The Hague, 22 June

My dear Theo,
I received your letter of 12 June with the 50 francs enclosed in good order, and thank you sincerely for them. I haven’t replied before because I didn’t know what course my illness would take — it hasn’t improved as quickly as the doctor thought. I’ve now been here for over a fortnight and have again had to pay for a fortnight in advance, although if all goes well I’ll be allowed to leave in a week or 10 days and will then get part of my money back. This morning I spoke to the doctor and asked him if there was a complication that might become serious. No, he said, but the message was still rest and stay here. The treatment didn’t stop at instillations: he’s been rummaging about inside the bladder with a catheter, which isn’t particularly enjoyable.1
But it might perhaps be good for a great many people if they underwent this from time to time, because it’s a preventive measure for troublesome conditions that develop very, very slowly. But I assure you that I long dreadfully for a little greenery and some fresh air, for a thing like this makes you very weak and faint. I can’t draw because I must lie still almost continuously, although I have tried a few times; it makes me too feverish. I can read but I’ve run out of books. Anyway, it will come to an end, so I must be patient.
Sien is in Leiden, but I won’t hear any news of her until she has given birth. What does what we men have signify compared with the terrible suffering that women must endure in childbirth? They are our masters when it comes to suffering pain, but in other things we are the winners. Until the last day she was here she visited me regularly and brought me a little smoked meat or sugar or bread, which is now finished, leaving me feeling very faint. But now I’m so sorry that I can’t in turn  1v:2 give her a tonic in Leiden, which she’d certainly welcome, for what you get there is only weak fare. I find it such an odd feeling not to be able to do anything and to watch the days passing so emptily. Sometimes I think I can do this or that, but find I’m too weak.
It pleases me greatly that you saw something in the drawings I sent2 — I laboured so hard on them, and on those for C.M. as well, in those last days when I felt so much more pain and anxiety than here. For the worst was before I came to this hospital, long before.
And now I must tell you that I’ve had a letter from Rappard. Of course I had immediately returned the 2.50 guilders,3 and after that I received a reply from him in which he repeats what he said about my drawings in the studio, namely that he enjoyed them and found them sympathetic, mainly because of the conception, the sentiment and the intention. He suggested that if I had something similar I should send it to him, because he thought he could find a customer for it. You do understand that what I want most is for people to enjoy my work; that gives me such pleasure. For it’s so disheartening and stifling and crushing if you don’t even occasionally hear: this or that is right and felt and meant. It’s so exhilarating when you see that someone really does feel something of what you’ve tried to express. He was also pleased by a few nude studies.4  1v:3
This is the first time for several days that I’ve sat up, and as I write I feel some life stirring. If only I were cured! If only I could settle myself as I need, how I would love to do some studies here in the wards. I’m now in a different ward with beds or cots without curtains, and especially in the evening or at night there are curious effects. The doctor is just the way I like, absolutely not Blom Coster.5 He resembles some heads by Rembrandt, a fine forehead and a very sympathetic expression. I hope to have learned something from him, in the sense that I hope to deal with models rather as he deals with patients, namely tackling them firmly, setting them shortly and sharply in the precise position required. It’s extraordinary how patient he is when rubbing, massaging and manipulating the sick himself in various ways. He’s far stronger than an orderly, and has the knack of allaying their embarrassments and positioning the people exactly as he needs them. There’s an old man who would make a superb St Jerome. A thin, tall, wiry, brown and wrinkled body with joints so outstandingly clear and expressive that it makes one sad not to have him as a model.
I can well imagine that Heyerdahl is delighted by such a payment.6 Now I must inform you that Pa visited me the first days that I was here, although very briefly and in great haste, and I wasn’t really able to talk about anything. I would rather he had visited at another time, when it could truly have been of more good for both of us.7 Now it was very strange for me, and seemed more or less like a dream — as does this whole business of lying here being ill.  1r:4
I’ve seen no one apart from Sien, her mother and Pa, which is in fact all for the best, though the days are rather lonely and melancholy. Sometimes I can’t help thinking that life is now considerably more sombre and lonelier than, for example, when I first visited Mauve last winter. It gives me a stab of pain and an anxious feeling each time I think of it, even though I try to chuck the whole thought of it overboard as useless ballast.
I heard from the orderly that Breitner was discharged a few days ago.8
I believe that here in this class the doctor gives shorter shrift than in the more expensive ones. So much the better.
Perhaps here9 they’re less hesitant about inflicting a little pain on the patients than in the higher wards, and more ready, for example, to stick a catheter in someone’s bladder without a lot of ‘good manners’ or compliments. Well, all the better in my view, and I repeat10 it’s as good here as in the 3rd-class waiting room. If only I could work! But I must take things as they are. I have a book by Dickens and my perspective books.11
I hope you’ll write again. You know the address is:

Municipal hospital, Brouwersgracht
4th class. Ward 6, No. 9

Adieu, a handshake in thought, and many thanks again for your loyal letter and the enclosure. I wish you well, and believe me

Ever yours,

I believe that when Sien had to go I became too nervous and then broke down, but there are times when one can’t always remain cool-headed. She’s lying there so alone, and I would so like to go there because these will be frightening days for her.


Br. 1990: 239 | CL: 208
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: The Hague, Thursday, 22 June 1882

1. For the treatment of Van Gogh’s illness, see letter 237.
2. Fish-drying barn (F 940 / JH 154 [2377]) and Carpenter’s yard and laundry (F 944 / JH 153 [2376]), sent on 3 June; see letter 235.
[2377] [2376]
3. For this loan on 27 May, which was repaid on 4 or 5 June, see letters 231 and 236.
a. Means: ‘de intentie, dat wat ik ermee voor had’ (the intention, what I had in mind).
4. These nude studies are not known. In 1903 M. and J.C. Couvreur acquired works by Van Gogh. Stokvis noted that: ‘They included nude drawings, which so scandalized the wife of J.C. Couvreur that they were thrown away’ (Stokvis 1926, p. 5; cf. cat. Amsterdam 1997, p. 25). Perhaps there were works from the Hague period among them.
b. Read: ‘lig’ (lie).
5. A gibe at the doctor in the Hague, Tuimen Hendrik Blom Coster, who had treated Theo in 1877 and evidently looked too distinguished and eminent in Vincent’s eyes (for him see also letter 125, n. 14).
6. Theo must have reported that Heyerdahl had been awarded the Grand Prix de Florence – worth 5000 francs – for the painting The dead child (Riom, Musée Régional Folklorique d’Auvergne), which was shown at the Salon of 1882. The journal L’Art had written about the prize. See exhib. cat. Åmot 1981, pp. 19, 58-59.
7. On 14 June 1882 Mr van Gogh had written at length to Theo about this visit: ‘You will want to know how I found Vincent.
On Saturday evening we received a letter from him written in the hospital in which he said that he was ill and had gone there. He had just received a package from us with a 10-guilder coin as well. He wrote in a mild tone and said that he was reassured by our letter, etc. etc.
If it had been possible for me, I would have gone on Sunday, but I had to preach in Minister Kam’s place, since he is ill. I left Roosendaal early on Monday morning. Immediately on arriving I called at the institution, but could not see the director, who is also a doctor, before 2 o’clock because he was engaged in an operation. I couldn’t see the patient either before 3 in the afternoon. Then to Mauve, who was away travelling and his wife out shopping. Then to Tersteeg, also not at home before 1.30. Then I did speak to Mr. Tersteeg, but he knows nothing about Vincent. V. had broken off all relations, since Tersteeg had pointed out to him that it was not fitting that at his age he should be supported by his brother.
Vincent had concluded from this that Tersteeg and Mauve had urged you to not to send your contribution any more, and that idea seems to have made him agitated again. Tersteeg knew these details from you or from your letters.
At 2 o’clock I spoke to the doctor. When I enquired about the patient, he said that his illness was catarrhal in nature, and that he appeared to be in need of rest. But he saw no objection and allowed me to go to him and to speak to him again (the doctor) after my visit. Vincent was somewhat surprised to see me, a little touchy, but I put him into a normal mood and promised to return the next day. He does not look at all wasted, his pulse is calm and otherwise quite normal. He had complaints about Uncle Cor, that he had judged his drawings so coolly. Van Rappard had seen them and thought them very good. That Rappard remains loyal to him and had later written to him again to encourage him. We spoke for quite a long time and then it was time for me to go to Leiden.
I told Vincent that when he was allowed to leave the hospital he could come to us to get his strength back but, while he appreciated the offer, he thought it better not to avail himself of it, because he wanted to get back to work. Yesterday morning at 10 o’clock I returned from Leiden and went to see him again. And I asked the doctor to let me know if, Heaven forbid, there was a change for the worse. Before that, however, I drove to his house, where the people said they didn’t really know where the gentleman was. He had said he was leaving the city for 14 days, but they believed he was in the hospital. They couldn’t show me his studio because they hadn’t got the key.
Now I heard from him that he had heard from his model about that package we had sent. He had got my letter and the enclosure, but that letter was inside the package, so the model must have opened the package. Can there be any danger in that so-called model?
When I left I secretly gave him a piece of paper from Anna with some ox-tongue, but not a lot, to which I added a 10-guilder coin. He had refused to take money from me. There he pays 10.50 guilders per 14 days, always in advance. He had been there eight days and he showed me his receipt. As I left I whispered to him that he must be careful with the small packet I had given him because there was something else in it (I meant that coin). He stuffed the packet under his mattress. He remains singular, and I have no great expectations. But if only he does not sink lower and lower and does not throw himself away on an unworthy person. That avoidance of people who want to help him along is an unfavourable sign. When the time came for other visitors to arrive, I noticed him looking towards the door uneasily. Can it be that he was expecting a visitor, someone that he would rather I did not meet?
Don’t say that I think the worst. I say this to no one else but you and you will understand – how I mean it, truly not to burden him, but in part out of fear. There is in him an inclination towards the lower classes, and sometimes a person can enter into an improper connection out of perversity or a sense of desolation.
You understand, though we are not now afraid of this illness turning out badly, we continue to be concerned about him and that concern has not diminished. He also talked about wanting to take another house – in the same neighbourhood – where he would have better opportunities ... What a support you are for Vincent. Bye, old chap!’ (FRb2240).
8. Breitner was discharged from the hospital on Saturday, 17 June: see letter 214 and cf. letter 237.
c. Variant of the expression ‘korte metten maken’.
9. Van Gogh means in the 3rd class.
10. This comparison is also found in letter 238.
11. In the previous letter Van Gogh not only named the title, The mystery of Edwin Drood, but also spoke of ‘several volumes’ of Dickens. See letter 238, also for the perspective books mentioned.