To Theo van Gogh. Ramsgate, Wednesday, 31 May 1876.
My dear Theo,
Bully for you, being in Etten on 21 May, happily there were 4 of the 6 at home. Pa wrote to me in detail about everything that happened that day. Thanks, too, for your last letter.
Have I already written to you about the storm I saw recently? The sea was yellowish, especially close to the beach; a streak of light on the horizon and, above this, tremendously huge dark grey clouds from which one saw the rain coming down in slanting streaks. The wind blew the dust from the small white path on the rocks into the sea and tossed the blossoming hawthorn bushes and wallflowers that grow on the rocks.
On the right, fields of young green wheat, and, in the distance, the town with its towers, mills, slate roofs and houses built in Gothic style, and, below, the harbour between the 2 jetties running out into the sea, looking like the cities Albrecht Dürer used to etch. I also saw the sea last Sunday night, everything was dark grey, but day was beginning to break on the horizon. It was still very early, and yet a lark was already singing. And the nightingales in the gardens on the sea-front. In the distance the light of the lighthouse, the guard-ship &c.
That same night I looked out of the window of my room onto the roofs of the houses one sees from there and the tops of the elms, dark against the night sky. Above those roofs, one single star, but a nice, big friendly one. And I thought of us all, and I thought of the years of my life that had already passed, and of our home, and the words and feeling came to me, ‘Keep me from being a son that causeth shame, give me Your blessing, not because I deserve it, but for my Mother’s sake. Thou art Love, beareth all things. Without your constant blessing we can do nothing.’
Herewith a little drawing of the view from the school window where the boys stand and watch their parents going back to the station after a visit. Many a boy will never forget the view from that window. You should have seen it this week when we had rainy days, especially in the twilight when the street-lamps are being lit and their light is reflected in the wet street.
Mr Stokes was sometimes moody during those days, and when the boys were too boisterous for him it sometimes happened that they didn’t get their bread and tea in the evening. You should have seen them then, standing at the window looking out, it was really rather sad. They have so little apart from their food and drink to look forward to and to get them through the day. I’d also like you to see them going down the dark stairs and small corridor to table. On that, however, the friendly sun shines.
Another extraordinary place is the room with the rotten floor where there are 6 basins at which they wash themselves, with only a feeble light falling onto the washstand through a window with broken panes. It’s quite a melancholy sight, to be sure. How I’d like to spend or to have spent a winter with them, to know what it’s like.
The youngsters are making an oil stain on your little drawing, forgive them.
Herewith a few words for Uncle Jan.
And now good-night, if anyone should ask after me bid them good-day. Do you still visit Borchers once in a while? Give him my regards if you see him, and also Willem Valkis and everyone at the Rooses’. A handshake in thought from