Amsterdam, 10 February 1878

My dear Theo,
It’s Sunday evening, and I want to write a few words again, for I also really long to get another letter from you, do write again soon, I am with you so often in thought. I sincerely hope that you’ve had a good Sunday.
As you know, Pa was here1 and I’m very glad of it, we went together to Mendes, Uncle Stricker, Uncle Cor, Vos and Kee and both Meijjes families, and the most pleasant memory of Pa’s visit is that morning we spent together in my study, looking over my work and talking about all sorts of things. You can imagine that those days flew by and when, after bringing Pa to the station and watching the train or even only the smoke for as long as it was in sight, I came back to my room and Pa’s chair was standing there by the little desk on which the books and notebooks were still lying from the day before, even though I know that we’ll see each other again quite soon, I broke down and cried like a child.
You’ll already have heard that Mendes made a favourable impression on Pa as well. In the evening, at Uncle Cor’s, we saw drawings and books, including Doré’s Bible2 and Bida’s Le livre de Ruth and Histoire de Joseph.3
Was in the English church this morning4 and met Wierda upon leaving the church, who had been there too. We went for a walk together and he asked me if I’d like to come and see his room, he lives in Weteringstraat,5 about 10 minutes from Leidsestraat. I told him that for a long time I had wanted to see his room and where and how he lived, so I went along and after drinking coffee I stayed till around 3 o’clock and saw his books and heard a thing or two about his life, where he had been previously and so on, first he was in Bolsward,6 then in Haarlem and then here. He has worked hard in his life and will probably continue to do so and not give it up easily. Afterwards, at home, translated a passage from Caesar,7 and this afternoon to Uncle Stricker’s, I go there rather often now that Uncle8 is out of town and now that it’s lonely again here in the house since Pa left. This evening they went to see Vos, who isn’t any better.
I still have to congratulate you on Pa’s birthday,9 even though it’s already been and gone, it will have been a good day, with Anna there too, I’m longing for a letter from home to hear how they celebrated that day. Anna was slightly indisposed and hadn’t yet recovered completely,10 she wrote in a letter that Pa received here. Perhaps Pa read Ma’s letter aloud to you, which she wrote while Pa was here, it told about a visit to a sick person which sounded like something out of Adam Bede.11  1v:2
It’s foggy here today, fortunately Pa had good weather so that we could walk quite a lot.
I’m reminding you of that piece by Jules Breton,12 not that there’s any hurry, but try and remember it sometime.
Because in March you’ll probably make the trip again,13 won’t you, and also come here again?
Uncle Jan will most likely come back on Tuesday.
You’ll certainly have a lot to do at the beginning of the year, like most people. Wierda, too, unburdened himself on that score this morning.
For me, too, things are beginning to get more and more serious as the exam approaches.14 I’ll be glad when it grows light a bit earlier in the morning and we’re already beginning to get used to it.
Did Pa remember to give you the photograph of the Maris?15 The woodcut after Van Goyen, Dordrecht, is hanging in its place. Went recently to see that painting again here in the museum, it is good through and through.16 The next time you come here I’d like to look through the etchings by Dürer here in the museum again,17 as we did with Rembrandt’s last time.18
It’s no doubt beautiful in Scheveningen on these grey days, do you still go there quite often? Perhaps it’s like that painting by Ruisdael in the museum in The Hague. Do you have the lithograph of it that was once in the Kunstkronijk?19 It’s really good.
How are things going at Mauve’s? Very well, I hope. Have you been there recently?
I’m currently taking lessons from Uncle Stricker once or twice a week, that is a bonus. Uncle is an expert in it, and I’m glad he could find the time to do it.20
Now, old boy, a hearty handshake in thought, I’ll set to work, give my regards to your housemates, and also to Mauve if you run into him, I wish you the very best, write soon, also congratulations on Anna’s birthday, even though it’s still to come,21 and believe me ever

Your loving brother

Good-night, old boy, I sat up writing till 12 o’clock, a handshake in thought.


Br. 1990: 139 | CL: 118
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Amsterdam, Sunday, 10 February 1878

1. Mr van Gogh travelled on Monday, 4 February 1878, to Amsterdam ‘to put my mind at ease a little about Vincent’s future’ (FR b965 to Theo, 2 February 1878). Before returning to Etten on Thursday, 7 February, he stopped at The Hague (FR b967). A short while later he admitted to Theo that he was not easy about Vincent’s future: ‘We can’t stop worrying about him; there is and always will be something strange about him’ (FR b967, 20 February 1878). Mrs van Gogh wrote about Vincent’s progress to Theo: ‘You wrote that when he visited you [on Monday, 7 January] he was really very good, certainly he is, perhaps that will come out more when he finally has to act independently, but he is so awfully impractical, but we will hope for the best’ (FR b966, 2 February 1878).
2. La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate. Traduction nouvelle avec les dessins de Gustave Doré. Tours 1866. This work was available in all kinds of editions, including popular ones. A Dutch edition containing 200 plates, produced under the editorial supervision of N. Beets, had appeared in 1870. See Doré, Catalogue, pp. 148-149.
3. Alexandre Bida, Le livre de Ruth. Translated from the Holy Bible by [L.I.] Lemaistre de Sacy. Paris 1876 and L’histoire de Joseph. Translated from the Holy Bible by [L.I.] Lemaistre de Sacy. Paris 1878. Both works were illustrated by Bida.
4. On 10 February the Rev. William Macfarlane conducted the service in the English Reformed Church on the Begijnhof.
5. Jan Willem Wierda lived at Weteringstraat 26, above Arend Jan Rolff’s grocer’s shop.
6. Bolsward is a village in the province of Friesland in the north of the Netherlands.
7. Most likely Julius Caesar’s De bello gallico (51 bc), an account of the campaigns to Northern Europe, which was and still is used extensively in the instruction of Latin.
9. Mr van Gogh turned 56 on 8 February.
10. Anna, who by now had been staying for some time with the Van Houten family in Hengelo, was ill and under a doctor’s supervision. All the same, she travelled to Etten for her father’s birthday (FR b966).
11. As the wife of a minister, Mrs van Gogh visited the sick in her husband’s parish. The novel Adam Bede by George Eliot features the preacher Dinah Morris, who visits the sick. Her visits are described in an idealized manner, and she herself is ideally characterized as a person full of loving kindness.
12. For Vincent’s initial request for one of Breton’s poems, see letter 139, n. 13.
13. The sales trip undertaken for Goupil & Cie to interest booksellers and print dealers in the firm’s publications.
14. Two months later Mrs van Gogh wrote to Theo: ‘Pa will write to you about Vincent, how much it will cost him to make the sacrifice, and yet Pa wrote to him so faithfully, it seems to me he must lend an ear to it. If only he passed his exam when the time comes, how it would encourage him’ (FR b993, 21 April 1878).
15. It is unclear which work by Maris this refers to.
16. Jan van Goyen’s View of the river before Dordrecht was part of the Dupper Collection in the Trippenhuis. See cat. Rijksmuseum 1885, p. 15, cat. no. 101, with a woodcut. The painting is now considered to be in the ‘manner of Jan van Goyen’ and bears the title View of the Merwede before Dordrecht (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum). Ill. 1868 [1868].
17. Numerous prints by Dürer were preserved in the Trippenhuis.
18. For Theo’s visits to Amsterdam, see letter 132, n. 10
19. The lithograph Strandgezicht (Beach view) by Adolf Carel Nunnink after Jacob van Ruisdael appeared in Kunstkronijk 14 (1873), NS, between pp. 96-97. Ill. 1869 [1869]. The painting Beach view (The Hague, Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis) is now considered to be a copy. Ill. 406 [406].
[1869] [406]
a. Read: ‘in a long time’ (Was it long ago that ...).
20. J.P. Stricker, who had taken upon himself the supervision of Vincent’s study, no doubt instructed him in the principles of theology and Christianity, as well as in history; Mendes tutored him in classical languages, Teixeira de Mattos in algebra and geometry.
21. Anna would turn 23 on 17 February.