My dear Theo,
If I’m writing to you again today it’s because I’m enclosing a few words that I’ve written to our friend Gauguin,1 feeling sufficient calm return to me these last few days for my letter not to be absolutely absurd, it seemed to me. Besides, there’s no proof that by over-refining one’s scruples of respect or feeling one thereby gains respectfulness or good sense. That being so, it does me good to talk with the pals again, even if at a distance. And you – my dear fellow – how are things, and so write me a few words one of these days – for I can imagine that the emotions which must move the forthcoming father of a family, emotions of which our good father so loved to speak, must be great and of sterling worth in you, as in him, but for the moment are almost impossible for you to express in the rather incoherent mixture of the petty vexations of Paris. Realities of this sort must anyway be like a good gust of the mistral, not very soothing, but health-giving. As for me, it gives me very great pleasure I can assure you, and will contribute greatly to bringing me out of my moral fatigue and perhaps from my listlessness.
Anyway, there’s enough to bring back the taste for life a little when I think that I myself am going to be promoted uncle of this boy planned by your wife. I find it quite funny that she’s so convinced that it’s a boy, but anyway, we’ll see.
Anyway, in the meantime I can do nothing but fiddle with my paintings a little. I have one on the go of a moonrise over the same field as the croquis in the Gauguin letter, but in which stacks replace the wheat. It’s dull ochre-yellow and violet.2 Anyway, you’ll see in a while from now.
I also have a new one with ivy on the go.3 Above all, dear fellow, I beg of you, don’t fret or worry or be melancholy on my account, the idea that you would do so, certainly in this necessary and salutary quarantine, would have little justification when we need a slow and patient recovery. If we manage to grasp that, we spare our forces for this winter. I imagine that winter must be quite dismal here, anyway will however have to try and occupy myself. I often imagine that I could retouch a lot of last year’s studies from Arles this winter.
Thus, having kept back these past few days a large study of an orchard which was very difficult (it’s the same orchard of which you’ll find a variation in the consignment, but quite a vague one), I’ve set to reworking it from memory, and have found a way better to express the harmony of the tones.4
Tell me, have you received any drawings from me? I sent you some once, by parcel post, half a dozen, and then later ten or so.5 If by chance you haven’t received them, they must have been at the railway station for days and weeks.  1v:2
The doctor was telling me about Monticelli, that he had always considered him eccentric, but as for mad, he had only been a little that way towards the end.6 Considering all the miseries of M’s last years, is it any surprise that he bowed beneath a weight that was too heavy, and is one right in trying to deduce from that that he failed in his work, artistically speaking? I dare to believe not. There was some very logical calculation about him, and an originality as a painter, so it remains regrettable that one wasn’t able to sustain it so as to make its blossoming more complete.
I enclose a croquis of the cicadas from here.7
Their song in times of great heat holds the same charm for me as the cricket in the peasant’s hearth at home. My dear fellow – let’s not forget that small emotions are the great captains of our lives, and that these we obey without knowing it. If it’s still hard for me to regain courage over faults committed and to be committed, which would be my recovery, let’s not forget from that moment on that neither our spleens and melancholies nor our feelings of good nature and good sense are our sole guides, and above all not our final custodians, and that if you yourself also find yourself facing hard responsibilities to venture, if not to take, my word let’s not be too concerned with each other, while it so happens that life’s circumstances in situations so far removed from our youthful conceptions of the life of the artist would render us brothers after all, as being companions in fate in many respects. Things are so closely connected that here one sometimes finds cockroaches in the food as if one were really in Paris, on the other hand it can happen in Paris that you sometimes have a real thought of the fields. It’s certainly not much, but it’s reassuring anyway. So take your fatherhood as a good fellow from our old heaths would take it, those heaths that remain ineffably dear to us through all the noise, tumult, fog, anguish of the towns, however timid our tenderness may be. That’s to say, take your fatherhood there, from your nature as an exile and a foreigner and a poor man, henceforth basing himself with the poor man’s instinct on the probability of the real existence of a native country, of a real existence at least of the memory, even while we’ve forgotten every day. Thus sooner or later we find our fate. But certainly for you, as well as for me, it would be a little hypocritical to forget completely our good humour, the confident sloppiness we had as the poor devils we were as we came and went in that Paris, so strange now – and to place too much weight upon our cares.
Truly, I’m so pleased with the fact that if sometimes there are cockroaches in the food here, in your home there is wife and child.
Besides, it’s reassuring that Voltaire, for example, left us free to believe not absolutely all of what we imagine. Thus while sharing your wife’s concerns about your health I’m not going so far as to believe what momentarily I was imagining, that worries about me were the cause of your relatively rather long silence in respect of me,8 although this is so well explained when one thinks of how preoccupying a pregnancy must necessarily be. But it’s very good and it’s the path where everyone walks in life. More soon, and good handshake to you and to Jo.

Ever yours,

In haste, but didn’t want to delay sending the letter for our friend Gauguin, you must have the address.


Br. 1990: 791 | CL: 603
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Sunday, 14 or Monday, 15 July 1889

1. This letter (with letter sketch) to Gauguin is not known. Gauguin thanked Theo around mid-August 1889 for sending it: ‘I am very happy with your kind letter, and your brother’s. He is better, but it’s very relative, because having the strength to fight against his illness he is able to withstand it for a long time and yet to have relapses, like the intermittent fevers that are the hardest to cure. I shall write him a reply to his letter’ (Je suis très heureux de votre bonne lettre et celle de votre frère. Il va mieux mais c’est très relatif car ayant la force de lutter contre sa maladie il peut résister longtemps et avoir pourtant des reprises, comme les fièvres intermittentes les plus dures à guérir. Je vais lui écrire en réponse à sa lettre). See Gauguin lettres 1983, p. 109. In August 1889, Gauguin wrote to Bernard about the present letter: ‘Vincent has written to me, and sends you his regards. He’s assessing his state of illness, and I’m very much afraid it will last a long time. He’s still in the hospital’ (Vincent m’a écrit et vous dit bien des choses. Il raisonne son état maladif et j’ai bien peur que cela dure longtemps. Il est toujours à l’hôpital). See Gauguin lettres 1946, p. 163.
a. Read: ‘on verra’.
2. Wheatfield with sheaves and rising moon (F 735 / JH 1761 [2820]). The sketch in the letter to Gauguin was made after the painting Reaper (F 617 / JH 1753 [2813]).
[2820] [2813]
3. Trees with ivy in the garden of the asylum (F 746 / JH 1762 [2821]).
4. This ‘large study of an orchard’ which Van Gogh says he kept back (i.e. withheld from the consignment of paintings, see letter 789), was probably Orchard (F 511 / JH 1386 [2584]). This canvas measures 72.5 x 92 cm. The canvas in the consignment, Orchard in blossom with a view of Arles (F 515 / JH 1683 [2780]), depicts the same orchard. He calls it a ‘variation ... but quite a vague one’, because it is not a derivative but a free variation on the motif.
Pickvance also identified this ‘large study of an orchard’ as F 511, but said that this passage suggests that Van Gogh made a second version of it, F 512. This work, however, is not considered authentic and was not included in the catalogues raisonnés. Moreover, by ‘reworking’ Van Gogh must have meant ‘resume working on’ (namely the same work) and not ‘re-doing’ it in the sense of painting a second version. Cf. exhib. cat. New York 1986, p. 37; incidentally, on p. 296 Pickvance says, incorrectly, that F 511 is the enclosed ‘variation’. Dorn 1990, p. 467, adopts Pickvance’s identification.
[2584] [2780]
5. Vincent had sent six drawings around 18 June (see letter 782), and on 2 July another eleven (see letter 784).
6. Before his appointment as medical director of the asylum at Saint-Rémy, Dr Peyron had worked as an eye doctor in Marseille; he might have known Monticelli personally, since the artist lived there. For Monticelli’s last years, see letter 603, n. 3.
7. Three cicadas (F 1445 / JH 1765). Cf. letter 638, n. 4.
b. Read: ‘ne pas croire’.
8. Theo’s last letter dated from 16 June (letter 781).