My dear Theo,
Thanks for your kind letter,1 thanks for the good news it contained, and also for the 100-franc note. I was very, very happy to learn that you feel a little reassured by your marriage. Then what gave me great pleasure is that you say that Mother looks as if she’s getting younger. In a little while, of course, or already, she’s going to be worrying about seeing a child of yours. That is sure and certain.
I much regret for you, as well as for your wife, that you’re not living in Ville-d’Avray, for example, instead of in Paris. But that will come, I hope. The main thing is now that you recuperate instead of wearing yourself out.
I went to see Mr Salles with your letter for the director of the St-Rémy asylum,2 and he’s going there this very day, so by the end of the week I hope it will be settled. I myself wouldn’t be unhappy or discontented if in a little while from now I could enlist in the Foreign Legion for 5 years (one can be up to 40, I believe).3 My health from the physical point of view is better than before, and it would perhaps do me more good to do military service than all the rest. Anyway, I don’t say that one must or can do that without thought and without consulting a doctor, but anyway,  1v:2 we must count on it that whatever we do it will be a little less good than that.
Now, if not, naturally as long as it goes well I can always paint or draw, which I do not refuse in the least.
To come to Paris or to go to Pont-Aven I don’t feel up to it, besides I have no keen desire or keen regret most of the time. From time to time, just as the waves crush themselves against the deaf, desperate cliffs, a storm of desire to embrace something, a woman of the domestic hen type, but anyway one must take that for what it is, an effect of hysterical over-excitement rather than an accurate vision of reality.
Besides, Rey and I have already joked about it sometimes, for he says that love is also a microbe, which wouldn’t astonish me much, and couldn’t bother anyone, it would seem to me. Is not Renan’s Christ4 a thousand times more consoling than so many papier mâché Christs one is served up with in the Duval establishments called Protestant, Catholic or whatever else churches?5 And why wouldn’t it be so with love?  1v:3
As soon as I can, I’m going to read Renan’s Antichrist, I haven’t the slightest idea what it will be, but I think in advance that I’ll find one or two ineffable things in it.6
Ah, my dear Theo, if you could see the olive trees at this time of year... The old-silver and silver foliage greening up against the blue. And the orangeish ploughed soil. It’s something very different from what one thinks of it in the north – it’s a thing of such delicacy – so refined. It’s like the lopped willows of our Dutch meadows or the oak bushes of our dunes, that’s to say the murmur of an olive grove has something very intimate, immensely old about it.
It’s too beautiful for me to dare paint it or be able to form an idea of it.
The oleander – ah – it speaks of love and it’s as beautiful as Puvis de Chavannes’ Lesbos, where there were women beside the sea.7 But the olive tree is something else, it is, if you want to compare it to something, like Delacroix.
But I’m finishing this letter abruptly, I wanted to talk to you about a heap of other things, but it’s as I’ve already written to you, my ideas aren’t ordered.8  1r:4
I’ll send 2 crates of paintings by goods train shortly. You mustn’t feel awkward about destroying a good number of them.
I’ve had a letter from Wil, who’s going back to Mrs du Quesne’s, a very nice letter. Ah, cancer – it’s hard and difficult.
By the way, do you know that it’s very curious that during all this strange and inexplicable movement which took place in Arles and in which I was mixed up,9 there was continual talk of cancer. I think that according to their belief, to these virtuous natives who know the future so well,10 it appears, I think, that according to them I would be gratified with that illness. About which naturally I know absolutely nothing, but anyway. All the same, it’s an adventure that remains absolutely inexplicable to me, besides I have to a large extent absolutely lost the memory of those days, and I can’t reconstruct anything. All the same, I would try to console myself about it by thinking that illnesses like that are perhaps to man what ivy is to the oak. I shake your hand heartily, and very many thanks. More soon.

Ever yours,


Br. 1990: 766 | CL: 587
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Arles, Sunday, 28 April 1889

1. This was letter 762.
a. Read: ‘lives’.
2. Theo had sent a letter of recommendation to Dr Peyron with letter 762. See Documentation, 24 April 1889. Peyron replied on 29 April (FR b1059).
3. Vincent would bring up this idea – to join the Foreign Legion – several more times, but when Theo emphatically dismissed the plan in letter 766, the subject was dropped for good.
4. In Ernest Renan’s Vie de Jésus, Jesus is portrayed as a good-natured and somewhat fanatical idealist, whose doctrine of charity is shattered by reality. With regard to this book, see also letter 30, n 4.
5. Van Gogh draws a parallel between the churches and the Duval restaurants, because the latter were popular and fashionable, and catered for the masses. Regarding Duval restaurants, see letter 502, n. 8.
6. Ernest Renan’s L’Antéchrist (1873), the fourth part of his Histoire des origines du christianisme, covers the period from the arrival of Saint Paul in Rome to the end of the Jewish Revolution (61-73). Renan describes the persecution of Christians in Rome, the struggle between Paul and the Emperor Nero (the ‘Antichrist’) and the destruction of Jerusalem.
7. Lesbos is a reference to Puvis de Chavannes’s painting Pleasant land [314]; see letter 683, n. 19.
8. Van Gogh had also written in the preceding letter that he was absent-minded and could not think clearly (letter 761).
9. In mentioning his own involvement, Van Gogh is referring to his abnormal behaviour, which had caused so much commotion among the residents of his neighbourhood, resulting in the petition for his confinement in hospital (letter 750).
10. The inhabitants of Provence were known for their superstitious nature. It was a widespread practice, for example, to predict the future by means of Tarot cards.