My dear Theo,
There may well come a time when I look back with a certain nostalgia on the ‘excesses of Egypt’2 connected with other situations, namely earning more money and being in many respects of more consequence in the world – this I foresee. There is however ‘bread enough and to spare’3 in the houses I’ll be visiting as I continue down the road I’ve taken, but not money to spare.
And yet I so clearly see light in the distance, and if that light disappears now and then it’s mostly my own fault.
It’s very questionable whether I’ll go far in this profession, whether those 6 years spent in the firm of Messrs Goupil & Co., during which I should have been training for this situation, won’t always be a thorn in my flesh, as it were.  1v:2
I believe, however, that on no account can I turn back now, even if part of me should wish to (later, this isn’t the case now). These days it seems to me that there are no situations in the world other than those ranging from schoolmaster to clergyman and everything in between: missionary, ‘London missionary’4 &c. &c.
Being a London missionary is rather special, I believe; one has to go around among the workers and the poor spreading God’s word and, if one has some experience, speak to them, track down and seek to help foreigners looking for work, or other people who are in some sort of difficulty, etc. etc. Last week I was in London a couple of times to find out if there’s a possibility of my becoming one.5 Because I speak various languages and have tended to associate, especially in Paris and London, with people from the poorer classes and foreigners, and being a foreigner myself, I may well be suited  1v:3 to this, and could become so more and more.
To do this, however, one has to be at least 24 years old, and so in any case I still have a year to wait.
Mr Stokes says he definitely cannot give me a salary, for he can get plenty of people who’ll work for board and lodging alone, which is certainly true. But can that be kept up for long? I’m afraid not; it will be decided soon enough.
But, old boy, no matter what the case, I think I can tell you this again, that these couple of months have bound me so closely to the sphere ranging from schoolmaster to clergyman, both through satisfactions associated with those situations and through thorns that have pricked me, that I can no longer turn back.6
Onward, then! But I can assure you that very distinct difficulties will present themselves very soon, and others are visible on the horizon, and as if one is in a different world from the firm of Messrs Goupil & Co.
Will I be getting the small engravings (like those Pa and Ma have) of Christus Consolator and Remunerator7 that you promised me? Write soon if you can find a moment, but send your letter to Pa and Ma, because my address may change soon and Pa and Ma will be the first to know.  1r:4
Last week I was at Hampton Court to see the splendid gardens and long avenues of chestnut and lime trees where masses of crows and rooks have their nests, and also to see the palace and the paintings.8 There are, among other things, many portraits by Holbein which are very beautiful,9 and two beautiful Rembrandts (the portrait of his wife and one of a rabbi),10 and also beautiful Italian portraits by Bellini,11 Titian,12 a painting by Leonardo da Vinci,13 cartoons by Mantegna,14 a beautiful painting by S. Ruysdael,15 fruit by Cuyp16 and so on and so forth.
I rather wished that you could have been there too; it was a pleasure to see paintings again.
And I couldn’t help thinking vividly of the people who have lived at Hampton Court, of Charles i and his wife17 (she was the one who said ‘I thank Thee, God, for having made me Queen, though an unhappy Queen’,18 and at whose graveside Bossuet spoke19 from the abundance of his heart.20 Do you have ‘Bossuet, Oraisons funèbres’, you’ll find that eulogy there, there’s a very cheap edition, 50 centimes, I think),21 and also of Lord and Lady Russell, who would certainly have gone there often. (Guizot described their life in L’amour dans le mariage.22 Read that sometime if you can get hold of it.) Herewith a feather from one of the rooks there.
Do write soon if you can, I’m longing to hear from you, and believe me, after a handshake in thought

Your loving brother

Despite my feeling that I am inadequate and that in many respects I lack the qualifications necessary for the situation I have and for the related situation I have my eye on, I nevertheless have at the same time such a feeling of thankfulness, of hope and of something like deliverance! and freedom! despite all kinds of bonds, and the thought of God – despite new shortcomings that occur to me – stays with me more strongly and longer.


Br. 1990: 083 | CL: 70
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Isleworth, Monday, 3 or Tuesday, 4 July 1876

1. Since the last week of June, Van Gogh had been living at Linkfield House, 183 Twickenham Road, where William Port Stokes had set up his new school.
2. Exod. 16:3 talks of the ‘flesh pots’ of Egypt. Van Gogh’s mistake could have arisen through confusion of this biblical passage with Egypt’s seven years of great plenty, as described in Gen. 41:29-30, 34 and 53. One of the meanings of the Dutch word ‘vetpot’ is ‘excess’.
4. A missionary working in London. The London Missionary Society, which was founded in 1795, sent missionaries abroad to the British Empire.
a. Meaning: ‘special’.
5. Cf. letter 84, n. 3. This letter prompted Mr van Gogh to remark in a letter to Theo: ‘In London he paid a visit to a minister whose services he used to attend, thereby attempting to secure a situation in the church (albeit not as a preacher). There was talk of missionary work in London amongst the poor, but that fell through because he doesn’t meet the minimum age requirement. There was also talk of missionary work in South America. I cannot perceive from his letter any true desire for it on his part. When this is not paramount, I should call it great folly. And in the end a very costly undertaking, which would surely come to nothing for want of proper training, and mean returning home at great expense’ (FR b2756, 1 July).
6. Vincent’s parents were concerned about his future. On 1 July, Mrs van Gogh wrote to Theo: ‘if only he had the ambition to study to be a secondary school teacher of English or French, but Pa says that they give preference to those with a qualification as an assistant teacher. Would he be averse to all business or only to the art business?’ (FR b2755).
7. Ary Scheffer, Christus Consolator (Christ the consoler), 1837 (Amsterdam, Amsterdam Museum). There are various versions of and reproductions after this canvas, one of which was included in Goupil’s ‘Album de Photographies’, no. 62 (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale). The engraving by Louis Pierre Henriquel-Dupont, dating from 1857, has the following text inscribed above it: ‘Misit me sanare con tristos corde praedicare captivis remissionem. St. Luc. Ch. IV’ (Luke 4:18-19), to which Van Gogh refers in letter 86 (Bordeaux, Musée Goupil). Ill. 1771 [1771]. See Ewals 1987, pp. 278-279; exhib. cat. Dordrecht 1990, p. 39; and exhib. cat. London 1992, p. 131, cat. no. 53.
Ary Scheffer’s Christus Remunerator (Christ the rewarder), 1848 (Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum) also exists in various versions and reproductions, one of which was included in Goupil’s ‘Album de Photographies’, no. 63 (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale). See exhib. cat. London 1992, p. 131, cat. no. 54. The engraving by Auguste Blanchard, dating from 1851, has the following text inscribed above it: ‘Et statuet oves quidem a dextris suis hoedos autem a sinistris. St. Math. ch. XXV’ (Matt. 25:33) (Bordeaux, Musée Goupil). Ill. 1772 [1772]. See Ewals 1987, pp. 314-315; exhib. cat. Dordrecht 1990, pp. 18, 39.
Because Van Gogh makes specific mention of ‘small engravings’, he could be referring to Ed. Schulder’s Christus Consolator and Julius Allgaijer’s Christus Remunerator, both 9 x 12 cm. The inscriptions mentioned in letter 86 also appear on these prints (Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum). Ill. 1773 [1773] and Ill. 1774 [1774]. See exhib. cat. Dordrecht 1990, p. 47, cat. nos. 25-26. For that matter, Van Gogh might even be referring to the smaller photographs of the prints in Goupil’s series, which were sometimes mistaken for engravings. (Goupil’s original engravings are actually c. 40 x 50 cm.)
[86] [1771] [105] [1772] [1773] [1774]
b. Read: ‘zullen’.
8. Regarding the paintings in the Royal Collection of Hampton Court Palace, see cat. London 1844; cat. London 1898, and Bourke 1909. See also Roy Nash, Hampton Court. The palace and the people. London 1983. Many of the paintings referred to by Van Gogh have now been reattributed.
9. Hanging in Hampton Court Palace were a number of portraits by Hans Holbein the Younger, including Lady Elizabeth Vaux, Erasmus, Frobenius, John Reskemeer of Cornwall and Henry viii. See cat. London 1844, pp. 7, 12-14, 17, 26-27, cat. nos. 33, 281, 300-301, 306, 314-315, 323-324, 337, 338-341, 347, 351, 511, 893, 928; see also cat. London 1898, pp. 213, 217-218, 220-225; cat. nos. 591, 597, 599, 603, 606, 608, 610.
[87] [90] [90] [91]
10. A panel of A Jewish rabbi and a canvas of A Dutch lady were both attributed to Rembrandt. Ill. 1775 [1775] and ill. 1776 [1776]. See White 1982, p. 111, cat. no. 167 (as A rabbi with a cap) and p. 110, cat. no. 165 (as Portrait of a lady with hands folded (Hendrickje Stoffels?). White classifies both works as ‘Style of Rembrandt’.
[1775] [1776]
11. Portrait of a man, attributed at the time to Giovanni Bellini and later to Francesco Bissolo, who worked for years in Bellini’s studio. Ill. 1777 [1777]. See cat. London 1898, pp. 46-47, cat. no. 117. Marco Basaiti has also been suggested, though not without reservation, as the author of this portrait. See Bourke 1909, p. 11.
12. The following portraits by Titian have been named: A portrait, Alessandro de Medici, Ignatius Loyola, Titian’s uncle, The marquis del Guasto and his page, A portrait and A portrait of Titian, by himself. See cat. London 1844, pp. 7-9, 26-27, cat. nos. 42, 79, 113, 115, 888, 916, 919; see also cat. London 1898, pp. 46, 48, 57-58, cat. nos. 116, 122, 149; and Bourke 1909, pp. 20-21.
[93] [94] [95] [97]
13. The following works by Leonardo da Vinci have been named: A man taking a walk, Flora, Herod’s daughter with the head of John the Baptist and The Christ child and the infant Saint John. See cat. London 1844, pp. 7, 9, 12, 15, cat. nos. 44, 140, 264, 391. Law attributes Flora – with reservations – to Luini. See cat. London 1898, p. 20, cat. no. 61.
[99] [100] [101]
14. Andrea Mantegna, The triumphs of Julius Caesar (c. 1485-1494). At that time it was assumed that these nine canvases were cartoons: ‘The purpose for which these pictures were originally intended has been sometimes misconceived. They are not properly called cartoons at all, that is, they were not designed as models for frescoes or tapestries, but were painted in tempera on twilled linen.’ Cf. The triumphs of Caesar: The elephants. Ill. 1813 [1813]. Cat. London 1898, pp. 274-281, cat. no. 797 (quotation on p. 276). See also Ronald Lightbown, Mantegna. With a complete catalogue of the paintings, drawings and prints. Oxford 1986, pp. 424-433, cat. no. 28; and Christopher Lloyd, Andrea Mantegna, The triumphs of Caesar. A sequence of nine paintings in the Royal Collection. London 1991.
15. Salomon van Ruysdael, A river in Holland. Ill. 1778 [1778]. See White 1982, pp. 114-115, cat. no. 173 (as A river landscape with sailing boats).
16. Fruits, etc., then attributed to Jacob Gerritsz. Cuyp. Now this Still life is described as ‘Anonymous: seventeenth century’, ‘more in style of Willem Kalf’. Ill. 1814 [1814]. See White 1982, p. 166, cat. no. 284.
17. Charles i, King of England, married Henrietta-Maria of France in 1625.
18. This statement made by the queen of England was taken from Oraisons funèbres by Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet: ‘How often in this place did she humbly thank God for two great favours: the first, for having made her a Christian, the second – Gentlemen, what are you expecting? For having restored the position of her son the king, perhaps? No. It was for having made her an unhappy queen. Ah! I begin to regret the narrow confines of the place in which I speak.’ (Combien de fois a-t-elle en ce lieu remercié Dieu humblement de deux grandes grâces: l’une, de l’avoir fait chrétienne; l’autre, Messieurs, qu’attendez-vous? peut-être d’avoir rétabli les affaires du roi son fils? Non. C’est de l’avoir fait reine malheureuse. Ah! je commence à regretter les bornes étroites du lieu où je parle.) See J.B. Bossuet, Oraisons funèbres. Paris 1998, p. 139. Oraisons funèbres (Funeral Orations) is a collection of eulogies delivered by Bishop Bossuet on persons famous at the time. The book, which was compiled in 1689, was reprinted in various versions containing added sermons and panegyrics.
19. The eulogy ‘Oraison funèbre de Henriette de France, reine de la Grande-Bretagne’ was delivered on 16 November 1669.
21. The numerous editions and reprints of Bossuet’s work include inexpensive editions. A 50-centimes edition has not been found. Oraisons funèbres. Bibliothèque d’éducation et de récréation. Paris n.d. (Collection des classiques français dédiée à la jeunesse), which sold for 3 francs, contained the eulogy on pp. 23-68.
22. François Guizot, L’amour dans le mariage. Etude historique, 1855 (Love in marriage. Historical study). This little book sketches the blissful relationship of the English politician Lord William Russell and his wife Rachel Wriothesley. Lady Russell demonstrated lifelong devotion to her husband, who was executed on 21 July 1683. Guizot pays particular attention to the constant, modest, virtuous and, above all, pious Lady Russell, a truly ‘great Christian lady’. He makes no mention whatsoever of Hampton Court. Guizot’s text first appeared in the Revue des Deux Mondes (May 1855). See François Guizot, L’amour dans le mariage. Etude historique. 6th ed. Paris 1858, quotation on p. 92.