My dear Theo,
I received your letter today, for which many thanks. Bitterly sorry as I am that your letter of 9 Nov. and the enclosed banknote have been lost, I was nonetheless glad that it wasn’t for another reason that your letter didn’t come. For I can assure you that I was terribly worried.1 I immediately reported the loss of the letter at the post office, but they say they can give little hope and that steps for tracing it must come from Paris. In the meantime they would investigate. We hope it’ll turn up but I dare not count on it, and I fear the 50 francs are down the drain, just when they’re almost indispensable — first, for making progress with the experiments in lithography. I’m really delighted that you took some pleasure in the first one I sent.2 Herewith you’re receiving the very first impression of Sorrow.3 I’ve also enclosed one with a bigger margin for Heyerdahl and an earlier one for Buhot, but because they’re bigger I don’t know whether the post office will accept them.4 Of course you can take whichever you like and get more impressions of whichever you like, but I’ve marked the very first ones 1re épreuve.5
I’m going to go and talk to Smulders tomorrow to get the stones from him. I must tell you that I would find it extremely pleasing if I could get around to making a large series sometime.
I’m now working on Diggers — they’re the drawings I hope may amount to something.6  1v:2
It’s bitterly cold here. Snow and frost, but very beautiful for all that.
In the roll of lithographs you’ll find a drawing done in a neutral tint on Whatman.7 My question about it is this. Would it be possible to reproduce a drawing done in this way?
Also, would such drawings or similar ones done in autographic ink be of use to Vie Moderne?8 I would like to ask you if you could send me some issues of Vie Moderne because I have only a very few (I think 3) prints from it from one now very old issue,9 and would so much like to have a better and rather more complete idea of what the magazine actually is.
I’ve looked for them here in town and can’t find a single issue. The sooner I receive them the more valuable they’ll be to me, since I’m just now going into the various processes, and the reproductions in Vie Moderne may help me to get a better understanding of what can be done with them.
But I ought to ask you to excuse me for all the trouble I put you to.  1v:3
Pa was here briefly this week when he was in town for a meeting.
Rappard writes to me about a new series of drawings of miners by Paul Renouard in L’Illustration.10 I haven’t seen them yet, but if you happen to see them in a kiosk somewhere where they sell ‘those things that lie in the Zuid-Hollandsch Koffiehuisch’,11 please keep an eye out for me, because I believe that they’ll be exceedingly fine things.
I don’t know whether you’ll find it conceited of me or something like that when I tell you that the following gave me pleasure. Smulders’s workmen from the other warehouse in the Laan12 saw the stone of the orphan man and asked the printer if they could have an impression to hang up. No result of my work would be more agreeable to me than that ordinary working men should hang such prints in their room or workplace. I believe Herkomer speaks the truth when he says For you — the public — it is really done.13
Of course a drawing must have artistic value, but in my view this shouldn’t rule out the possibility that ordinary passers-by may see something in it. Well, I regard this very first print as nothing as yet, but I hope from the bottom of my heart that it will become something more serious.  1r:4
Because of the loss of those 50 francs (for I fear they’re gone), both you and I have had a setback in carrying out these experiments, but don’t let it discourage us. How I wish you could see the drawings I’m working on at the moment.
I assure you that when there was no letter from you, and I couldn’t think what the reason might be, I was very melancholy. I would very much like to hear something from you at your early convenience about what I’m sending today. I’ll also help you remember that you were going to return to the subject of Daumier — again, at your early convenience, for I understand that you don’t always have the time to write. Adieu, old chap, thanks again for your letter, and believe me, with a handshake,

Ever yours,

This evening I’ll begin reading Pot-bouille by Zola.14


Br. 1990: 286 | CL: 245
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: The Hague, Thursday, 16 or Friday, 17 November 1882

1. This concern is evident from letter 282.
2. The first lithograph sent by Van Gogh to Theo was Old man (F 1658 / JH 256 [2408]); see letter 281.
3. The lithograph Sorrow (F 1655 / JH 259 [2409]). The impression sent to Theo with the note ‘1re épreuve’ is in the collection of the Van Gogh Museum (inv. no. p 14 V/1962). See Van Heugten and Pabst 1995, pp. 42, 90, cat. no. 2.
4. The three known impressions of Sorrow come from the estates of Theo and Van Rappard. The copy for Heyerdahl is not known, nor is the impression of Old man (‘an earlier one’) for Buhot. See Van Heugten and Pabst 1995, pp. 42, 90, cat. no. 2.
5. The plural ‘very first ones’ indicates that there were a number of copies with the note ‘1re épreuve’.
6. For the three known diggers from this period, Digger F 906 / JH 260 [2410], F 907 / JH 261 [2411] and F 908 / JH 258, see letter 281, n. 10.
[2410] [2411]
7. This drawing is not known.
8. The fact that Van Gogh asks specifically about La Vie Moderne is explained by an earlier letter from Theo about special transfer paper in use at the magazine; see letter 280.
9. Which prints from La Vie Moderne Van Gogh had in his possession at this point is impossible to determine. Sixteen sheets from this magazine survive in the estate; they include only one series of three from the same issue, namely Auguste Lançon, Les chinois fumeurs d’opium à Londres (Chinese opium smokers in London); Auguste Lançon, Au music-hall (At the music hall) and Jean-François Millet, Le berger (The shepherd) (t*1348 (2 prints on 1 sheet) and t*914); they appeared in La Vie Moderne 2 (16 October 1880), no. 42.
It is odd that Van Gogh talks about a ‘very old issue’ (ll. 45-46): La Vie Moderne had only been published since 1879. He may have been thinking of another magazine.
[0] [432] [433]
11. For the ‘Zuid-Hollandsch Koffiehuis’, see letter 214, n. 9; the statement quoted was also cited in letter 278.
12. For Smulders, see letter 253, n. 9. Who Smulders’s workmen were is not known.
13. For this quotation from Herkomer, see letter 278, n. 7.
14. Pot-bouille (1882) was the most recent novel in the Rougeon-Macquart-cycle by Emile Zola. The lead character is Octave Mouret, who moves from the provinces to an apartment building in Paris. He discovers that the other occupants lead an outwardly respectable life among the bourgeoisie, but do so to conceal their poverty, adultery or opportunism. A recurring theme is their unsympathetic behaviour towards the domestic staff. The sole exception is honest Madame Hédouin, who manages the department store Au bonheur des dames and sees qualities in Mouret that can benefit her business; she decides to offer him her hand in marriage.