Dordrecht, 26 Feb. 1877

My dear Theo,
The hours we spent together passed quickly,1 that small path behind the station where we saw the sun going down over the fields and the evening sky reflected in the ditches, and where those old moss-covered tree-trunks are standing, and the little mill in the distance – I’ll walk there again and think of you.
Herewith the photograph of ‘The Huguenot’;2 hang it up in your room. You know the story, how a young man, on the day before St Bartholomew’s Eve, was warned by his girl, who knew what would happen that night, how she wanted him to wear the sign by which Catholics were recognized, a white arm-band. He didn’t want to do it, though, his religious beliefs and his duty were dearer to him than his girl.3
Don’t know if I already sent you that poem by Longfellow which I herewith copy out,4 it has often held a strong attraction for me, and will perhaps for you, too.
Am glad that we saw Scheffer’s paintings5 together; that evening I went to see Mager, who lives with the lay reader of the Lutheran church in a truly old Dutch house.6 He has a nice room there, we sat together for a long time  1v:2 talking, he told me about Menton7 and about a Christmas he had spent there, and I told him about ‘The wide, wide world’,8 which is such a beautiful book.
Thanks for coming here yesterday, and do let’s carry on having as few secrets as possible.9 We’re brothers, after all.
Had rather a lot of work today, a great many trifling matters – but they’re my duty – if one had no sense of duty, who would be able to collect his thoughts at all, but a sense of duty sanctifies things and joins them together, and turns many small things into one large one.
Write soon about how you got home, and whether that walk and the journey didn’t exhaust you too much. Am longing for a letter from you, also to hear whether you’ll be going to Etten.
Accept in thought a handshake, and believe me

Your loving brother,

The light of stars.10

The night is come, but not too soon,
And sinking silently
All silently the little moon
Drops down beneath the sky.

There is no light in earth or heaven
But the cold light of stars
And the first watch of night is given
To the red planet Mars.

Is it the tender star of love
The star of love and dreams
Oh no! from that blue tent above
A hero’s armour gleams.

And earnest thoughts within me rise
When I behold afar
Suspended in the evening skies
The shield of that red star.

O star of strength I see thee stand
And smile upon my pain
Thou beckonest with thy mailed hand
And I am strong again.

Within my breast there is no light
But the red light of stars
I give the first watch of the night
To the red planet Mars.

The star of the unconquered will
He rises in my breast
Serene and resolute and still
And calm and selfpossessed.

And thou too, whosoe’er thou art
That readest this brief psalm
As one by one thy hopes depart
Be resolute and calm.

O, fear not in a world like this
And thou shalt know ere long
Know, how sublime a thing it is
To suffer and be strong.

As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing.11 a

After years of city toil
I hear the old church bells
They sing a strange new song
Whilst the old song in my memory dwells
A strange new song, with strange new words
That many sorrows bring
And sorrowful I once again
Will rejoice at what they sing.12

On this man will I look, saith the Lord, even on him that is poor and needy and sorrowful and that trembleth at My word.13

Father, we pray not that Thou shouldest take us out of the world, but that Thou shouldest deliver us from the evil.14
The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.15
The Lord is not far from every one of us.16
And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it.17 O Lord, join us intimately to one another and let our Love for Thee make that bond ever stronger.18
And Moses took the rod of God in his hand.19
The devil is never so black that one cannot look him in the face.20
The same lips that spoke ‘be harmless as doves’ followed it immediately with ‘and wise as serpents’.21

Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me that I am meek and lowly in heart, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.22 If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.23

If any man hate not, even his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.24

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father which seeth in secret.25 Anoint thine head, and wash thy face, that thou appear not unto men, and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.26 We know not what we should pray, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered,27 that our faith may not fail when our soul greatly desires to be sifted as wheat.28 Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying in us, Abba, Father.29 Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.30

The child puts great faith in his Father
As befits the father’s worth.
For who is closer than thy Father
In Heaven or on earth?31

And He passed through the midst of them and said,32 Mine hour is not yet come.33

In the kingdom of Heaven they neither marry, nor are given in marriage.34 In Christ there is neither male nor female: but He is all, and in all.35


Br. 1990: 103 | CL: 86
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Dordrecht, Monday, 26 February 1877

1. Acting on Mr van Gogh’s advice, Theo had gone to visit Vincent on Sunday, 25 February, as we learn later on in the letter; see letter 107, n. 1.
3. Millais’s The Huguenot is based on a story derived from Giacomo von Meyerbeer’s opera Les huguenots (1836). Millais himself explained his intentions with an accompanying text: ‘A Huguenot on St Bartholomew’s day refusing to shield himself from danger by wearing the Roman Catholic badge. When the clock of the Palais de Justice shall sound upon the great bell at daybreak, then each good Catholic must bind a strip of white linen round his arm, and place a fair white cross in his cap.’ The night of 23-24 August 1872 saw the beginning of the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in Paris, in which many Huguenots (French Protestants) lost their lives. See Engen 1995, p. 54 and Ash 1996, text accompanying plate 12.
5. After Scheffer donated his Christ in Gethsemane [1783] to the Dordrechts Museum in 1857, the museum managed in a short time, through donations and bequests, to add a great many works by this artist to its collection. See Museum Ary Scheffer. Catalogus der kunstwerken en andere voorwerpen, betrekking hebbende op Ary Scheffer en toebehoorende aan [het] Dordrechts Museum. Dordrecht 1934; exhib. cat. Dordrecht 1990, pp. 67-70; and cat. Dordrecht 1992, p. 18.
6. Nicolaas Mager, a member of the Dutch Reformed (Nederlands Hervormde) Congregation, was one of Vincent’s co-workers at Blussé & Van Braam. He registered officially as a resident of Dordrecht on 18 November 1875, and went to live with the Rijkens in Tolbrugstraat. Two years later he was living in the house of J. Henning at Vriesestraat, Wijk D 1030, which was next to the Lutheran Church. Henning was the sexton and lay reader of the Evangelical Lutheran Congregation. At the time he had plans, which he outlined to Theo, to go and work as an assistant for Goupil (FR b2529). Civil registration records show that Mager left Dordrecht officially on 6 May 1879 and moved to Arnhem. Cf. Molendijk 1990, p. 5.
7. The town of Menton was a popular health resort on the French Riviera. (Uncle Vincent spent the winter there every year.)
9. This remark refers to Theo’s infatuation with a woman of low social standing who already had a child. Although Theo apparently felt responsible for her, a proper relationship was impossible: Mr and Mrs van Gogh learned of the affair and, on 7 March, had voiced their objections (see letter 111, n. 8). Mrs van Gogh, referring to Job 38:11, attempted to impress the following upon Theo: ‘imagine that you had not experienced all those sad troubles, you would perhaps have gone on making yourself unhappy, recognize His voice: hitherto and no further. Why should you be lost?’ (FR b2511). A week later she wrote again about this woman ‘who may not be for you’ and tried to console him (FR b2513, 14 March 1877).
11. 2 Cor. 6:10. Vincent writes ‘alway’ instead of ‘always’.
a. Van Gogh added the English translation himself.
12. Opening lines from the poem ‘Old bells’ by Guy Roslyn (pseudonym of Joshua Hatton) in Village verses etc. London (Moxon & Co.) 1876, pp. 3-4. With a few textual changes:

‘After years of city toil I hear the village bells;
They sing a new song while the old song in my mem’ry dwells –
A strange new song, with strange new words that many sorrows bring;
would that I could hear again the song they used to sing’.

The closing lines suggest that it might be an adaptation of 2 Cor. 6:10.
13. Cf. Isa. 66:2. Vincent wrote ‘on’ instead of ‘to’ twice, and ‘needy and sorrowful’ instead of ‘of a contrite spirit’.
18. A prayer written and often recited in the family circle by Mr van Gogh; see letter 113.
20. Cf. for this proverb: letter 99, n. 6.
21. Christ in Matt. 10:16.