Dear brother.
I wish you could understand that I must be consistent in various things.
You know what an ‘error in the point of view’ is in painting, namely something very different from and much worse than a mistake in drawing this or that detail.
A single point determines the steeper or gentler incline, the way the sides of the objects develop more to the right or to the left throughout the whole composition.
Well, there’s something similar in life.
When I say I’m a poor painter and still face years of struggle — in my daily life I have to arrange things more or less as a farm labourer or factory worker does — then that’s a fixed point from which many things follow, which are thus taken out of their context if they’re viewed other than in general. There are painters in other circumstances who can and must act differently. Everyone must decide for himself.
If I’d had other opportunities, other circumstances, and if nothing of a decisive nature had happened, of course I would have been influenced in my actions.1
Now, though — and with all the more reason — because I, should there be the slightest question of seeing it as me arrogating to myself something to which I had no right, even if I had the right after all, but simply because of the question being raised, I withdraw of my own accord from contact with people who keep up a certain position, even from my family2 — thus we’re faced by this fact, my firm intention to be dead to everything except my work.3  1v:2
Yet it’s difficult for me to speak about those otherwise simple, ordinary matters, because they’re unfortunately connected to much deeper things.
There is no greater ‘anguish’ than an inner struggle between duty and love, both raised to a high level.
When I say to you, I choose my duty, you know all about it.
The few words about it that we exchanged on the road made me feel that nothing has changed in me in this regard, that it is and will remain a wound which I live above but which is there deep down and cannot heal — years from now it will be what it was the first day.
I hope you understand what a struggle I had with myself of late — this: whatever happens (not enquiring about that what? for I don’t have the right to investigate it) — I want to be on my qui vive about remaining an honest man and being doubly attentive to duty.
I never suspected nor do I suspect nor shall I suspect her of having financial considerations as her motive, other than what was just and fair. She went as far as was reasonable, others exaggerated. Beyond that, though, you understand that I presume nothing as regards love for me, and that what we said on the road goes no further. Things have happened since that wouldn’t have taken place if at a certain point I hadn’t been faced by a firm no, firstly, and, secondly, a promise that I would keep out of her way.  1v:3
I respected a sense of duty in her — I have never suspected her, shall never suspect her, of anything low. For my part I know one thing, that in the first place what matters is not to deviate from what is duty, and that one can’t compromise on duty.
Duty is something absolute. The consequences? We’re not responsible for them, but for the initiative of doing or not doing one’s duty, yes. Here one sees the exact opposite of the principle that the end justifies the means.
And my own future is a cup that cannot pass away from me except I drink it.4
So Thy will be done.5
Regards — safe journey — write soon — but you understand how I will approach the future, with serenity and without one sign in my face betraying the struggle in the deepest depths.

Ever yours,

You will understand, though, that I must avoid everything that might tempt me to hesitate, and so I must keep away from everything and everyone that might remind me of her. As a matter of fact, this year, too, that thought has sometimes made me more decisive than I otherwise would have been, and you see that I can do something like that in such a way that no one truly understands it.


Br. 1990: 378 | CL: 313
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: The Hague, Friday, 17 August 1883

1. This remark and what follows relate to Van Gogh’s rejection by Kee Vos and to the estrangement between him and Mauve and Tersteeg. These subjects had evidently been discussed during Theo's visit.
2. The passages ‘even ... I’ (‘zelfs ... alleen ik’) and ‘from contact ... family’ (‘van omgang ... familie’) were added later by Van Gogh.
3. After ‘work’ Van Gogh crossed out the following incomplete thoughts: ‘I shall not seek relations with people, whoever they are, except for a very few. Am I wrong in that? I know too well’ (‘Relaties met menschen/ wie dan ook/ zal ik niet zoeken als de heel enkele_ Heb ik daarin ongelijk – ik ken te goed’).
5. ‘Thy will be done’ from The Lord’s Prayer; see also Matt. 26:42, Matt. 6:10 and Luke 11:2.