To Theo van Gogh. Nuenen, between about Saturday, 15 and about Wednesday, 19 March 1884.
My dear Theo,
It surprised me a little that I haven’t heard from you. Because you write: ‘if it isn’t convenient for you to wait, write to me by return’.
Very well, I wrote back to you that as far as being convenient to wait longer, it indeed certainly wasn’t — but I got a less direct response to that.
This is precisely what my letter was about — that where our friendship was really beginning to flag in my view, this wasn’t stimulating &c., which I don’t need to repeat.
Now this is most certainly not economizing, for time is money too, and when one even has to wait for paint, that is economizing at its most radical, even ABSURD, to my mind. But you should know this for yourself — my affairs aren’t yours, after all — and if you don’t understand it as a matter of course, why should I waste my patience and my time harping on about it? However, you can’t expect me to put up with more and more slackening as long as there’s a bit of spirit in me. Go on and train yourself well in that system of prudence and respectability and suchlike, then you’ll go far, precisely in mediocrity — you understand — That leads to it, and directly. Not because I say so — but because it can be seen ten thousand times if one opens one’s eyes and takes the trouble just to look around.
I hear that your friend Braat has fallen ill, though — (which I always thought he was anyway, the short time I knew him at all). Did it slip your mind because of that? Anyway, be that as it may, be so good as to answer my last letter and give me information about the extent to which you do or don’t want to change it in that way.
Ma is making gradual progress. Regards.
In normal good relations it would be utterly out of the question to stipulate that we shouldn’t interfere in each other’s private affairs, and if you had a speck of warmth for my work you wouldn’t totally neglect it. And I write as I write more to get you to feel a little how you’ve become cold to what we undertook together in good heart and how, moreover, too much coldly decent politics is creeping into your life than because I attach great value to whether an agreement is more or less fixed. The essence of the question is whether we understand each other or not — a matter of coldness or warmth towards each other. And I find what Zola says about dragging things on as true as you do — it extinguishes energy. Yet there remains something more to ask — what is the cause of this dragging on? For my part, I, who would rather be in the country than in a city, have absolutely no desire to break with you. But as things are going now, when I see that I still get nowhere with you even though I work day in and day out, I can’t stand it and see in it a neglect of my own affairs for which later, after all, I would be responsible. If you were prepared to see to it — and you most certainly have the opportunity — that my work is seen by those who should become enthusiasts of it, if not now then in any event later — very well — then I can stop worrying about it and occupy myself solely with painting. Doing nothing with it like that, the way you do — is NEGLIGENCE. If you want to think this pedantic of me — that’s up to you — but I think you yourself rather pedantic here, where it isn’t appropriate. From the very circumstance that you don’t have the usual yet again this month — you might like to consider that we won’t cope by keeping up such appearances.
Were it not the case that I feel more strongly by the day that I need something more, I would keep my studies quietly to myself.
As Rappard does. But you say yourself that we’re not in Rappard’s position — and with all that I’m becoming more and more hard pressed.
Today I brought home my 9th painted study of a weaver — painting costs money, and when I have to wait for paint, as I keep having to do, I waste time — and — come on — if you were a little enthusiastic about it, we’d have what’s needed. And what sort of an impression must it make, indirectly, on other people when you behave like this? It’s certainly hardly likely to create much confidence.