To Theo van Gogh. The Hague, Wednesday, 22 November 1882.
My dear Theo,
Together with this letter you’re receiving the first proofs of one lithograph, Digger, and one lithograph, Coffee drinker.
I’d very much like to know as soon as possible what impression they make on you.
I still plan to retouch them on the stone, and would like to have your opinion for that.
The drawings were better, I put a lot of work into the Digger especially; now various things have been lost through the transfer and printing. Yet what I think of these impressions is that there’s something rough and unabashed in them that I indeed wanted them to have, which partly reconciles me to the loss of things that were in the drawing.
The drawing was done not only with lithographic crayon; the strengths were reinforced with autographic ink as well.
Now the stone has only taken part of the autographic ink, and we don’t know exactly what to attribute this to, probably the water with which I mixed them. Anyway, as a result I’ve seen that where it has taken it gives good strengths of black, with which I hope to be more successful later on. Then, when the printer has time, we’re going to experiment by putting on a kind of wash during printing, and will try out various types of paper and different sorts of printing ink.
I hope that these two stones will improve further through the retouching after the two studies, done directly from the model, which I still have.
It has finally come about that a painter has been to visit me, namely Van der Weele, who stopped me in the street and whom I had also visited once. I have hopes that he too will try this lithographic process. I would like him to do two ploughs he has with it, painted studies (a morning and evening effect), and an ox-cart on the heath. That fellow has several beautiful things in his studio.
He wanted me to compose something from my numerous studies of orphan men, but I don’t feel ready yet. As you know, I wrote to you about a series of Diggers, now you can see a print from it.
No news yet about the letter. The people at the post office here know nothing about it and blame it on Paris.
When your last letter arrived I had to pay so much immediately, because I had waited for it for so long, that little was left. All the same, I again did these two lithographic trials, even though there were costs involved, because I think work offers the most hope, especially in difficult times, and intend to fight to pull through.
Today or tomorrow, however, I’ll run out of money. If it’s possible for you to do something, do it — if not, then it isn’t your fault or mine, but the days would be hard. Anyway, nonetheless, as long as we can lift up our hearts as high as we can and as long as we can, above melancholy or weakening. There’s a popular magazine here called De Zwaluw which is published by Elsevier Rotterdam supported by the Society for General Welfare. I’ve sometimes wondered in recent days whether they could use a digger like that, for example. 1 print a month. But it would cost me a trip to Rotterdam, and I’m so afraid of coming back with the message: Things are too slack, we’re not taking anything &c. Moreover, I would prefer not to do this, since I would much rather work longer until a substantial series is possible. Yet I do consider it, because I’m sometimes desperate to earn a little extra. What to do?
Even if you have no money, write anyway old chap, for I need your sympathy, and that’s no less of a support to me than the money. I hope you’ve now received the roll of lithographs with Sorrow in it and the letter. I mention it again to be sure, not because I already expected an answer.
It has been very cold here. Today very dark grey and dreary, which, however, does give things a rough, burred look.
Adieu, I sincerely wish you all the best, and a handshake in thought, believe me always
In the drawing of the Coffee drinker the black was much more broken by the direction of the hatching. It has now become dull, unfortunately, but this can probably be corrected.