To Theo van Gogh. Wasmes, between Tuesday, 4 and Monday, 31 March 1879.
My dear Theo,
I heard from Pa and Ma that they were recently surprised by a visit from you, just when Pa had returned from here. I’m very glad that Pa was here. Together we visited the 3 ministers of the Borinage and walked through the snow and visited a miner’s family and saw coal being hauled up from a mine called Les trois Diefs (the three heaps of earth) and Pa attended two Bible readings, so we did a great deal in those couple of days. I believe that Pa received an impression of the Borinage that he won’t easily forget, as it would be with anyone who visited this singular, remarkable and picturesque region of the country.
It’s been a long time since I wrote to you. If, with God’s blessing, I succeed in getting settled here, then you must come here sometime, perhaps when you have to go to Paris again, or tying it in with a business trip.
I recently found in the house of an elderly man who had worked in the mines for many years a list of all the seams of coal south of Mons, which are 155 in number. The country and the people here appeal to me more each day, one has here a familiar feeling as though on the heath or in the dunes, there’s something simple and kind-hearted about the people. Those who have left here are homesick for their country, just as, conversely, foreigners who are homesick may come to feel at home here. How are Mauve and Maris? Have you seen a lot lately? The spring that is beginning will renew and change their subject matter. What did Israëls make this winter? How much they would notice here that would make an impression on them! When the cart with a white horse (l’blanc ch’val) brings an injured man home from the mine, one sees things that remind one of Israëls’s shipwreck, and over and over again there is something that moves one.
Write a few words soon, and remember that if you tell me about the painters, I still understand something of it, even though it’s been a long time since I’ve seen many paintings.
Have rented a small house where I’d really like to live entirely on my own, but which now serves only as a workplace or study, because Pa thinks it better that I board with Denis, and I do too. I have prints on the wall there and all sorts of things.
I have to go out and visit the sick as well as the healthy. Write soon, and I wish you the very best.
Give my regards to Mauve, if you see him, and to your housemates.
Spring is beginning, for one hears larks here, and in the woods the branches and buds are beginning to sprout, especially the alders, but when Pa was here everything was covered with snow, so that Pa saw the singular effect of the black coal-pits and the many black chimneys in the snow. There are many places here that remind one of that drawing by Bosboom, Chaudfontaine.
Adieu, a handshake in thought, and believe me ever
Your loving brother