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761 To Theo van Gogh. Arles, on or about Wednesday, 24 April 1889.

metadata
No. 761 (Brieven 1990 765, Complete Letters 586)
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, on or about Wednesday, 24 April 1889

Source status
Original manuscript

Location
Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. b633 V/1962

Date
The letter must have been written before receipt of Theo’s letter of 24 April (letter 762), because Vincent asks here if Theo is already back in Paris, whereas Theo reported in his letter that he had meanwhile arrived in Paris. In that same letter Theo responds to Vincent’s letter of 21 April (letter 760). We may therefore assume that the present letter had not yet arrived and that their letters had crossed. For this reason we have dated this letter to about Wednesday, 24 April 1889.

Ongoing topics
Decision regarding Vincent’s admission to the asylum at Saint-Rémy (760)
Theo’s journey to the Netherlands in connection with his marriage (750)

original text
 1r:1
Mon cher Theo,
j’ai revu M. Salles et il m’a dit ce qu’il t’avait écrit.–1 Je crois que ce sera ainsi pour le mieux et je ne vois pas d’autre chemin. La pensée revient graduellement mais encore beaucoup beaucoup moins qu’auparavant je puis agir pratiquement.
Je suis abstraita et ne saurais pour le moment régler ma vie.
Mais laissons cela de côté autant que possible. comment ca va-t-il, es tu de retour..–
Faut que je te dise que je crois possible que tu trouveras la lettre de M. Salles encore adressee Rue Lepic.2
Comment cela va-t-il à la maison. Je m’imagine que la mère doit avoir été contente.–
Je t’assure que je suis beaucoup plus calme depuis que je m’imagine que tu as une compagne pour de bon. Surtout ne te représente pas que je sois malheureux.
Je sens profondément que cela m’a travaillé déjà depuis tres longtemps et que d’autres, apercevant des symptomes de dérangement, ont naturellement eu des aprehensions mieux fondees que l’assurance que moi je croyais avoir de penser normalement. Ce qui n’etait pas le cas car cette crise pour moi3
 1v:2
Enfin cela me radoucit beaucoup dans beaucoup de jugements que j’ai, avec plus ou moins de presomption, trop souvent porté sur des personnes qui cependant me voulaient du bien.4
Enfin c’est sans doute dommage que ces réflexions me viennent à l’état de sentiment un peu tard.– Et que je ne peux naturellement rien changer au passé.
Mais je te prie de bien considérer cela et de considérer la démarche que nous faisons aujourd’hui ainsi que j’en ai causé avec M. Salles, d’aller dans un asile – Comme une simple formalité et dans tous les cas les crises repetées me paraissent avoir été graves assez pour ne pas avoir à hésiter.5
D’ailleurs quant à mon avenir ce n’est pas comme si j’avais 20 ans puisque j’en ai 36 passées.
Voilà il me semble que ce serait une torture tant pour d’autres que pour moi si je sortais de l’hospice, car je me sens et suis comme paralysé pour pouvoir agir et me debrouiller. Plus tard ma foi qui vivra verra.6
 1v:3
Ainsi je voudrais te demander un tas de choses sur la Hollande et sur ces jours ci. Pauvre égoiste que j’ai toujours ete et maintenant suis encore, je ne peux sortir de cette idee que je t’ai deja deux ou trois fois expliquee pourtant, que c’est ainsi pour le mieux que j’aille dans un asile tout court. Cela reviendra peutêtre à la longue. Enfin mon excuse bien maigre est que la peinture rétrécit les idees pour le reste peutêtre. On ne peut pas être à son metier et penser au reste en même temps. C’est un peu fatal – le metier est assez ingrat et son utilité est certes contestable. Et la chose que je regrette c’est de ne pas etre allé dans un asile plus tôt, c’aurait eté plus simple.
Reste cependant que l’idee d’association des peintres, de les loger en commun, quelques uns, quoique nous n’ayons pas reussi, quoique c’est une faillite deplorable et douloureuse – cette idee reste vraie et raisonable – comme tant d’autres.–
Mais pas recommencer.7
 1r:4
Saches bien que nous devons prendre la pension la plus simple absolument.–
80 francs doivent suffire et le peuvent dit m. Salles. Rey m’avertit qu’à St. Remy il n’est pas superflu de considerer qu’il y a beaucoup de gens plus ou moins aisés d’internés desquels quelques uns depensent beaucoup d’argent. Ce qui leur est souvent plus nuisible qu’utile. Je crois cela volontiers. Et je crois que chez moi la nature à elle seule fera davantage de bien que des remèdes. Ici je ne prends rien. Il faudra que je paye encore peutêtre fr 11.87 de contributions pour mobilier, on m’en a envoye un billet au moins, en outre que le restant de loyer que je dois encore au proprietaire.8 Et avant d’aller à St Remy il faut que je te fasse mon envoi de tableaux, j’ai emballé une caisse déjà.
Je voudrais t’ecrire sur autre chose mais cela me preoccupe maintenant que cette affaire se règle, je ne trouve pas les idees que je cherche pour t’ecrire sur plusieurs choses à la fois.
à bientot, j’espère que tu aies, toi et ta femme, eu bon voyage.

t. à t.
Vincent

translation
 1r:1
My dear Theo,
I saw Mr Salles again and he told me what he’d written to you.1 I think it will be for the best like this, and I don’t see any other way. Thought is coming back gradually, but I can still act much much less practically than before.
I’m absent-minded, and for the moment wouldn’t be able to control my life.
But let’s leave that aside as much as possible. How are you, are you back?
Must tell you that I think it possible that you’ll find Mr Salles’ letter still addressed to rue Lepic.2
How are things at home? I imagine Mother must have been pleased.
I assure you that I’m much calmer now that I can tell myself that you have a companion for good. Above all, don’t imagine that I’m unhappy.
I feel deeply that this has already worked away at me for a very long time, and that others, noticing the symptoms of mental derangement, naturally had apprehensions that were better founded than the confidence I thought I had in thinking normally. Which wasn’t the case, because for me that crisis3  1v:2
Anyway, it softens me a great deal in many judgements that, with more or less presumption, I’ve too often made about people who nevertheless wished me well.4
Anyway, it’s no doubt a pity that these reflections come to me a little late in the form of feelings. And that naturally I can’t change anything of the past.
But I ask you to consider this closely, and to consider the course of action we’re taking today as I’ve talked about it with Mr Salles, to go into an asylum, as a simple formality, and in any case the repeated crises appear to me to have been serious enough not to hesitate.5
Besides, as to my future, it isn’t as if I were 20, since I’ve passed 36.
There you are, it seems to me that it would be a torture as much for others as for myself if I left the hospital, for I feel and am as it were paralyzed when it comes to acting and getting by. Later on, my word, time will tell.6  1v:3
Thus I’d like to ask you a heap of things about Holland and about recent days. Poor egotist that I’ve always been and still am now, I can’t shake off this idea, which, however, I’ve already explained to you two or three times, that it’s thus for the best that I go into an asylum right now. It will perhaps turn out all right in the end. Anyway, my very meagre excuse is that painting narrows ideas for the rest perhaps. One can’t be in one’s profession and think of the rest at the same time. It’s a little inevitable – the profession is quite thankless and its usefulness is certainly contestable. And the thing I regret is not having gone into an asylum sooner, it would have been simpler.
Remains, however, the fact that the idea of association of painters, of housing them together, some of them, although we haven’t succeeded, although it’s a deplorable and painful failure – this idea remains true and reasonable – like so many others.
But no beginning again.7  1r:4
Be well aware that we must take absolutely the simplest board and lodging.
80 francs must and can suffice, says Mr Salles. Rey warns me that at St-Rémy it wouldn’t go amiss to consider that many people are committed who are more or less well off, some of whom spend a lot of money. Which is often more harmful than useful to them. I can well believe that. And I think that for me, nature alone will do more good than remedies. Here I’m taking nothing. I’ll have to pay perhaps another 11.87 francs in movable property tax, I’ve been sent a bill for it at least, in addition to the rest of the rent that I still owe the landlord.8 And before going to St-Rémy I must send you my consignment of paintings, I’ve packed one crate already.
I’d like to write to you about other things, but it preoccupies me now that this matter should be sorted out, I can’t find the ideas I seek to write to you about on several things at once.
More soon, I hope that you and your wife had a good journey.

Ever yours,
Vincent
notes
1. Salles had informed Theo on 19 April about Vincent’s decision to have himself admitted to an asylum, and had sent him information about the institution at Saint-Rémy (FR b1050). See letter 756, n. 6 and letter 762, n. 2.
a. Read: ‘distrait’.
2. Since 20 April Theo had been living with his wife, Jo Bonger, at 8 cité Pigalle. See Brief happiness 1999, p. 27.
3. Van Gogh did not finish this sentence.
4. Here Van Gogh is less harsh in his judgement of the people who had signed the petition complaining about him in February. He had previously accused them of a cowardly and meddlesome attitude towards him (see letters 750 and 751).
5. For the various attacks, see letter 750, n. 4.
6. As emerges from letter 726, Theo often used the expression ‘qui vivra verra’ (time will tell).
7. This ‘failure’ refers to Van Gogh’s dashed hopes of turning the Yellow House into a true artists’ house. The first attack of his illness had put an abrupt end to his collaboration with Gauguin (see letter 728).
8. The owner of the Yellow House was Verdier; Van Gogh paid his rent to Verdier’s agent, Bernard Soulé, who was in charge of the building. See letter 602, n. 19.