Reading Ruminations // Dear Theo Book I

Book Name: Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh
Author: Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh is often known as the loneliest, most tormented artist in history, but most people familiar with art history also know that he had a close relationship with his younger brother Theo, to whom he wrote one letter every single night. Theo died only six months after his brother, after which, Theo’s wife compiled Vincent’s letters to her husband, immortalising their bond forever.

I knew next to nothing about Van Gogh, other than what most people know, about his ear and suicide.

I never thought much of him, to be honest. I knew him only as a tortured artist.

Only 10% into the book, I know I am quickly falling in love with this man, Vincent Van Gogh. His letters reflect a soul, deep and vast, one that readily takes in the beauty of the world and lets it move him. He is just so, incredibly, and painfully human. So very human. It’s beautiful. And sad. Because we know what it does to him in the end.

The letters are so genuine and raw. People like Vincent always feel everything far too deeply. The world, with all its insincerity and platitudes, can be too much.

I resonate with this man on a kindred spirit level. Reading his words draws out emotions I’ve hidden away, shown only to those few who can cradle those vulnerable parts of me and keep them safe. Yet even with those, there is only one who truly knew and saw the same as I do.

There are whole passages I have highlighted. I shall share some, since I suspect I will never be able to share all the future ones I highlight in a single review post.

I can’t imagine how alone Van Gogh must have felt, with no one truly with him to validate his heart. How I now wish I could have known him, if only to have known another soul like mine.


That’s the thing, that is beauty, that is poetry. Admire as much as you can; most people do not admire enough.

Try to walk as much as you can, and keep your love for nature, for that is the true way to learn to understand art more and more. Painters understand nature and love her and teach us to see her. If one really loves nature, one can find beauty everywhere.

These are really very happy days I spend here, but still it is a happiness and quiet which I do not quite trust. Man is not easily content: now he finds things too easy and then again he is not contented enough.

If only we try to live sincerely, it will go well with us, even though we are certain to experience real sorrow and great disappointments, and also will probably commit great faults and do wrong things, but it certainly is true that it is better to be high-spirited, even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all too prudent.

It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and does not waste one’s love on insignificant and unworthy and meaningless things, one will get more light by and by and grow stronger.

And even in the most refined circles and with the best surroundings and circumstances, one must keep something of the original character of an anchorite, for otherwise one has no root in oneself; one must never let the fire go out in one’s soul, but keep it burning.

The sun was setting red behind the pine trees, and the evening sky was reflected in the pools; the heath and the yellow and white and grey sand were so full of harmony and sentiment–see, there are moments in life when everything, within us too, is full of peace and sentiment, and our whole life seems to be a path through the heath…

Like everyone else I feel the need of relations and friendship, of affection, or friendly intercourse, and I am not made of stone or iron, so I cannot miss these things without feeling, as does any other intelligent and honest man, a void and deep need.

When I saw you again, and walked with you, I had the selfsame feeling which I used to have, as if life were something good and precious which one must value, and I felt more cheerful and alive than I had done for a long time, because gradually life has become less precious, much more unimportant and indifferent to me, at least it seemed so.

Sometimes it is in winter so bitingly cold that one says: It is too cold, what do I care if there is a summer to follow, the evil surpasses by far the good. But with or without our permission there comes an end at last to the bitter frost, and on a certain morning the wind has turned and we have a thaw.

Well, think much and think all the time; that unconsciously raises your thoughts above the ordinary level. We know how to read–well, let us read then.

There is the man who is idle from laziness and from lack of character, from the baseness of his nature. You may if you like take me for such a one. Then there is the other idle man, who is idle in spite of himself, who is inwardly consumed by a great longing for action, because he seems to be imprisoned in some cage. A just or unjustly ruined reputation, poverty, fatal circumstances, adversity–they are what make men prisoners. And the prison is also called prejudice, misunderstanding, fatal ignorance of one thing or another, distrust, false shame. One cannot always tell what it is that keeps us shut in, one feels certain barriers, certain walls. Such a man does not always know what he can do, but he fels by instinct: Yes, I am good for something; my life has an aim after all; I know that I might be quite a different man. There is something inside of me; what can it be? Do you know what frees one from this captivity? It is every deep serious affection. Being friends, being brothers, love, these open the prison by supreme power, by some magic force. Where sympathy is renewed, life is restored.

5 responses to “Reading Ruminations // Dear Theo Book I”

  1. My emrys writes the most wonderful reviews, now I want to read this right now evsn when I’m too sick too 🙁

    1. Another book to add to your reading list. =)

  2. […] I have been reading Dear Theo (my thoughts here), which has begun getting heavier, I needed a lighter read. Coincidentally, I read Lord of the […]

  3. […] my descent into full-on Vincent Van Gogh obsession via Dear Theo (see my thoughts here and here), I have embarked on a hunt for everything Van Gogh-related. The logical place to begin, […]

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