Isleworth, 10 November 1876.

My dear Theo,
I feel the need to enclose a few words to you. You’ll be having pleasant days at home,1 I almost envy you, old boy.
What lovely autumn weather we’re having. You probably see the sun rising in the morning too. Which room are you sleeping in?
If you can get ‘The imitation of Christ’ one of these days,2 read some of it, it’s a wonderful book, one that’s very enlightening. It describes so beautifully, for the one who wrote the book did it himself, how good it is to wage the holy war of devotion to one’s duty, and the heartfelt joy that is to be found in doing good deeds and in doing what one does well.
You must read the letter for Pa and Ma sometime, I’ve taken such lovely walks recently, which were especially good after the anxiety of the first months here.
It is indeed true that every day has its own evil3 and its own good, too. But how terrible life must  1v:2 be, especially later on – when the evil of each day increases as far as the things of the world are concerned – if it isn’t supported and comforted by faith. And in Christ all things of the world can improve and become sanctified, as it were. These are beautiful words, and happy are those who come across them, ‘Nothing pleaseth me but in Christ, and in Him all things please me’.4 But one doesn’t achieve this all of a sudden. But he that seeketh findeth.5
Do write a few words again the next time Pa and Ma write. I hope to go to Richmond again on Monday evening and to take the words: But when he was yet a great way off, his Father saw him, and had compassion.6
Theo, woe is me if I don’t preach the gospel,7 and if I didn’t have my sight fixed on that and  1v:3 didn’t have hope and faith in Christ, then I would only have woe. Now, however, I have a bit of spirit as well.
I should have liked you to be in the little church at Turnham Green last Thursday evening; I walked over there with the oldest boy in the school and told him several of Andersen’s fairy tales, including ‘The story of a mother’.8
And now we’re slowly heading towards winter, and many dread it, but Christmas is wonderful, it’s like the moss on the roofs and like the pine and the holly and the ivy in the snow. How I’d like to come with Anna, may she find something soon,9 I’ll write to her again today.
Today one of the maids left, they don’t have it easy here and she couldn’t stand it any longer – indeed,  1r:4 everyone, richer or poorer, stronger or weaker, has moments when he can go no further, when ‘all these things seem to be against us’,10 when much of what we have built collapses.
And yet, one mustn’t lose heart, Elijah had to pray all of seven times,11 and David had ashes on his head many a time.12
There’s a new assistant teacher at the school, because I’ll have to work more at Turnham Green from now on. He has never been away from home before, and won’t find it easy in the beginning.
And now a handshake in thought, it’s already late and I’m rather tired. I wish you well. Do think now and then of

Your most loving and affectionate brother


Br. 1990: 097 | CL: 80
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Isleworth, Friday, 10 November 1876

1. Theo was at home in Etten, recovering from his illness.
2. Thomas a Kempis, De imitatione Christi (The imitation of Christ).
a. Vincent meant the letter to their parents, which was enclosed with his letter to Theo.
9. Anna, who was looking for a new situation in the Netherlands (cf. letter 78), wrote to Theo on 4 October 1876: ‘I’m looking hard for a position as an assistant teacher or something similar and am very busy. I hope so much that I’ll succeed; it would be such a relief to Pa and Ma if something were decided for me’ (FR 2783).
11. An allusion to 1 Kings 18:43; see also letter 87.
12. ‘Having ashes on one’s head’ is a sign of mourning or humiliation. Cf. 2 Sam. 13:19, where Tamar puts ashes on her head.