My dear friend Rappard,
Thanks for your letter of this morning. It pleases me, and indeed I expected no less of you, that you’ve taken the things I told you kind-heartedly.1 When I have an opportunity to give you further details that will make the circumstances clearer, you won’t, I hope, have to alter your opinion that I acted honestly and in good faith. I am dealing with a woman who had one foot in the grave when I met her, and was shocked and disorientated in her mind and nervous system. Her only chance of surviving, according to the professor in Leiden, was to lead a well-ordered, domestic life. And even then it will take years before she’s completely normal. As to her life, I believe that, like me, you don’t condemn fallen women. Frank Holl expressed that once in a drawing that hasn’t been reproduced as far as I know — he called the drawing: her poverty but not her will consents.2
My dear friend, at present I recall no less than 4 women here in town (including my own) who have fallen or been deceived and have illegitimate children, and their fate is so sad that it’s difficult to imagine. Especially because for 3 of them, at least, the chance of pulling through is almost non-existent — i.e. it’s there in theory but not in practice, in my view.
Something I should add is that I don’t consider my relationship with the woman in question to be ephemeral in nature but for ever.3 My words about disappointment in the past are based on something that I don’t speak of — at any rate not now. However — it’s only fair I should tell you this much — — suppose someone experiences a disappointment through wounded love so deep that he’s calmly desperate and desolate — such a condition is possible and is something like white-hot steel or iron. To feel that one is irrevocably and absolutely disappointed, and to carry the awareness of that in one like a mortal, or at least irreparable, wound, and to still go about one’s business with an impassive face.  1v:2
Would you find it inexplicable if someone in this state met someone else who was deeply unhappy, and perhaps also irreparably unhappy, and felt a special sympathy, quite unwittingly and without himself seeking it? And if this sympathy or love or tie, arising from chance as it were, were nonetheless strong and remained so? If ‘love’ is dead, couldn’t ‘charity’ then be alive and well?
Now forgive me for talking about the woodcuts. The daily work is a thing that doesn’t change, and becoming absorbed in that isn’t as dangerous as looking into the unfathomable.
I’ve found a fine Jacque, woodcutters4 (unfortunately coloured in with a child’s box of paints, but I washed most of it off). It’s a very beautiful sheet.
Two Daumiers. Meeting of those who have seen a tragedy and those who have seen a vaudeville — and art lovers.5
Two women (one with a child) who are sitting talking, by Oberländer, and also by him two old men who appear to be dealing with abstruse official business.6 Both extraordinarily real. The figures are rather smaller than most heads by Oberländer.
Beautiful Edmond Morins, especially the chestnut trees in the Champs Elysées and a boat race and Vintage.7
John Lewis Brown, Hunters in the woods.8
The falling of the leaves by G. Doré,9 a very old Doré, done roughly but very good in sentiment.
Gypsies by Valério.10
Renouard, Beggars on New Year’s Day.11
These are some of the new prints.
I’m glad that you took the Harper’s Xmas papers, that publication may also be too good to last.12 Aren’t the Winter girl13 and Dutch Patrol by Abbey14 beautiful? Judging by them, you’ll understand that the large print, Xmas in Old Virginia by him, is extraordinary. Swain engraved it in such a way that it has remained just like a pen drawing15 — it doesn’t look cut at all, nor does the Brighton promenade by Caldecott16 — which I believe you have.  1v:3
I know Harper’s Magazine from a few old issues I have. I too am thinking of taking this year’s, but towards the end of the year there may be a chance of finding it second-hand.
By the way, I’m in correspondence about the way in which the sheets like those in the Xmas papers are done.17 I have samples of the paper and some information regarding the strengths of black and white, and how they can be obtained. That paper is most curious: it sometimes has a kind of basic colour and grain that’s like a grey mist — it lends itself perfectly to snow effects, for example. There’s also paper with hatchings.
I still have a beautiful print by Dagnan, Jardin des Tuileries,18 and one by Montbard, Arab beggars,19 for you, and certainly smaller ones too, over and above the duplicates from The Graphic. Before your illness you wrote that you had two ladies in a boat by Heilbuth20 in duplicate. I lack that one (although I have other large Heilbuths) and am just reminding you.
I don’t remember whether I’ve already written to you about
Old Christmas from  Washington  Irvings  Sketchbook  ill. by   Caldecott.
Bracebridge Hall
Two books at sixpence apiece, published by Macmillan & Co. London.
In each a hundred small drawings, which are by Caldecott21 but are sometimes so beautiful that one thinks of Menzel.
When there’s an opportunity, I’d like to know what the subject is of Degroux, Winter in Brussels.22
Have I already written to you about Lhermitte? He seems to be the boss of Black and White drawings; they say of him ‘he is the Millet and Jules Breton in Black and White’. One review talked about women saying their prayers on the cliffs of Brittany, a paupers’ pew and an old market and so on.23  1r:4
Although as a result of taking in the woman and her two children I experienced some unpleasantness, rather nasty in fact, I still found a certain calm and serenity through this meeting. And worked hard this winter. Had some very real models.
At the moment I’m not working very hard, for after slogging away almost without pause or rest for several months, mainly on heads, I felt a kind of weakness or fatigue that I couldn’t overcome. In my eyes, too, so that even looking was an effort. In the past few days I’ve done a lot of walking out of doors and not much drawing, and my eyes are back to normal now.
I believe I have one hundred and fifty studies you haven’t yet seen.
The changes in the house have made me work not less but more, I’ve even worked in a kind of fury, but a calm fury, if you’ll permit me to put it like that. Also went back to literature again, which I had given up for a while.
I believe you’d be very taken with the little child — those who abandon a woman when she’s pregnant don’t know what they’re doing. A child brings a ‘ray from on high’,24 so to speak, into a house. And as for the woman herself, do you remember what Gavarni said? ‘There is an insupportable, silly and ill-natured creature — that is the young girl; there is a sublime and devoted creature — that is that girl when she has become a mother.’25 This isn’t intended, I believe, to brand all young women or girls absolutely (that goes without saying), but to show forcefully how something vain in a woman before she’s a mother is replaced by something sublime later, when she toils for her children.
I saw a figure by Paterson in The Graphic, an illustration for 93 by Hugo, called Dolorosa.26
And that struck me because of the resemblance to the woman as I found her. There was a scene in the same book where someone, despite being a hard, proud man, was suddenly touched by two children who were in danger. And though selfish by nature, he forgot the danger to himself and saved the children.27 One never finds oneself exactly in a book, only some things from nature in general that one finds vague and ill-defined in one’s own heart. I find much that is true in The haunted man by Dickens.28 Do you know it? Neither in 93 nor in The haunted man do I find myself exactly — everything is quite different, sometimes turned round, but much of what I felt is awakened when I read it. Adieu, with a handshake.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 311 | CL: R21
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Anthon van Rappard
Date: The Hague, on or about Thursday, 8 February 1883

1. Van Gogh had written candidly to Van Rappard about the fact that he was living with Sien: see letter 307.
2. Francis Montague Holl, Want: Her poverty, but not her will, consents, in The Art Journal, NS, vol. 15. London 1876, p. 10. Ill. 944 [944]. The print shows a woman hesitantly pawning her wedding ring while the pawnbroker and his clerk look on pityingly. Cf. exhib. cat. Manchester 1987, p. 78.
3. An allusion to Van Gogh’s rejection by Kee Vos and his disappointment over the affair; see letters 179 ff.
4. The title is too general for the print to be identified; for a similar work compare, for example, Charles Emile Jacque’s Les ramasseurs de traînes (The wood gatherers) (1851), engraved by Adrien Lavieille, in Le Magasin Pittoresque 19 (December 1851), p. 397. Ill. 992 [992].
5. Although Van Gogh gives two French titles here, he means Daumier’s Het uitgaan van de schouwburgen (Leaving the theatres) with the caption ‘Die een drama gezien hebben. Die een Vaudeville gezien hebben’ (Those who have seen a tragedy. Those who have seen a vaudeville), and Kunstkenners op een tentoonstelling (Art lovers at an exhibition) both engraved by Charles Maurand, published in De Hollandsche Illustratie 1 (1864-1865), second half, no. 12, p. 96 and De Hollandsche Illustratie 5 (1868-1869), NS, third volume, no. 7, p. 51 respectively. Both are in the estate. Ill. 52 [52] and Ill. 49 [49] (t*1055 and t*8). The gallicized titles would have been made up by Van Gogh himself (cf. n. 9 below). Cf. Bouvy 1995, cat. nos. 922, 940.
[52] [49]
6. Numerous illustrations by Adam Adolf Oberländer appeared in the Fliegende Blätter, published from 1863 by Braun & Schneider (Munich). The descriptions could fit Lumpen-Stolz (Proud about rags) and Das Mutterauge (Mother’s eye), in Fliegende Blätter 62 (1875), no. 1555, p. 148 and 71 (1879), no. 1787, p. 135. Ill. 1205 [1205] and Ill. 1206 [1206].
[1205] [1206]
De wijnoogst (The vintage), engraved by Pierre Verdeil, in De Hollandsche Illustratie 5 (1868-1869), NS, third volume, no. 12, p. 92. Ill. 1181 [1181].
[1923] [1922] [1181]
8. John Lewis Brown painted many hunting scenes and there are various works that match the title given, such as Chasseurs en forêt (Hunters in the woods). The print is no longer in the estate – cf. for this type of scene Brown’s Le dernier relais (The last staging-post) published by Goupil (no. 897) (Paris, BNF, Cabinet des Estampes). Ill. 653 [653].
9. Gustave Doré, Het vallen der bladeren (The falling of the leaves) in De Hollandsche Illustratie 5 (1868-1869), NS, third volume, no. 15, p. 120. Ill. 784 [784]. Van Gogh again translated the title into French himself (cf. n. 5 above).
10. Théodore Valério travelled through the Balkans and Hungary, where he made portraits of many beggars, vagrants and gypsies. Van Gogh had the print Among the gypsies, engraved by Blanpain and published in The Graphic 21 (13 March 1880), p. 276 (t*337), but it is not clear whether Valério was the maker. His illustrations to accounts of travels also appeared in Le Tour du Monde (in 1870 en 1877 and other years).
11. Paul Renouard, Les mendiants du jour de l’an (The beggars on New Year’s Day) in Le Monde Illustré 26 (7 January 1882), p. 13 (with 17 figures) and p. 16 (with eight figures). Both sheets are in the estate. Ill. 392 [392] and Ill. 2058 [2058]. (t*200 and t*742).
[392] [2058]
12. A phrase also found in letter 305 to Theo.
14. Abbey did two illustrations [2019] [2020] for the poem ‘The Dutch patrol’: see letter 295, n. 4.
16. Caldecott’s Brighton promenade is very probably Afternoon in King’s road [669]: see letters 276, n. 9 and 354, n. 9.
17. ‘Being in correspondence’ must refer to the information that Theo had asked Félix Hilaire Buhot for on Vincent’s behalf; there are no indications that Vincent himself corresponded with Buhot. Cf. letter 280, n. 8, and letter 290.
20. Ferdinand Heilbuth, Beau temps (Fine weather), engraved by Charles Baude, in Le Monde Illustré 25 (17 December 1881), p. 385. Ill. 928 [928]. Stéphane Pannemaker fils made a similar but larger engraving for L’Illustration 79 (24 June 1882), pp. 418-419.
21. Old Christmas from the sketchbook of Washington Irving and Bracebridge Hall from the sketchbook of Washington Irving, illustrated by Randolph Caldecott and published by Macmillan & Co., London, both appeared in 1882 with the subtitle From Washington Irving’s sketchbook. (In letter 316 Van Gogh says he has bought a ‘new’ edition, by which he must mean this sixpenny edition.) These books by Washington Irving have only 36 and 48 pages. The title pages state ‘one hundred and twenty illustrations’ and ‘upwards of one hundred illustrations’ respectively, which were engraved by James Davis Cooper. See Bracebridge Hall. Ed. London 1887, p. 96 (Ill. 2059 [2059]) and Old Christmas. Ed. London 1886, p. 67 (Ill. 2060 [2060]). Macmillan exploited these works by issuing various, often cheap, editions (see those in The British Library in London). Cf. Rodney K. Engen, Randolph Caldecott. ‘Lord of the nursery’. London 1988, esp. pp. 7-24, 97.
In Old Christmas (1819) an American meets his old travel companion Bracebridge, who invites him to his father’s country house for Christmas. The stay with the aristocratic family is described satirically. In Bracebridge Hall (1822) an American again visits the estate, this time for a wedding. The festivities and the life of the aristocracy, ‘a lingering specimen of the old English country gentlemen and their traits, which appear to the writer to be national’ are described.
[2059] [2060]
22. Several works by Charles Degroux may be the one referred to: Een winters tafereel of De koffietrommel (A winter scene, or The coffee tin), 1857 (Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten), Ill. 142 [142]; Een winters tafereel (A winter scene) (private collection) and Winter (Winter) (present whereabouts unknown). See exhib. cat. Ypres 1995, pp. 84-87, cat. nos. 29-30, 38.
23. For this review, see letter 307, n. 4 and for the first drawing mentioned, Une procession à Mont-Saint-Père [221] (A procession at Mont-Saint-Père) letter 308, n. 5. The two other drawings are Léon Augustin Lhermitte’s Pèlerinage à la Vierge de Kersaint (Pilgrimage to the Virgin of Kersaint) (present whereabouts unknown), no. 259 (Ill. 210 [210]) and Un coin d’une place de marché en Bretagne (A corner of a marketplace in Brittany) (present whereabouts unknown), no. 194. For Pèlerinage à la Vierge de Kersaint, see Le Pelley Fonteny 1991, p. 442, cat. no. 674.
[221] [210]
25. The Goncourt brothers recorded this pronouncement by Gavarni in Gavarni, l’homme et l’oeuvre as follows: ‘There’s a flirtatious, silly, unbearable, empty, hollow woman: that’s a young girl; there’s a tall, beautiful, devoted being: that is that young girl when she has become a mother. There would be a superb play to be made about that transfiguration and that antithesis’ (Il y a une femme coquette, bête, insupportable, vide, creuse: c’est la jeune fille; il y a un être grand, beau, dévoué: c’est cette jeune fille devenue mère. Il y aurait une pièce de théâtre superbe à faire de cette transfiguration et de cette antithèse). See Goncourt 1873, pp. 361-362.
27. A reference to the rescue of a mother and three children (not two, as Van Gogh writes) by Marquis de Lantenac, as described in Hugo’s Quatre-vingt-treize (book 4, chapter 3). For this historical novel, see letter 286, n. 9.
28. Charles Dickens, The haunted man and the ghost’s bargain (1848) is the last of Dickens’s Christmas books. Mr. Redlaw, a melancholy man, is lonely and isolated. His professional accomplishments can’t compensate for the betrayal of his life, when the woman he loved was wooed and wed by his best friend. One night, Redlaw is haunted by his own ghost, who agrees to strip him of his painful memories. The ghost causes everyone he meets to lose their bad memories too. This ‘gift’ causes havoc in a family of poor but loving villagers, because the loss of the memories of past pain robs them of the ability to empathize. The only person unaffected is a street urchin. Because the boy never has known kindness, he’s never developed a capacity for compassion. Redlaw begs the ghost to remove his curse. Only Milly, the wife of Redlaw’s servant can cure the villagers. At the end Redlaw regains his own memory when he forgives the man who wronged him.