Amsterdam, 9 July 1877

My dear Theo,
Well, what do you say about Anna? It surprised me, and it seems to be serious too, and will certainly take place, one would venture to say.1 It could be good. The difficulties of holding a subordinate position, especially when one perseveres in it for a longer period, as she has in fact done for years in all honour and virtue, are very great and sometimes become a hard struggle, and the seemingly easy becomes extremely difficult.
There’s nevertheless much poetry in it, and such years are a treasure not easily lost, and when one denies and humbles oneself, especially the first time, one has a wonderful feeling of inner peace, but I would understand very well if the future was sometimes dark for her too – it might be sensible of her, for her part, to have already decided to take this step. And I also maintain that she truly loves him, I believe that and trust in it absolutely, otherwise things wouldn’t have gone this far. And so I sincerely hope that she won’t be disappointed but that this, with God’s guidance, will be the path to her lasting happiness. May the Lord grant that she find peace, that dear sister, and bless her, and give her good things in life. On this occasion I congratulate you, too, as I have Anna and Pa and Ma.
How are you, old chap? I had wanted to write to you earlier and answer your last letter. I have a lot to do and the work isn’t easy.  1v:2
Then again, I go to church a lot, there are beautiful old churches here, and outstanding preachers, I often hear Uncle Stricker, and what he says is very good, and he speaks with much warmth and feeling. I’ve heard the Rev. Laurillard three times, you would like him too, because he paints, as it were, and his work is at once lofty and noble art. He has the feeling of an artist in the true sense of the word, as someone like Andersen had when he says, for example:

Every evening came the moon and whispered in my ear,
Telling of the quiet night and what its eye
Had lit on from its watch-post in the sky.
It who knows centuries – through ages did it roam,
Casting, high above the Flood and crest of foam,
On the floating ark a soft silver glow,
Just as it now lights my lonely window
Then, too, when the folk of Israel knelt down
To weep by the waters of Babylon
It illumined with sad twinkling down below
The unstrung harp, hanging on the willow.2

The moon still shines now, and the sun and the evening star, which is fortunate, and they often speak of God’s Love and call to mind the words, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.3
Am busy making a summary of the history of the Reformation,4 there’s much that is stimulating and appealing in the history of those days.
The room in the Trippenhuis where Rembrandt’s Syndics are hanging is open again; coming from church yesterday I walked over there for a while, hanging right next to the Rembrandt is that portrait by Van der Helst.5
Adieu, Theo, a hearty handshake in thought, I wish you the very best, and believe that often thinking of you is

Your most loving brother

Herewith a small contribution for your scrapbook,6 is it coming along? Give my regards to your housemates and if someone or other should ask after me.


Br. 1990: 121 | CL: 101a
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Amsterdam, Monday, 9 July 1877

1. Vincent’s sister Anna had received a proposal of marriage from Joan Marius van Houten, the son of the family in Hengelo for whom she worked as a lady companion. Van Houten, a ‘calmly cordial, reliable boy’, according to Mr van Gogh, was a manufacturer of shell lime and a member of the firm of Van Houten & Ledeboer, lime-burners at Leiderdorp (Nederland’s patriciaat 44 (1958), p. 138 and FR b2538, 1 July 1877, Mr van Gogh to Theo (quotation)). Joan had been courting Anna since 20 May, and their courtship surprised not only Vincent but also Mrs van Gogh: ‘They’ve known each other since Whitsun, and he’s been here a lot. You can imagine how it surprised us’ (FR b2539, to Theo, 2 July 1877). Their engagement was announced on 9 July, and Mr van Gogh wrote to Theo that Vincent was also pleased about it (FR b2540). Vincent’s prediction came true: the marriage was solemnized on 22 August 1878.
2. Hans Christian Andersen, Vertellingen van de maan (What the moon saw). Van Gogh owned the edition Andersen’s prentenboek zonder prenten: Vertellingen van de maan. Translated by J.J.L. ten Kate. 4th ed. Leiden 1870; see letter 68. The passage quoted, which was taken from the introduction, varies somewhat from the original (pp. 3-4). In the poetry album made for Matthijs Maris – probably compiled between May 1875 and March 1876 – Van Gogh copied a number of pages from Ten Kate’s translation. See Pabst 1988, pp. 55-58.
4. Various books and textbooks on the history of the Reformation were in circulation, among them several whose titles included De geschiedenis van de kerkhervorming (The history of the Reformation), such as those by Bernhard ter Haar, Henricus Jacobus Hofstede, Evert Jan Diest, Jacob Gijsbert de Hoop Scheffer and F. Naef (translated from the French by J.W.Ph. Feith), so that it is possible that Van Gogh was speaking here of a specific book.
5. Rembrandt, Syndics of the the Amsterdam Drapers’ Guild (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum). Ill 1835 [1835]. As emerges from a drawing made of the Syndics Room by Henri de Braekeleer in 1883, the painting Aert van Nes by Bartholomeus van der Helst hung to the left of Rembrandt’s Syndics, to the right of which hung its pendant, the Geertruida den Dubbelde, Van Nes’s wife; both portraits date from 1668 (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum). Ill 1836 [1836] and Ill. 1837 [1837]. See Honderd jaar Rijksmuseum 1985, p. 13.
[1835] [1836] [1837]
6. Regarding Theo’s scrapbooks, see letter 111, n. 3.