Letter 14

Tchaikovsky Research
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Date 24 December 1850/5 January 1851
Addressed to Aleksandra Tchaikovskaya and Ilya Tchaikovsky
Where written Saint Petersburg
Language French and Russian
Autograph Location Saint Petersburg (Russia): National Library of Russia (ф. 834, ед. хр. 33, л. 11–12)
Publication П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 15–16 (dated mid-December 1850)
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 18
Notes Includes postscripts to Yelizaveta Schobert, Anastasiya Popova, Ippolit Tchaikovsky, Anatoly Tchaikovsky, Modest Tchaikovsky and Aleksandra Tchaikovskaya.

Text and Translation

Spelling and punctuation errors in the original text have not been indicated.

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Cher Maman et Papa!

Voila! sans doute que vous recevrez ma lettre aux fêtes de Noel ou un peu après. Mais aprésent je m'imagine comme vous faites touts les préparatifs de l'arbre de Noel pour mes petits chers frères ma soeur et mes petites cousines. Vous passerez les fêtes de Noel avec grand plaisir tandis que je les passerai très tristre car dans la maison du bon M-eur Vacar le chagrin de la mort du petit ange Nicolas n'est pas encore passé.

J'était bien étonné hier en arrivant ne trouver pas une lettre de vous mes chers et admirables anges.

Vous ne pouvez pas comprendre avec quel transport j'attens l'arrivée de vous, mon ange Papa. J'ose penser aussi a votre arrivée chére Maman, Ce serait trop de bonté pour nous car ce n'est pas aussi longtemps que vous étez arrivé à Alapaeff.

Nicolas est ici, et je suis très content de le revoir denouveau.

Je crois que Monsieur Bérar vous a déja envoyé mes balles avec ma lettre; si elles sont mauvaises ayez la bonté de ne pas me compter comme votre et me gronder dan votre lettre.

Ayez aussi la bonté m'écrire comment vat votre santé; grâce à Dieu comme vous le croyez mois et Nicolas nous nous portons très bien. Comment vas aussi celle de Sachinka, et Pola; je m'inquiète beaucoup sur leur compte.

Adieu chers et, admirables, anges Papa, et Maman. Je baise milles fois vos mains et prie votre bénédiction. Votre fils,


Cher tante Lyse je n'oublie pas aussi de vous écrire chaque fois que je le peu, pour vous faire mes grands remerciments à l'amour que vous me gardez. Votre neveu,


Милая Сестрица. Так как я вам обещал писать так часто как могу то и пишу вам милая и добрая Сестрица. Посмотрите, пожалуйста как растет тот плющ, который я посадил когда уеждял. Поклонитесь от меня Настасье Петровне и поцелуйте Лидиньку, также поцелуйте Машурочку и Каролину. Ваш брат,

Пётр Ч.

Милые братья и сестра, целую крепко вас и обнимаю, пожалуйста не забудьте вашего брата.

Пётр Чайковский

Dear Mama and Papa!

There you are! You will undoubtedly receive my letter during the Christmas feast days or a little later. But right now I can imagine how you are making all the preparations for the Christmas tree for my dear little brothers, my sister and my little cousins. You will spend the Christmas feast days with great pleasure, whereas I will spend them very sadly, because in good Mr Vakar's house the sadness over the little angel Nikolay's death has not yet passed [1].

I was very surprised when I arrived here yesterday and did not find any letter from you, my dear and admirable angels.

You cannot understand with what ecstasy I await your coming here, my angel Papa. I venture to think of your coming too, dear Mama: it would be too much kindness for us because it is not such a long time since you arrived back in Alapayevsk.

Nikolay is here, and I am very happy to see him again [2].

I think that Monsieur Bérard [3] has already sent you my grades together with my letter. If they are poor, then be so kind as to treat me as if I weren't your son and scold me in your letter.

Be so kind also as to tell me how your health is. Thanks be to God, Nikolay and I, as you know, are very well. How is the health also of Sashinka and Polya? I am very worried on their account.

Goodbye, dear and admirable angels Papa and Mama. I kiss your hands a thousand times and ask for your blessing. Your son,


Dear Aunt Liza: I do not forget to write to you too whenever I can, in order to thank you very much for your love. Your nephew,


Dear Sestritsa [4]. Since I had promised to write to you as often as I could, that is why I am writing to you, dear and kind Sestritsa. Please look at how the ivy is growing which I planted before I left. Give my regards to Nastasya Petrovna [5] and kiss Lidinka [6] for me, and also kiss Mashurochka [7] and Karolina [8]. Your brother,

Pyotr T.

Dear brothers and sister, I kiss you warmly and embrace you. Please do not forget your brother.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. Nikolay was the five-year-old son of Modest Vakar, a friend of Ilya Tchaikovsky's who had agreed to act as young Pyotr's guardian in Saint Petersburg, and who had in fact taken Pyotr into his house shortly after his enrolment in the Imperial School of Jurisprudence in October 1850 because of an epidemic of scarlet fever which had broken out in the school. Pyotr lived with the Vakars for about seven weeks before returning to the school as a boarder. Unfortunately, he had brought the scarlet fever infection into his guardian's house and little Kolya contracted this disease and died on 24 November/6 December 1850. Vakar and his wife concealed from Pyotr the fact that their son had scarlet fever and told him instead that it was measles or a "nervous fever", so that he would not torment himself with self-reproach, but it seems that he did eventually find out the truth. As Pyotr could not visit his family in far-off Alapayevsk during the school holidays he spent that Christmas at the Vakars' house.
  2. Tchaikovsky's brother Nikolay, two years his senior, was also a boarder in Saint Petersburg, though not at the School of Jurisprudence, but at the city's Mining College.
  3. Joseph Bérard (known in Russia as Iosif Iosifovich Berar; 1800-1883) taught literature and French at the School of Jurisprudence, including in the preparatory class, and he would eventually become Tchaikovsky's favourite teacher. See Пётр Чайковский. Биография, том I (2009), p. 46.
  4. 'Sestritsa', or 'little sister', was the affectionate name for Tchaikovsky's cousin, Anastasiya Vasilyevna Popova (1807–1894), the daughter of Ilya Tchaikovsky's older sister Yevdokiya Popova.
  5. Anastasiya Petrovna Petrova (1824–1893) had joined the Tchaikovsky family in Alapayevsk on 24 November/6 December 1849 as a governess, specifically with the task of preparing Pyotr for the School of Jurisprudence in Saint Petersburg. After spending some three years with the Tchaikovskys she worked as a governess in various other families, but returned to her first employer in 1859, when she took charge of the twins, Anatoly and Modest.
  6. The composer's cousin Lidiya Vladimirovna Tchaikovskaya (married name Olkhovskaya; 1836-1892) was the daughter of Ilya Tchaikovsky's elder brother, Vladimir. She lost her mother when she was quite little, in 1842, and was effectively adopted by Ilya and his wife Aleksandra.
  7. Marya Yegorovna Foss, affectionately known as Mashurochka, was a nanny and governess in the Schobert family.
  8. Karolina was the nanny in charge of the composer's younger siblings Aleksandra and Ippolit.