Paris, 30 June 1890

My very dear brother,1
We’ve been going through the greatest anxiety, our dear one has been very ill, but fortunately the doctor, who was anxious himself, said to Jo yesterday, you won’t lose the child from this. Here in Paris the best milk one can get is a veritable poison. Now we’re giving him ass’s milk2 and that has done him good, but you’ve never heard anything so painful as this almost continual plaintive crying lasting several days and several nights and with us not knowing what to do and  1v:2 everything we do seeming to aggravate his suffering. It’s not that the milk isn’t fresh, but it’s in the feeding and the treatment of the cows. It’s abominable.
You can imagine how happy we are that it’s going better. Jo has been admirable, as you can well imagine. A true mother, but she has tired herself very much, too much even, may she recover her strength and not have any more ordeals to undergo. At this moment, fortunately, she’s sleeping, but she’s moaning in her sleep and I can do nothing about it. If only the child, who is also sleeping, might let her sleep for a few hours, both of them will awake with a smile, I hope. In general life is hard for her at the moment.
We don’t know what we ought to do, there are questions. Ought we to take another apartment, you know, in the same house on the first floor? Ought we  1v:3 to go to Auvers, to Holland or not. Ought I to live without worrying about tomorrow, and when I work all day and still don’t manage to spare this good Jo from worries about money, since those rats Boussod & Valadon treat me as if I’d just started working for them and keep me on a leash. When I’m not calculating, without spending on extras and am short of money, must I tell them how things are, and if they dare refuse, finally tell them, Sirs, I’m taking the plunge and I’m going to set myself up as a dealer on my own account?3 I think that as I write to you I’m reaching this conclusion, that it’s my duty, and that if Ma or Jo or you or I tighten our belts a little, it won’t get us anywhere, and that on the contrary, you and I by moving in the world not as poor down-and-outs who don’t eat, but on the contrary keeping up our courage and all living buoyed up by our mutual love,  1r:4 we’ll go much further and we’ll accomplish our duty and our task with much more serenity than by weighing each mouthful of bread. What do you say to this old chap? Don’t bother your head about me or about us, old chap, be aware that what gives me the greatest pleasure is when you’re well and when you’re at your work, which is admirable. You already have too much fire, and we must still be ready for battle a long time from now, for we’ll battle all our lives without taking the oats of charity they give to the old horses in grand houses. We’ll pull the plough until it moves no longer, and we’ll still gaze with admiration at the sun or the moon, according to the time of day. We like that better than being put in an armchair to rub our legs like the old merchant in Auvers.4 Look old fellow, do everything for your health, I too will do as much, we have too much in our noddles  2r:5 for us to forget the daisies and the freshly stirred clods of earth, and the branches of the bushes that bud in spring, nor the bare tree branches that shiver in the winter, nor the serene skies of limpid blue, nor the big clouds of autumn, nor the uniformly grey sky in winter, nor the sun as it rose above our aunts’ garden, nor the red sun setting in the sea at Scheveningen, nor the moon and the stars one fine night in summer or winter, no, whatever happens, that is our possession. Is it enough, no, myself I have and you will have one day, I hope with all my heart, a wife to whom you can say these things, and I whose mouth is often closed and whose head is often empty, it’s through her that the seeds that more than likely come from very far off but which were passed on by our beloved father and  2v:6 mother, they will perhaps grow so that I may become at least a man, and who knows if my son, if he may live and if I can help him, who knows he may be someone. For your part you have found your path, old brother, your carriage is already sturdy and strong, and I myself can glimpse my path thanks to my cherished wife. As for you, calm yourself and rein back your horse a little so that no accidents occur, and as for me a flick of the whip from time to time does no harm.
Your portrait of Miss Gachet must be admirable, and I’ll be pleased to see it, oh those little patches of orange in the background.
The croquis of the landscape makes me think of something very beautiful.5 I’ll be pleased to see it. Père Peyron’s letter was kind.6 These people are good sorts after all. Listen, soon, when Jo is a bit stronger and the little one recovered,  2v:7 you should come and spend the days here, at least a Sunday and a few days more. The salons are closed but you aren’t losing much by that, for we’ll go together to see the Quost, which decidedly is a fine painting. We’ll go and ask him if I may exhibit it on the boulevard in the window,7 if it’s not too big. But it must work, and there’ll also be something of yours, old fellow, come on! You really must be together, for it’s you who pointed out this fine Quost painting to me. Do you remember that I told you that I’d bought that fine painting by Corot that those b...8 B & V said wasn’t saleable. Tersteeg sold it to Mesdag with 5,000 profit, and Mesdag is so pleased with it that he wants others like that,9 and is writing to Arnold & Tripp to find him some like that. It pleased me, but B & V will start again tomorrow all the same. Yours, my old brother, the colours are going off.10 I shake your hand firmly, and am pleased that the little one and his mummy are sleeping peacefully, your


This morning I woke up with the same ideas. It’s decided in an unshakeable way, when I go out, I’m going to rent that apartment as a start. The kid slept well, he’s well this morning. Adieu.


Br. 1990: 899 | CL: T39
From: Theo van Gogh
To: Vincent van Gogh
Date: Paris, Monday, 30 June and Tuesday, 1 July 1890

1. This is the only time that Theo addresses his brother in this way, in what is for him a long, open-hearted letter that betrays the anxiety he is feeling.
2. Ass’s milk was rather expensive: Theo and Jo’s normal milk bill (21 June) had been 13.80 francs, whereas the milk bill of 15 July amounted to 37.50 francs (Account book 2002, p. 77).
3. Theo was thinking of setting up in business on his own. The uncertainty of his future at Boussod, Valadon & Cie had been on his mind for some time; in April he had spoken openly to H.G. Tersteeg about his grievances against his employers. Tersteeg wrote the following: ‘It does me good, for you and for myself, that you’ve poured your heart out to me ... All the same, it is a splendid thing that it has come to an outburst with the gentlemen, and I wish you luck in having voiced your opinion so frankly. You will see how such a thunderstorm clears the air ... Keep courage, stay calm and prudent, and seek the strength for it in your wife and child; that will remain for you the best rule of life’ (FR b1368, 7 April 1890).
4. It is possible that Theo wrote ‘Anvers’ (Antwerp) instead of ‘Auvers’.
a. Read: ‘sereins’.
5. Marguerite Gachet at the piano (F 772 / JH 2048 [2932]) and Wheatfields (F 775 / JH 2038 [2928]). Van Gogh had sent descriptions and letter sketches of them (see letter 893).
[2932] [2928]
6. This letter from Peyron to Vincent, enclosed with letter 891, is not known.
7. For Quost’s Easter flowers [324], see letter 866, n. 10. Theo’s plan to exhibit it was probably never realized, because a week later (on 7 July 1890) the painting was purchased at the Salon for 1,200 francs by the French state (Paris, Musée d’Orsay, Documentation).
8. This was probably meant to be filled in as ‘cons’ (bastards).
9. Camille Corot, Souvenir of Nemi. Rocks and shrubs, 1844 (The Hague, The Mesdag Collection). Ill. 2319 [2319]. Theo had bought it from Dorio on 5 April 1890 for 3,000 francs, after which Tersteeg sold it to Mesdag on 23 June 1890 for 8,064 francs. See RKD, Goupil Ledgers, no. 20439, and cat. The Hague 1996, pp. 133-134, cat. no. 65.
10. Van Gogh had placed this order for paint in letter 893.