1. The previous letter, 285.
2. For the sending of the lithographs Digger (F 1656 / JH 262 [2412]) and Old man drinking coffee (F 1657 / JH 266 [2415]), see letter 285, n. 1.
[2412] [2415]
3. These are studies like ‘Worn out’ (F 997 / JH 267 [2416]) and (the compositionally different) Sorrowful old man (F 998 / JH 269). It is clear from letter 287, however, that Van Gogh worked with two different models, one of them Adrianus Zuyderland, and only the study of him survived: Study for ‘Worn out’ (F - / JH -), see Meedendorp 2021.
[2416] [436]
4. This drawing, done around mid-September 1881 in Etten, is Man sitting by the fireplace (‘Worn out’) (F 863 / JH 34 [2345]) (see also letter 172). It depicts Cornelis Schuitemaker. On him: C. de Bruyn-Heeren, ‘Cornelis Schuitemaker (1813-1884), model for Vincent van Gogh.’ In: Brabantse biografieën. Levensbeschrijvingen van bekende en onbekende Noordbrabanders. Vol. 4. J. van Oudheusden et al. Amsterdam and Meppel 1996, pp. 109-112; and FR b3648.
a. A workman’s suit in strong cotton that is patched.
5. For Zola’s Pot-bouille, see letter 283, n. 14. The Breton maid Adèle manages to keep secret her pregnancy and delivery at night in her attic room. She at once abandons the child out of shame and fear of losing her job. See Zola 1960-1967, vol. 3, pp. 366-371 (chapter 18). The detailed and realistic description of the birth was highly controversial at the time.
Josserand is the father of three daughters who, together with his wife, spend so much to keep up appearances in their bourgeois circle that he has to work at night as well as doing a day job as a cashier. For the address writing (chapter 2), see pp. 24-25. Cf. also Sund 1992, p. 66.
6. This verdict comes from Julie, a maidservant, when she is congratulated on finding a new post. The end reads literally: ‘She shrugged and ended with this philosophical reply: “Dear God, mademoiselle, this one or that, every hovel’s like every other one. In this day and age, whoever has done one of them has done the other. They’re all a shoddy lot.”’ (Elle haussa les épaules et conclut par cette réponse philosophique: “Mon Dieu! mademoiselle, celle-ci ou celle-là, toutes les baraques se ressemblent. Au jour d’aujourd’hui, qui a fait l’une a fait l’autre. C’est cochon et compagnie.”) Zola 1960-1967, vol. 3, p. 386 (chapter 18).
7. A reference to the passage in Pot-bouille where Octave Mouret is judged by Mme Hédouin, his future wife: ‘Elle avait fini pourtant par lui témoigner une véritable estime, gagnée à ses idées larges, à ses rêves de grands comptoirs modernes, déballant des millions de marchandises sur les trottoirs de Paris.’ (Elle avait fini pourtant par lui témoigner une véritable estime, gagnée à ses idées larges, à ses rêves de grands comptoirs modernes, déballant des millions de marchandises sur les trottoirs de Paris.) Zola 1960-1967, vol. 3, p. 165 (chapter 9).
8. Octave Mouret’s conquests are mentioned more than once in Pot-bouille (see Zola 1960-1967, vol. 3, pp. 68, 235, 408). Van Gogh’s ‘quotation’ about Mouret’s contempt for women is not literal, but there are several passages in which it is expressed, such as: ‘he gave way to his streak of brutality, the fierce scorn he felt for women’ (il céda à son fond de brutalité, au dédain féroce qu’il avait de la femme) (chapter 1, p. 21; a similar quotation in chapter 12, p. 245) and ‘then he rose, full of contempt’ (alors, il se leva, plein de mépris) (chapter 4, p. 72).
9. Victor Hugo’s broadly conceived historical novel Quatre-vingt-treize (1874) is set in the period after the French Revolution. It is a fictional story in a historical setting: royalist peasants in the Vendée rise up against the republican government in Paris. Their leader, the Marquis de Lantenac, is overpowered after he saves three children from a burning castle instead of fleeing from the republican leaders Gauvain and Cimourdain. Gauvain admires this humanitarian deed and helps Lantenac to escape. Gauvain is then arrested as a traitor and condemned to the guillotine by the blinkered Cimourdain, who is his friend but also president of the court martial. At the moment Gauvain is beheaded by the guillotine, Cimourdain shoots himself through the heart out of remorse.
10. Ary Scheffer, Count Eberhard von Württemberg mourning beside the lifeless body of his son Ulrich, 1831. And Ary Scheffer, Count Eberhard von Württemberg dividing the tablecloth between himself and his son Ulrich, 1851. Ill. 416 [416]. and Ill. 413 [413] (Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen).
[416] [413]
11. For Scheffer’s Christus Consolator [1771], see letter 85, n. 7.
12. Possibly an allusion to something said by the old snail (not a pig) in the tale ‘The happy family’ by Hans Christian Andersen: ‘“There is nothing beyond it!” quoth Father Snail ... “No place can be better than this; we have nothing to wish for”’. See Andersen 1861, p. 388.
13. In view of Van Gogh’s description this is probably De Bock’s Road and cottage, which was sold a short time later, namely on 5 December 1882. It was bought by the dealer Thomas Richardson of London (RKD, Goupil Ledgers). The painting The oak, in a private collection in the USA in 1932 (RKD), comes close to matching the description given.
14. Cf. Isa. 59:9 and John 8:12.
15. Jules Breton or Emile Adélard Breton.
16. Probably Jacob Maris, for whom Van Gogh had a strong preference.
17. The uncomplicated perseverance of humble folk, automatic faith. In letter 397 Van Gogh says that Millet used this expression often, but it is not recorded in Sensier’s book on Millet. The only time it is found is in the introduction by Paul Mantz, Sensier 1881, p. vi; it is cited in letters 358, 368, 396, 397, 403, 404 and 494.