Dear brother,
Because I have a need to speak frankly, I can’t hide from you that I’m overcome by a feeling of great anxiety, dejection, a je ne sais quoi of discouragement and even despair, too much to express. And that if I can find no consolation for it, it might all too easily overwhelm me unbearably.
It really bothers me that I have so little success with people in general, I’m very concerned about this, and all the more so because rising above it and getting on with the work is at stake here. The fate of the woman, moreover, the fate of my sweet, poor little lad and the other child, cut me to the quick. I’d still like to help and I can’t.
I’m at a point where I need credit, trust and some warmth, and you see there’s no trust in me. You’re an exception to this, but precisely because everything falls on you it makes it even more apparent how dismal everything is in my case.
And if I look at my things, they’re too poor, too inadequate, too much exhausted. We’re having gloomy, rainy days here, and when I come into the corner of the attic where I’ve installed myself it’s all remarkably melancholy there — with the light from one single glass roof tile that falls on an empty painting box, on a bundle of brushes with few decent bristles remaining, well it’s so curiously melancholy that luckily it also has a funny enough side not to weep over it but to regard it more cheerfully. But even so, it’s in a very strange relationship to my plans — in a very strange relationship to the seriousness of the work, and — this is where the laughing stops.
What else can I do? — last year ended with an even bigger deficit than I told you, for I’ve already paid off more than I mentioned to you, including Rappard, and still however owe Rappard above all, and that worries me the most because he’s a friend, and although at this moment I’ve paid off everything that was in the slightest bit urgent I’m faced with the problem that I still have to pay for other things before the paint that I would otherwise buy, or rather I don’t dare take it on credit, which would again cause me a considerable bill in time. You know yourself how we weren’t exactly in the mood to be able to say more during your visit, but I tell you now that The Hague has been too much for me, and I had already put off and put off the separation for one particular specific reason, even though the deficit was inevitable if I persisted.  1v:2
This was that, rather than separating, I would have risked one more attempt by marrying her and going to live with her in the country, although not without telling you how things stood. But I believed one thing, that this was the right course, even despite the temporary financial drawbacks, and that not only could it have been her salvation but would also have put an end to great inner struggle for me, which has now, unhappily, doubled for me. And I would rather have seen it through to the bitter end.
If either Pa or you had been able to feel it thus, perhaps — I don’t say that I would have been happier or unhappier as a result, and if the roles had been reversed, you in my place, I in yours, I don’t know whether I would have been able to act other than as you did — but perhaps, I say, she would have been saved because of it. I therefore regard it as something where the decision depended not on you two, but on myself (except that I can’t give myself my father’s consent to marry, this single point is beyond me, and in response to a determined question Pa answered me in generalities in which, however, there was no hint of consent), and so I decided, because I already had debts and the future was dark. But this decision is not yet a renewal, and doesn’t take away the exhaustion that a year of too many cares brings in its train, while I’m also left with a wounded heart and a feeling of emptiness and disappointment and melancholy — not so easy to cure. I may be here now, and may almost have covered the financial deficit, and in a while it could be entirely covered, and nature is wonderful here and exceeds my expectations. Yet I’m far from being comfortably settled again and getting on, because the little glimpse of my attic I’m giving you is drawn from life.
If I’d known all these things in advance, I would have moved here with the woman last year when she came out of hospital, then there would have been no deficit and then we wouldn’t be separated now, for she’s less guilty of her wrongdoing than her family, who have intrigued very meanly, ostensibly for her but fundamentally against her. Meanwhile, I’ve sometimes wondered, for instance, whether the mother wasn’t also being backed in turn by a priest,1 because too much has been done on their part to influence the woman for me to explain. All the more so because I’ve still heard nothing from her, although before I left I told her that I would give the carpenter next door2 my address as soon as I knew it myself; I sent it to him and asked him to tell her, and I’ve still heard nothing, except just from this carpenter that she’s collected all her things (more than she brought with her, after all).  1v:3
Now you understand that I’m concerned about her fate, although I believe that if she were simply in need she’d have written, but now there must be something wrong behind it. You will understand my feeling about it, I rather fear that the family is saying to her: he’ll surely write and then... we’ll have him under our thumb — in short they’re presuming on my weakness and I am not going to walk into that trap. And today I’m writing not to her but to the carpenter to tell him that he must make sure she knows my address, but I will not write to her first, and if she writes will see how things actually stand. When I would definitely try to help is if her family were to cast her off entirely, and if it’s the case that her family is helping her, I understand well enough that she’s too much in agreement with them, and has been for a long time, so that I may not or cannot have anything more to do with it. Or, I’ve thought, if there’s a priest behind it, she’s being helped but only on condition that she has nothing more to do with me, and that’s the reason for her silence.
But I’ll say that I haven’t yet got so far that I can resign myself to the idea of separation, at present I’m still very, very concerned about her fate, precisely because she’s leaving me in the dark about it.
And over and above all this, I’ve been overwhelmed these past few days by sombre feelings about the future, and also about the miserable state of my equipment as far as painting materials are concerned, the impossibility of doing the most essential, most useful things as they really should be done.
Since I can already see straightaway that there’s so much beauty here, if I could afford it I would send for my things that are still there in The Hague,3 and I would either fit up this same attic here as a studio (by letting a bit more light in) or look for another place. And then I’d like to renew and replenish all my equipment. I wish that for once I could do this really thoroughly, and if I could find someone who would trust me that far, my greatest concerns would be allayed. But either everything falls on you or I find no one who trusts me, this is the circle in which my thoughts revolve, and I see no way out.
A painter who has no means of his own can’t get by without sometimes rather large credit with people, credit that not only the profession of painter requires, but that the professions of cobbler, carpenter, smith would equally require, I believe no more nor less, if they had to set themselves up or re-establish themselves somewhere.  1r:4
It’s above all in this rainy weather, of which we have months ahead of us, that my hands are really tied. And then, what else can I do? — sometimes my thoughts take on a form — I’ve worked and economized and still not been able to avoid debt, I’ve been faithful to the woman and yet lapsed into disloyalty, I’ve abhorred intrigues and yet I have virtually no credit or possessions. I don’t regard your trust in me lightly, on the contrary, but I rather wonder whether I shouldn’t say to you, forget about me for we won’t get there — it’s too much for one, and there’s no chance of getting any relief from another quarter — is this not proof enough that we should give up?
Oh, old chap, I’ve become so melancholy — I’m in magnificent countryside, I have a desire, indeed an absolute need to work — at the same time I’m absolutely at a loss as to how we’re going to get on top of it, when I think that my things are in the most miserable state and I’m here without a studio or anything, and will be embarrassed everywhere until I can improve matters. The models — they refuse to pose if there are bystanders around, and this is the greatest difficulty that makes a studio desirable. I have the same feeling now as I did when I set up the studio in The Hague — ‘if I don’t do it, I’ll certainly not be able to manage’. And even now, given The Hague, I don’t regret that I did as I did in those circumstances, only I wish I had come here 1 1/2 years earlier and set up a studio here instead of there.
Pa wrote to me saying that he wanted to help me, but I didn’t let him know anything about my worries, and I hope that you won’t say anything to Pa on this subject either. Pa has his own worries, and would only have even more worries were he to find out that things aren’t going well. So I merely wrote to Pa that everything turned out much better than I expected, which is also perfectly true as far as nature is concerned. As long as the weather was good I wasn’t aware of things because I saw so much that was beautiful, but now that it’s been pouring with rain incessantly for several days I increasingly see how I’m actually stuck here, and I’m embarrassed. What’s to be done? Will things worsen or improve with time? I don’t know, but I feel really miserable and can’t shake it off.

In every life some rain must fall
And days be dark and dreary4

that is true, it cannot be otherwise, yet I wonder if the number of dark and dreary days can’t sometimes get too great? Nevertheless, I’ve had a model again in the barn, but in very trying light. After all, I don’t refuse to do what can be done, but can I do what MUST be done in the circumstances? And this letter is a sigh for space, and if the winter has to be like these days, I would be in a bad way. It’s beautiful, though, indeed extremely beautiful in the rain, but how does one work, how when one lacks too much? Adieu, old chap, I wish everything would turn out all right, but we need more trust from other people, otherwise I fear it won’t work. I hope to hear from you soon. Did you receive studies?5
With a handshake.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 393 | CL: 328
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Hoogeveen, on or about Wednesday, 26 September 1883

1. This is probably W.A. van Berkel, who was priest of the Hague ‘Boschkant’ from 1875 to 1890 and died in 1899. See Visser 1973, p. 39.
2. Most likely Willem Kiesenberg: see letters 241 (in which there is mention of a carpenter who is the house-owner’s foreman) and 315.
3. Van Gogh had stored his things in The Hague, in the attic of the house where he had been living; see letter 382.
4. Variant of the closing lines of the poem ‘The rainy day’ from Longfellow’s collection Ballads and other poems: ‘Into each life some rain must fall, / some days must be dark and dreary’. See Longfellow 1886-1891, vol. 1, p. 69.
5. These studies were sent on 24 September: see letter 389.