Letter 5

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Date July or August 1849
Addressed to Fanny Dürbach
Where written Alapayevsk
Language French
Autograph Location unknown
Publication Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1900), p. 52–53
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 7 (French text with Russian translation, p. 8)
П. И. Чайковский. Забытое и новое (1995), p. 46 (Russian translation)
Notes Manuscript copy in: Klin (Russia): Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve

Text and Translation

Based on a handwritten copy in the Klin House-Museum Archive made by Modest Tchaikovsky, which may contain differences in formatting and content from Tchaikovsky's original letter. Spelling and punctuation errors in the French text have not been indicated.

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Chère M[adamois]elle Fanny

Je ne puis vous dire comme j'étais content quand j'ai reçu Votre lettre; je vous prie, chère m[adamois]elle Fanny ne vous fachez pas contre moi; vous me dites que Vous avez pleuré de ce que je vous ai écrit que c'est ma paresse qui m'a empêché de vous écrire; je tâcherai une autre fois de ne jamais être paresseux, car je conviens que c'est un mauvais sentiment, dont je me corrigerai.

Apresent je vais vous conter comment j'ai passé le temps le 20 de Juillet le jour de fête de papa. Monsieur Zelenzoff, M[onsieur] Alhowsky et M[onsieur] Penn avec ses deux filles Suzane et Alice étaient arivés chez nous. Le soir nous avons fait des tableaux vivants; le premier était des Turcs que Sacha et moi avons représentés, ce tableau était très joli, après c'était des Bohémiens, où Pola assistait aussi; mais ce qui était admirable c'était des Italiens. Papa fut enchanté de ce tableau. Après était un très joli feu d'artifice et quand tout était fini, Sacha habillée dans une robe espagnole dansa la catschoutscha. Toute la soirée était gaie pour les grandes personnes mais pour moi songez chère et bonne Fanny il manquait mon frère, mon ami et ma bonne et excellente gouvernante, que j'aimais tant à Votkinsk; oh! j'aurais été si heureux, si j'avais pu passer le temps avec elle ou au moins avec Venitchka et Nicolas; Pola est encore trop petit pour pouvoir me servir de compagnon. Ce qui m'amuse seulement c'est la lecture; il n'y a pas longtemps, que j'ai relu la veille de Noël, mais àprésent je n'ai rien à lire, dites moi chère M[adamois]elle Fanny si je puis lire Télémaque ou lettres de M[ada]me de Sévigné, j'aurai bien voulu aussi le Génie du Christianisme mais je ne comprend rien. Maman ne se porte pas bien; elle m'a chargé de vous dire qu'elle vous aime beaucoup, mais qu'elle ne peut pas vous écrire cette fois à cause de son indisposition elle vous salue et vous embrasse. Notre gouvernante n'est pas encore venue chez nous elle arrivera avec notre bonne tante Lise qui après avoir fini ses affaires à Pétersbourg viendra absolument vivre chez nous. Nous avons reçu de nouveau une lettre de Nicolas qui a envoyé son attestat pour le mois de Juin il aprend très bien et a toujours 12 avec étoiles dans la diligence et dans la conduite cela rejouit beaucoup Papa et Maman. Je tâcherai aussi d'aprendre comme lui et encore mieux que lui, quoique je l'aime beaucoup. Je vous embrasse mille fois, ma très chère M[adamois]elle Fanny, ma douce amie, votre à jamais.

Pierre de Tschaikowsky

Dear Mademoiselle Fanny

I cannot tell you how glad I was when I received your letter. I beg you, dear Mademoiselle Fanny: do not be angry with me [1]; you tell me that you cried because of what I had written to you — that it was my laziness which had hindered me from writing to you [2]. I shall try once again never to be lazy, because I agree that it is a bad inclination which I have to correct.

Now I shall tell you how I spent my time on 20 July, Papa's birthday. Mr Zelentsov, Mr Olkhovsky [3], and Mr Penn with his two daughters, Suzanne and Alice, came round to our house. In the evening we did some tableaux vivants. First there were some Turks, which Sasha and I portrayed: this picture was very pretty. Then there were some Gypsies, and Pola also took part in this. But what was really admirable were some Italians. Papa was enchanted by this picture. Afterwards we had a very beautiful firework display, and when everything was finished, Sasha danced the cachucha [4] in a Spanish dress. The whole evening was cheerful for the grown-ups, but as far as I was concerned, just imagine, dear and good Fanny, I missed my brother [5], my friend [6], and my good and splendid governess whom I so loved in Votkinsk; oh I would have been so happy if I had been able to spend my time with her or at least with Venichka and Nikolay. Pola is still too small to be my playmate. The only thing that amuses me is reading. Not long ago I reread "Christmas Eve" [7], but at the moment I don't have anything to read. Tell me, dear Mademoiselle Fanny, if I can read "Télémaque" [8] or the letters of Madame de Sévigné [9]; I would also have liked to read "Le génie du christianisme" [10] , but I don't understand anything. Mama does not feel well: she has asked me to tell you that she loves you very much, but that she cannot write to you this time because of her indisposition. She sends you her greetings and embraces you. Our [new] governess hasn't come to us yet [11]. She will arrive together with our good Aunt Liza, who, after having settled her affairs in Petersburg, will now come to live with us permanently. We have received yet another letter from Nikolay, who has sent his report for June. He is learning very well and always gets a 12 with stars for application and for conduct: this makes Papa and Mama very happy. I shall also try to learn like him, and in fact even better than him, even though I love him very much. I embrace you a thousand times, my very dear Mademoiselle Fanny, my sweet friend, yours forever.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. Fanny Dürbach, who had found employment with another family in Votkinsk, had replied to Pyotr's letter of 7/19 June 1849 (Letter 4), gently reproaching her beloved former pupil for not writing more frequently. According to family accounts, Fanny's reproaches had caused young Pyotr to cry very much and prompted him to write the above letter. See Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 49.
  2. See Letter 4 to Fanny Dürbach, 7/19 June 1849.
  3. Yevgeny Ivanovich Olkhovsky (1824–1876), the future husband of Zinayda Tchaikovskaya.
  4. A lively Andalusian dance made famous by the great Austrian ballerina Fanny Elssler, who also appeared in Russia.
  5. Pyotr's elder brother Nikolay had been placed in a boarding-school in Saint Petersburg where he was to be prepared for the entrance exams to the Mining College.
  6. Venedikt, or Venichka, Alekseyev, the son of an employee at Ilya Tchaikovsky's factory in Votkinsk who was allowed to take part in lessons with Nikolay and Pyotr and was also their playmate.
  7. Nikolay Gogol's wonderful story on which Tchaikovsky would base his opera Vakula the Smith (later revised as Cherevichki).
  8. Les Aventures de Télémaque (1699), epic novel by François Fénelon (1651–1715).
  9. The Lettres of the Marquise de Sévigné (1626–1696) were published in 1726.
  10. Chateaubriand's famous apology of Christianity, first published in 1802.
  11. Anastasya Petrovna Petrova (1824–1893) joined the Tchaikovsky family 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.