Dordrecht, 21 January 1877

My dear Theo,
You’ll have expected a letter sooner; things are going rather well in the shop,1 and it’s so busy that I go there at 8 o’clock in the morning and come back at 1 o’clock at night, but I’m happy about that.
I hope to go to Etten on 11 February. As you know, that’s when they’ll celebrate Pa’s birthday,2 would you be able to come as well? I hope to give Pa Eliot’s ‘Novellen’ (a translation of Scenes from clerical life),3 if we were to give something together we could give him Adam Bede4 as well.
Wrote last Sunday to Mr Jones and his wife that I’m not coming back, and without my being able to help it, the letter grew quite long – out of the abundance of the heart5 – did wish that they, for their part, would remember me, and asked them ‘to wrap my recollection in the cloak of Charity’.6
The two prints of Christus Consolator that I got from you are hanging in my little room7 – saw the paintings in the museum,8 and also ‘Christ in Gethsemane’ by Scheffer,9 which is unforgettable, a long time ago that painting moved Pa just as much – then there’s a sketch of The sorrows of the earth10 and various drawings,11 and also the portrait of his studio12 and, as you know, the portrait of his Mother.13 There are other beautiful paintings as well, such as the Achenbach14 and Schelfhout15 and Koekkoek16 and, among others, a beautiful Allebé, an old man by the stove.17  1v:2
Will we look at them together some day?
The first Sunday I was here I heard a sermon on ‘Behold, I make all things new’,18 and in the evening ‘Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things’.19
This morning I went to hear the Rev. Beversen in a small old church,20 it was the Lord’s Supper and his text was ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink’.21
The window of my room looks out over gardens with pine trees and poplars etc. and the back of old houses, including a large one covered with ivy,22 ‘a strange old plant is the ivy green’, said Dickens.23 There can be something so serious and rather sombre in that view, and you should see it with the morning sun on it.
When I look at it I sometimes think of a letter of yours in which you speak of such an ivy-covered house, do you remember it?  1v:3
If you can afford it – if I can, I’ll do it too – subscribe to this year’s Katholieke Illustratie24, which has Doré’s prints of London – the wharves on the Thames, Westminster, Whitechapel, the Underground railway &c. &c.25
One of the people in the house I live in is a schoolmaster.26 Last Sunday, and today as well, we took a lovely walk along the canals and outside town as well, along the river Merwede,27 we also passed the place where you waited for the boat.
This evening when the sun went down and was reflected in the water and the windows, throwing a strong golden glow on everything, it was just like a painting by Cuyp.28 This evening I went to hear the Rev. Keller van Hoorn,29 who spoke on ‘I come to do Thy will, O Lord’.30 He just lost his daughter,31 and in all his words – I also heard him speak on ‘He that hath not loved knoweth not God; for God is love’32 – one can sense what he feels.
Write again soon when you have the time, I’ll have rather a lot of bookkeeping to do for the time being and will no doubt be busy. Give my regards to everyone at the Rooses’, and accept a handshake in thought from

Your loving brother


Br. 1990: 101 | CL: 84
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Dordrecht, Sunday, 21 January 1877

1. Van Gogh had left Etten for Dordrecht on Wednesday, 3 January (FR b2499) and had meanwhile started work at the firm of Blussé & Van Braam at Voorstraat C 1602, located in Scheffersplein in Dordrecht. The firm sold books and magazines, as well as office supplies, maps and prints (including penny prints and reproductions by Goupil). One of Van Gogh’s duties was to supervise the shipment of goods sent on approval. He also had to keep the books and do odd jobs; in 1914 his position was described by Dirk Braat, a son of Van Gogh’s boss P.K. Braat, as ‘bijlopie’ (errand boy). See Verzamelde brieven 1973, vol. 1, pp. 108-110 (quotation on p. 110).
2. Mr van Gogh was to turn 55 on 8 February 1877, and Vincent had announced that he was coming home for the celebration (FR b2502).
3. The Dutch translation of George Eliot’s Scenes of clerical life was called Novellen (uit het Engelsch, nieuwe uitgaaf onder toezicht van P. Bruijn. Sneek, Van Drunten & Bleeker, 1871 (George Eliot’s romantische werken 1).
4. George Eliot, Adam Bede (1859). For his birthday Mr van Gogh received Eliot’s Silas Marner in addition to Adam Bede and Novellen (see letters 102 and 142).
6. Possibly a saying. Cf. the Dutch saying ‘Iets met de mantel der liefde bedekken’ (Covering something with the cloak of love), meaning to keep silent about something or to explain it away out of mercy.
7. For these two reproductions, Christus Consolator [1771] and Christus Remunerator [1772], after the paintings by Ary Scheffer in the Dordrechts Museum, see letters 85 and 86.
[1771] [1772]
8. At that time the museum was housed in the upper room of the Boterbeurs (Butter Exchange) in Wijnstraat. See cat. Dordrecht 1992.
9. Ary Scheffer, Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, 1839 (Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum). Ill. 1783 [1783].
10. Ary Scheffer, The Moanings of the earth rise up to heaven and change into Hope and Bliss, 1847-1858 (Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum). Ill. 1784 [1784].
11. At that time the museum had five (undated) drawings by Scheffer: Christus Consolator; The deathbed of Saint Monica, The three Marys, The entombment of Christ and The deathbed of Saint Louis. See exhib. cat. Dordrecht 1990, p. 68.
[107] [108] [111]
12. This is one of the four depictions of Ary Scheffer’s studio painted by Ary Johannes Lamme, which at that time were in the Dordrechts Museum: The large studio of Ary Scheffer, rue Chaptal, 1851 (two versions); The small studio of Ary Scheffer, rue Chaptal, 1851 (Ill. 1785 [1785]) and The small studio in the Roquelaure Pavilion at Scheffer’s house in Argenteuil, 1858. See exhib. cat. Dordrecht 1990, p. 53, cat. nos. 38-39; pp. 69-70, cat. nos. 25-28.
[112] [1785]
13. Van Gogh probably meant the plaster-cast version of the Bust of Cornelia Scheffer-Lamme, the mother of the artist, 1839. Ill. 1786 [1786]. It is less likely to have been Cornelia Scheffer-Lamme (1769-1839), the mother of the artist on her deathbed. Ill. 1787 [1787]. See exhib. cat. Dordrecht 1990, p. 51, cat. nos. 33-34, p. 69, cat. nos. 15-16; cat. Dordrecht 1992, p. 132. The painted portraits of Scheffer’s mother were not acquired by the museum until 1899.
[1786] [1787]
14. Andreas Achenbach, View of a beach in Holland with a storm approaching or Hilly landscape with cloudy sky (Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum). Ill. 1788 [1788] and Ill. 1789 [1789].
[1788] [1789]
15. Andreas Schelfhout, Winter landscape in Holland (Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum). Ill. 1790 [1790].
16. Barend Cornelis Koekkoek, Landscape in the Black Forest wtih lobster fishermen (Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum). Ill. 1791 [1791].
17. August Allebé, Lethe (The podagra patient), 1863 (Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum). Ill. 1792 [1792].
19. 1 Cor. 13:11-12; Van Gogh quoted first verse 12 and then verse 11.
20. The minister Johannes Wilhelmus Beversen belonged to the Evangelical Lutheran congregation, which at that time was free-thinking (BWPGN, NNBW, and E.H. Cossee, ‘Vincent van Gogh en kerkelijk Dordrecht’, Kwartaal & Teken van Dordrecht 6-1 (1980), p. 5 (n. 6)). The small church is the Lutheran Church at Vriesestraat 20, also known as the ‘Trinitaskapel’ (Trinity Chapel).
22. Van Gogh’s room in the Rijken family’s house (see letter 102, n. 4) was on the first floor at the back of the house, looking out over the gardens of the houses in Groenmarkt and Varkenmarkt.
23. A reference to ‘A rare old plant is the Ivy green’ in Dickens’s poem ‘The ivy green’, in which the line occurs three times. See Charles Dickens, The posthumous papers of the Pickwick club. London 1837, p. 55. Van Gogh quotes from the same poem in letter 114.
24. De Katholieke Illustratie (Catholic Illustration) appeared from 1867-1967 and was published from 1876 onwards by Uitgeversmaatschappij ‘De Katholieke Illustratie’ at ’s-Hertogenbosch. It was eight pages long and every issue contained a number of illustrations. One could buy an annual subscription through a bookseller or the publisher of the magazine, which was sent to subscribers weekly or collected monthly from a bookshop; the price was 7 cents per week or 30 cents per month. See Hemels and Vegt 1993, pp. 262-267; and L.A.C. Jentjes, Van strijdorgaan tot familieblad. De tijdschriftjournalistiek van de Katholieke Illustratie 1867-1968. Diss. Amsterdam 1995.
25. This refers to the 10th volume of De Katholieke Illustratie (1876-1877), which contained illustrations by Gustave Doré accompanying a series of articles called ‘Wandelingen door Londen’ (Walks through London) by J.A. Beerten. The prints mentioned are Langs den Theems (Along the Thames) (Ill. 1793 [1793]), Een koffiehuis te Whitechapel (A coffee house at Whitechapel) (Ill. 1796 [1796]) and Een onderaardsche spoorweg te Londen (An underground railway in London) (Ill. 1797 [1797]); the last one accompanied the article ‘Londen en zijne onderaardsche spoorwegen’ (London and its underground railways) (10th volume, no. 20, p. 160; no. 22, p. 176; no. 21, p. 168 (two illustrations), and no. 18, p. 141, respectively). There is no illustration depicting Westminster. The series’ sequel also contained a number of illustrations by Doré, hence Van Gogh’s ‘&c. &c.’ The illustrations were taken from Gustave Doré and [William] Blanchard Jerrold, London – A pilgrimage. London 1872, pp. 17, 185, 6, 141, 113, respectively.
[1793] [1796] [1797]
26. Paulus Coenraad Görlitz was an assistant schoolmaster in Dordrecht. For Görlitz’s recollections of his contact with Van Gogh, see Verzamelde brieven 1973, vol. 1, pp. 112-113 and vol. 4, pp. 327-334.
27. The River Merwede on which Dordrecht lies.
28. Aelbert Cuyp was famous for his views of Dordrecht.
29. Petrus Marinus Keller van Hoorn belonged to the free-thinkers in the Reformed (‘Hervormde’) congregation. When he was living in Dordrecht, Van Gogh regularly attended services conducted by ministers professing the ethical or modern movement, to which group Keller van Hoorn belonged.
31. On Saturday, 6 January 1877, Keller van Hoorn, his wife Maria Sophia Singels and their children placed an obituary in the Dordrechtse Courant; ‘Our dear Willem died calmly this afternoon; he would have been eight years old on Sunday. Dordrecht, 5 January 1877’. Van Gogh was therefore mistaken about the child’s sex. He made a similar mistake in the letter of condolence he wrote to H.G. Tersteeg on 3 August, in which he recollects Keller van Hoorn’s sermon. See letter 124.