To Theo van Gogh. Dordrecht, Sunday, 22 and Monday, 23 April 1877.
My dear Theo,
I received your letter of 21 April, thanks for writing so quickly – and that letter gave me a feeling of joy such as the woman must have had who found the piece of silver she had lost, namely, you wrote that Aunt Koos’s little reading-desk containing Pa and Ma’s letters was found at the Rooses’ when the house was being cleaned.
What fear and worry I felt last year, looking for it and imagining that I’d taken it to England and that it got left behind at one of the houses I stayed at in London. It’s wonderful that it has turned up, I’m so grateful, keep it for the time being, I’ll be needing it in Amsterdam when I’m ‘on the way’.
I now remember very clearly having left it behind at the Rooses’ when I left for England, because there wasn’t much room in my trunk and also because I thought it would be safer there than travelling with me in foreign parts.
It seems to me to be new proof, as it were, and a sign like others that I think I’ve been noticing recently, that my efforts will be blessed, that things will go well for me, and the thing I desire so fervently will be granted me – something of the faith of old has come alive in me that my thoughts shall be established and a right spirit renewed and the soul restored to the old faith. I alone am making a choice for my life. Set your heart and mind, you too, on something good, on a good cause, and desire it of the Lord. Uncle Jan was in Etten and said that my room was already ready. Mr Braat is negotiating with someone, so in May I’ll probably put my hand to the plough.
Hanging in that little room will be the prints I got from you, and so I’ll be reminded of you daily – beneath that one after Rosenthal, that monk, I have written ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me – in the kingdom of heaven they do not marry, and are not given in marriage’. Beneath its pendant, The imitation of Jesus Christ (after Ruipérez), I wrote what we used to hear Pa say: ‘Lord, I should so much like to be earnest’.
This morning I heard a very beautiful sermon by the Rev. Keller van Hoorn on ‘and that from a child thou hast known the scriptures’. This afternoon Görlitz, Mager, Ten Broek and I went to the museum to see the Scheffers – they’re really beautiful. Have I already told you that Görlitz went to Etten to apply for the teaching position that has fallen vacant in Leur?
He came back filled with everything he had seen there. Pa had given a sermon on Jacob who slept in the field at Bethel, and he had found it all so moving.
I’d be happy for him if he got the position; then he would probably marry very soon.
Last week I got a letter from Harry Gladwell himself. Something has happened to him, a little different, admittedly, and yet essentially the same as what happened to you, and he is in dangerous surroundings there – the fowlers are many and clever. I hope to hear more soon, and we’ll talk about it sometime.
I know little of Taine’s life, I assume that he travelled a lot in France, Italy, England and also Holland, one could deduce as much from his writings. He is certainly an artist. I still have the first book by Bürger, Musées.
Now, Theo, have a nice Sunday today. I hope to see you if I go to Amsterdam.
For a ‘sower of the word’ as I hope to become, sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, just like for a sower of corn in the field – and the earth shall bring forth all manner of thorns and thistles – do let’s continue to support each other and to seek brotherly love.
Adieu, give my regards to your housemates, and accept a handshake in thought, and believe me ever
Your loving brother
It’s raining here today and one could imagine oneself in London. But how green everything outside is becoming. This morning Görlitz, Ten Broek and I went for a walk while it was still early. Isn’t it beautiful in the Scheveningen Bosjes as well? Shall we walk there together again, and on the beach? I hope so! When I go to post this I hope to take that small path behind the station again where we walked together.