Isleworth, 2 August 1876

My dear Theo,
I heard from home that you’d be coming home for a day while Anna and Lies were still there; write and tell me if that happened.
Mr Jones came home yesterday, and his family,1 I’d made the boys’ dining room green with Welcome home on the wall in holly and ivy and large bouquets on the table. There’s a lot of holly in the garden here, and a few old trees have had all their branches chopped off. These are now full of new branches, pure white or yellowish, with a small pink leaf here and there, which is absolutely beautiful, I picked a large bunch of them to put on the table.
Mr Jones asked me if I could find out how much 50 pounds of butter would cost in Holland; if it isn’t too expensive he’s thinking about always having it sent from Holland. Ask Mrs Roos about it sometime, and write and tell me as soon as possible.
The boys will also be coming soon.2
Have you ever read the story of Elijah and Elisha properly? I’ve been reading it again these last few days, and am enclosing what I’ve copied out.3 It’s so movingly beautiful. Similarly, I’ve also been reading in Acts about Paul, how he stood on the seashore, and they fell on his neck, and kissed him,4 and those words of Paul moved me, ‘God comforteth the simple’.5 It is God who makes men and who can enrich life with moments and times of higher life and loftier feeling. The sea may have made itself, or an oak tree itself, but men like Pa are purer than the sea.  1v:2
The sea is beautiful all the same; there were lots of bedbugs at Mr Stokes’s, but that view from the school window made one forget them.
The heart of a man of flesh and blood ‘sometimes faints from earnest longing’6 upon seeing those who devote themselves to and work for Him who baptized them, as it were, with the Holy Ghost, and with fire,7 and they – look, their eyes sometimes grow moist with tears of wistfulness as they think back on their young years and on ‘the good things with which He satisfied them’.8 Yet their exalted peace is better than the deceptive peace of bygone days. True rest and peace begin only ‘when there is nothing more in which to rest’9 and when there is ‘none upon earth they desire beside God’.10 Then there is a ‘woe is me’11 in them, and a beseeching ‘who shall deliver me from the body of this death’,12 and yet that is the best time of life, and blessed are they who reach that high peak.
I’ve heard two men say that, one in Paris, the Rev. Bersier,13 who, out of fear of a great bodily suffering that awaited him, exclaimed during his sermon, ‘Who shall deliver me of this dead body’ in a tone of voice that I believe made everyone in the church tremble. And I heard Pa say it (when I was home in April, in his sermon), but he said it in a soft voice, though it had a keener edge than the other, and he followed it with (and his countenance was like that of an angel) ‘the blessed above, they say “what you are now, I used to be: what I am now, you will one day be”’.14  1v:3
Between Pa and those above there is still a part of life, between us and Pa there is also still life. He above can make us Pa’s brothers and can also join us intimately to one another, more so every day, may it be so, for I have a need to remain your brother, old boy, surely you know how much I love you!
May I succeed and get some firm ground beneath my feet.
Yesterday I took a lovely walk along the Thames; on the other side there were splendid villas with their gardens. It was a sky like Ruisdael or Constable paint it.
And now a handshake in thought, give my regards to everyone at the Rooses’. How is Willem15 doing? And give my regards to Borchers, too, if you happen to see him, and believe me

Your loving brother

The word of the Lord came unto Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. He so went and did according unto the word of the Lord: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.
And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee. So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse! and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of  2v:5 meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth. And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake to Elijah. And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him. And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son? And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed. And he cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God! hast Thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son? And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again. And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth. And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth.16

And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim. Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty. So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel. And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal is God, then follow him! And the people answered him not a word. Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: And call ye on the name of your Gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your Gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which  2r:7 was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us! But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a God; but he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.
And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time, so that the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel! let it be known this day that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that Thou art the Lord God! and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed  3r:8 the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound as of abundance of rain. So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.17

And Elijah went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord! take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold,  3v:9 there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the Angel of the Lord came again the second time, and again touched him, and said, Arise and eat! because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of the meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God. And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks, going before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave.18

And it came to pass, when the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Beth-el. And Elisha said unto him, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee! So they went down to Beth-el. And the sons of the prophets that were at Beth-el came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. And Elijah said unto him, Elisha! tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee! So they came to Jericho. And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.
And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the Lord hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan. And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground.  3r:11
And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.
And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father! my Father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; and he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.19

‘And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him, Sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more.20


Br. 1990: 085 | CL: 72
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Isleworth, Wednesday, 2 August 1876

1. Thomas Slade-Jones married Annie Slade-Jones, née Dawson, in April 1864; they had five daughters and a son, ranging in age from 1 to 11 years. Mr van Gogh wrote the following about this period to Theo: ‘From Vincent a letter of Saturday. He was waiting for the family to come home on Tuesday. He had been very much alone. May he find satisfaction in his new work. He’s going through a difficult time. May God give him wisdom and a happy outcome’ (FR 2763, 2 August 1876).
2. The boys at the boarding school were still on holiday.
3. See the appended text for the extensive passages Van Gogh copied from 1 and 2 Kings.
5. Cf. 2 Cor. 7:6, ‘Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down...’.
a. Meaning: ‘wandluizen’ (bedbugs).
6. Rhy. ps. 84:1, ‘My soul succumbs to earnest longing’.
11. Biblical, cf. Ps. 120:5; Isa. 6:5; and Jer. 4:31, 10:19 and 15:10.
14. A memento mori, probably derived from ‘Hodie mihi, cras tibi’ or ‘Mihi heri & tibi hodie’ (Ecclesiasticus [Jesus Sirach] 38:23); in the English Apocrypha 38:22. As a pictorial device it is placed in the mouth of a skeleton or as an inscription in churchyards.