London, 9 February 1874

My dear Caroline,
I feel the need to write a few words to you.
What happy days those were ‘when we were together’.1 You must know that I haven’t forgotten you, but writing doesn’t come to me as easily as I’d like.
I have a rich life here, ‘having nothing, yet possessing all things’.2 Sometimes I start to believe that I’m gradually beginning to turn into a true cosmopolitan, meaning not a Dutchman, Englishman or Frenchman, but simply a man.  1v:2 With the world as my mother country, meaning that tiny spot in the world where we’re set down. But we aren’t there yet, but I follow after, if that I may apprehend.3
And as our ideal that which Mauve calls ‘that’s it’.
Old girl, adieu.

Yours truly,

A handshake for you and Willem,4 like old times, so that it hurts your fingers.


Br. 1990: 018 | CL: 13a
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Caroline van Stockum-Haanebeek
Date: London, Monday, 9 February 1874

1. Borrowed, consciously or otherwise, from ‘Der Spinnerin Nachtlied’ (The spinner’s lullaby) by Clemens Brentano, which contains the line ‘Da wir zusammen waren’ (For we were together), as well as the variations ‘Als wir zusammen waren’ (When we were together) and ‘Wie wir zusammen waren’ (How we were together). See Clemens Brentano, Werke. Ed. Wolfgang Frühwald et al. 2nd ed. Munich 1978, vol. 1, pp. 131 (quotation), 1058-1059. The poem, first published in 1818, was included in all kinds of collections and anthologies and even set to music.
4. Willem van Stockum, Caroline’s husband.