To Theo van Gogh. Brussels, end of December 1880 - beginning of January 1881.
My dear fellow,
Since for so long, several months in fact, I’ve had no news from you, not even the smallest response to my last letter, perhaps it won’t be an inappropriate moment to ask you for some sign of life.
I really must tell you, although I can appreciate your various activities, &c., that it seems at least a little strange to me and a little inexplicable that you’ve never written, after a single letter that I received on my arrival here. So be it. The question remains, could you not have acted a little differently? Not to write is good, but all the same, to write at the appropriate time isn’t always bad either; in certain cases it’s even a very desirable thing.
Because, my very dear, let’s be careful, let’s not spin our thread too fine; you know, it could become too fragile.
When thinking of you, I can’t help saying to myself:
Why doesn’t he write? If he’s afraid of compromising himself vis à vis those Messrs G&Cie by keeping in touch with me, is his position in regard to the aforementioned gents so unsteady and shaky that he would be obliged to be as chary of himself as that? And if he was afraid of compromising himself in one way or another, why not warn me with a brief line and I wouldn’t write to him, but now I don’t know where I stand.
Or is it because he’s afraid that I would ask him for money? But then, if that was the reason for your silence, you could at least have waited to be silent at the time when somebody tried to squeeze something out of you, as the saying goes.
However, I don’t wish to lengthen this letter unnecessarily by making you a list of heaps of things that come into my head at times when I think about the reasons you could have had for not writing.
I’ve been drawing this winter until now, and have also read a great deal, because indirectly that’s very necessary for me. In general I believe that I’ve made progress, but it ought to be possible to get on faster than that.
The main reason I’m writing this is to ask you if you might know of any reason why I shouldn’t go to see Mr Tersteeg and Mauve. I think it would be of benefit to me to go to The Hague for a while. But if I knew for sure that Mr Tersteeg would prefer that I didn’t go there, that could make me change my mind. What do you think?
I’ve seen very little of Mr Van Rappard because I believed I had noticed that he didn’t like to be disturbed. As long as I’m not further ahead I should avoid young artists who don’t always think about what they’re doing and saying.
And yet I very much wish to find one who, knowing more than me, could help me to do better.
So tell me if you saw an insuperable obstacle in the way of my going to The Hague for a while, and if you perhaps knew of another way, if something crops up. I shake your hand, in the expectation that you’ll write to me sooner rather than later.
72. boulevard du Midi