Municipal hospital (4th class, Ward 6, no. 9)

My dear Theo,
Should you come here towards the end of June,2 I hope you’ll find me back at work, but at present I’m in hospital, although I’ll only be here for about a fortnight.3 For some 3 weeks I’d been suffering a good deal from sleeplessness and chronic fever, and felt pain on passing water. And now it turns out that I’ve got a very mild case of what’s known as ‘a dose of the clap’. So I have to stay quietly in bed, swallow a lot of quinine tablets and from time to time have instillations of pure water or alum water,4 thus as harmless as could be. There’s no reason for you to be in the least concerned about this, but as you know one has to take this sort of thing seriously and act immediately, because neglect can make it incurable or exacerbate matters. Take the case of Breitner, who’s still here, though in another ward,5 and will probably leave soon — he doesn’t know I’m here.
I’d be grateful if you didn’t mention this, because people sometimes think it’s terribly serious or make it sound serious by telling exaggerated tales. Of course I’m telling you exactly what it is, and you needn’t keep silent if someone asks you directly, and in any event you needn’t worry. Naturally I had to pay for a fortnight in advance, 10.50 guilders for nursing costs. There’s no difference in food or treatment between those whose nursing is paid for by poor relief and those who pay the 10.50 guilders themselves. There are 10 beds in a ward, and I must say that the treatment is very good in every respect. I’m not bored, and the rest and proper, practical medical treatment are doing me good.  1v:2
If it’s convenient, be so good as to send around 20 June to the above address, but not by registered letter, 50 francs without registering the letter. As you know, I received 100 francs on 1 June, so I’m taken care of in any event. If I have to stay longer, I’ll pay the extra and stay on, and otherwise I’ll have enough to carry on with.
I’d prefer to get back to work in a fortnight, of course, and I’ll be dying to go back to the dunes in a fortnight.
Sien comes to see me on visiting days and is keeping an eye on the studio. Now I must tell you that the day before I came here I received a letter from C.M. in which he writes a good deal about the ‘interest’ that he takes in me and which, he says, Mr Tersteeg has shown, but, he continues, he didn’t approve of how ungrateful I was for H.G.T.’s interest. So be it. I’m lying here completely calmly and quietly now, but I assure you, Theo, that I would be put in a very bad mood if someone again dished me up with the same sort of interest as H.G.T. on certain occasions. And when I think how His Hon. took that interest to the point of daring to compare me to an opium smoker, I’m still amazed that for my part I didn’t show my interest by telling him to go to hell.  1v:3
Talking of smoking opium, the comfort and luxury, the sort of glory in which H.G.T. moves and the fairly strong doses of flattery that his visitors bring for him — those are things that perhaps befuddle His Hon. now and again more than he realizes.
In short, with all his superficially refined politeness, with his superficially civilized manners, his smart clothes and so on and so on, on consideration and also looking back on it, I find something malicious in His Hon.’s character. I wish it weren’t so, but I can’t say otherwise. I don’t doubt for a moment that His Hon. is a clever man, but another question comes first before I can respect him: is he a good man? Namely someone who doesn’t deliberately and on principle cultivate hatred, rancour, bickering and sarcasm inside himself. That is the question.
I haven’t replied to C.M.’s last letter, nor shall I.6 I appreciate His Hon.’s telling me that he’ll also take something else later, no doubt out of interest too, but especially if he means it, which time will tell.
Another reason for not regretting lying here quietly for a few days is that, should I need it, I can get an official statement from the doctor here7 that I’m absolutely not the sort of person who should be sent to Geel8 or made a ward of court.
And if that isn’t enough, I can also get another, if I make an effort, from the professor in charge of the lying-in clinic in Leiden.9  1r:4
But perhaps those people who might possibly get it into their heads to declare that the family or society would be so much better off if someone like me were to be declared mad or made a ward of court are so extraordinarily brilliant that in such cases they know far better than, for example, the doctor here.
Anyway, a letter from you would of course give me great pleasure at the moment.
Sien is getting ready to leave. I think of her a great deal — I expect her again later. May she come through it safely.
I resisted as long as I could and carried on working, but in the end I realized I needed to see a doctor urgently. But he told me just this morning that I would soon be rid of it. Did you get the two little drawings?10
Adieu with a handshake, and wishing you as much good fortune as anyone could deal with.

Ever yours,

I must tell you again that the precedent of Geel, at which time they were minded to make me a ward of court on physical grounds, makes it difficult for the family suddenly to change their story now and look for financial rather than physical reasons.11 Such arguments won’t hold water. Again, I hope they won’t go that far.
But write soon, for I’m longing for a letter.
You do understand, Theo, that I don’t discuss family matters with the doctor here or the professor in Leiden — but because I’m being treated by the former and Sien by the latter, it will only take a word from me in the last resort to secure the testimony of these two gentlemen to set against any possible statements by a few people of which you spoke.


Br. 1990: 237 | CL: 206
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: The Hague, on or about Thursday, 8 June 1882

1. On 7 June Van Gogh had been admitted to the hospital where Breitner was also a patient, the Municipal Hospital located on Zuidwal and Brouwersgracht. It was still often referred to by its old name of Burgergasthuis. His internal address while he was in hospital remained 4th Class, Ward 6, Bed 9, but after something over 14 days he was moved to a ward ‘without curtains’ (see letter 239). Cf. also exhib. cat. The Hague 1990, p. 178 (n. 14).
2. Theo’s visit, which Vincent had been looking forward to since March, would eventually take place at the beginning of August (see letters 252 and 253).
3. Van Gogh was to stay there a little longer, namely until 1 July. On admission he had 25 centimes according to the ‘Admissions Register’, which has been lost. Illustrated in Tralbaut 1968, pp. 14-15.
a. Means: ‘een aanhoudende koorts die het gestel langzaam ondermijnt’ (a persistent fever that gradually undermines the constitution).
4. The official diagnosis, as stated in the patients’ register, was ‘Gonorrhoea’; the method of treatment was ‘Injectiones c[um] Sol[utione] Sulph[atis] Zinc[icum]’. Ill. 2096 [2096] (GAH, book no. 424, inv. no. 959).
b. To be construed as: ‘Last too long to be able to be cured’; cf. the expression ‘een verouderde kwaal’.
5. Breitner was treated in the 3rd class (the ward is not specified in the patients’ register). Ill. 2097 [2097].
c. Read: ‘lig’ (lie).
6. This contradicts letter 236, in which Van Gogh writes at length to Van Rappard about how he replied to Uncle Cor’s reaction.
7. Van Gogh was treated by the assistant physician Cornelis Anthonie Molenaar (GAH; on him Haeseker and Koch 1992, p. 41).
8. For the ‘Geel affair’, see letter 185.
9. For A.E. Simon Thomas, the doctor who treated Sien, see letter 224, n. 4.
d. Variant of ‘straks’.
10. These would have been Fish-drying barn (F 940 / JH 154 [2377]) and Carpenter’s yard and laundry (F 944 / JH 153 [2376]), which were sent on Saturday, 3 June (see letter 235). By ‘little drawings’ he is not referring to the format, but rather taking a fairly modest attitude – they measure 28.5 x 45 cm and 27 x 43.5 cm respectively.
[2377] [2376]
11. One could be made a ward of court on the grounds of insanity or wastefulness. It can be deduced from this remark that the Van Gogh family evidently intended to use Vincent’s financial incompetence as the basis for the procedure.