To Theo van Gogh. Amsterdam, Monday, 4 and Tuesday, 5 June 1877.
My dear Theo,
You remember that evening in Dordrecht when we walked through Dordrecht together, around the Grote Kerk and through all kinds of streets and along the canals with their reflections of the old houses and the lights from the windows. You spoke then (or rather it was that Sunday when you arrived) about a description of a day in London by Théophile Gautier, the coaches from a wedding before the doors of a church on a stormy and misty day. I saw it all before me, but if it struck you then you’ll also feel moved by the enclosed, I read these pages on a very stormy day last week, also with thoughts about the Queen’s illness; it was evening when the sun went down, casting a reddish glow on the grey evening clouds, against which the masts of the ships and the row of old houses and trees stood out, and everything was reflected in the water, and the sky cast a strange light on the black earth, the green grass with daisies and buttercups, and on the shrubs of white and purple lilacs and elderberry from the garden at the dockyard. I had read that book by Lamartine in London and it had made a deep impression on me, and did so again this time, especially those last few pages.
Write and tell me what you think of it. The places spoken about: Hampton Court with its avenues of lime trees full of rookeries,a Whitehall overgrown with ivy on the back, and the inner courtyard bordering on St James’s Park where one can see Westminster Abbey &c., I see it all before me, and the weather and the sombre tone covering it all. (That’s what keeps me from sleeping!)
Did you go to Etten on Sunday? I sincerely hope so, and that you had a good day; I gather this from a sentence in the last letter from Etten: ‘we expect Theo, probably this Sunday’. This evening I have to go to Uncle Stricker’s. Went to the early sermon yesterday morning, heard a sermon on the text ‘Wilt thou be made whole?’, how they that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. Afterwards I heard Uncle Stricker in the Amstelkerk that you know on 2 Cor. 4:18b, ‘for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal’.
There was a bit at the end where he spoke passionately and cried out ‘but Charity abideth’. How we are bound to one another through God by bonds that are in God’s hand, and in those bonds lies our strength, and they are old and do not break easily.
Have got a lot to do, so adieu, perhaps this evening I’ll write a few more words below. Accept in thought a handshake, and believe me
Your most loving brother,