6. From 1870 to 1879 the Rev. Abraham van der Waeyen Pieterszen was a preacher-evangelist in Mechelen and Louvain; he was one of the founders of the training college and was a member of the Evangelisatie-Comité, as was the above-mentioned Rev. H. van den Brink.
7. The Dutch clergyman Nicolaas de Jonge was the head of the Flemish training college in Brussels. Since May 1874 he had been attached to the Vlaamsch-Hollandsch-Evangelische (Flemish-Dutch-Evangelical) Church in Brussels. See J.J.P. Valeton Jr, N. de Jonge in zijn leven en werken. Brussels 1889; H.J. Lutjeharms, ‘Abraham van der Waeyen Pieterszen. Kunstschilder, evangelist, predikant’, Vereniging voor de geschiedenis van het Belgisch protestantisme 5-4 (1969), pp. 131-144; and Lutjeharms 1978.
8. Rembrandt, The carpenter’s house, also known as The holy family (The carpenter’s family), 1640 (Paris, Musée du Louvre). Ill. 354 [354]. The estate contains a print after the painting (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, t*734).
9. The ‘aunts’ at Zundert: Elisabeth Petronella and Louisa Christina van der Burg.
10. The tanner – later tree-nurseryman – Charles van Ginneken married Maria (Marie) Johanna Geertruida van Mens on 8 October 1879. Van Ginneken had been Vincent’s classmate at the village school in Zundert. The families of the doctor Cornelis van Ginneken and the notary Franciscus van Mens belonged to the best-placed families of Zundert. RAW and Kools 1990, pp. 83, 99, 133-134.
11. The ‘Ropsentuin’ was farmland on the present-day triangle formed by Bredaseweg, Meirseweg and Auvers-sur-Oisestraat. It was named after Hendrik Rops, its former owner. After his death, part of the land was sold to Charles van Ginneken, who – together with his brother Willem – operated a tannery located at Molenstraat 47. In 1878, Charles bought the rest of the land and had a private house, ‘Villa Wilhelmina’, built on it (now Markt 24 (formerly no. 23) in Zundert). See Janus Mertens and Jan Pinxteren, Het Land aan de Breede AA 7 (April 1997), no. 12 (Heemkundekring Zundert-Rijsbergen), p. 31 (with ill.).
14. Jules Goupil, Un jeune citoyen de l’an v (A young citizen of the year v), engraved by Stéphane Pannemaker, in L’Illustration 71 (27 April 1878), p. 265. The estate contains a copy with thumb-tack holes. Ill. 887 [887]. (t* 708).
15. Next to the parsonage was an annexe, which was called the ‘classroom’ because the Rev. Peaux (Mr van Gogh’s predecessor) had used it as a nursery. See FR b988 and Stokvis 1926, p. 21. According to Mrs van Gogh, Vincent was ‘very happily installed with prints on the wall, a cupboard, a bed and washbasin, and table and chairs’ (FR b995, 18 July 1878).
16. The quotation is based on the text in L’Illustration (see n. 14 above): ‘Eyes that have not been moved by the spectacle of the fearful guillotine, a thought which, cold and listless, has survived all the scenes of the Revolution ... He is indeed one of those men depicted for us by contemporary memoirs, almost amazed at finding themselves alive on the morrow of so many catastrophes’. (Un regard que n’a pas ému le spectacle de l’affreuse guillotine, une pensée qui a survécu, froide et languissante, à toutes les scènes de la Révolution ... il est bien de ceux que nous peignent les mémoires contemporains, presque étonnés de se trouver encore vivants au lendemain de tant de catastrophes) (p. 271).
17. Carel Fabritius. The brothers knew Fabritius’s self-portrait (see letter 155, n. 18.)
18. Moleneind is a street in Etten (in district C).
19. See the letter sketch Map of Etten and environs (F - / JH -).
The information given after the names on the map was taken from the civil registration records from 1870 to 1889, and from the district maps of Etten and Leur of the Regional Archives of West-Brabant (RAW). The persons mentioned belonged to the Protestant community of Etten. Four of them lived in houses belonging to the Maatschappij van Welstand (Welfare Society). Several of these people are to be seen in a photograph dating from 1915 (see Nico van Wageningen, De Boerenhoek. Geschiedenis van het protestantisme in Etten. Etten-Leur 1985, pp. 62-63, 75). With thanks to Cor Kerstens at Etten-Leur for his help in identifying these people.

The text Van Gogh wrote on it is in italics.

[1] Schuitemaker / Schuitemaker / Cornelis Schuitemaker (1813-1884), married to Johanna van Peer (1812-1887), living at Luie Hoek A 274, next to Sprundel and Sint Willebrord.
[2] 't Heike / Het Heike
[3] de Hoeve / Hoeven
[4] naar Oudenbosch / to Oudenbosch
[5] De Jong (landmeter) / De Jong (surveyor) / The surveyor Cornelis de Jonge (1837-after 1881), married to Trijntje Poldermans (1838-?), living at Moleneind B 38 in Hoeven (on the municipality’s border with Etten).
[6] Frans van Put / Frans van Put / The farmer Frans Cornelis van der Put (1843-1906), Lage Donk K 51. On 9 May 1875 he married the farm-woman Anna Gelijns (1847-?). At the time this map was made, they had one son: Frans (1876). Frans Cornelis van der Put’s father was Frans van der Put [43].
[7] Geleens / Geleens /Frans Cornelis van der Put probably moved shortly after his marriage to the house of his parents-in-law at Lage Donk K 51. Johannes Gelijns (1820-1875) died on 7 April, one month before this marriage. His daughters Anna (1847), Maria (1848), Willemijna (1853), Johanna (1857) and Elisabeth (1858) were also registered as living at this address; the first three as ‘farm-women’. The farmer Lambregt Gelijns (1812-1885) lived at Lage Donk K 55.
[8] Lage Donk naar Zevenbergen / Lage Donk to Zevenbergen
[9] Sprundel / Sprundel
[10] Marechaussées / Marechaussées (military police)
[11] Binnenweg naar de Hoeve. / By-road to Hoeven
[12] Weg naar de Hoeve / Road to Hoeven
[13] Nil [or Nel] v. Eekelen. / Nil (or Nel) v. Eekelen / If the Christian name is in fact Nil, this person could be the farmer Jan Cornelis van Eekelen (1837-1918); in the case of Nel, it could be Cornelia van Eekelen (1850-1923). Both are recorded as farmers living at Bankenstraat I 104.
[14] Bankenstraat. / Bankenstraat
[15] Lam v. Eekelen / Lam v. Eekelen / Lambregt van Eekelen (1845-1912), Geerstraat I 83.
[16] Kees v. Eekelen / Kees v. Eekelen / Cornelis van Eekelen (1833-1879), farmer, Geerstraat I 82.
[17] naar de heide & Zundert / to the heath and Zundert
[18] naar Rijsbergen / to Rijsbergen
[19] Döritz / Döritz / The family of Karel Willem (Wilhelm) Doelitzsch (1830-1908), born in Saxony and without profession, married to Adelaida Paulina Ellinga (1832-?). They had two daughters and two sons. Dorp A 120.
[20] School / School
[21] Klaas / Klaas / The carpenter Johan Daniël Claas (1833-1906), married to Gerardine Catharina van Aken (1832-1888), living at Dorp A 187.
[22] Raat / Raat / Possibly Anna Cornelia Boot (1822-?), widow of Adriaan van Raak (1813-1873), Dorp A 65.
[23] Jan Kerst / Jan Kerst / The farmer Joannes Kerstens (1840-1900), Haansberg I 74. He is the son of Cornelis [26] and was married to Maria Cornelia van Uijthoven (1852-1911).
[24] Slikgat / Slikgat
[25] Haansberg / Haansberg
[26] Kerst / Kerst / The farmer Cornelis Kerstens (1806-1886), living at the corner of Goorstraat and Haansberg I 34, on a farm belonging to the Maatschappij van Welstand (Welfare Society). He was married to Joanna Maria Sagius (1819-1903).
[27] Ko van Put / Ko van Put / The farmer Jacobus van der Put (1836-1911) was married to the farm-woman Cornelia Bakker (1834-?). They lived at Haansberg I 66 (now Haansberg 41) and had a daughter called Francijna Cornelia (1874) and a son named Jacobus (1877). Also living with them were several children from Cornelia Bakker’s previous marriage to Rombout van Eekelen. Jacobus’s father was Frans van der Put [43].
[28] Willem v. Eekelen / Willem v. Eekelen / The farmer Willem van Eekelen (1808-1887), married to Maria van Eekelen (1806-1884) and living at Haansberg I 61.
[29] Geestestraat / Geestestraat / Probably meant to be Geerstraat.
[30] Kerst / Kerst / Cornelis Kerstens (1806-1881), married to Maria Hendrikx (1804-?), living at Geerstraat I 86.
[31] Dries Oostenrijk / Dries Oostenrijk / Driver and church organist Johannes Andries Oostrijck (1843-1888), widower since 28 February 1878 of Cornelia Verhoeven (1832-1878), lived with his father, Johannes Oostrijck (1804-1880), and his sisters Marie (1832) and Cornelia (1846) at Dorp, A 142. He remarried Cornelia Kaufmann (1850-?). It is not clear when his brother-in-law Arie Schuurwater [48] came to live with them.
[32] Johanna / Johanna / The farm-woman Johanna Claas (1827-1898) was married to the farmer, shopkeeper and elder Lambrecht Oostrijck (1836-1903); they lived with their sons Johannes Andries (1870-1944) and Jacob Benjamin (1875-1956) at Dorp A 141.
[33] Dien Klaas / Dien Klaas / The seamstress and cap-maker Gerardina (Dien) Maria Claas (1840-1922), married to the carpenter Alexander de Graaf (1848-1938), who was the sexton of the Nederlands Hervormde (Dutch Reformed) Church. He stood model for Man with a saw (F 878 / JH 16). See Stokvis 1926, pp. 9, 19. They lived with her mother, Johanna Oostrijck (1798-1881), sextoness, and their two sons Reinier (1875) and Jacob (1876), at Dorp A 142.
[34] Breda / Breda / This perhaps refers to the ‘maker of fretwork’ Jacobus van Breda (1801-1879), widower of Adriana Leeflang (1789-1874), at Dorp A 143. Living at this address later on were the carpenter Servaas van Breda (1810-1888), his wife Adriana de Visser (1809-?), their daughters Elisabeth (1847) and Maria Wilhelmina (1849) and their son Marinus Wilhelmus (1853), who was registered as living at Dorp A 150 before their move. Andries van Breda and his wife Anna Maria van Eekelen, Dorp A 153 had died by 1878.
[35] Lips / Lips / The carpenter Marinus Lips (1848-1921), married to the farm-woman Cornelia Oostrijck (1846-?), living at Dorp A 173a. They had three children: Jacobus (1873), Johannes Cornelis (1875) and Maria Leentje (1877).
[36] Kaufman. / Kaufman / The farmer Cornelis Kaufmann (1817-1902), married to Catharina Gelijns (1821-1906) and their son Piet Kaufmann (1864-1940), Leurse weg, Dorp A 102. For Piet Kaufmann, see also letters 170 and 172.
[37] Station / Station
[38] Hackstroo / Hackstroo / Stationmaster Marinus Hackstroh (1830-1901), married to Elisabeth Clara de Bock (1827-after 1895). They lived at Baai F 25. See also letter 138.
[39] Prins (Piet) / Prins (Piet) / The labourer – later railway employee – Pieter Prins (1851-1892), married to Tanneke van Eekelen (1854-?), living at Baai F 26. Brother of Adam Prins [47].
[40] Slagveld / Slagveld
[41] Marinus v Eekelen / Marinus v Eekelen / The farmer Marijn van Eekelen (1821-1888), married to Francijna van Eekelen (1831-?), Slikgat I 64.
[42] Zure of oude Lam v Eekelen / Sour or old Lam v. Eekelen / The farmer Lambregt van Eekelen (1809-1894), married to Willemijna Kerstens (1811-1894), Slikgat I 65.
[43] Oude van Put / Old van Put / The farmer Frans Adriaan van der Put (1798-1882), who lived at Sander I 56. He was the widower of Cornelia Kerstens and had six sons: Hendrik (1831), Servaas (1834), Jacobus [27], Johannes (1838), Lambregt (1840) and Frans [6].
[44] Dirk Kerst / Dirk Kerst / The farmer Dirk Kerstens (1834-1896), married to Catharina van Eekelen (1833-1913), Slagveld F 44.
[45] Ko v. Eekelen / Ko v. Eekelen / The farmer Jacobus van Eekelen (1821-1895), married to Cornelia Brouwers (1834-1909), Slagveld F 43.
[46] Willem de Bakker / Willem de Bakker / The veterinary Willem de Bakker (1822-1880), Slagveld F 49.
[47] Prins (Adam) / Prins (Adam) / The labourer Adam Prins (1839-1892), married to Catharina Kaufman (1844-1927), Slagveld F 52. Brother of Piet Prins [39].
[48] Schuurwater / Schuurwater / The farmer Arie Schuurwater (1822-1915), married to Maria Oostrijck (1832-1910), living since 27 November 1877 at Dorp A 154b.
[49] naar de Leur / to Leur
[50] Lips / Lips / The farmer Willem Lips (1842-1907), married to Adriana Johanna Kerstens (1840-?), living at Bremberg, G 10, a farm belonging to the Maatschappij van Welstand (Welfare Society).
[51] Bremberg / Bremberg
[52] de Leur / Leur
[53] naar Prinsenhage / to Princenhage

Brother Cor wrote on it: ‘Dit hebben Vincent en ik in ’t mastbosch gemaakt / van Cor / Ik moet naar bed, goeden nacht.’ (Vincent and I did this in the pine wood, from Cor. I must go to bed, good night.)
20. Anna had been ill for some time; she was listless and suffered from stomach pains. Joan van Houten had meanwhile consulted a professor (FR b982, 23 June). Anna remained in Etten until her marriage on 22 August.
22. This Ernest has not been identified; he was probably someone in Goupil’s circle.