Etten, 31 December 18761

My dear Theo,
I sincerely wish you the best in the new year, I wish you well and may you be blessed in all things. Wonderful to have seen each other again, how beautiful it was that morning you left, and how often we’ll think back on that trip to Chaam.2
Ma’s eye is hurting a lot again, she has a bandage on; Pa delivered such a beautiful sermon again this morning.
And now this evening New Year’s Eve again, if only you were here.
Now then, there’s something I must tell you: a couple of days ago Mr Braat of Dordrecht3 paid a visit to Uncle Vincent and they spoke about me, and Uncle asked Mr B. whether he would have a place for me, if I should wish it. Mr B. thought he might have a place, and said that I should come sometime to talk about it. So I went there early yesterday morning; Pa and Ma and I, too, thought it was something we shouldn’t let pass without seeing what it was.
Agreed that after the New Year I should go to him for a week, after that we’ll see.4
There are many things that make it desirable, first and foremost my being back in Holland near Pa and Ma, and also you and the others.5 Moreover, the salary would certainly be a little better than with Mr Jones, and especially with an eye to later, when a man has need of more,  1v:2 one is obliged to think of such things.
As far as the other thing is concerned, for these reasons I won’t give it up. Pa’s spirit is so great and many-sided, and at all events I hope that something of it will develop in me. The change means that now, instead of teaching those boys, I’ll be working in a bookshop.
How often we’ve longed to be together, and how terrible it is to feel so far away from one another in cases of illness or anxiety, as we felt, for example, during your illness, and then the feeling that lack of money may very well stand in the way of our being together in times of need.
It’s quite possible, then, that I’ll go there.
Yesterday evening I was at Uncle Vincent’s to tell him that I’d just been to Dordrecht, it was a stormy evening, you can imagine how beautiful the road to Princenhage was with the dark clouds with their silver linings. I also went briefly to the Roman Catholic church, where evening Mass was under way, it was a beautiful sight, all those peasants and their wives with their black clothes and white caps, and the church looked so friendly in the evening light. You must also tell Mr Tersteeg straightaway that I’ll be going there for a week to see how it goes, let His Hon. read this letter, if you will, and be sure to give him and his wife my best wishes for a happy New Year. I’m writing in great haste, Anna and the girls6 and Cor went to Princenhage, and Pa wanted me to go with them. Aunt7 came back with them in the carriage and I went for a walk with Willem Carbentus.8 Now, old boy, dear brother, what good days those were when we were all together,9 have a good New Year’s Eve and believe me

Your loving brother

More soon – adieu. If you write, send your letter to Dordrecht.10


Br. 1990: 100 | CL: 83
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Etten, Sunday, 31 December 1876

1. Like Theo, Vincent had spent the Christmas holidays at home in Etten.
2. Presumably Vincent and Theo travelled to Chaam, a village c. 17 km south-east of Etten, to attend a service conducted by their father, who regularly substituted for the minister there. The trip was recollected again in letter 414.
3. Pieter Kornelis Braat, manager of the bookshop Blussé & Van Braam in Dordrecht. Frans Braat had written to his father, urging him to give Vincent a job. Dirk Braat, another son of P.K. Braat, recollected that there was actually no vacancy, but ‘father did not want to refuse Frans’. See Verzamelde brieven 1973, vol. 1, pp. 108-110 (quotation on p. 108).
4. There were plans to discuss Vincent’s future when he was home at the end of the year. Mr van Gogh wrote on 6 December 1876 to Theo: ‘I long so much to speak with Vincent when he comes at Christmas, to see what will become of him. I sometimes fear that the Rev. Jones exploits him a little as an errand boy and cannot believe that his present path will lead to a proper livelihood’ (FR b2800). Mrs van Gogh also wrote to Theo of the need for a change: ‘He himself did not see much light in his future, but imagined he had to persevere because he thought he must – though I see no grounds for that ‘must’ without study, but it’s good he’s coming and we can talk about it again properly’ (FR b2803, 18 December 1876).
Theo, for his part, got involved in the matter and told his parents of a vacancy, upon which Mr van Gogh wrote to him: ‘I responded immediately to the advertisement you mentioned – but no answer. It is intended for someone who is at least 24 years old’ (FR b2802, 18 December 1876).
Even though Braat conferred with Uncle Vincent, and both Vincent and Theo were acquainted with his son Frans, Mrs van Gogh maintained that the position had materialized without intercession or mediation: ‘You can understand that we positively recognize it as a ray of light from above and the answer to our prayers. By no means did we or anyone else, Uncle Cent included, have a hand in it – it is through meeting Vincent and having faith in him, so to speak, that it was offered to him. He himself sees no prospects in what has gone before and in his own wishes, so why look for something else abroad and not take this wonderful opportunity near us and you?’ (FR b2804, to Theo, 18 December 1876).
5. On the same day as Vincent wrote this letter – 31 December – Mr van Gogh wrote to Theo: ‘An opportunity seems to be opening up for Vincent. He will have written to you about it. It’s like a ray of hope, the more so at the end of the year. I should so much like to have him closer, also to you. From Dordrecht to here it costs only 1.70 guilders return. He could be with us now and then on Sundays. Let us hope. It seems to us his eyes are clearer’ (FR b2804).
6. His other sisters, Willemien and Elisabeth.
7. Aunt Cornelie, Uncle Vincent’s wife.
8. Van Gogh’s cousin Willem Carbentus, the son of Uncle Arie Carbentus and Aunt Fie van Bemmel.
10. This could mean either that Theo already knew Vincent’s new address in Dordrecht or that he could send his letters in care of the bookshop Blussé & Van Braam.