My dear Theo,
There may well come a time when I look back with a certain nostalgia on the ‘excesses of Egypt’2
connected with other situations, namely earning more money and being in many respects of more consequence in the world – this I foresee. There is however ‘bread enough and to spare’3
in the houses I’ll be visiting as I continue down the road I’ve taken, but not money to spare.
And yet I so clearly see light in the distance, and if that light disappears now and then it’s mostly my own fault.
It’s very questionable whether I’ll go far in this profession, whether those 6 years spent in the firm of Messrs Goupil & Co., during which I should have been training for this
situation, won’t always be a thorn in my flesh, as it were.
I believe, however, that on no account can I turn back now, even if part of me should wish to (later, this isn’t the case now
). These days it seems to me that there are no situations in the world other than those ranging from schoolmaster to clergyman and everything in between: missionary, ‘London missionary’4
Being a London missionary is rather special, I believe; one has to go around among the workers and the poor spreading God’s word and, if one has some experience, speak to them, track down and seek to help foreigners looking for work, or other people who are in some sort of difficulty, etc. etc. Last week I was in London a couple of times to find out if there’s a possibility of my becoming one.5
Because I speak various languages and have tended to associate, especially in Paris and London, with people from the poorer classes and foreigners, and being a foreigner myself, I may well be suited
to this, and could become so more and more.
To do this, however, one has to be at least 24 years old, and so in any case I still have a year to wait.
says he definitely cannot give me a salary, for he can get plenty of people who’ll work for board and lodging alone, which is certainly true. But can that be kept up for long? I’m afraid not; it will be decided soon enough.
But, old boy, no matter what the case, I think I can tell you this again, that these couple of months have bound me so closely to the sphere ranging from schoolmaster to clergyman, both through satisfactions associated with those situations and through thorns that have pricked me, that I can no longer turn back.6
Onward, then! But I can assure you that very distinct difficulties will present themselves very soon, and others are visible on the horizon, and as if one is in a different world from the firm of Messrs Goupil & Co.
Will I be getting the small
engravings (like those Pa and Ma
have) of Christus Consolator and Remunerator7
that you promised me? Write soon if you can find a moment, but send your letter to Pa and Ma, because my address may change soon and Pa and Ma will be the first to know.
Last week I was at Hampton Court to see the splendid gardens and long avenues of chestnut and lime trees where masses of crows and rooks have their nests, and also to see the palace and the paintings.8
There are, among other things, many portraits by Holbein
which are very beautiful,9
and two beautiful Rembrandt
s (the portrait of his wife and one of a rabbi),10
and also beautiful Italian portraits by Bellini
a painting by Leonardo da Vinci
cartoons by Mantegna
a beautiful painting by S. Ruysdael
fruit by Cuyp16
and so on and so forth.
I rather wished that you could have been there too; it was a pleasure to see paintings again.
And I couldn’t help thinking vividly of the people who have lived at Hampton Court, of Charles i
and his wife17
(she was the one who said ‘I thank Thee, God, for having made me Queen, though an unhappy Queen’,18
and at whose graveside Bossuet
from the abundance of his heart.20
Do you have ‘Bossuet, Oraisons funèbres’, you’ll find that eulogy there, there’s a very cheap edition, 50 centimes, I think),21
and also of Lord and Lady Russell
, who would certainly have gone there often. (Guizot
described their life in L’amour dans le mariage.22
Read that sometime if you can get hold of it.) Herewith a feather from one of the rooks there.
Do write soon if you can, I’m longing to hear from you, and believe me, after a handshake in thought
Your loving brother
Despite my feeling that I am inadequate and that in many respects I lack the qualifications necessary for the situation I have and for the related situation I have my eye on, I nevertheless have at the same time such a feeling of thankfulness, of hope and of something like deliverance! and freedom! despite all kinds of bonds, and the thought of God – despite new shortcomings that occur to me – stays with me more strongly and longer.