My dear Theo,
We1 received your letter this morning. And think that it’s very good that you’ve already raised the matter — and broken the ice in so far as you’ve spoken to the Dutch gentlemen about it &c.2
And I don’t yet see that my ‘it’ll go full steam ahead’ is wrong, since I myself can see that full steam ahead is in prospect and right now only in so far as our energy must be at full steam ahead. I do see it in prospect. And as to right now, you still remember that I said to you: come away empty-handed this time if need be, but then at least it has been discussed – and then there will have to be a second trip to Holland by Bonger and you together.
For the time being there’s every reason to say, with père Pangloss, all is for the best in the best of possible worlds.3 But now, old chap, the solution to the S. question4 that you give in your letter of today, that’s to say ‘Either she goes or I go’, would be very short, sweet and conclusive — if it were practicable.
But you’ll run up against difficulties that Bonger and I have been facing these last few days, and which we’re doing our utmost best to shed light on. These difficulties are different from what you think, but now isn’t the time to go into details: we’ll tell you all about it when you get back.
That you don’t belong with S. nor S. with you is absolutely certain, it seems to me. And that it has to be finished, too — but how? It’s a good thing for you to be prepared that the affair perhaps cannot be ended in the way you suggest, because by rushing her you could simply either provoke her to suicide or send her mad, and the effect of that on you would be tragic, of course, and could shatter you for ever.
So no accidents please. Now I’ve also told Bonger what I told you, that you’ll have to pass her on to someone else, and I told Bonger at length how I saw it – that an amicable arrangement which is virtually self-evident is that you pass her on to me. This much is certain, if both you and she were willing to accept it, then I’m prepared to take S. over from you, preferably, though, without marrying her, but if it works out better then even with a marriage of convenience. I’m writing this to you in a few words so that you’d still have time to think about it before your return. Since this way she could do the housekeeping, and since she can support herself by her work, it would be an economy for you rather than the other way round. Lucie5 has been given notice; I told her that you wouldn’t go on with it because it worked out too expensive, but kept her on until your return because you can then decide how the housekeeping will be, and in the event that this decision can’t be taken straightaway it’s probably advisable to keep the housekeeping on the same footing as regards Lucie until something is decided with S.
If you could enter into this arrangement yourself, then I see as the first consequence for you that you would feel yourself an entirely free man and your own engagement6 would go full steam ahead.
Courage and composure.
As regards the work, I have a pendant for that bouquet that you have with you,7 and also a branch of white lilies — white, pink, green — against black, in the spirit of black Japanese lacquer8 inlaid with mother-of-pearl that you know — then a branch of orange tiger lilies on a blue ground, then a bouquet of dahlias, violet on a yellow ground, and red gladioli in a blue vase on light yellow.9
Bonger is reading Au bonheur des dames10 and I’ve read Bel-ami by Guy de Maupassant.11
Do you know that Bonger and S. are sleeping here, and these are strange days, sometimes we’re very, very afraid of her, and sometimes we’re almighty merry and cheerful. But S. is terribly deranged, and it’s not over by a long shot.
Both of you will only feel that it’s finally finished between you and her when you see each other again, and so you don’t have to fear that you’ll get caught again. But you’ll have to talk to her a lot and try to get her settled. Think about it in the meantime between now and when you come back; serious remedies for serious ills.12
Bonger will certainly add something to this, unless he writes to you today from his office.13 Regards to everyone at home, with a handshake.
I’d be very pleased with the exchange for 2 Isabey watercolours, particularly if they’re figures by Isabey.14 See if you can exchange the pendant I have here as well and get something else as well. Tell me, is it impossible to get the Otto Weber from Princenhage, that fine autumn?15 For that I would make a series of 4 for them. Paintings are more use to us than drawings, but do what’s convenient.
[Continued by Andries Bonger]
I’m also convinced of the basis of V.’s reasoning. The issue is to open S.’s eyes. She’s not in love with you at all, but it’s as if you’ve bewitched her. Morally she is seriously sick. It is obvious that we can’t abandon her to her fate in that condition. On the contrary, we’ve been as cordial towards her as possible. If we hadn’t done that she would have gone mad. What makes me hope for her recovery is what she said to me yesterday evening: “How stupid of me that I can’t think straight.” So she does seem to realize where it has gone wrong. The great difficulty is her stubbornness, and we’ve
run up against that several times. Treating her harshly doesn’t work. It’s extremely difficult to come up with a plan in advance (Vincent’s is unworkable, in my opinion), but I hope that you realize from this that you’ve dealt with her the wrong way. The relationship of the past year has done nothing but make her lose her head. It would perhaps have been far better if you had lived together completely, then she would have seen for herself that you absolutely did not belong together. If she could live with someone else for a month who succeeded in fascinating her, who took care of her (for she needs a lot of care) and revived her health, you would be forgotten. Her condition is a lot like the nervous exhaustion of most girls in Holland. It will be no less difficult to convince S. of hers than to calm the emotions over there.
I suspect that you won’t have seen my sister Jo and Annie; I think both of them are out of town.16 We both long to know how matters stand in Amsterdam.
I was very pleased to hear that V. is now getting recognition. What repayment for the steadfast faith that you’ve had in him! He has made a few very beautiful things; the ones on a yellow ground look very good. The ensemble of flower pieces is very gay and colourful; some, though, are flat, but I just can’t persuade him of that. He keeps replying: but I wanted to get this or that colour contrast into it. As if I gave a damn what he wanted to do! Write to tell us when you’re coming back. Try to come with renewed vitality and a clear mind and a steadfast will. All three are necessary. The situation otherwise isn’t hopeless at all, but it is worrying. Spijker is only very slowly getting better.17 My regards to your family, and believe me wholeheartedly