My dear Theo,
A line in haste to thank you very, very much indeed for the prompt dispatch of your letter.1 In fact, my chap had already come first thing this morning for his rent.2 Of course, I had to make my decision known today whether or not I’d keep the house on (because I rented it until Michaelmas, and you have to renew or withdraw beforehand).3 I told my chap that I’d take it on again for 3 months only, or preferably by the month. That way, supposing that our friend Gauguin arrived, we wouldn’t have a very long lease ahead of us should he not like it.
Far too often I become thoroughly discouraged, thinking about what Gauguin will say about this part of the country in the long run. Isolation here is quite considerable, and while paying, you have to hack each step out of the ice in order just to get from one day’s work to the same the next day.4 The difficulty about models is there, but patience, and especially always having a few sous, can help there, of course.  1v:2 But this difficulty is real.
I feel that even at the present time I could be an entirely different painter if I was able to settle the question of models. But I also feel the possibility of getting dull-witted and of seeing the time of potency in artistic production disappearing, just as in the course of life our balls start to let us down. That’s inevitable, and of course, here as there it’s self-confidence and striking while the iron’s hot that’s pressing.
And so I very often feel despondent. But Gauguin and so many others are in exactly the same position, and we must above all look for the remedy within ourselves, in good will and patience. By being content to be no more than mediocrities. Acting like that, perhaps we’ll open up a new path.  1v:3
I’m very curious to receive your next letter, reporting more fully on your visit to Bing.5 It doesn’t surprise me that you say that after our sister’s departure you’ll feel an empty gap. You must above all try to fill it. And what could there be against Gauguin’s coming to live with you? That way he could satisfy himself on the subject of Paris while working at the same time.
But in that case it would only be fair that he should also reimburse you in paintings for what you would do for him. For me, it’s a constant sorrow to do so comparatively little with the money I spend.
My life is restless and anxious, but then, moving house and moving around a lot, perhaps I would only make things worse. It makes enormous trouble for me that I don’t speak the Provençal patois.
I’m still thinking very seriously about using coarser colours, which would be no less solid for being less finely ground.6  1r:4
At present I often stop myself when planning a painting, because of the paint it costs us. Now, that’s rather a pity, all the same, for this good reason, that perhaps we have the power to work today, but we don’t know if it’ll still be there tomorrow.
All the same, rather than losing physical strength, I’m regaining it, and my stomach, especially, is stronger. I’m sending you 3 volumes of Balzac today;7 it’s really a bit old, etc., but the work of Daumier and De Lemud is no uglier for belonging to a period that doesn’t exist any more. At the moment, I’m at last reading Daudet’s L’immortel, which I find very beautiful but hardly consoling.8
I believe that I’ll have to read a book about elephant hunting, or a totally mendacious book of categorically impossible adventures, by Gustave Aimard9 for example, in order to get over the heartbreak that L’immortel will leave in me. Particularly because it’s so beautiful and so true, in making one feel the emptiness of the civilized world. I must say that for real power I prefer his Tartarin10 though. Warm regards to our sister, and once again, thank you for your letter.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 676 | CL: 530
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Saturday, 1 September 1888

1. Theo had complied with Vincent’s request in letter 671 to send his allowance early.
2. The rent was undoubtedly collected by Bernard Soulè, the owner’s agent. See letter 602, n. 19.
3. See letter 654, n. 2, for the lease expiry date.
a. To be understood as: ‘nog veel liever’ (much rather).
4. Van Gogh must have got the saying ‘you have to hack each step out of the ice’ from chapter 10 of Daudet’s Tartarin sur les Alpes (see Daudet 1986-1994, vol. 3, p. 640).
5. Theo’s visit to Siegfried Bing’s art gallery would have been to do with the ‘stock’ of prints Vincent had there. See letter 637, n. 5.
b. Read: ‘habiter chez’.
6. Vincent had previously debated the use of more coarsely ground paint; see letter 668.
7. The three volumes of Balzac that Van Gogh sent probably included the novel César Birotteau (1837), which he had promised to send Theo; see letter 636, n. 8.
8. Alphonse Daudet L’immortel – Moeurs parisiennes, which had appeared in book form two months earlier, satirizes the academic world with its untalented people. The book is indeed not very comforting: Astier-Réhu, the central character, commits suicide.
9. Gustave Aimard, who travelled widely, wrote more than a hundred novels of adventure and travel that were very popular in their day, including Les trappeurs de l’Arkansas (1858) and La loi de lynch (1859). Van Gogh may have come up with the name by way of Tartarin, the self-styled lion hunter in Daudet’s eponymous novels, who is a great fan of Aimard’s tales.