Dear brother and sister.
Jo’s letter1 tells me a very great piece of news this morning, I congratulate you on it, and am very pleased to hear it. I was very touched by your reasoning when you say that as neither of you are in as good health as appears desirable on an occasion like this, you had a kind of doubt, and in any case a feeling of pity for the child to come traversed your soul. This child in this case, has it, even before its birth, been less well loved than the child of very healthy parents, whose first impulse would have been a keen joy? Surely not. We know so little about life that we’re not really in a position to judge between good and bad, just or unjust, and to say that one is unhappy because one suffers hasn’t been proved. You should know that Roulin’s child came to them smiling and very healthy, while the parents were at bay.2 So take it as it is, wait with confidence and possess your soul with a long patience as an old saying has it, and with good will.3 Let nature take its course.
As to what you say about Theo’s health, my dear sister, while sharing your anxieties with all my heart I must nevertheless reassure you, precisely because I’ve seen that his health is changeable and uneven rather than weak, as is mine, for that matter.  1v:2
I very much like to believe that illnesses sometimes cure us, i.e. that when the illness comes to a crisis it’s a thing necessary to the recovery of a normal state of body. No, subsequent to the marriage he’ll regain his strength, still having the reserve of youth and power to restore him.
I’m very pleased that he’s no longer alone, and truly I don’t doubt that he’ll regain his former temperament after a while. And then above all when he’s a father and the feeling of fatherhood comes to him, that will be a considerable gain.
In my life as a painter, and above all when I’m in the country, it’s not so difficult for me to be alone, because in the country one feels the bonds that unite us all more easily. But in town, as he has done his ten consecutive years with the Goupils in Paris, it isn’t possible to live alone. So with patience it will return.
I’m going to Arles tomorrow to fetch the canvases that are still over there, which I’ll send you shortly.4 And I’m going to send you some as soon as possible to try to give you peasant thoughts, even though you’re in town.
This morning I talked a little with the doctor here5 – he told me – which was absolutely what I had already thought – that one must wait a year before believing oneself to be cured, since the smallest thing could bring on another attack.  1v:3
Then he offered to take my furniture here so that we don’t have double expenses.6 Tomorrow I’ll go and talk about that in Arles with Mr Salles.
When I came here I left 50 francs with Mr Salles to settle up with the hospital in Arles, he’ll certainly have some over. But having again quite often needed various things, the surplus that Mr Peyron had here is exhausted. I’m a little surprised myself that in living with the greatest possible sobriety and regularity for the last 6 months, without having my independent studio, I’m not spending less or producing more than the previous, relatively less sober year. And inwardly I feel neither more nor less remorse &c. if you like. Suffice to say that everything one calls good and bad is however quite relative, it seems to me. I live soberly here because I have the opportunity to. I drank before because I no longer knew how to do otherwise. Anyway it’s all the same to me!!! Sobriety, very calculated it’s true, nevertheless leads to a state of being in which thought, if you have any, flows more easily. Anyway it’s a difference like painting grey or coloured. I’m in fact going to paint more greyly.7
Only instead of paying money to a landlord we’re giving it to the asylum, I don’t see the difference – and it’s scarcely cheaper. The work is a thing apart, and has always cost me a lot.
I thank you very much for the consignment of colours and canvas, which I’m very pleased with.8 I hope to go and redo the olive trees. There are unfortunately very few vineyards here.
My health is good, though, and I have a feeling quite similar to the one I had when I was much younger, when I was also very sober, too much so, I believe they used to say. But it’s all the same,9 I’ll try to get by.  1r:4
As regards being godfather to a son of yours, while first of all it could be a girl, truly, in the circumstances I would prefer to wait until I’m no longer here. Then Mother would certainly set her heart a little on him being called after our father, I for one would find that more logical in the circumstances.
I enjoyed myself very much yesterday reading Measure for measure.10 Then I read Henry VIII, in which there are such beautiful passages, like the one about Buckingham, and Wolsey’s words after his downfall.11
I think I’m lucky to be able to read or re-read this at my leisure, and then I very much hope to read Homer at last. Outside the cicadas are singing fit to burst, a strident cry ten times louder than that of the crickets, and the scorched grass is taking on beautiful tones of old gold. And the beautiful towns of the south are in the state of our dead towns along the Zuiderzee, which were formerly lively.12 While in the downfall and the decline of things, the cicadas dear to good old Socrates have remained.13 And here, certainly, they’re still singing old Greek.
If our friend Isaäcson heard them, his face would light up.14
What Jo writes about you always eating at home, that’s perfect. Anyway, I think that’s going very well, and once again, while sharing with all my heart all possible worries about Theo’s health, within me the hope predominates that in this case a more or less sickly condition is only the result of the efforts of nature to right itself. Patience. Mauve always claimed that nature was good, and even a lot more than one usually thought. Is there anything in his past that proves that he was wrong. His fits of melancholy in his last days, do you think? I myself would be inclined to believe otherwise.
More soon, but I wanted to write to you straightaway that this morning’s news gives me great pleasure. Handshakes and

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 790 | CL: 599
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh and Jo van Gogh-Bonger
Date: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Saturday, 6 July 1889

1. This was letter 786.
a. Van Gogh’s choice of words is an allusion to Jo’s ‘grossesse’ (pregnancy).
2. Marcelle, the daughter of Joseph and Augustine Roulin, was born on 31 July 1888. See letter 653. Van Gogh responds here to what Jo wrote in her letter about the portrait of Marcelle (F 441 / JH 1641 [2753]) (see letter 786).
3. Derived from Luke 21:19.
4. Regarding this consignment, see letter 789.
6. Van Gogh had stored his furniture in a room he rented from Mr and Mrs Ginoux. See letter 760, n. 4.
7. This is a pun on the French word ‘gris’, which can mean both ‘grey’ and ‘tipsy’.
8. Van Gogh had ordered paint in letter 783.
9. After ‘egal’ Van Gogh crossed out ‘je ne cherche pas a contenter tout le monde’ (‘I don’t seek to please everyone’).
10. Shakespeare’s Measure for measure (1604-1605) is a complicated tragi-comedy with several sub-plots. The Duke of Vienna temporarily relinquishes his power in order to investigate, in disguise, the deterioration of morals – in particular the laxity in sexual morals – in his duchy.
11. Shakespeare’s Henry viii (1623), act 2, scene 1, is a ‘mirror for magistrates’. While Henry viii tries to overcome the problems created by his divorce, the fallen characters comment on their own ruin. Thus Henry, Duke of Buckingham and Earl of Stafford (1454-1483), is accused of high treason and sentenced to death. On the scaffold he addresses the crowd that has quickly gathered to witness his execution:
‘You few that lov’d me,
And dare be bold to weep for Buckingham,
His noble friends and fellows, whom to leave
Is only bitter to him, only dying;
Go with me like good angels to my end,
And as the long divorce of steel falls on me,
Make of your prayers one sweet sacrifice
And lift my soul to heaven. Lead on a’ God’s name.’
The manipulative Cardinal Wolsey (1471-1530), Archbishop of York, loses his wealth and power when his crimes are revealed. He forfeits his royal protection and is attacked from all sides. Full of remorse, Wolsey addresses his servant with great emotion (act 3, scene 2):
‘And when I am forgotten, as I shall be,
And sleep in dull cold marble, where no mention
Of me more must be heard of, say I thaught thee;
Say Wolsey, that once trod the ways of glory,
And sounded all the depths and shoals of honour,
Found thee a way (out of his wrack) to rise in ...
Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away ambition,
By that sin fell the angels; how can man then,
The image of his maker, hope to win by it?
Love thyself last, cherish those hearts that hate thee;
Corruption wins not more than honesty.’
See Henry viii. Ed. R.A. Foakes. 3th ed. London 1957, pp. 55, 124.
12. Until the mid-eighteenth century, such Zuiderzee towns as Monnickendam, Edam, Hoorn, Enkhuizen and Medemblik were prosperous centres of trade. After this, they faced a period of economic decline. See Almere historisch. Gemeente Almere 1993.
13. Reference to the dialogue in Plato, Phaedrus, 230c and 259b-e, in which Socrates recounts the myth of the cicadas, devoted to the Muses. Enjoying the peace and quiet of nature, the philosopher is pleasantly accompanied by the chirring of the insects: ‘How lovely and perfectly charming the breeziness of the place is! and it resounds with the shrill summer music of the chorus of cicadas’. See Plato. With an English translation by H.N. Fowler and an introduction by W.R.M. Lamb. London and New York. 1919, pp. 422-423, 510-513.
14. Vincent is probably responding to something Theo wrote to him about Isaäcson.