To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, on or about Thursday, 18 May 1882.
My dear Theo,
Christien had a lot of cramp &c., and so it seemed to me best for her to go to Leiden again to find out exactly what was wrong.
She went there and came back again. Everything is all right, thank God — but, as you know, she had an operation in March and has now been examined again. She needs care and must continue taking tonics — and if possible a few more baths as well, but there’s no problem and she has every chance of coming through it safely.
In March the professor couldn’t say exactly when she’d give birth, but thought it would be the end of May or beginning of June. Now he says it will probably be well into June, and he has altered her admission note for the hospital to mid-June. This time he asked her at length about who she was with, and because of what he said about that I’m now quite certain of what I thought before: that she’d collapse if she had to go back onto the streets, and that it was high time help came last winter when I met her. So I couldn’t consider leaving her, as I wrote to you earlier, for in the circumstances that would be a vile trick on my part.
The doctor thought she was better than in March. The child is healthy and he has given her instructions about feeding &c., so I won’t be completely in the dark. The linen for the child is ready too — the essentials.
I am faced here not by an illusion or abstraction but by reality, which requires firm action. In the circumstances I can see no better course than to marry her, neither for her nor for myself. As I wrote to you, I hadn’t expected the gentle tone of your letter of 13 May and the preceding one. I had cherished no illusions, and thought that you would have completely condemned my actions and withdrawn your help. And still I hardly dare hope that your help will continue, because I know that in the eyes of most people of your class such an action is regarded, I believe, as a capital offence leading to some form of banishment.
So I’m really looking forward to your next letter, and to knowing if you’ve received the drawings. But I’m not yet deluding myself about this.
It’s just that I wouldn’t be honest if I said anything to you other than: it’s my firm intention to marry her as soon as possible. The reasons you give aren’t weighty enough to make me change my mind, although in one or two of your remarks there is much that, particularly on its own, is wholly or partly true.
Now, to tell you the truth, a little more is actually needed this month, although I have paid for bread up to 1 June and have got in things like coffee &c.
If you tell me there’s no difficulty, as I thought there was, I really hope, of course, to get to work on C.M.’s order, and have done the studies for it. I’ll need another 3 weeks, though, to finish the 6 drawings, for to have 6 good ones I’ll have to do more than 6, on top of what I’ve already done. I don’t know what I’ll get for it, but I’ll do my best and so I hope to receive it in June.
If there’s anything good — after all — in my behaviour towards Christien, I believe it’s more to your credit than to mine, since I have been and am merely the instrument for doing it, but would have been powerless without your help. The money you’ve sent has helped me to get on with drawing and, more importantly, saved the life of Christien and the child up to now. In a sense, though, I’m guilty if you should consider it an abuse of trust, but I hope you won’t consider it so.