Isleworth, 18 Aug. 1876

My dear Theo,
Yesterday I went to see Gladwell,1 who’s home for a few days. Something very sad happened to his family: his sister, a girl full of life, with dark eyes and hair, 17 years old, fell from her horse while riding on Blackheath. She was unconscious when they picked her up, and died 5 hours later without regaining consciousness.2
I went there as soon as I heard what had happened and that Gladwell was at home. I left here yesterday morning at 11 o’clock, and had a long walk to Lewisham, the road went from one end of London to the other. At 5 o’clock I was at Gladwell’s.3 I’d gone to their gallery first,4 but it was closed.
They had all just come back from the funeral, it was a real house of mourning and it did me good to be there.5 I had feelings of embarrassment and shame at seeing that deep, estimable grief, for these people are estimable.  1v:2
Blessed are they that mourn,6 blessed are they that are ‘sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing’,7 blessed are the pure in heart,8 for God comforts the simple.9 Blessed are they that find Love on their path, who are bound intimately with one another by God, for to them all things work together for good.10 I talked with Harry for a long time, until the evening, about all kinds of things, about the kingdom of God and about his Bible, and we walked up and down on the station, talking, and those moments before parting we’ll probably never forget.
We know each other so well, his work was my work, the people he knows there I know too, his life was my life, and it was given to me to see so deeply into their family affairs, I think, because I believe that I love them, not so much because I know the particulars of those affairs, but because I feel the tone and feeling of their being and life.
So we walked back and forth on that station, in that everyday world, but with a feeling  1v:3 that was not everyday.
They don’t last long, such moments, and we soon had to take leave of each other. It was a beautiful sight, looking out from the train over London, that lay there in the dark, St Paul’s11 and other churches in the distance. I stayed in the train until Richmond12 and walked along the Thames to Isleworth, that was a lovely walk, on the left the parks with their tall poplars, oaks and elms, on the right the river, reflecting the tall trees. It was a beautiful, almost solemn, evening; I got home at quarter past 10.
Thanks for your last letter. You hadn’t yet written that Mrs Vintcent had died; how often I brought her home in the evenings.13 Do you still visit Borchers sometimes? How I’d like to have walked with you to Hoeven! I often teach the boys biblical history, and last Sunday I read the Bible with them. Mornings and evenings we all read the Bible and sing and pray, and that is good. We did that at Ramsgate, too, and when those 21 sons of the London markets and streets prayed ‘Our Father, who art in Heaven, give us this day our daily bread’,14 I’ve  1r:4 sometimes thought of the cry of the young ravens that the Lord hears,15 and it did me good to pray with them and to bow my head, probably even lower than they did, at the words Do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil.16
I’m still full of yesterday; it must be good to be the brother of the man I saw so sorrowful yesterday, I mean that it must ‘be blessed to mourn’17 with manly sorrow, how I’d have liked to comfort the Father, but I was embarrassed, though I could talk to the son. There was something hallowed in that house yesterday.
Have you ever read ‘A life for a life’, I think in Dutch it’s called ‘Uit het leven voor het leven’, by the woman who wrote John Halifax?18 You’d find it very beautiful. How’s your English coming along?
It was a delight to take a long walk again, very little walking is done here at school. When I think of my life of struggle in Paris last year and now here, where sometimes I can’t leave the house for a whole day, or at least no further than the garden, then I sometimes think, when will I return to that world? If I do return to it, though, it will probably be some other kind of work than I did last year. But I think that I prefer doing biblical history with the boys to walking; one feels more or less safe doing the former.
And now, regards to everyone at the Rooses’, and if anyone else should ask after me. How are the Van den Berghs,19 and the Van Stockums on Buitenhof?20 Do you ever hear anything from them? A handshake in thought and best wishes from

Your most loving brother

And herewith a letter for Mauve. You may read it, I believe it’s good not to forget one’s old acquaintances, that’s why I’m writing again to some of them, also those in Paris, to Soek and others.

If you can persuade anyone to read Scenes from clerical life by Eliot, and Felix Holt, you’ll be doing a good deed. The former is a wonderful book.21 Recommend the former to Caroline and to the Mauves and, if possible, to Mr Tersteeg as well.

Could you write by return of post saying whether a Dutch pound of butter costs 80 cents and – if it’s a different pound – what part of a kilo is it then?22

Also give my regards to Mr and Mrs Tersteeg and Betsy.

I’m writing to you between school hours and rather in haste, as you can see.23


Br. 1990: 087 | CL: 73
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Isleworth, Friday, 18 August 1876

1. This refers to Harry Gladwell, who apparently had already been to visit Vincent, since Mrs van Gogh told Theo (before 18 August 1876): ‘Vincent’s last letter contained nothing special except that Gladwell had been to see him, which he was so happy about’ (FR b2765).
2. Susannah Eleanor Gladwell died on Wednesday, 16 August 1876.
3. To get from Isleworth (south-west of London) via the gallery in the City (Gracechurch Street) to Lewisham (south-east of London), Van Gogh had to walk more than 30 km.
4. Regarding Gladwell’s gallery, see letter 55, n. 1.
5. Cf. Eccl. 7:2-4; cf. also n. 6.
9. Cf. 2 Cor. 7:6, ‘God, that comforteth those that are cast down’.
10. Rom. 8:28. The repetition of ‘Blessed are...’ reflects the wording of Matt. 5:3-11.
11. St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London.
12. Richmond station was south-east of Isleworth.
13. This most likely refers to Cornelia Wilhelmina De Lezenne Greve, the wife of Johannes Bernardus Lodewijk Philippus Vintcent, a brother of the painter Lodewijk Antonie Vintcent. When Van Gogh was living in The Hague, Mrs Vintcent-De Lezenne Greve was living at Hofstraat 13, where she had resided since c. 1869/1870. She died on 21 July 1876 in The Hague (GAH).
14. The Lord’s Prayer: Matt. 6:9-11 and Luke 11:2-3.
16. The Lord’s Prayer: Matt. 6:13 and Luke 11:4.
18. In 1856, Dinah Maria Mulock Craik wrote the bestseller John Halifax, gentleman, the story of a tanner’s apprentice who works his way up to the point where he can afford to set up in business for himself. Widely read, but less successful, was Mulock Craick’s A life for a life (1859), a book which shows that ‘women and men have similar strengths, needs, and emotions. The plot shows that a man who commits murder and a woman who has a child out of wedlock can experience the same pattern of suffering and redemption.’ The principal characters, both lonely people, accept each other as they are, marry, and decide to emigrate to Canada, because there is no place for them in English society. See Mitchell 1983, pp. 56-58 (quotation on p. 56).
The Dutch translation of A life for a life was titled Leven om leven, but no copy has been traced. Mention of this edition is made on the title page of Mulock Craik’s A noble life, namely Een welbesteed leven (Van Kampen publishers, Amsterdam, 1866. Copy in the Groningen University Library). In those days it was not unusual for a book’s title page or binding to display a phrase such as ‘from the author of John Halifax’, and this could be where Van Gogh had seen it.
19. The family of Arie van den Bergh and Johanna Ewaldine Stricker, a daughter of Johannes Andries Stricker. Van den Bergh was a chemist and distiller in The Hague’s prestigious Spuistraat (no. 51). The couple had been living since 1866 in Huis te Hoorn in Rijswijk, where they were photographed, together with their three sons and two daughters, in August 1872 (FR b5348).
20. The family of Wilhelmus Petrus van Stockum and Maria de Langen. Van Stockum was a bookseller and publisher in The Hague. The family lived at Buitenhof 36. The couple had four sons and four daughters, though several of them no longer lived at home, one being Willem Jacob, the husband of Caroline Haanebeek.
22. Jones had previously asked Van Gogh to inquire about the price of Dutch butter; see letter 87. Between May and October 1876, the price of one Dutch pound (which was actually 1 kg) of butter fluctuated between 1.50 and 1.80 guilders on the Delft market. See Uitkomsten van het onderzoek naar den toestand van den landbouw in Nederland. The Hague 1890, vol. 2, section 58, p. 20. Van Gogh asked expressly about a ‘Dutch pound’ because in those days weights and measures had not yet been standardized. See J.M. Verhoeff, De oude Nederlandse maten en gewichten. Amsterdam 1982.
23. The marginal comments were obviously written in haste.