Amsterdam, Sunday, 15 July 1877

My dear Theo,
I feel the need to write to you again, let me have a word from you too, if you have time.
This morning I went to the early sermon,1 and the text was Eph. 5:14, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. When I left here it was raining, and also when leaving the church, though during the sermon the sun had been shining brightly through the windows.
Pa had to lead the early service today in Etten, and afterwards Pa had to go to Zundert.
After that I heard dear Uncle Stricker in the Oudezijdskapel2 on the words ‘Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees’,3 which is a warning not to become too attached to outward forms and ceremonies without truly sincere religious feeling of the heart, as opposed to a life without belief in the things that are higher than those in this life. There were very few people in the church, apart from the orphan boys and orphan girls with their red and black clothes,4 who filled a large part of the little old church nonetheless. If you come here again I hope to take you there, that Oudezijdskapel is in a very narrow street, Zeedijk, near the part of Buitenkant called ‘the old tar-yards’5 and near Warmoesstraat. It’s a very nice part of town and reminds one of the heart of London, like Booksellers’ Row6 or some such place. May it be granted me in time to speak as I have heard so many do, and hear each Sunday again. I’m doing my best to become skilled at it with all the power in me.
Last week I spent an evening at the old Rev. Meijjes’s and met his son there, the Rev. Jeremie Meijjes with his wife, a daughter of Professor Tilanus, and two of his sons – one of them attends the gymnasium here and the other is training to be an engineer.7 The latter helped to build those roofs here at the dockyard (underneath which the ships are built, where we went with Uncle that afternoon you were here), as well as the new Kattenburg bridge.8 It was a pleasant evening and we talked about all kinds of foreign matters. He’s a very gifted man and has a pure talent and a great faith, heard him in the Westerkerk.9 Saw him coming from the pulpit and walking through the church after the sermon, and that tall, noble figure and that tired, pale face and that noble head, the hair already showing some grey, made a great impression on me. To be tired in such a way from that work, that is a blessing.
Today you’ll perhaps go to Scheveningen, have a good Sunday, how I’d like to visit your little room. Heard from home that you’ll probably go to see Mauve again soon in his house in the dunes,10 and will stay overnight, I can imagine you sitting there, and I also know what you’ll discuss. Last week Mendes told me about a very interesting part of the city, namely the area extending from the Leidsepoort (thus close to Vondelpark) to the Hollandsche Spoor station.11 Went there yesterday, I knew part of it already, and you do too, I think, namely the part near the  1v:2 station. There are a great many mills, saw-mills, workers’ houses with little gardens, old houses too, of all kinds, and very populous, and the area is criss-crossed by all kinds of small canals and waterways full of barges, and all kinds of picturesque bridges and so on. It must certainly be a wonderful thing to be a minister in such a district.
This study is difficult, old chap, but I must persevere, and to that end may He help me of Whom it is written: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.12
Ma wrote in her last letter something about ‘Anna’s house’, which is a new expression that doesn’t sound bad, she’ll perhaps be very happy one of these days, may she have made a good choice and one not to be repented of.13 The best we can do for the time being is, I think, simply be very happy about it.
If you should happen to visit Mauve and Jet one of these days, give them my warm regards and spend some pleasant hours together, and bid good-day to the dunes and the sea for me. And tell Mauve that the photograph of his drawing, the plough in the field,14 is hanging in my little room and constantly reminds me of him.
Are you reading something beautiful? I’d like so much to start reading a great many books but may not, if you can get hold of John Halifax15 do read it again, even though we read it with nostalgia, still, let us not say ‘that is not for me’, because it’s good to go on believing in everything that’s good and noble. I heard that the man whose life and character prompted the book to be written died recently, he was called Harper and ran a large bookshop in London.16 I once met the painter Millais on the street in London, just after I had been so happy to see various of his paintings, and that noble figure made me think of John Halifax.17 Millais once painted The lost penny, a young woman looking in the early morning twilight for the penny she has lost (there’s an engraving of it, the lost mite)18 and not the least beautiful of his work is an autumn landscape, Chill October.19
Adieu, old chap, accept in thought a hearty handshake, and believe me, after giving my regards to your housemates, in haste, because I have to go to church,

Your most loving brother


Br. 1990: 122 | CL: 102
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Amsterdam, Sunday, 15 July 1877

1. The early sermon at 7 a.m. on 15 July could have been either the one preached by the orthodox minister Gerrit Jan Vos Adr.zn. in the Noorderkerk or the sermon preached by Theodorus Matthijs Looman in the Zuiderkerk.
2. The Oudezijdskapel (Sint Olofskapel) was situated between Zeedijk and the continuation of Oudezijds Enge Kapelsteeg (now Nieuwebrugsteeg).
4. Between 1816 and 1920, orphans were required to wear red and black clothing. See B. de Ridder, ‘De vroegere klederdracht der burgerwezen’, Ons Amsterdam 17-8 (1965), pp. 244-251.
5. This part of the city, now Prins Hendrikkade 58-87, was named after the tar factories located there until 1644.
6. Booksellers’ Row was the unofficial name of the area around Paternoster Row and Honeywell Street in London (near the Strand), where a large number of booksellers and publishers were concentrated. See H.B. Wheatley, London past and present. Its history, associations, and traditions. 3 vols. London 1891, vol. 1, p. 222 and vol. 2, p. 228.
7. The Amsterdam minister Jeremias Posthumus Meijjes, the son of Reinier Posthumus Meijjes, was married to Jeanne Louise Agathe Tilanus, the daughter of Christiaan Bernard Tilanus, a professor of medicine at Amsterdam University. One of the two sons Van Gogh saw must have been Christiaan Bernard, who did in fact become an architect. The other one (‘attending the gymnasium here’) could have been Reinier or Willem or even Leonard. From letter 136 it emerges that in December Reinier was undergoing training in Den Helder.
8. In 1875-1876 what was then the Kattenburgerbrug (1842) was moved to a slightly different location.
9. The Westerkerk is located in Westermarkt, between Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht.
10. Between May and November 1878, Mauve worked at Kranenburg farm near Loosduinen, where he had a studio built. It is possible that he was already working there in July 1877. See Engel 1967, p. 55. Mr van Gogh also urged Theo to visit Mauve: ‘I hope that you, too, will go and see Mauve again. I’d find that wonderful’ (FR b2541, 17 July 1877).
11. Van Gogh is referring to the neighbourhood to the west of the town centre, now known as Oud-West. Until 1862 the Leidsepoort, built in 1661-1662, closed off the Leidseplein; the barrier that replaced the gate kept the name Leidsepoort. Vondelpark was opened in 1865, reaching its present size in 1877 by means of an extension designed by L.P. Zocher.
14. It is not known of which drawing Van Gogh received a photograph; the theme occurs frequently in Mauve’s work. Van Gogh would return to this subject in letter 357.
16. On 29 May 1877, Fletcher Harper (born in 1806) died in New York. He was the publisher and co-owner of Harper & Brothers, which published such magazines as Harper’s New Monthly Magazine and Harper’s Weekly. There is however nothing to prove Van Gogh’s assertion that ‘Harper’ had been the head of a London bookshop or that the character in the novel had been patterned after him. The reason for his assuming so is perhaps the fact that articles commemorating Harper’s life and character appeared on 16 June and 23 June 1877 in Harper’s Weekly. Moreover, Mulock Craik wrote the poem ‘In Memoriam’ (published in the Harper’s Weekly of 7 July 1877), which prompted this editorial note: ‘The following beautiful little poem was written by the author of John Halifax, gentleman, upon hearing of Mr Harper’s death ... It is a significant tribute from one of the most popular of English authors to an American publisher’. Halifax and Harper are here mentioned together. Cf. also J. Henry Harper, The house of Harper. New York 1912. Perhaps the name mentioned in the opening line of the novel was also responsible for Van Gogh’s misapprehension: ‘Get out o’ Mr Fletcher’s road, ye idle, lounging, little –’, even though this refers to Abel Fletcher, the father of the fictional character Phineas Fletcher.
17. Van Gogh’s association of John Everett Millais with John Halifax could have been prompted by the fact that the first inexpensive edition of Mulock Craik’s John Halifax contained a steel engraving after this artist. See Mitchell 1983, p. 50.
18. John Everett Millais, The parable of the lost piece of money (now Lost), a depiction based on Luke 15:9. Millais ‘adopted his series of drawings for illustrations to the Dalziel Brother’s The parables of Our Lord into one of his most dramatic paintings, The parable of the lost piece of money, which [Henry] Graves published as a fine mixed-method engraving by William Henry Simmons’, 1863 (London, British Museum). Ill 1838 [1838]. See Engen 1995, pp. 63, 122. Millais also painted A widow’s mite, 1870 (Birmingham, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery), but the etching made after it by Charles Albert Waltner dates from 1880 and could therefore not be the one referred to here.
19. John Everett Millais, Chill October, 1870 (private collection). Ill. 1839 [1839]. Van Gogh could have seen the painting on 24 April 1875 at the Samuel Mendel sale at Christie’s in London. See exhib. cat. Nottingham 1974, p. 19; exhib. cat. London 1992, p. 136, cat. no. 75.