Amsterdam, Sunday, 15 July 1877
My dear Theo,
I feel the need to write to you again, let me have a word from you too, if you have time.
This morning I went to the early sermon,1 and the text was Eph. 5:14, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. When I left here it was raining, and also when leaving the church, though during the sermon the sun had been shining brightly through the windows.
Pa had to lead the early service today in Etten, and afterwards Pa had to go to Zundert.
After that I heard dear Uncle Stricker in the Oudezijdskapel2 on the words ‘Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees’,3 which is a warning not to become too attached to outward forms and ceremonies without truly sincere religious feeling of the heart, as opposed to a life without belief in the things that are higher than those in this life. There were very few people in the church, apart from the orphan boys and orphan girls with their red and black clothes,4 who filled a large part of the little old church nonetheless. If you come here again I hope to take you there, that Oudezijdskapel is in a very narrow street, Zeedijk, near the part of Buitenkant called ‘the old tar-yards’5 and near Warmoesstraat. It’s a very nice part of town and reminds one of the heart of London, like Booksellers’ Row6 or some such place. May it be granted me in time to speak as I have heard so many do, and hear each Sunday again. I’m doing my best to become skilled at it with all the power in me.
Last week I spent an evening at the old Rev. Meijjes’s and met his son there, the Rev. Jeremie Meijjes with his wife, a daughter of Professor Tilanus, and two of his sons – one of them attends the gymnasium here and the other is training to be an engineer.7 The latter helped to build those roofs here at the dockyard (underneath which the ships are built, where we went with Uncle that afternoon you were here), as well as the new Kattenburg bridge.8 It was a pleasant evening and we talked about all kinds of foreign matters. He’s a very gifted man and has a pure talent and a great faith, heard him in the Westerkerk.9 Saw him coming from the pulpit and walking through the church after the sermon, and that tall, noble figure and that tired, pale face and that noble head, the hair already showing some grey, made a great impression on me. To be tired in such a way from that work, that is a blessing.
Today you’ll perhaps go to Scheveningen, have a good Sunday, how I’d like to visit your little room. Heard from home that you’ll probably go to see Mauve again soon in his house in the dunes,10 and will stay overnight, I can imagine you sitting there, and I also know what you’ll discuss. Last week Mendes told me about a very interesting part of the city, namely the area extending from the Leidsepoort (thus close to Vondelpark) to the Hollandsche Spoor station.11 Went there yesterday, I knew part of it already, and you do too, I think, namely the part near the
1v:2 station. There are a great many mills, saw-mills, workers’ houses with little gardens, old houses too, of all kinds, and very populous, and the area is criss-crossed by all kinds of small canals and waterways full of barges, and all kinds of picturesque bridges and so on. It must certainly be a wonderful thing to be a minister in such a district.
This study is difficult, old chap, but I must persevere, and to that end may He help me of Whom it is written: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.12
Ma wrote in her last letter something about ‘Anna’s house’, which is a new expression that doesn’t sound bad, she’ll perhaps be very happy one of these days, may she have made a good choice and one not to be repented of.13 The best we can do for the time being is, I think, simply be very happy about it.
If you should happen to visit Mauve and Jet one of these days, give them my warm regards and spend some pleasant hours together, and bid good-day to the dunes and the sea for me. And tell Mauve that the photograph of his drawing, the plough in the field,14 is hanging in my little room and constantly reminds me of him.
Are you reading something beautiful? I’d like so much to start reading a great many books but may not, if you can get hold of John Halifax15 do read it again, even though we read it with nostalgia, still, let us not say ‘that is not for me’, because it’s good to go on believing in everything that’s good and noble. I heard that the man whose life and character prompted the book to be written died recently, he was called Harper and ran a large bookshop in London.16 I once met the painter Millais on the street in London, just after I had been so happy to see various of his paintings, and that noble figure made me think of John Halifax.17 Millais once painted The lost penny, a young woman looking in the early morning twilight for the penny she has lost (there’s an engraving of it, the lost mite)18 and not the least beautiful of his work is an autumn landscape, Chill October.19
Adieu, old chap, accept in thought a hearty handshake, and believe me, after giving my regards to your housemates, in haste, because I have to go to church,
Your most loving brother