My dear Theo,
I have a great deal to say about your calling my last letter ‘particularly unpleasant’.
First of all this — some time ago you wrote various unpleasant things to me1 which I’ve been hearing from you and others for the past 15 years and more — that’s a long time — about relations at home.
With this specially added, ‘that you are suspicious’. Well, if it had only been the former, I probably wouldn’t have given it any more attention.
That addition of your suspicion, though, that was a bit too much for me, and I repeatedly asked you to take it back or to explain it, because I don’t allow something like that to be said without asking for enlightenment.
And in my last letter I compared suspicion in general with a dark glass one looks through.
And said that the nastiest misunderstandings arise because of it.
And that’s true.
When you now turn this round and write to me, ‘you remind me of the old people who say that things were better in their young days than now, forgetting meanwhile that they themselves have changed’, this doesn’t upset me.
What we were talking about is suspicion, which not I but you yourself mention, by you of me. First apply the thing about the old people to that, and after that see whether it also applies to me.
If it also applies to me after that — then I’ll have to change.
What I wrote about a certain atmosphere at home, which I had more opportunity to observe than I cared to, is, I fear,  1v:2 all too true.
When you ask me in your letter how it is that you never hear me say, ‘I’d like to be thus or so’ — is — because I believe that those who make the greatest parade of ‘I’d like to be thus or so’ do the least to improve themselves. Those who say it, usually don’t do it.
Were I to express myself about such wishes, it would not be easy to do so in an atmosphere like the one that now exists between us.
So that’s the reason — and since I take pains to improve my work, I don’t have to keep lapsing into lamentations.
I’m sorry you didn’t send me that No. of L’Illustration; I’ve been following Renouard a good while, and have what he’s done for L’Illustration going back for years.2 And this is one of the very finest, which I think you would also have been delighted with yourself.
One can’t get the old Nos. if one orders them in the bookshop, at least not here. I do wish you could get it. If it’s too much trouble for you, leave it, although it’s really not that much trouble after all.  1v:3
And — after all — take note that as far as that suspicion is concerned and what I replied to it, it isn’t so much because I won’t allow you or others, if need be, to think of me exactly as you will, but I’ve warned you that it would give you little satisfaction if your character were to set in that mould.
Since you repeatedly say that you know me better than anyone else and yet it still all ends in suspicion, though, this is serious enough for me to decidedly object to it, and to that ‘know so well’, and to the other thing, that suspicion. I’ve a history like that behind me with Pa — I’m not starting on a Pa II.3
If I’d kept on top of things with Pa from the start and not simply stayed silent, a great deal wouldn’t have happened.
So don’t take it amiss that I now say foursquare what I think about it.4 That’s better for both of us. For the rest, old chap, I think I’m working rather too hard for it to be too long before I can  1r:4 reduce the financial burden on you somewhat. It may take me longer than I’d like for you or for me, but keeping on working is a path that can hardly fail altogether. And when I insist on pressing on with it, it’s in order to put an end to the possibility of quarrelling. Because even the possibility of quarrelling ceases to exist as soon as I find a means of covering myself financially. Then my work will no longer be at issue, and at present it still is.
And therefore don’t despair. But now it’s wretched for both of us. And for me the work is expensive; I have to paint a lot and I constantly need a model for it; just all the more reason why, at a time when the work is difficult and exacting, and at the same time thankless, it’s quite wretched to get suspicion for it. Never mind, it’s a period I have to go through, and one doesn’t paint for one’s comfort.
Thanks for what you sent. Regards.

Yours truly,


Br. 1990: 485 | CL: 388b
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Nuenen, on or about Monday, 2 February 1885

1. Vincent refers again here to Theo’s letter (cf. letter 481), in which he expressed his ‘mistrust’: see letter 473).
2. Vincent had asked for a special issue of this periodical (letter 480), which Theo did in fact send shortly after this (see letter 483).
a. Means: ‘om te maken dat’ (to make me).
3. Van Gogh introduced the comparison ‘Pa II’ in letter 474.
4. Later in the month Mr van Gogh expressed himself frankly to Theo about the difficult relationship with Vincent. Although he said he did not want to burden Theo with the matter, he did inform him of it. On 19 February 1885 he wrote: ‘Pity that Vincent doesn’t join in any more. It’s as if he is increasingly becoming estranged from us ... His short temper prevents any talking and that in itself is enough to prove that he isn’t normal. It’s certainly not easy for me to be passive. And yet previous experience has taught me that one doesn’t win by opposition and it doesn’t improve matters ... We feel so sorry for him; because such a relationship can’t give him any pleasure. We place our hope in God and pray for light and wisdom and for him, oh if only it could be! some happiness in life. But I mustn’t burden you too much.’ In a postscript written the following day he added: ‘I did speak to Vincent again this morning after all. He was quite responsive and said that there was nothing in particular to make him feel depressed – We will just have to wait and see’ (FR b2267).