Amsterdam, 3 March 1878

My dear Theo,
It’s time to write to you again, how I should like to have been with you today, it was such beautiful weather here, and one feels that spring is coming.
In the country one would probably have been able to hear a lark, but that’s difficult in the city, unless one notices the sounds of the lark’s song in the voice of some old minister whose words come from a heart tuned like a lark’s.
Heard the Rev. Laurillard this morning, preaching in the Oudezijdskapel,1 Uncle Stricker was in that church too, and I had coffee with him. Uncle Jan went this morning to ’t Nieuwe Diep, but has come back again. Then to a Sunday school in Barndesteeg, and then walked around the outer canals,2 visiting three Roman Catholic churches along the way.
Went yesterday to see Vos who is but poorly, it’s such a sad sight, seeing him sitting with his feet on a stove, for he’s troubled by cold feet, staring out the window with his hollow eyes. Kee is just as pale and looks so tired, went from there to Uncle Cor’s again, he’s had the gallery newly wallpapered and a new grey carpet laid on the floor, now those beautiful cupboards containing the whole Gazette des Beaux-Arts etc. in red volumes stand out better than before. Uncle told me that Daubigny has died,3 I freely admit that it made me sad to hear it, just as it did to hear that Brion had died4 (his Saying grace5 is hanging in my room), because the work of such men, if one understands it, moves one more deeply than one is aware of, it must be truly good, when one dies, to be conscious of having done a thing or two in truth, knowing that as a result one will continue to live in the memory of at least a few, and having left a good example to those who follow. A work that is good6 — it can hardly last for eternity but the idea expressed in it can, and the work itself almost certainly continues to exist for a long time and, if others appear later, they can do no better than to follow in the footsteps of such predecessors and to do it the same way.
Speaking of a good work, would you care to have a Flemish Imitation of Christ? I hope to send it to you shortly, a little book that one can easily put in one’s pocket if necessary.7
When Uncle told me about Daubigny, his etchings after Ruisdael, The bush and The ray of sunlight, came to mind, and he promised to send for them sometime,8 since he didn’t know them at all.
Was at the Rev. Gagnebin’s last Monday evening and also saw his wife and daughter,9 and was also in his study, where I talked to him until about 11 o’clock.
He said, among other things, that at certain times in his life he had benefited from forgetting himself altogether and throwing himself into work without a second thought; that he had done a lot then and had later found himself stronger and more advanced in what he intended to do and clear in his mind. That nevertheless, even now, nobody had any idea how much effort his sermons cost him.  1v:2
Have worked my way through the history of the Netherlands and made an extract of 30 pages, closely written. (I was pleased to come across the Battle of Waterloo10 and the 10-day campaign11 again.) Did you know that Rochussen once painted the siege of Leiden?12 The painting belongs, I think, to Mr de Vos.13 Am now working on general history as well. I really long for you to come here again, be sure and do your best to stay as long as possible. And write again soon if you can, for you must know that you always give me so much joy by doing so.
Have you read anything beautiful lately? Do make sure somehow to get hold of and read the books by Eliot, you won’t be sorry, Adam Bede, Silas Marner, Felix Holt, Romola (Savonarola’s story), Scenes of clerical life.14 You know we gave the 3 underlined ones to Pa on his birthday last year.15
When I get the time for reading, I’ll read them again. Both the Rev. Macfarlane and the Rev. Adler spoke to me about them, i.e. advised me to read them.
Wrote to Harry Gladwell again this week, since he didn’t answer my last letter and I wanted so much to know what he’s doing and what he’s planning to do.
I still have hopes of his becoming a minister, and if that happens he’ll do it well, of that I’m convinced, but it would be no easy thing for him to carry it off.16
Have you ever seen an etching by Millet himself, a man pushing a wheelbarrow of dung into a garden on a day like today in early spring?17 And don’t forget that he also made the etching ‘The diggers’,18 if you ever run into it you won’t easily forget it. Thought today of the former, this morning when Uncle Stricker was looking for texts in which the word dung occurs, one of which is ‘let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it’.19
Recently made a list of the paintings by Brion that I could remember, next time you come you must tell me whether I’ve forgotten many. Lord keep my memory green!20 One must say that over and over again.
Was last Sunday evening at cousin Vrijdag’s in Houttuinen, there are still 7 children at home, it was a pleasant little circle, most of them are still very young.21
Couldn’t you say a bit in advance when you’ll be coming? I’ll count on it, then, by working ahead a little so we can spend some time together. Adieu, a handshake in thought, and believe me

Your loving brother

Uncle Jan sends you his regards.

Bid your housemates good-day from me.


Br. 1990: 141 | CL: 120
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Amsterdam, Sunday, 3 March 1878

1. Laurillard preached on Sunday, 3 March 1878 at 10 a.m. in the Oudezijdskapel.
2. The canals encircling what was then the old part of Amsterdam (now Nassaukade, Stadhouderskade and Mauritskade).
3. Charles-François Daubigny died on 19 February 1878 in Paris.
4. For the death of Brion, see letter 135, n. 32.
5. An engraving Le bénédicité by Joel Ballin after Gustave Brion’s Saying grace was published in 1862 by Goupil & Cie in the ‘Musée Goupil’ series (Bordeaux, Musée Goupil). Ill. 643 [643].
6. Biblical; cf. Eph. 4:28.
7. Van Gogh must mean that he had a translation, published in Flanders, of Thomas a Kempis’s De imitatione Christi for Theo; it cannot be ascertained which one, since various versions were available.
8. For Daubigny’s print after Ruisdael’s The bush [1717], see letter 35, n. 5. This print and his Le coup de soleil (d’après Ruysdael) (The ray of sunlight (after Ruisdael)) were published by the Printroom of the Louvre (Paris, BNF, Cabinet des Estampes). Ill. 41 [41]. Cf. also letter 156. See Henriet 1875, pp. 128-129 (no. 79), 175; and Chalcographie 1954, p. 29, no. 849.
[1717] [41]
9. The Rev. Gagnebin was married to Charlotte-Henriette Junod. They had one daughter, Marie Madeleine.
10. The battle near the now Belgian town of Waterloo that took place on 18 June 1815, at which Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by the allied English and Prussian troops.
11. The campaign of the Dutch army against the Belgians, from 2-12 August 1831.
12. Charles Rochussen, The relief of Leiden, 1853 (Amsterdam, Amsterdam Museum). Ill. 1285 [1285].
13. The painting was indeed to be found in the collection of the Amsterdammer Jacob de Vos Jacobszoon, who had installed in his garden pavilion a ‘Historical Gallery’ with works depicting subjects from Dutch history. The gallery, founded in 1850, was not a commercial venture and was not open to the public. See exhib. cat. Rotterdam 1997-2, pp. 48-49, 139 (n. 60).
14. George Eliot, Silas Marner. The weaver of Raveloe (1861), a novel about village life in the English Midlands at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Its protagonist is the humble weaver Silas Marner. In Eliot’s view, the story ‘intended to set in a strong light the remedial influences of pure, natural, human relations’. The historical novel Romola (1862-1863), which takes place in Florence around 1500, is the story of a young woman called Romola, who is disappointed in her love for her husband Tito. Under the influence of the reformer Girolamo Savonarola, ‘she reconstructs upon the wreck of her personal happiness a life of unselfish service to her community’. The rise and fall of Savonarola forms a thread running through the entire fabric of the story. Both Silas Marner and Romola were translated into Dutch: Silas Marner, de wever van Raveloe. Translated by Mrs van Westhreene. Amsterdam 1861 and Romola. Translated by J.C. van Deventer. Haarlem 1864 and Rotterdam 1864. For Eliot’s Adam Bede, see letter 30, n. 1, for Felix Holt, the radical, see letter 66, n. 1 and for Scenes of clerical life, see letter 70, n. 4.
15. For those presents, see letter 101, notes 3 and 4. Van Gogh’s underlining has been rendered here in italics.
16. Harry Gladwell was planning to continue his career as an art dealer in his father’s London firm. He and Vincent evidently stopped writing to each other; this is the last time he is mentioned in the correspondence.
17. Jean-François Millet, Peasant bringing in dung (Man with a wheelbarrow), 1855-1856, etching (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts. Gift of Allan Curtis). Ill. 285 [285].
18. Jean-François Millet, The two diggers (Two men turning over the soil), 1855-1856, etching (New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery, G. Allen Smith Collection). Ill. 1876 [1876]. In letter 160, Van Gogh appears to have borrowed a photograph (isograph) of this from Braun.
21. The merchant Daniël Joost Vrijdag, a distant cousin of Van Gogh, was married to Clara Cramer. Their shop in timber and fuels, as well as their house, was located at Haarlemmer Houttuinen 25. In 1877 the family had eight children: Diewertje Carolina (18 March 1861); Johanna Clasina (3 July 1863); Derk Jan Alexander (23 June 1865); Gerard Hendrik (17 February 1868); Willem (14 August 1869); Eliza (28 May 1871); Daniël Joost (28 September 1873) and Clara (10 November 1874). Van Gogh mentions seven children, but civil registration records do not show that any of them had moved away or died. See SAAm, Adresboek 1877-1878, and Groot and De Vries 1990, pp. 96-98.