To Theo van Gogh. Isleworth, Wednesday, 2 August 1876.
My dear Theo,
I heard from home that you’d be coming home for a day while Anna and Lies were still there; write and tell me if that happened.
Mr Jones came home yesterday, and his family, I’d made the boys’ dining room green with Welcome home on the wall in holly and ivy and large bouquets on the table. There’s a lot of holly in the garden here, and a few old trees have had all their branches chopped off. These are now full of new branches, pure white or yellowish, with a small pink leaf here and there, which is absolutely beautiful, I picked a large bunch of them to put on the table.
Mr Jones asked me if I could find out how much 50 pounds of butter would cost in Holland; if it isn’t too expensive he’s thinking about always having it sent from Holland. Ask Mrs Roos about it sometime, and write and tell me as soon as possible.
The boys will also be coming soon.
Have you ever read the story of Elijah and Elisha properly? I’ve been reading it again these last few days, and am enclosing what I’ve copied out. It’s so movingly beautiful. Similarly, I’ve also been reading in Acts about Paul, how he stood on the seashore, and they fell on his neck, and kissed him, and those words of Paul moved me, ‘God comforteth the simple’. It is God who makes men and who can enrich life with moments and times of higher life and loftier feeling. The sea may have made itself, or an oak tree itself, but men like Pa are purer than the sea.
The sea is beautiful all the same; there were lots of bedbugs at Mr Stokes’s, but that view from the school window made one forget them.
The heart of a man of flesh and blood ‘sometimes faints from earnest longing’ upon seeing those who devote themselves to and work for Him who baptized them, as it were, with the Holy Ghost, and with fire, and they – look, their eyes sometimes grow moist with tears of wistfulness as they think back on their young years and on ‘the good things with which He satisfied them’. Yet their exalted peace is better than the deceptive peace of bygone days. True rest and peace begin only ‘when there is nothing more in which to rest’ and when there is ‘none upon earth they desire beside God’. Then there is a ‘woe is me’ in them, and a beseeching ‘who shall deliver me from the body of this death’, and yet that is the best time of life, and blessed are they who reach that high peak.
I’ve heard two men say that, one in Paris, the Rev. Bersier, who, out of fear of a great bodily suffering that awaited him, exclaimed during his sermon, ‘Who shall deliver me of this dead body’ in a tone of voice that I believe made everyone in the church tremble. And I heard Pa say it (when I was home in April, in his sermon), but he said it in a soft voice, though it had a keener edge than the other, and he followed it with (and his countenance was like that of an angel) ‘the blessed above, they say “what you are now, I used to be: what I am now, you will one day be”’.
Between Pa and those above there is still a part of life, between us and Pa there is also still life. He above can make us Pa’s brothers and can also join us intimately to one another, more so every day, may it be so, for I have a need to remain your brother, old boy, surely you know how much I love you!
May I succeed and get some firm ground beneath my feet.
Yesterday I took a lovely walk along the Thames; on the other side there were splendid villas with their gardens. It was a sky like Ruisdael or Constable paint it. And now a handshake in thought, give my regards to everyone at the Rooses’. How is Willem doing? And give my regards to Borchers, too, if you happen to see him, and believe me
Your loving brother