1. For this quotation from Longfellow’s ‘The saga of king Olaf’, see letter 92, n. 1.
2. This was probably Diggers in Schenkweg (F 927 / JH 161 [2381]). See letter 306, n. 4.
3. The Jewish quarter was in the centre of The Hague, around the Nieuwe Kerk on Spui. See exhib. cat. The Hague 1990, pp. 45, 54.
4. For this quotation, cited in a broader context, see letter 200, n. 1.
5. During the libel action that James Whistler brought against John Ruskin in 1878 the following exchange took place between the artist and Sir John Holker, representing Ruskin: ‘How long did you take to knock off one of your pictures?’ Whistler: ‘Oh, I ‘knock one off’ possibly in a couple of days. One day to do the work and another to finish it.’ Holker: ‘The labour of two days is that for which you ask two hundred guineas?’ ‘No, I ask it for a knowledge I have gained in the work of a lifetime.’ The case attracted considerable attention and a great deal was written about it. At the end of December 1878 Whistler published a pamphlet on it; a caricature appeared in Punch (7 December 1878). See Ronald Anderson and Anne Koval, James McNeill Whistler. Beyond the myth. London 1994, pp. 215-225, 490-491 (quotation on p. 219). In Van Gogh’s version Whistler’s reply is even more brazen: he speaks of two hours instead of two days.
6. Initially Van Gogh wrote ‘tones’, not ‘tints’.
7. ‘Cassel earth’ is a brown pigment.
8. Five men and a child in the snow (F - / JH 323). Natural chalk is a hard, black kind of chalk. To be quite specific, Van Gogh again noted on the back of the sketch what he meant. We have placed this note at the end of the letter as a postscript. On the sketch: cat. Amsterdam 1996, pp. 208-210, cat. no. 59.
9. The holder (‘teekenpen’) gripped the sticks of natural chalk, making them easier to work with.