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032 To Theo van Gogh. London, between Tuesday, 13 and Sunday, 18 April 1875.

No. 032 (Brieven 1990 032, Complete Letters 25)
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: London, between Tuesday, 13 and Sunday, 18 April 1875

Source status
Original manuscript

Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. b25 V/1962

Letter headed: ‘Londen April 1875’. The fact that Van Gogh refers to ‘last Sunday’ (l. 5) means that the letter was written at least two days before, but less than a week after, the death of Elizabeth Parker on 11 April (cf. n. 1).


  1. Landscape at Ville-d’Avray (F Juv. XX / JH Juv. 3), letter sketch

original text
Londen April 1875

Waarde Theo,
Hierbij stuur ik U eene kleine teekening. Ik maakte die verl. Zondag, den morgen waarop een dochtertje (13 jaar) van mijne landlady stierf.1
’t Is een gezicht op Streatham Common,2 een groote met gras begroeide vlakte met eikeboomen & brem.
’t Had s’nachts geregend & de grond was hier & daar drassig & ’t jonge lentegras frisch & groen.
Zooals ge ziet is het gekrabbeld op het titelblad van de “Poesies d’Edmond Roche”.─3
Daar zijn mooie bij, ernstig &  1v:2 droevig. o.a. één dat begint & eindigt

J’ai gravi triste & seul, la dune triste & nue,
Où la mer fait gémir sa plainte continue,
La dune où vient mourir la vague aux larges plis
Monotone sentier aux tortueux replis.4

en een ander, “Calais”

Que j’aime à te revoir, o ma ville natale,
Chère nymphe marine assise au bord des eaux!
J’aime de ton beffroi la flèche qui s’élance,
Belle de hardiesse & belle d’élégance,
Et sa coupole à jour qui laisse voir les cieux.5

Je zult waarschijnlijk nieuwsgierig zijn naar dat wat bij de ets van Corot hoort6 & daarom schrijf ik dat ook over.

à Corot

Nous regardions l’etang d’une eau morne & plombée
Lentement sous la brise assembler pli sur pli,
Et la vase cerner d’un contour assoupli
La proue & les flancs noirs d’une barque embourbée;

La couronne des bois, feuille à feuille tombée,
Jonchait le sol; le ciel de brume était rempli;
Tous deux, à demi voix, comme à la derobée
Nous disons tristement “L’été s’est accompli:

Ces coteaux ont perdu leur grâce coutumière
Plus de feuillage vert, plus de blonde lumière
Tremblant dans l’eau qui tremble ou dorant la hauteur!”

Cette idylle à nos yeux peut encore reparaître,
Si vous le voulez bien:─ n’êtes vous pas le maître
Qui l’avez recréée après le créateur?

Ville d’Avray7

Hartelijk gegroet & het beste U toegewenscht. Adieu.


[sketch A]
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


[sketch A]
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 . 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.