[Letterhead: Goupil Paris]

Paris, 11 October 1875

My dear Theo,
Thanks for your letter of this morning. This time I’d like to write to you as I seldom do; I’d actually like to tell you in detail about my life here.
As you know, I live in Montmartre. Also living here is a young Englishman, an employee of the firm, 18 years old, the son of an art dealer in London, who will probably enter his father’s firm later on.1 He had never been away from home and was tremendously boorish, especially the first few weeks he was here; he ate, for example, mornings, afternoons and evenings 4-6 sous2 worth of bread (bread, nota bene, is cheap here) and supplemented that with pounds of apples and pears &c. In spite of all that he’s as lean as a pole, with two strong rows of teeth, large red lips, sparkling  1r:2 eyes, a couple of large, usually red, jug-ears, a shorn head (black hair) &c. &c.
I assure you, an altogether different creature from that lady by Philippe de Champaigne.3 This young person was ridiculed a lot in the beginning, even by me. But I nonetheless warmed to him gradually and now, I assure you, I’m very glad of his company in the evenings. He has a completely naїve and unspoiled heart, and works very hard in the firm. Every evening we go home together, eat something or other in my room, and the rest of the evening I read aloud, usually from the Bible. We intend to read it all the way through.4 In the morning, he’s already there to wake me up, usually between 5 and 6 o’clock; we then have breakfast in my room and go to the gallery around 8 o’clock. Recently he’s begun to eat with more moderation, and he’s started to collect prints, with my help.
Yesterday we went to the Luxembourg together and I showed him the paintings I like best there.  1v:3 And truthfully, unto babes is revealed much that is hidden from the wise.5

J. Breton, Alone, The blessing of the corn, Calling the gleaners6
Brion, Noah, The pilgrims of St Odile.7
Bernier, Fields in winter8
Cabat. The pond and Autumnal evening9
Emile Breton, Winter evening.10 Bodmer, Fontainebleau11
Duverger, The labourer and his children12
Millet, The church at Gréville13
Daubigny, Spring and Autumn14
Français, The end of winter and The cemetery15
Gleyre, Lost illusions16 and Hébert, Christ in the Garden of Olives and Malaria,17 also Rosa Bonheur, Ploughing18 &c.

Also a painting by ? (I can’t remember his name), a monastery where monks receive a stranger and suddenly notice that it is Jesus. Written on the wall of the monastery is L’homme s’agite et Dieu le mène. Qui vous reçoit, me recoit et qui Me reçoit, reçoit celui qui m’a envoyé.19
At the gallery I simply do whatever the hand finds to do,20 that is our work our whole life long, old boy, may I do it with all my might.  1v:4
Have you done what I advised you to do, have you got rid of the books by Michelet, Renan &c?21 I believe it will give you peace. You certainly won’t forget that page from Michelet about that portrait of a lady by P. de Champaigne,22 and don’t forget Renan either, but still, get rid of them. ‘If you have found honey, see to it that you don’t eat too much of it, lest it disagree with you’ it says in Proverbs, or something to that effect.23 Do you know Erckmann-Chatrian, Le conscrit, Waterloo, and especially L’ami Fritz and also Madame Thérèse?24 Read them some time if you can get hold of them. A change of fare whets the appetite (provided we take especial care to eat simply; not for nothing is it written ‘Give us this day our daily bread’),25 and the bow cannot always stay bent. You won’t take it amiss if I tell you to do one thing and another. I know you have your wits about you as well. Do not think everything good, and learn to distinguish for yourself between relative good and evil; and let that feeling show you the right way with guidance from above because, old boy, it’s so necessary ‘that God dispose us’. Do write again soon with some particulars, give my regards to my acquaintances, especially Mr Tersteeg and his family, and I wish you the very best. Adieu, believe me ever,

Your loving brother


Br. 1990: 054 | CL: 42
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Paris, Monday, 11 October 1875

1. Harry Gladwell, whose father, Henry William Gladwell, was a dealer in paintings and prints. His firm was located at 21 Gracechurch Street in London. See Bailey 1990, pp. 62, 81, 90.
2. In the ancien régime a sou was 1/20 livre; the franc is a later name for the livre.
4. Religion must have played an important role in their friendship. This is underscored yet again by the fact that Van Gogh copied out John 17:15 in the front of Gladwell’s Bible (private collection): ‘Father we do not pray thee to take us out of the world, but we pray Thee to keep us from evil.’ It is not known when he did this.
[1714] [1715] [1716]
7. Gustave Brion, The end of the flood (Noah) (until 1955 in the Ministry of Justice in Paris; present whereabouts unknown). Ill. 1747 [1747]. And Gustave Brion, The pilgrims of St Odile (Alsace), 1863 (Colmar, Musée d’Unterlinden). Ill. 1748 [1748].
[1747] [1748]
8. Camille Bernier, January (Brittany), also known as Winter labours (Paris, Musée d’Orsay). Ill. 1749 [1749].
9. Louis Cabat, The pond at Ville-d’Avray, 1833 (Paris, Musée du Louvre) and Autumnal evening, 1852 (Paris, Musée du Louvre). Ill. 1750 [1750] and ill. 1751 [1751].
[1750] [1751]
10. Emile Adélard Breton, Winter evening, 1871 (Grenoble, Musée de Grenoble). Ill. 1752 [1752].
11. Karl Bodmer, Fontainebleau in autumn, Salon 1850-1851 (Sarlat-La Canéda, Mairie). Ill. 1753 [1753]; cf. letter 35, n. 7.
12. Théophile Emmanuel Duverger, The labourer and his children (present whereabouts unknown). See exhib. cat. Paris 1974, p. 68, cat. no. 75, with ill. A replica of the painting in Hamburg, Kunsthalle. Ill. 1754 [1754].
14. Charles-François Daubigny, Spring, 1857 (Paris, Musée du Louvre). Ill. 1755 [1755]. Autumn is probably Lock in the valley of Optevoz (Isère), 1855 (Rouen, Musée des Beaux-Arts). Ill. 1756 [1756]. See exhib. cat. Paris 1974, p. 60, cat. nos. 62-63.
[1755] [1756]
15. Louis-François Français, The end of winter, 1853 (Manilla, French Embassy). Ill. 1757 [1757]. Van Gogh’s mention of The cemetery actually refers to the painting Orpheus of 1863, which has an antique tomb in the background (Paris, Musée d’Orsay). Ill. 1758 [1758].
[1757] [1758]
17. Ernest Hébert, Christ on the Mount of Olives (The kiss of Judas) (La Tronche, Musée Hébert). Ill. 1759 [1759]. On Malaria, see letter 29, n. 7.
18. Rosa Bonheur, Ploughing in the Nivernais, 1849 (Paris, Musée d’Orsay). Ill. 1760 [1760].
19. Jules Joseph Dauban, The reception of a stranger among the Trappist monks, 1864 (Angers, Musée des Beaux-Arts). Ill. 1761 [1761]. The precise text in the painting reads: ‘L’homme s agite et diev le mène. – / Qvi vous recoit / me recoit / et qvi me / recoit, recoit celvi qvi m’a envoye / – St Mat Che X.UT XXXX’. ‘Man proposes and God disposes. He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.’ For the source of the first part, see letter 35, n. 2; the second part is Matt. 10:40.
21. This advice was given in letter 50.
22. The passage ‘From here I see a lady’ from the chapter ‘Les aspirations de l’automne’ in Jules Michelet’s L’amour. See letter 14, n. 19.
23. Cf. Prov. 25:16, ‘Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.’
24. The French writers’ duo Erckmann-Chatrian, very popular in those days, was formed by (Charles) Alexandre Chatrian and Emile Erckmann. Nineteenth-century critics praised their expressive, lively and entertaining style. Histoire d’un conscrit de 1813 (1864) is about a conscript who is called to arms at the end of the Napoleonic War; the sequel, Waterloo, suite du conscrit de 1813 (1865), dwells on the horrors of war, allowing the authors’ pacifist vision to emerge. The sentimental L’ami Fritz (1864) tells the story of the bon vivant Fritz, who falls in love with the peasant girl Sûzel. The authors paints a detailed picture of everyday life in idyllic Alsace. Madame Thérèse (1863) is set in a peaceful village in the Vosges in 1793. After a skirmish between a battalion of Republicans and enemy cavalry, the camp follower Madame Thérèse is left behind, wounded. Jacob Wagner, the local doctor, saves the good-natured woman, and later on, when she is nearly taken captive, Wagner joins the Republicans and becomes the batallion doctor. When peace has been restored, Jacob and Thérèse marry.
The above-mentioned books had been reprinted several times by 1875. See Rémy Ponton, ‘Erckmann-Chatrian, une construction historique et littéraire de l’Alsace-Lorraine’, Quarante-huit/Quatorze. Conférences du Musée d’Orsay 7 (1995), pp. 27-38.