My dear Theo,
One of these days I’ll send you another new pen drawing of a weaver — larger than the 5 others.1 The loom viewed from the front — that will make this little series of drawings more complete.2 I think that they’ll look best if you mount them on grey Ingres.3
It would disappoint me a bit to get these little weavers back. And if nobody else you know wants to take them on, I’d think this is an article that perhaps you could take for yourself, in order to bring together a number of pen drawings of Brabant artisans, with this as the start. Which I’d be happy to undertake and — on the assumption that I’ll be in Brabant quite a lot now — would be very keen to do.
On condition that we make them into a set that stays together, I’ll be happy to set the price low so that it can stay as a whole, even if many drawings of that kind were to come.  1v:2
However, for my part I’ll go along with what you think best in this regard.
And you see that it isn’t my endeavour to break off business with you — only, I’ve pointed out to you that it occurred to me that it might be useful to show the drawings as I send them.
As regards what you wrote to me about Marie — I believe that in such a case, where one sees no possibility of carrying it through, there’s something one shouldn’t forget.
Namely that if the woman has loved you and felt something for you, and you for her, this period of love is a stroke of luck in life. Whether the woman is beautiful or ugly, young or old, should she prove better or worse, only indirectly has anything to do with it. The plain fact remains that you have loved each other. On parting now — don’t extinguish that or try not to forget it — and the rock to avoid then is that of self-righteousness — one shouldn’t then let it appear as if the woman had a great obligation  1v:3 to the man — one should part as if one had an obligation oneself — is in my view more chivalrous — and — more humane. This may be the way you see it too. Love always causes trouble, that’s true, but in its favour, it energizes. But anyway.
As to myself, I believe — and consider it possible that to some extent it might also be the same with you — that I haven’t yet had enough experience with women. What we were taught about them in our youth is quite wrong, that’s certain — had nothing to do with real life at all. And if one has to see to it that one learns something by experience, it would be mightily pleasant if one was good and the world was good &c. — yes indeed — but it seems to me that one increasingly comes to realize that we ourselves are as bad as the world in general — of which we are a speck of dust — and the world as bad as we are — whether one does one’s very best or acts more indifferently, it always becomes something else — works out differently — from what one actually wanted. But whether it turns out better or worse, happier or unhappier, doing something is better than doing nothing.  1r:4
Well, provided one takes care, as Uncle Vincent says — that one doesn’t grow up into a stiff, self-righteous stick — one may even be as good as one wishes. His Hon. taught this wise lesson to C.M.’s daughter.4
Well, regards.

Yours truly,

Your letter about Millet has good passages — better observed than what you say about Lhermitte, for whom you can safely keep your sympathy, it seems to me. Don’t immerse yourself in that absolutely sterile carping about who’s the first, who the second &c., that’s nothing but nonsense and stupidity. There are enough who do that, and you, be one of those who think Millet very good and Lhermitte too, so that you leave no room to fret about who’s the best, the first — they’re both above the mark.
What would be the point of making comparisons between Rembrandt and Nicolaas Maes or Vermeer — nonsense, eh? — so stop it.
There was also something I wanted to ask you about Millet. Do you think that Millet would have become Millet if he’d lived childless and without a wife?5
He found his inspiration the more easily and sympathized with the simple folk better and deeper because he himself lived like a labourer’s family — but with infinitely more feeling than an ordinary labourer.  2v:6 Millet’s motto was: God blesses large families6 — and his life proves that he meant it. Would Millet have been able to do this without Sensier? Perhaps not. But why did Millet break with those men who were originally his friends and from whom he had an annuity?7 Sensier says enough about this to make out that the trouble was that they rated both Millet’s person and Millet’s work as mediocre, and plagued both themselves and Millet with it until that pitcher finally broke, having been too many times to the well. And yet Sensier doesn’t go into details about those days — just as if he understood that Millet himself found that time a dreadful bore and preferred not to think of it. Sensier says somewhere that when Millet thought about his first wife and the struggle of those days, he would clasp his head between his two hands with a gesture as if the great darkness and inexpressible melancholy of that period overwhelmed him again. His domestic life was more successful the second time — but he wasn’t with those original people any more.8


Br. 1990: 436 | CL: 359
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Nuenen, between about Wednesday, 5 and about Sunday, 9 March 1884

1. See for these pen-and-ink drawings: letter 430, n. 1.
2. Probably Weaver (F 1116 / JH 462 [2455]). Cf. letter 442, n. 4.
3. Cf. for this recommendation for a grey passepartout: letter 216, n. 4.
4. Uncle Cor’s daughter: Johanna Hendrina van Gogh.
5. Van Gogh derived these ideas about a wife and children’s inspirational role for an artist from Michelet’s L’amour and La femme, and from Sensier’s book about Millet. Sensier refers to the importance of family life to the artist and paints a picture of Millet as a family man (‘Homme de la famille’). See Sensier 1881, pp. 84, 159 (quotation), 161-162, 220. Cf. also Van Uitert 1993, p. 139 (n. 36).
6. Van Gogh did not get the notion that God blesses large families from Sensier’s biography. He may have based the expression on the emphasis that Sensier placed on the fact that Millet, the father of nine children and devoted to the family from which he himself came, was unarguably a family man: ‘All these scenes of family life were very innocent and very full of emotion: Millet spoke of children, house and home in tender words unknown to Parisian bachelors’. (Toutes ces scènes familières étaient bien naïves et bien émues: Millet a parlé des enfants, de la maison, du foyer avec des tendresses inconnues aux célibataires parisiens). Sensier 1881, p. 346.
7. The observation that Millet broke with his earlier benefactors relates to the 1835-1841 period. Cherbourg municipality and the department of Manche paid him an allowance for his training as a painter, but in 1841, when he was asked to paint the portrait of the late mayor Javain from a miniature, they were dissatisfied with the result and publicly abandoned him. See Sensier 1881, pp. 42-43, 72-75. Sensier was Millet’s patron.
8. Millet married Pauline Virginie Ono in November 1841. ‘This union was not happy, in fact. Millet’s young wife was of a sickly constitution, all she did was suffer and waste away, and she died in Paris on 21 April 1844.’ (Cette union en effet ne fut pas heureuse. La jeune femme de Millet était une constitution maladive; elle ne fit que souffrir et se consumer, et elle mourut à Paris le 21 avril 1844.) His second wife was Catherine Lemaire, from Lorient, and she, according to Sensier 1881, pp. 76, 84, ‘was to be the mother of his children and his devoted lifelong companion’ (devait être la mère de ses enfants et la compagne dévouée de toute sa vie).
Millet’s dramatic pose, unmanned by melancholy and sitting with his head in his hands, does not occur anywhere in Sensier. All he said – aside from what has been quoted above – was: ‘Millet’s first marriage had been most unhappy’ (Le premier mariage de Millet avait été bien malheureux). Sensier 1881, p. 83. Van Gogh himself made several drawings of this subject (inspired by English wood engravings).