In 1864, when Vincent was 11, his parents sent him to Jan Provily’s boarding school in Zevenbergen. He had previously gone to the village school in Zundert and received lessons at home from his governess Anna Birnie and his father. A small group of pupils from well-to-do Dutch Reformed families in the area went to school in the town house on Zandweg, which had been built for Provily. At the time Vincent was there, the school had nineteen other pupils. It was very different from the primary school in Zundert, where 150 students all sat in the same room. Yet Vincent later claimed to have benefited little from his time there; he wrote to his sister Willemien:
“while all the rest of my life is absolutely as inept as it was at the time when, at the age of 12, I was at a boarding school where I learned absolutely nothing.” Read the complete letter
In two 1876 letters to his brother, Vincent recalled the day when his parents had dropped him off:
“It was an autumn day and I stood on the front steps of Mr Provily’s school, watching the carriage drive away that Pa and Ma rode home in. One could see that yellow carriage in the distance on the long road – wet after the rain, with thin trees on either side – running through the meadows. The grey sky above it all was reflected in the puddles. Read the complete letter
After Vincent became a teacher in Ramsgate a few years later, his own boarding school experience meant he was easily able to imagine how his pupils must feel after their parents dropped them off. In August 1866, Vincent left boarding school and moved to Tilburg. The reasons for his departure are unclear; scholars suggest a cholera outbreak and the closing of the school’s boys’ section as possible causes.