My dear Theo,
I wanted to drop you a line to say that I’ve been to Utrecht myself to see her. That I also had a talk with the doctor she’s staying with,1 specifically to get his advice as to what I should or shouldn’t do here in the interests of the patient’s health and future, either go on or withdraw.
Wanting no other advice but a physician’s on this question. And I heard that the constitution is very shocked — although she’s getting better — that in fact — according to the doctor who’s known her since she was a child and was also her mother’s doctor2 — that in fact she has always had a very frail constitution3 and always will have,4 that for the time being, as things stand now, there are two dangers, that she’s too weak to marry, at least for now, and at the same time she can’t stand a parting either. That once some time has  1r:2 passed, therefore, I’ll get a definite tip as to what’s best for her, to part or not to part.
Obviously I’ll always remain friends with her in any case, perhaps we’re mutually too much attached.
I spent almost the whole day with her then.
I also dropped in on Rappard that day, but he wasn’t in town.
This last week I’ve now also designed the last of the 6 canvases for Hermans, Wood gatherers in the snow.5 So that all 6 of them are now with him for copying — once he’s finished and they’ve become thoroughly dry in the meantime, I’m going to work on them again to work them up into paintings. I wish that you could see all 6 together in the panels they’re destined for. As far as drawing is concerned he copies very accurately, but to my mind his colour is poor, and as for mine, the warm grey, often bituminous tone I used throughout harmonizes with the woodwork and the style of the room. Regards,

Yours truly,

You mustn’t believe what you once wrote to me, ‘that she must be an angel of patience’ &c.
That really isn’t so, and the doctor asked me about it in particular — ‘she’s always had a highly irritable constitution,’ he said.
I don’t consider it impossible that when, sooner or later, you put your theory of marriage into practice — namely when, having attained a good, solid position, you then propose to a girl — you’ll think of me now and then.
It’s true that for my part I’ve now experienced great sadness in two cases, sadness of a very different character. So be it — but you’ll see that your own theory in this respect doesn’t always produce the results that one would say it promises to produce.
Once you’ve attained a position and can maintain a certain status, then you’ll find wife and children and domestic happiness.  1v:4 This is a fine promise that society makes, but does it also keep that promise?
Society leaves everyone and all ways of doing things relatively disappointed. I say this in all mildness and not as a reproach, not in the least or slightest as such.
I often think that there’s good in every energetic movement.6
Theo, now that I know more than I did at first about what made her so desperate, do you know what it was? Her family spoke to her in pretty much the same tone as you to me — that evening.7 Well, I was furious with you (then, that’s passed now), and she would also have taken umbrage at it if she’d had my constitution. Well, things like that (not that you said, of course, but that her sisters said) made her so desperate and distressed that she did what I told you. Seeing it from your point of view, I, who can reflect more, can say, at least when I think it over, well he thinks this, let him think it. But she, when they reproached her, indeed believed that she had done something terrible. And, without having done anything that she shouldn’t have done, she took it so to heart that she felt forsaken by everything and everyone.
She’s still very worked up against her sisters, although she’s calming down, and in fact those sisters of hers have also taken a lot back. One keeps grumbling, though, and she’s already accosted me, but I really gave her back as good as I got.  2r:5
I find it damned touching that this woman says in a sort of triumph, while she was so weak, after all (and defeated by 5 or 6 other women)8 that she took poison, as if she’d gained a victory and as if she’d found peace — ‘still, at last I have loved’. She always skirted around that in the past. For myself, these days I sometimes suffer distress that makes me ill, that won’t be distracted or numbed, but anyway. I’ve always, very far-sightedly, respected her concerning a certain point that would have ruined her socially, although if I’d wanted to, I had her in my power; so that socially she will definitely maintain her position and, if she were to realize it, has a splendid chance to obtain satisfaction from those women who defeated her, and to take her revenge. And I’ll help her to do so — but she doesn’t always understand, or not until too late. Anyway.
It’s a pity that I didn’t meet her earlier — say 10 years ago or so. Now she gives me the impression of a Cremona violin9 that’s been spoiled in the past by bad bunglers of restorers.
And in the condition in which I met her, it seems to me, a good deal too much had been bungled.
But originally it was a rare example of great value. And she still has much value even so.  2v:6
I saw — that’s the only thing I ever saw of her again — a portrait of Kee Vos, taken a year later10 — was she diminished in it? No, more interesting.
That disturbing the peace of a woman, in the way that the theological people say (sometimes theologians without knowing it, who think that they are not theologians), is sometimes a breaking of stagnation or melancholy that comes over many people and is worse than death itself. There are people who think it terrible to hurl them back into life, into feeling again, and one must weigh up carefully how far one may go. But if one does it out of a principle other than selfishness — well — then the women themselves can sometimes become furious and may even hate instead of love; so be it. Yet they won’t readily despise the man who did it. And they do despise the men who have extinguished the manliness in themselves. Well, these are deep things of life.
But Mouret calls anyone who doesn’t think about it or mocks it ‘dupe’ and in his anger even — ‘fool’.11


Br. 1990: 462 | CL: 377
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Nuenen, on or about Sunday, 21 September 1884

2. Margot’s mother was Amalia Polixena Rosina Schröter.
3. Originally Van Gogh wrote ‘persoontje’ (little person).
4. Cf. the following recollection of Sientje Begemann, daughter of Margot’s brother Louis: ‘Aunt Go was an uneducated woman but she had a perceptive mind and a good heart. She was a very social being and was the nurse doctor of Nuenen.’ Handwritten note by H. Nauta in Van Gogh Museum, Documentation (FR b7117).
5. Wood gatherers in the snow (F 43 / JH 516 [2484]).
a. Means: ‘ondertussen’ (meanwhile).
b. This form of the word must have been derived from the French ‘bitumeux’ (of the nature of or resembling tar). Also in letter 537.
6. Van Gogh had quoted this before (without the word ‘energetic’ (énergique)); that time he attributed it to Jules Breton. See letter 193, n. 26.
7. The evening in August when Theo was in Nuenen: see letter 455.
8. This will in any event have included Margot’s sisters Lutgera Wilhelmina, Wilhelmina Johanna and Amalia Polixena Rosina, and her sister-in-law Maria Suzanna Lelyvelt.
9. The Italian city of Cremona is known for its famous violin makers, among them Antonio Stradivari.
10. This may have been the small Portrait photograph of Kee Vos-Stricker with her son Jan, c. 1882. Ill. 2125 [2125]. (FR b4888-I). Van Gogh had fallen in love with her in the summer of 1881. See letters 179 ff.
11. In Emile Zola’s novel Au bonheur des dames (1883) the character of Octave Mouret, talking about the persistence you must bring to bear when you absolutely must have someone you love, asserts: ‘If you believe yourself strong, because you refuse to be foolish and to suffer! You are nothing but a dupe, no more!’ See Zola 1960-1967, vol. 3, chapter 11, pp. 696-697. Van Gogh included this sentence in a longer passage in letter 464.