Letter 63

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Date 10/22 September 1862
Addressed to Aleksandra Davydova
Where written Saint Petersburg
Language Russian
Autograph Location Saint Petersburg (Russia): National Library of Russia (ф. 834, ед. хр. 16, л. 11–12)
Publication Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1900), p. 149–150 (abridged)
П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 59–61
П. И. Чайковский. Письма к близким. Избранное (1955), p. 12–14 (abridged)
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 73–75
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Letters to his family. An autobiography (1981), p. 11–12 (English translation; abridged)

Text and Translation

Russian text
(original)
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
С[анкт]-Петербург
10 сентября

Милая Саша! Наконец-то во мне пробудилась заснувшая совесть, и я собрался поговорить с тобой. Теперь киевские Давыдовы уже разъехались, и тебе, вероятно, письма из Петербурга очень нужны для развлечения. Во-первых, скажу тебе, что всё лето я немилосердно проскучал; служил усердно, по праздникам ездил на дачу — и это было моё единственное утешение; ты, я думаю, не забыла мою faible к даче Голова; этот faible нисколько не уменьшился, и теперь я, кажется, остался один её приверженцем. Подробности переезда тёти Лизы ты, вероятно, знаешь из писем Мали; мы теперь живём с Папашей одни и, представь себе, что сверх ожидания нисколько не скучаем. Во-первых, обедаю я всякий день дома; часто приходит расстраивать наш tête-à-tête некоторый известный тебе господин, по имени Герард, но так как и я и Папаша его любим, как брата, то, конечно, это доставляет нам большое удовольствие. Вечером довольно часто бываем в театре (в русском) или играем в карты. Денег у Папаши на хозяйство выходит больше, чем вдвое меньше, — и это ему приятно; заказываю обед я, — и вообще служу посредником между Эмилией Константиновной и Папашей, к[ото]рого она почему-то ужасно боится. Праздников в последнее время было очень много, так что Анатолий, Модест и Алёша очень часто были дома; раз мы все вместе ездили в балет (брали с собой Малю), а вчера они с Алёшей ездили смотреть «Nos intimes». Сей последний так сделался хорош в лицейском мундире, что редкая женщина пройдёт мимо него, не влюбившись; он приезжает обыкновенно вместе с Толей и Модей, а спит подле меня; мы друг другу говорим стихи и вечно смеёмся. Толя часто вспоминает про Каменку и рассказывает много про всех Вас; в Таню, по его рассказам, все влюбились; я украл у Алёши твою карточку, где ты с Таней, и очень часто ею любуюсь. Папаша, получив от тебя известие об отнятии твоей дочери от груди, был очень тронут. В последние дни у него было большое горе; дело Ячменевой в Гражданской палате решено в пользу Беклешева, хотя это решение далеко не окончательное и в Сенате оно, конечно, будет отменено, но он был страшно расстроен; до сих пор он не допускал мысли, чтобы присутственное место могло смотреть на это дело не его глазами. Я однако ж его успокоил, а третьего дни вечером он получил письмо от Дервиза (старшего), который наблюдает за ходом дела; и письмо это его совершенно утешило.

Я поступил в вновь открывшуюся Консерваторию, и курс в ней начинается на-днях. В прошлом году, как тебе известно, я очень много занимался теориею музыки и теперь решительно убедился, что рано или поздно, но я променяю службу на музыку. Не подумай, что я воображаю сделаться великим артистом, — я просто хочу только делать то, [к] чему меня влечёт призвание; буду ли я знаменитый композитор или бедный учитель, — но совесть моя будет спокойна, и я не буду иметь тяжкого права роптать на судьбу и на людей. Службу, конечно, я окончательно не брошу до тех пор, пока не буду окончательно уверен в том, что я артист, а не чиновник.

Про то, что Аня Егорова выходит замуж, ты верно уже знаешь. Я познакомился с её весьма симпатичным женихом; она от счастья помолодела и похорошела. Софи, говорят, лучше. Андрюша всё сидит, жаль его бедного, и жаль всего более оттого, что он не может утешиться тем, что пострадал за убеждение. Я знаю, что он просто хотел порисоваться, он может быть и сам не отдаёт себе в этом отчёта, но это так. Преступление его, по моему мнению, разделяется на два момента: первый, когда он служит панихиду по Петре, Иване, Акакии, всё равно по ком, — тут он поступает хорошо; второй момент, когда он объявляет попу, что Пётр, Иван и Акакий были расстреляны за революционные мнения, — тут он думает, что хорош, но в сущности неимоверно пошл. Фаня, вероятно, переедет жить к нам.

Встал я сегодня необыкновенно рано; меня разбудили Толя и Модя, уезжавшие в Училище. Здесь кстати могу заметить, что привязанность моя к этим человечикам, в особенности (это по секрету) к первому, с каждым днём делается больше и больше. Я внутренно ужасно горжусь и дорожу этим лучшим чувством моего сердца. В грустные минуты жизни мне только стоит вспомнить о них, — и жизнь делается для меня дорога. Я по возможности стараюсь для них заменить своею любовью ласки и заботы матери, к[ото]рых они, к счастию, не могут знать и помнить, и, кажется, мне это удаётся.

Вчера получил длинное письмо от Коли; на-днях напишу ему такое же. Поцелуй от меня по тысячи раз г-на Aгронома и сельского хозяина Льва Давыдова и прекрасную дочь его Леди Татьяну. Целую тебя.

Твой брат,

П. Чайковский

Saint Petersburg
10 September

Dear Sasha! At last my slumbering conscience has awakened and I am ready to have a talk with you. The Kiev Davydovs have now departed, and you are probably in great need of letters from Petersburg to provide some diversion. First of all, I must tell you that it has been mercilessly boring for me during the whole summer. I worked assiduously, and my sole consolation was going to the dacha on high days and holidays [1]. I suppose you haven't forgotten my weakness for Golov's dacha: this weakness has not diminished in the least, and now it seems that I am the only remaining enthusiast of this dacha [2]. You probably know about the details of Aunt Liza's move from Malya's letters. We are now living with Papasha on our own, and, just imagine, contrary to what one might expect, we are not in the least bored [3]. In the first place, I dine at home every day: there often comes to disturb our tête-à-tête a certain gentleman you know of who goes by the name of Gerard [4], but since both I and Papasha love him like a brother, this of course affords us great pleasure. In the evenings we go very often to the theatre (the Russian one) or play cards. Papasha is spending more than twice as less on household expenses, and this is pleasant for him. It is I who order our dinners, and in general I am serving as the intermediary between Emiliya Konstantinovna [5] and Papasha, of whom she is terribly afraid for some reason. There have been many public holidays recently, so Anatoly, Modest, and Alyosha [6] have been at home very often. Once we all went to the ballet together (we took Malya with us), and yesterday they went with Alyosha to see "Nos intimes" [7]. The latter has become so handsome in his lyceum uniform that few are the women who pass by him without falling in love. He normally comes here together with Tolya and Modya, and sleeps next to me. We recite verses to one another and are constantly laughing. Tolya often thinks of Kamenka and speaks about you all a great deal. Judging from his stories, it seems that everyone has fallen in love with Tanya. I have stolen from Alyosha the photograph on which you are pictured with Tanya, and I admire it very often. Papasha was very moved when he received the news from you that your daughter has been weaned. Over the last few days he has been labouring under a great misfortune: the Yachmeneva case was settled in Bekleshev's favour at the Civil Court, and even though this decision is by no means final and will of course be reversed in the Senate, still he was frightfully upset [8]. For until now it had been inconceivable for him that a magistracy could take a view of this case which was not the same as his. However, I managed to calm him down, and the day before yesterday he received a letter in the evening from Derviz (the elder) [9], who is keeping an eye on how the case is going, and that letter consoled him altogether.

I have enrolled in the freshly inaugurated Conservatory, and my course of study there commences in a few days' time. Last year, as you know, I studied music theory a lot and now I have become fully convinced that sooner or later I will exchange my civil service work for music. Don't get the idea that I am imagining that I will become a great artist — I simply want to do just that to which I am drawn by my vocation. Regardless of whether I become a famous composer or a poor teacher, my conscience will then be calm, and I won't have the disagreeable right to grumble at Fate and at other people. Of course, I shall not abandon my employment completely until I am once and for all certain that I am an artist and not a bureaucrat.

You are probably already aware that Anya Yegorova is getting married. I have become acquainted with her very nice fiancé. Her happiness has made her look younger and prettier. Sophie [10] is said to be feeling better. Andryusha is still under arrest. I feel sorry for the poor fellow, and I do so above all because he cannot draw consolation from having suffered for his convictions. I know that he just wanted to show off a bit — perhaps he himself doesn't realize this, but that's the way it is. His crime, in my opinion, comprises two aspects: the first being his conducting a requiem service for Pyotr, Ivan, Akaky, no matter for whom — there he was doing a good action. The second aspect is when he told the priest that Pyotr, Ivan, and Akaky had been executed for revolutionary views — there he fancied himself to be acting correctly, but essentially he was being incredibly abject [11]. Fanya [12] will probably come to live with us.

Today I got up uncommonly early: I was woken up by Tolya and Modya as they were leaving for the School. Here it is fitting for me to observe that my attachment to these little fellows, especially (this is in confidence) to the first, is becoming greater and greater with every day that passes. Inwardly I am awfully proud of, and set great store by, this best feeling of my heart. In the sad moments of life I only have to think of them and life again becomes dear to me. I try as best as I can to replace, with my love, a mother's caresses and loving care which, fortunately, they can neither know nor remember, and I think I am succeeding in this.

Yesterday I received a long letter from Kolya. One of these days, I shall write him one too. Kiss for me a thousand times the Agronomist and Squire Mr Lev Davydov and his fair daughter, Lady Tatyana. I kiss you.

Your brother,

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. As Modest Tchaikovsky explains in his biography of the composer, his brother had been working very assiduously that summer because a vacancy for a senior post had arisen in his department at the Ministry of Justice and he felt that he had every right to aspire to it. Instead of going to the dacha almost every day during the summer months, as he had done in the previous three years, he had duly spent as many hours as possible at the office in order to impress his superiors and he had even taken files home with him to work on them during the night. The appointment, however, went to somebody else, which greatly upset Tchaikovsky, and, according to Modest, this contributed to a slackening in his zeal for his bureaucratic work and strengthened his resolve to concentrate on music — see Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 136.
  2. In the summer months Ilya Tchaikovsky would rent from a certain Golov a dacha on the road leading from Saint Petersburg to Peterhof. The doors of this dacha were always open to the poorer students from the Technological Institute (of which Ilya was director) who couldn't afford to go home during the summer holidays. For Modest Tchaikovsky's description (in his "Autobiography") of the joyful atmosphere at Golov's dacha — see Пётр Чайковский. Биография, том I (2009), p. 142-144.
  3. Yelizaveta Shobert and her children, who had been living with the Tchaikovskys in Saint Petersburg for some years, had moved to a new flat. One of the reasons for their move was the appearance of Yelizaveta Mikhaylovna Lipport in Ilya Tchaikovsky's household. It was not until 1865 that Ilya actually married her (as his third wife), and his own children were initially not well-disposed towards her — note by Vladimir Zhdanov in П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 663.
  4. Vladimir Nikolayevich Gerard (1839-1903), a former classmate and friend of Tchaikovsky's from the School of Jurisprudence. He would become a prominent lawyer and public figure, and at Tchaikovsky's funeral on 28 October/9 November 1893 he delivered a very moving farewell speech. When working on his biography of the composer Modest asked Gerard to write down his reminiscences of Tchaikovsky at the School of Jurisprudence, where they had been particularly close in the senior form.
  5. Evidently the Tchaikovskys' housekeeper at the time. Her surname has not come down to us.
  6. Aleksey Vasilyevich Davydov (1846-1909), the younger brother of Lev Davydov.
  7. A comedy by the French dramatist Victorien Sardou (1831-1908).
  8. In 1858, Ilya Tchaikovsky had entrusted all his savings to a certain Mrs Yachmeneva asking her to invest his money as she saw fit. Mrs Yachmeneva's investment did not work out and Ilya lost almost all of his money. A certain Mrs Beklesheva had stood surety for the former, and there ensued a law-suit between the two ladies on whose outcome depended whether or not Ilya could recover some of his money — see Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 100-101, 143.
  9. Pavel Grigoryevich fon Derviz (1826-1881), concessionaire and railway entrepreneur.
  10. Sofya Petrovna Tchaikovskaya (1833-1888), a cousin of the composer's, the daughter of Ilya Tchaikovsky's elder brother, Pyotr.
  11. The composer's cousin Andrey Petrovich Tchaikovsky (1841-1920) was an army officer, and it seems that some of the soldiers he commanded had come under the influence of the revolutionary agitation sweeping through Russia in the summer of 1862 (with fly-sheets calling for terrorist acts against the government). These men were court-martialled and executed, but Andrey had nevertheless ordered a requiem service to be conducted for them.
  12. Mitrofan Petrovich Tchaikovsky (1840-1903), a cousin of the composer's. Like his brother Andrey, he also followed a military career.