My dear friends Mr and Mrs Ginoux,
I don’t know if you’ll remember, I find it quite strange, that about a year ago Mrs Ginoux was ill at the same time as I was;1 and now it has been so again since – just around Christmas – for a few days I was again taken quite badly this year, however it was over very quickly; I had it less than a week. Since, therefore, my dear friends, we sometimes suffer together, it makes me think of what Mrs Ginoux said – ‘when people are friends they’re that way for a long time’.
I myself believe that the annoyances one experiences in the ordinary routine of life do us at least as much good as bad. The thing that makes one fall ill, overcome by discouragement, today, that same thing gives us the energy, once the illness is over, to get up and want to recover the next day.  1v:2
I can assure you that the other year it almost vexed me to recover my health – to be better for a longer or shorter time – continuing always to fear relapses – almost vexed – I tell you – so little desire did I have to begin again. I’ve very often told myself that I’d prefer that there be nothing more and that it was over. Well yes – we’re not the master of that – of our existence, and it’s a matter, seemingly, of learning to want to live on, even when suffering. Ah, I feel so cowardly in that respect, even as my health returns. I still fear. So who am I to encourage others, you’ll rightly say to me, it hardly suits me.
Anyway, it’s only to say to you, my dear friends, that  1v:3 I hope so ardently, and that moreover I dare hope, that Mrs Ginoux’s illness will be very fleeting and that she’ll recover from it entirely enlivened. But she isn’t unaware how fond we all are of her and wish to see her well.
As for me, illness has done me good – it would be ungrateful not to acknowledge that; it has calmed me, and I’ve had more luck this year than I had dared hope for, quite unlike what I had imagined.
But if I hadn’t been so well cared for, if people hadn’t been as kind to me as they have been, I think I would have pegged out or that I would have completely lost my reason.
Business is business, then duty too is duty, so it’s only right that I soon return for a while to see my brother. But it will be hard for me to leave the south,  1r:4 I can assure all of you who have become friends to me – friends for a long time.
I’ve forgotten again to thank you for the olives you sent me the other time and which were excellent, I’ll bring you back the boxes soon.
I’m therefore writing to you, dear friends, to try to distract for a moment our dear patient so that she can resume her habitual smile, to please all of us who know her. As I’ve told you, in a fortnight I hope to come and see you again, quite cured.2
Illnesses are there to make us remember again that we aren’t made of wood. That’s what seems the good side of all this to me. Then afterwards one goes back to one’s everyday work less fearful of the annoyances, with a new store of serenity. And even if we part, it will be while yet saying to oneself again: ‘and when people are friends they’re that way for a long time’ – for that is the means to be able to leave one another.
Well, more soon, and my best wishes for Mrs Ginoux’s speedy recovery. Believe me

Yours truly,


Br. 1990: 834 | CL: 622a
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Joseph Ginoux and Marie Ginoux-Julien
Date: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Monday, 20 January 1890

1. Madame Ginoux had had the flu, and was also suffering from nervousness and menopausal complaints. Van Gogh had visited her on 18 or 19 January (see letter 841).
a. Read : ‘différemment’.
2. It emerges from letter 850 that Van Gogh had said this during his visit to the Ginouxs.
b. Read: ‘retourne’.