1 July 1882
My dear Theo,
I’ve been back in my studio for a few hours and am writing to you immediately. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be better again, or how beautiful everything looked on the road from the hospital to here. And how the light seemed brighter and the spaces bigger, and all the objects and figures more important. There’s a ‘but’, though, and that ‘but’ is that I’ll again have a catheter or a thick lead probe in my bladder, for next Tuesday I have to go back to the doctor and tell him how I’ve been getting on, and he has prepared me for the fact that I may then have to go into hospital for another fortnight, possibly longer, possibly shorter, depending on what’s needed. At any rate I would be absolutely delighted if I didn’t have to go in again. As soon as I feel anything wrong I have to go back, and even if I don’t notice anything I’ll go on Tuesday to be examined again. The channel through which the urine passes must gradually be widened, but this can’t be forced or rushed.
1v:2 The probes gradually become thicker, and each time a new one goes in everything is stretched a little further, and that’s painful, but above all extremely unpleasant, particularly because the thing is left in place for a time. Blood comes out when it’s removed, and then you feel relatively free for a few days, while the pain it causes disappears. I’m now here in one of those intervals. Meanwhile I can now pass water quite easily once more, which makes me feel on top of the world, as if it were something very special. But it must become entirely normal, and that will take time. Yet the sense of getting better makes you forget all the catheters and probes and instillations... until you see the doctor approaching with them again. And that isn’t a very pleasant moment. Well, such are the petty troubles of life.1 But what one might call a ‘great trouble’ is pregnancy and delivery — the latest letter from Sien was very melancholy. She hadn’t yet given birth but was expecting to at any hour, and I feel very worried, because this waiting has been going on for days.
1v:3 It was chiefly to be able to visit her that I asked the doctor to change the walks in the garden into a short leave of absence, if it was at all possible. So tomorrow morning I’m going to see her with her mother and child, Sunday being the only day on which she’s allowed visitors. Her last letter to me wasn’t written by herself but by the nurse, who herself asked that we should come sometime. Yet we may still find that we aren’t allowed in. Poor lass, she’s full of courage and not easily frightened, but according to that last letter there was nothing in particular wrong except for inner frailty. I can’t tell you how I longed for her in the hospital and how I long for her now, and at times I wasn’t sorry that I had to cope with some suffering myself, rather than standing there in excellent health, for then it would have been very unevenly divided.
If all goes well, though, Sien will be back this month, may that prove to be the case. But the proverb says ‘A mother’s pains are long-lasting’.2 This casts a dark shadow over the wonderful feeling of getting better. I’m longing for tomorrow and dreading it at the same time.
The first person I came across here in Schenkweg was my friend the carpenter,3 who has helped me on several occasions with one job or another to do with making instruments for perspective.4 And who’s also the foreman for the owner5 of the studio I wrote to you about. His boss was just at the yard (the drawing of which you have, with meadows in the distance),6 and they coaxed me into going along, and showed me how they had left the room that would be the studio unpapered pending my decision. I said I still couldn’t decide. Fine, said the man, but I could choose what I wanted from a batch of wallpapers, then he would put it up and I wouldn’t be under any obligation. And even though I said I didn’t want that, since I had to go back to the hospital, they’ve already started work, because they insist on showing me it before Tuesday. I must say the house is very comfortable and looks really large and smart. The huge, fully panelled attic alone would make a superb studio if need be, although the room facing north was going to be the studio.7 And the price is unusually low for here; in the city it would be about double. Three guilders a week for a large upstairs flat is very little, even in comparison with neighbourhoods like Noordwal or the Buitensingels. And the location is excellent for a painter. There’s one view from the attic window that’s enchanting. Still, I didn’t want to take a decision because both Sien and I are sick. But I’ll take the matter up again as soon as we’re better. There is air and space, wonderful to work in and keep healthy. Light from the north, and in the other room roughly from the south. There’s a small kitchen I really hope to draw a lot, also with a little window overlooking a sort of courtyard.
I mustn’t forget to tell you that, most unexpectedly, I had a visit in the hospital from Mr Tersteeg,8 which gave me great pleasure in one sense, although we didn’t talk about anything special, nor is that necessary. But I thought it very kind. Then a few days later Iterson came as well, about which I cared much less. And then Johan van Gogh,
2r:5 who I thought was in Helvoirt but turns out to be living in Stationsweg these days.9 He told me that he, too, had had a bunch of catheters and other musical instruments in his bladder once. Given that he appears to be free of them now, I hope there’ll be an end to it in my case as well. It would be too bad if a person had such adornments for a long time — it would be hard to climb stairs or show yourself in public.
If you send me something at the beginning of this month, you should address the letter to the hospital. It will be all right, because the porter has promised me to keep letters if I’m away (this is allowed under hospital rules as long as one isn’t finally discharged and puts in a request). On Tuesday I have to pay for the hospital again, and the rent that I owe as well. But the finest thing of all about getting better is that my drawing is coming back to life, together with my feeling for things, which was drugged, so to speak, for a time, and was a great void. I again enjoy everything I see. And then, I haven’t smoked a pipe in about a month — that’s another old friend back. I can’t tell you with what pleasure I sit here again in the studio after spending so long in an environment of chamber-pots &c., even though the hospital is also beautiful, truly beautiful. Especially the garden with all the strollers, men, women, children. I have a few scratches,10 but as a patient you aren’t free to work as it ought to be done, and not up to it either.
Well, adieu, write soon, and believe me, with a handshake