1. See letter 654 for this shipment of paint from Tasset.
2. See letter 214, n. 2, for Cassagne’s Guide de l’alphabet du dessin. Vincent had asked Theo to buy the book in letter 630.
3. The novella La fin de Lucie Pellegrin by Paul Alexis was published in 1880; the author adapted it as a one-act play, which premiered on 15 June 1888 in the Théâtre Libre in Paris. This was probably why Theo sent it to Vincent. It is not possible to tell whether he sent the dramatized version or the novella.
In the stage version of La fin de Lucie Pellegrin, the terminally ill coquette Lucie is visited by her Parisian ‘friends’. The women find her asleep and sit gossiping in her room about Lucie’s past in the beau monde, the wealth she accumulated but then frittered away, and the affairs she had. When she wakes, the one thing she wants to do is to throw herself back into the high life again. Then Chochotte arrives. This is a woman with whom Lucie had a relationship, but who also squandered a lot of her money. They want to be reconciled, but the other friends drive her out of the house, leaving Lucie to die alone.
4. Van Gogh is referring to the theme of lesbian love in La fin de Lucie Pellegrin.
5. Thomas Rowlandson, La romance difficile (The difficult romance) published in L’Univers Illustré 31 (28 July 1888), p. 478. There is a copy in the estate (t*464). Ill. 1296 [1296].
6. One of these studies was Thistles (F 447 / JH 1550 [2696]). A similar composition with thistles in the foreground appears in a colour illustration by Frédéric Montenard, in Daudet’s Tartarin sur les Alpes (Calman Lévy, Paris 1885, p. 321). The caption of the illustration may also have inspired Van Gogh: ‘That lovely Tarascon road, all white and dry with dust’ (Cette belle route tarasconnaise, toute blanche et cracquante de poussière). See Guzzoni 2020, pp. 125-127.
The other study of thistles is not known. Doubt has been cast on the authenticity of Thistles (F 447a / JH 1551) (see cat. Amsterdam 2007, pp. 162-164, n. 5). In any event the flowering stage of the thistles in this painting indicates an earlier date than August.
7. Caravans with fairground travellers (F 445 / JH 1554 [2698]); this measures 45 x 51 cm.
8. Railway carriages (F 446 / JH 1553 [2697]); this measures 45 x 50 cm.
9. Paul Eugène Milliet.
10. The lines of verse are taken, somewhat freely, from the poem ‘A un sous-lieutenant’ in the collection Le cahier rouge, which Van Gogh had previously quoted in its entirety: see letter 430.
11. This telegram is letter 661.
12. Uncle Vincent left Theo 1,000 guilders; Vincent, in contrast, was specifically cut out. See Testament 1977, pp. 36-37.
13. The refusal by Uncle Cor and Uncle Vincent to provide financial backing had happened in the summer of 1886; see letter 568, n. 2.
14. Van Gogh is referring here to the discussion he had had with Uncle Cor in 1882, which he had told Theo about. In defending himself against the charge that he should earn his own living, he made the same distinction then between ‘gagner’ (earn) and ‘mériter’ (deserve). See letter 211.