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679 To Theo van Gogh. Arles, on or about Monday, 10 September 1888.

metadata
No. 679 (Brieven 1990 683, Complete Letters 536)
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, on or about Monday, 10 September 1888

Source status
Original manuscript

Location
Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. nos. b579 a-b V/1962

Date
The remark ‘[you] have just sent the money ... for furnishing the house’ (l. 31) would indicate that this letter was written soon after 8 September, the day Vincent had received 300 francs (letter 676). At this point he has not yet replied to Gauguin’s letter; he did so on or about 11 September (letter 680, l. 71). We, like Merlhès and Dorn, have consequently dated the present letter on or about Monday, 10 September 1888.
In Brieven 1914 Jo van Gogh-Bonger reversed the order of the present letter and the next (680), and dated them 11 and 10 September respectively. It is not clear why she did this. If she based her dating on postmarks, it might be that she misinterpreted the posting and receipt marks or that the letters were put back in the wrong envelopes; it is also conceivable that Van Gogh did not send the two letters in the order he wrote them.

Additional
The letter is not signed, but in view of the closing words it does appear to be complete. Van Gogh enclosed letter 675 from Gauguin.

Ongoing topics
Gauguin coming to Arles (602)
Gauguin’s illness (581)
Decoration of the Yellow House (665)
Request to Russell to buy a painting from Gauguin (582)

original text
 1r:1
Mon cher Theo,
Ci inclus lettre de Gauguin qui est arrivée simultanément avec une lettre de Bernard.1 Enfin c’est le cri de détresse.... ma dette augmente de jour en jour.
Je n’insiste pas sur ce qu’il a à faire.
Toi tu lui offres l’hospitalité ici et tu acceptes le seul moyen de payement qu’il a, ses tableaux.
Mais s’il exigerait qu’en outre et en dehors de cela tu lui payes son voyage il va un peu loin et au moins devrait il bien franchement t’offrir de ses tableaux et s’adresser à toi comme aussi à moi dans des termes moins vagues que “ma dette augmentant de jour en jour mon voyage devient de plus en plus improbable”.–
Il sentirait mieux la chôse s’il disait, j’aime mieux laisser tous mes tableaux entre vos mains puisque vous êtes bon pour moi et de faire des dettes chez vous qui m’aimez que de vivre avec mon logeur.2
 1v:2
Mais il a mal à l’estomac et lorsqu’on a mal à l’estomac on n’a pas la volonté libre.
Or moi je n’ai pas mal à l’estomac actuellement.
Et conséquemment je me sens la tête plus libre et j’espérerais plus lucide.
Je trouve absolument injuste que toi qui viens d’envoyer de l’argent que toi-même as dû emprunter pour l’ameublement de la maison,3 ayes encore à ta charge le voyage, alors surtout que ce voyage soit compliqué du payement de la dette.
A moins que Gauguin faisant bourse absolument commune te donne en plein son oeuvre. De telle façon que cessant de compter on fasse absolument cause commune. Si on faisait et bourse et cause commune je crois moi que tous y profiteraient au bout de quelques annees de travail en commun.
 1v:3
Car si l’association se fait dans ces conditions-là toi tu te sentiras je ne dis pas plus heureux mais plus artiste et plus productif qu’avec moi seul.
Pour lui comme pour moi nous sentirons bien clairement que nous devons réussir parceque notre honneur à tous les trois y est compromis et qu’on ne travaille pas pour soi seul. Le cas me parait être ainsi.
Et je me dis que même s’il faut dégringoler dans la fatalité des chôses il faudrait encore faire comme cela. Seulement j’écarte de plus en plus l’idée de cette degringolade lorsque je pense à la serenité que nous voyons sur les visages dans les Frans Hals et dans les Rembrandt tel que le portrait de Six vieux,4 tel que dans le sien,5 tel que dans ces Frans Hals que nous autres connaissons bien à Harlem des vieillards et des vieilles femmes.6
 1r:4
il vaut mieux avoir de la serenité que d’etre trop craintif.
Pourquoi donc jeter de hauts cris à l’occasion de cette affaire avec Gauguin. S’il vient avec nous autres il fera bien et nous voulons bien qu’il vienne.
Mais ni lui ni nous devons être écrasés.
Enfin dans sa lettre à lui il y a un beau calme tout de même.
quoiqu’il laisse inexpliquées ses intentions à notre égard.
Seulement si l’on veut bien faire cette chose il faut de la fidélité de sa part.
Je suis assez curieux de savoir ce que lui meme t’écrira, je lui réponds absolument comme je sens mais je ne veux pas dire des chôses melancoliques ou tristes ou mechantes à un si grand artiste.
Mais l’affaire au point de vue de l’argent prend des proportions graves, il y a le voyage, il y a la dette, il y a encore que l’ameublement n’est pas complet.
 2r:5
Seulement il est déjà complet assez pour que si Gauguin tombe ici inopinément il y aurait moyen de s’arranger en attendant qu’on reprenne haleine.
Gauguin est marié et ceci il faut bien le sentir d’avance qu’à la longue il n’est pas sûr que les interets divers seront compatibles.
Or c’est pourquoi il faudrait justement pour ne pas se quereller plus tard en cas d’association quelconque avoir les conditions bien nettement arrêtées.
Si tout va bien pour Gauguin tu vois d’ici qu’il se remettra avec sa femme et ses enfants.7 Certes je le désirerais pour lui. Eh bien il faut donc avoir sur la valeur de ses tableaux plus de confiance que son logeur mais il ne faut pas qu’il te les compte tellement cher à toi qu’au lieu de pouvoir avoir toi quelque avantage à l’association, tu n’en aurais que les charges et les frais.
Cela ne doit pas être et d’ailleurs ne sera pas. Mais tu dois avoir de lui ce qu’il a de mieux.
 2v:6
Je dois te prévenir que je compte garder ici à l’atelier plusieurs études au lieu de te les envoyer. Je crois que si je continue bien fermement ce projet de faire de la maison ici une chôse un peu réellement artistique tu auras plus tard une serie d’etudes qui se tiendra.
à propos Russell a répondu – negativement pour ce qui regarde d’acheter un Gauguin8 mais il m’invite à venir passer un temps chez lui, ce qui commencerait et finirait par couter de l’argent pour le voyage. Je ne dis pas pourtant qu’il n’achetera pas un Gauguin car il sentira bien lui-même qu’il est peu bienfaisant actuellement. Mais enfin en se construisant une maison,9 pourvu qu’il y loge les gens, il fait bien la chôse qui est necessaire à partir du moment où les logeurs nous fouteraient à la porte.
à bientôt et bonne poignée de main.

translation
 1r:1
My dear Theo,
Enclosed herewith letter from Gauguin, which arrived at the same time as a letter from Bernard.1 At last, it’s the cry of distress.... my debt is increasing from day to day.
I won’t dwell on what he has to do.
You offer him hospitality here, and you accept the only means of payment he has, his paintings.
But if in addition to and apart from that, he demanded that you pay for his journey, he’s going a bit far, and at least he should very openly offer you some of his paintings, and appeal to you as well as to me in terms less vague than ‘my debt increasing from day to day, my journey is becoming more and more unlikely’.
He would have a better sense of things if he said, I prefer to leave all my paintings in your hands, because you’re kind to me, and to run up debts with you, who are fond of me, rather than living with my landlord.2  1v:2
But he has a stomach-ache, and when you have a stomach-ache, you don’t have free will.
Now I don’t have a stomach-ache, at present.
And as a result I feel my head freer, and I should hope more lucid.
I find it absolutely unfair that you, who’ve just sent the money that you yourself have had to borrow for furnishing the house,3 should also have to bear the expense of the journey, and especially when this journey is complicated by the payment of the debt.
Unless Gauguin, sharing absolutely everything, were to give you the whole of his work. In such a way that, ceasing to keep count, we’d share absolutely everything. If we shared expenses and made common cause, I myself believe that everyone would profit from it after some years’ working in common.  1v:3
Because, if the association is created under these conditions, you will feel, I don’t say happier, but more of an artist and more productive than with me alone.
For him, as for me, we’ll feel very clearly that we must succeed, because the honour of all three of us is involved there, and because we’re not working just for ourselves. That seems to me to be the case.
And I say to myself that even if we must tumble into the inevitability of things, we should still do it that way. But increasingly I’m dismissing the idea of that tumble when I think of the serenity that we see on faces in Frans Halses and Rembrandts, as in the portrait of old Six,4 as in his own,5 as in those Frans Halses that we know so well in Haarlem, of old men and old women.6  1r:4
It’s better to have serenity than to be too fearful.
Why, then, make such a noise on the subject of this affair with Gauguin? If he comes with the two of us he’ll do well, and we really want him to come.
But neither he nor we should be crushed.
Anyway, there’s a beautiful calm in his letter all the same.
Although he leaves his intentions towards us unexplained.
But if we wish to do this thing well, it will require loyalty on his part.
I’m quite curious to know what he’ll write to you himself; I’ll reply to him exactly as I feel, but I don’t want to say melancholy or sad or mean things to so great an artist.
But from the point of view of money, the affair is taking on serious proportions; there’s the journey, there’s the debt, and there’s the fact that the furnishing isn’t complete.  2r:5
Only it’s already complete enough that if Gauguin were to drop in here unexpectedly there would be a way to manage while waiting to get our breath back.
Gauguin is married, and it’s very important to be aware beforehand that in the long run it’s not certain that different interests will be compatible.
Now that’s why, in the case of some sort of association, we have to have the conditions settled well and clearly, precisely so that we don’t fall out later.
If all goes well for Gauguin, you’ll see at this point that he’ll go back to his wife and children.7 Certainly I’d wish that for him. Ah well, we must therefore have more confidence in the value of his paintings than his landlord does, but he mustn’t calculate them to be so expensive to you that instead of your having some benefit from the association, you’d have nothing but responsibilities and costs.
That must not be, and anyway, will not be. But you must have from him the best of what he has.  2v:6
I must warn you that I plan to keep several studies here at the studio, instead of sending them to you. I believe that if I very firmly continue this project of turning the house here into something that’s a little bit truly artistic, later on you’ll have a series of studies that will hold together.
Russell replied, by the way — negatively as far as buying a Gauguin is concerned,8 but he invites me to spend some time with him, which would start and finish with costing the money for the journey. I’m not saying, though, that he won’t buy a Gauguin, because he himself will feel that he’s not being very helpful at present. But after all, by building himself a house,9 as long as he puts people up there, he’s doing the very thing that’s needed from the moment our landlords kick us out.
More soon, and good handshake.
notes
1. The letter to Gauguin is letter 675; the letter from Bernard has not survived (it was not sent on to Theo).
2. Gauguin was staying in the boarding house run by Mrs Gloanec in Pont-Aven; see letter 581, n. 5.
3. Theo had sent Vincent 300 francs to furnish the Yellow House; see letter 676. Whether Theo had actually had to borrow money is questionable; he may have suggested something of the kind in order to curb Vincent’s spending.
4. See letter 47, n. 8, for Rembrandt’s Jan Six .
5. It is very likely that Van Gogh was thinking here of Rembrandt’s Self-portrait at the easel , which the brothers had seen in the Louvre. See letter 649, n. 15.
6. See letter 651, nn. 9 and 10, for Hals’s Regents of the Old Men’s Alms House and Regentesses of the Old Men’s Alms House . Vincent and Theo saw the paintings in the museum in Haarlem, see letter 130, n. 2.
7. For Gauguin’s family see letter 625, n. 22.
8. Van Gogh had sent twelve drawings to Russell at the beginning of August 1888 in the hope of making him favourably disposed towards buying a work from Gauguin. See letter 652, n. 3.
9. See letter 623, n. 16, for Russell’s house.