1. Signac gave the following account of his visit to Vincent in a letter he wrote to Theo on Sunday, 24 March 1889: ‘I found your brother in a perfect state of physical and mental health. We went out together yesterday afternoon and again this morning. He took me to see his paintings, of which many are very good and all of them very intriguing.
His kind doctor, the house physician Rey, believes that if he had a very methodical life, eating and drinking normally and at regular times, there would be every chance that his terrible crises would not be repeated. He is strongly disposed to keep him for as long as necessary. He thinks that the costs of this stay should fall to the municipality, since it is at the council’s request that he is being kept in the hospital. In any case, if he does not return to Paris, which would be preferable in Mr Rey’s opinion, he would have to move house, as his neighbours are hostile towards him. That is also the wish of your brother, who would like to be taken away as soon as possible from this hospital, where he must indeed be suffering – from this constant surveillance that must often be petty-minded. In short, I found him, I assure you, in the most perfect state of health and reason. He wishes for one thing only, to be able to work undisturbed. Therefore act so as to provide him with that happiness. How sad this life must be for him!’ (J’ai trouvé votre frère en parfait état de santé, physique et moral. Nous sommes sortis ensemble hier après midi et encore ce matin. Il m’a mené voir ses tableaux dont plusieurs sont fort bien et tous tres curieux.
Son gracieux docteur, l’interne Rey, croit que s’il avait une vie très methodique, mangeant et buvant normalement et à des heures régulières, il y aurait toutes les chances pour ne point se voir repetées ses terribles crises.
Il est très disposé à le garder le temps qu’il faudra. Il pense que les frais de ce séjour doivent incomber à la municipalité, puisque c’est sur la demande de l’administration qu’il est gardé a l’hospice. En tous cas s’il ne revient pas à Paris, ce qui serait préférable de l’avis de M. Rey, il faudrait qu’il déménageat; son voisinage lui étant hostile. C’est aussi le souhait de votre frère qui voudrait etre sorti le plus tot possible de cet hospice où en somme il doit souffrir – de cette continuelle surveillance qui souvent doit être mesquine_– En résumé, je l’ai trouvé, je vous l’affirme, dans l’état le plus parfait de santé et de raison. Il ne souhaite qu’une chose, pouvoir travailler tranquillement. Faites donc en sorte de lui assurer ce bonheur. Combien cette vie lui doit être triste!) (FR b640).
Signac later recalled: ‘He talked to me all day about painting, literature and socialism. He was a little tired by the evening. There was a terrible mistral blowing, which might have irritated him. He wanted to drink a litre of turpentine that was standing on the table in the room. It was time to return to the hospital.’ (Toute la journée il me parla peinture, littérature, socialisme. Le soir il était un peu fatigué. Il faisait un coup de mistral effroyable qui a pu l’énerver. Il voulut boire à même un litre d’essence de térébenthine qui se trouvait sur la table de la chambre. Il était temps de rentrer à l’hospice.) See Coquiot 1923, p. 194 (also included in Verzamelde brieven 1973, vol. 3, p. 417). Later on, paint became a threat to Van Gogh’s health; see letter 794, n. 1 and letters 835 and 838.
2. Signac received Still life with red herrings (F 510 / JH 1661 [2767]).
3. Two still lifes with smoked herrings are known from the Paris period: Still life with red herrings (F 203 / JH 1123 [2545]) and Still life with red herrings (F 283 / JH 1120 [2544]).
[2545] [2544]
4. Camille Lemonnier’s Ceux de la glèbe (1889) consists of seven stories. Although Van Gogh talks about the first two ‘chapters’, he no doubt meant the first two stories, ‘La Genèse’ (Genesis) and ‘La Glèbe’ (The glebe), which describe in a lyrical and realistic way the unrewarding and hopeless existence of poor peasants, with a strong emphasis on the arduous struggle between man and the earth. In both stories, cultivating a field that yields practically nothing leads to exhaustion that proves fatal, and the parallel between human and agrarian fertility is treated in detail.
5. The mayor of Arles was Jacques Tardieu.
a. Read: ‘derechef’.
6. Henri Rochefort was banished three times and, after the 1871 Commune, sentenced to hard labour. Victor Hugo lived in exile for 20 years on Jersey and Guernsey, because he opposed Napoleon iii. After the fall of the empire (1871), he returned to Paris. Under Napoleon iii, Edgar Quinet was forced to flee to Belgium during the coup of 2 December 1851 because of his extremely democratic ideas. He was banished to Switzerland in 1858 and returned to France in 1870.
7. Taken from the last verse of the poem ‘Stem des harten’ (Voice of the heart) by P.A. de Génestet:

God grants the fullness of His best blessings;
And sometimes gives poor mortal beings
Both life’s zest and heavenly rest,
Tying their hearts to the earth with more than earthly bonds.

[God] schenkt de volheid van zijn beste zegeningen;
En somtijds geeft Hij aan zijn arme stervelingen
Ook levenslust bij hemelrust,
En hecht hun hart aan de aard met meer dan aardsche banden.

See De Génestet 1869, vol. 1, p. 138.
8. Regarding Degas’s lifestyle, see letter 603, n. 7.
b. Read: ‘puisse acquérir’.