Diaries (June 1884)

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Tchaikovsky's Diary No. 3 covers his stay at his sister Aleksandra's residence at Kamenka in the Ukraine, where he had arrived on 12/24 April 1884, accompanied by his valet Aleksey Sofronov ("Alyosha").

Aleksandra, known to the composer as "Sasha", and her husband Lev Davydov (1837-1896), had three daughters: Tatyana ("Tanya", aged 22), Vera (aged 21), Anna (aged 19), Natalya ("Tasya", aged 15), and three sons: Dmity ("Mitka", aged 13), Vladimir ("Bob", aged 12), Yury ("Uka", aged 7).

Also living at Kamenka were Lev's mother, Aleksandra Ivanovna Davydova (née Potapova; 1802-1895) and her unmarried daughters, Aleksandra Vasilyevna (1825-1917) and Yelizaveta Vasilyevna ("Lizaveta", 1823-1904)—collectively known by Tchaikovsky as the "old ladies", as well as numerous relatives and friends.

The last entry in the diay was made on 9/21 June, the day after Tchaikovsky left Kamenka for the city of Kharkov.

Text and Translation

The following diary entries were first published in Дневники П. И. Чайковского (1873-1891) (1923), p. 27-29, edited and with notes by the composer's brother Ippolit. They were also translated into English by Wladimir Lakond in The Diaries of Tchaikovsky (1945), p. 42-44, and into German by Ernst Kuhn and Hans-Joachim Grimm in P. I. Tschaikowsky. Die Tagebücher (1992), p. 29-31.

The new English translation and detailed commentary published here for the first time was prepared by Philip Taylor, Alexander Poznansky and Brett Langston, with reference to the original texts preserved in the Tchaikovsky House-Museum at Klin, and corrects some errors in previous editions.


Friday 1/13 June 1884
1 июня. Великолепная погода. Большая прогулка к Пляковским буракам. Писал переложение финала. После обеда ощущение стало проходить. Поездка в Вербовку, чрезвычайно приятная. Собачка, упорно за нами следовавшая. Из Лебедовки с Бобом, Гришей, Укой пешком. Чай. Лошади. Прыгание у кирпичного завода и на дворе. Дорогой рассказы Наты о своих страхах. За ужином узнаю, что Блум[енфельд] вызывает зачем-то Вл[адимира] Андр[еевича]. Страшное, безумное волнение, особенно когда Лёва поручил звать его. Едва доиграл два робера. 1 June. Superb weather. Long walk to the Plyakov beetroot fields. Writing the arrangement of the finale. After lunch the sensation started to pass [1]. Had an extremely pleasant trip to Verbovka. A little dog chased behind us stubbornly. On foot from Lebyodovka with Bob, Grisha [2] and Uka. Tea. Horses. Jumping around the brick works and in the yard. On the road Nata [3] told of her fears. At supper I heard that Blum[enfeld] [4] is summoning Vladimir Andreyevich [5] for some reason. Dreadful, frenzied agitation, especially when Lev gave instructions for him to be called. Scarcely managed to play two rubbers.
Saturday 2/14 June 1884
2 июня. Прогулка все на Пляковские бураки через Смел[янскую] дор[огу]. Писал переложение финала. После обеда с мальчиками заходил в большой [дом] Ал[ександры] Ив[ановны], потом участвовал в игре в городки со всей компанией мальчиков и менторов, потом на Pas de géants веселая беготня была. Чай дома (вдвоем с Сестрицей; Саша и Вера Вас[ильевна] книгами были заняты). Рассказы Сестрицы о ее молодости, родителях, сватовстве и т. д. Писал письма и занимался английским. Неудачная попытка попасть к всенощной в Покр[овскую] церковь, зато приятная прогулка за церковь. Телеграмма от Модеста, обеспокоившая меня. После ужина сидел с Бобом в кабинете и про учебные дела беседовал. Винт. Не везло; не злился, но холодный пот прошибал. Ощущение немножко было, но теперь я не боюсь врага, ибо знаю его; это все тот же желудок. 2 June. A walk to the same Plyakov beetroot fields via the Smelyansky road. Writing the arrangement of the finale [6]. After lunch with the boys I called at the big house to see Aleksandra Ivanovna, then played gorodki [7] with the entire band of boys and teachers, then some jovial running about the Pas de géants. Tea at home (alone with Sestritsa; Sasha and Vera [8] were busy with their books). Sestritsa's stories about her youth, parents, engagement, etc. Wrote letters and studied English. Unsuccessful attempt to get to vespers at the Pokrovsky Church, but at least had a pleasant stroll beyond the church. Telegram from Modest which worried me [9]. After supper sat with Bob in the study and chatted about school matters. Vint. Out of luck; I wasn't irritable, but broke into a cold sweat. The sensation was bothering me slightly, but now I do not fear my enemy because I know him; it is just my usual stomach playing up.
Sunday 3/15 June 1884
3 июня. Воскр[есенье]. Пишу очень усталый. Поездка на целый день в большой лес. Я пешком до Подлесной. Там сиденье, обед, поход на хуторянские бураки с Лёвой и Керном, чай и т. д. Чуть меня не оставили по недоразумению ночевать в лесу. Дома ужин и винт с Керном. Страшно сильное чувство Z. Боже мой, прости и укроти меня. Ощущение прошло совершенно. Телеграмма от Moдеста. Странная вещь: ужасно не хочется уезжать отсюда. Я думаю, все дело в Бобе. 3 June. Sunday. Very tired writing this. There was a full day's trip to the big forest. I was on foot as far as Podlesnaya. We took a rest there and had lunch. Made a walking trip to the farmstead beetroot fields with Lev and Kern [10], tea, etc. Through a mix up they almost left me to spend the night in the forest. Supper at home and vint with Kern. A terribly intense feeling of Z [11]. My God, forgive me and calm my passions. The sensation has gone entirely. Telegram from Modest. It's a strange thing, but I desperately don't want to leave this place. I think that it is all to do with Bob.
Monday 4/16 June 1884
4 июня. Видел во сне М. и вследствие того целый день был немножко и даже более чем немножко влюблен. Странно, дико, безобразно, - но чего бы я не дал, чтобы расцеловать ее ... Ничего, ничего... молчанье...!!! — Был утром в Тростянке и находился в состоянии жуткости и грусти, ибо из письма Ник[олай] Дм[итриевич] К[ондратьев] узнал о смерти бедного добряка Масалитинова. Его, конечно, жаль, ибо еще бы мог пожить, но как убийственно должен страдать Гол[ицын]!!! Обедал Керн, и после того я совершенно напрасно ликер пил. За чаем, да и вообще целый день, меня раздражала бедная сестрица, с которой я совсем не так ласков, как бы следовало. Забыл сказать, что за обедом было немало того, что так убийственно на меня действует (по поводу Круаза и т. д.). Дремал днем, что давно со мною не было. За чаем были также божественные старушки, а потом, встретивши их в саду (они с Лёв[ой] и Саш[ей] к Ник[олаю] Вас[ильевичу] ходили), проводил их до дому. Вообще без толку шлялся и, между прочим, на крыше сидел. Ната долго беседовала со мной у окна. После ужина многие прощаться с Сашей приходили. Винт. Мне очень не везло. От этого, но главное, от тысячи других причин, составляющих то, что я называю Z, я злился, как лютая змея. Пришел домой под грустным, тяжелым давлением этого Z. 4 June. Had a dream about M, and as a consequence all day I was slightly, even more than slightly, in love. It's strange, bizarre, disgraceful, but what I would give to kiss her all over [12]. Nothing, 'tis nothing... be silent...!!! [13]. Was in the Trostyanka [14] this morning feeling awe-struck and sad because in a letter from Nikolay Dmitryevich Kondratyev I learned about the death of that poor good soul Masalitinov [15]. I feel sorry for him, of course, because he could yet have had more years ahead of him, but how dreadfully Golitsyn must be suffering!!! Kern stayed for lunch, and after that I drank liqueur, and all completely to no purpose. During tea, and the entire day as a matter of fact, I was irritated by poor Sestritsa, with whom I am not as affectionate as I ought to be. I forgot to say that during lunch there was no small measure of that which affects me so dreadfully (on account of Croazot [16], etc.). I dozed off during the day, something which has not happened to me for a long time. The wonderful old ladies were also there for tea. Later, when I ran into them in the garden (they were with Lev and Sasha walking over to Nikolay Vasilyevich), I accompanied them as far as the house. In general, I wandered about to no purpose and, by the way, sat on the roof by the way. Nata chatted to me for a long time near the window. After supper many people came to say goodbye to Sasha [17]. Vint. I was very out of luck. From this, but principally from the thousand other reasons which constitute what I call Z, I was as irritable as a ferocious snake. Arrived home heavy with the sad and oppressive weight of this Z.
Tuesday 5/17 June 1884
5 июня. Проснулся с сильной болью в горле и лихорадочным состоянием. Заставил себя пройтись. Занимался дома. Вадим появился. После обеда боль стала усиливаться, и я разболелся совсем, так чтоне ужинал, а боль в горле была столь ужасна, что каждое глотание было адским мучением. Ночь была мучительна ужасно. 5 June. Woke up with an intense pain in my throat and in a feverish state. Forced myself to walk about. Worked at home. Vadim appeared [18]. After lunch the pain worsened and I was aching all over to such an extent that I skipped supper. The pain in my throat was so terrible that every time I swallowed it was a hellish torture. The night was a sheer torment.
Wednesday 6/18 June 1884
6 июня. К утру немного лучше благодаря обильному поту. Как Алёша много выказывает дружбы и участия в подобных случаях. Посылал за Куликовым. Успокоил, сказав, что нарыва нет. Хотя мне и лучше, но все же еще скверно, и я не знаю, как поеду завтра. Целый день почти спал. Навещали. Очень мало ел. Иные посетители (Як[ов] Мих[айлович]) тяготили меня. Играл все-таки в винт, но насилу 2 робера сыграл. Ночью спал прерывисто. Слышал Сашин отъезд. 6 June. By morning I felt a little better thanks to profuse sweating. How much friendship and sympathy Alyosha shows in such cases. He sent for Kulikov [19]. He calmed me by saying that there was no abscess. Although I am better, I still feel vile, and I do not know how I can travel tomorrow. Spent almost the entire day asleep. People came to see me. Ate very little. Other visitors (Yakov Mikhaylovich) [20] were a burden. Still played vint, but it was an effort to play two rubbers. Slept fitfully. I heard Sasha leaving.
Thursday 7/19 June 1884
7 июня. Весь день дома просидел. Опять приходили, между прочим, Лиз[авета] и Вера Вас[ильевны] и Лысый. Гораздо лучше. Читал все Воспоминания Панаева. День холодный. Обедал у себя. Визит M-me Силы. Ужинал в доме. Винт с Флегонтом, Лёв[ой] и Димой (который успел-таки выманить субсидию). 7 June. Sat at home all day. Amongst others, Lizaveta, Vera Vasilyevna and Baldy [21] came to see me, again. Feeling much better. Read all Panayev's Memoirs [22]. A cold day. Had lunch in my room. Visit from M-de Sila [23]. Had supper over at the house. Vint with Flegont [24], Lev and Dima (who managed to wheedle out a subsidy after all).
Friday 8/20 June 1884
8 июня. Прогулялся в Тростянку. После обеда был в большом доме и сидел у Ал[ександры] Ив[ановны] с Лиз[аветой] Вас[ильевной] и Вер[ой] Вас[ильевной]. Розовое варенье. Чай дома. Поездка по полям в линейке с Ник[олаем] Вас[ильевичем] и 3 менторами. После ужина винт. В 11 ч[асов] уехали на станцию пьяный Алёша и несносный негодяй Митька. В Знаменке час. Добрый генерал. Кресельный особой констр[укции] вагон. Восход солнца. 8 June. Walked to Trostyanka. After lunch I was in the big house and sat with Aleksandra Ivanovna, Lizaveta Vasilyevna, and Vera Vasilyevna. Rose jam. Tea. Home. A ride over the fields in a brake with Nikolay Vasilyevich and the 3 teachers. After supper, vint. At 11 o'clock I set off for the station with a drunken Alyosha and that intolerable good-for-nothing Mitka. At Znamenka by one. The kind general. A specially-constructed passenger coach. Sunrise.
Saturday 9/21 June 1884
9 июня. Много спал. В 4 часа Харьков. По случаю выставки попал не в Gr[and] Hotel, а в Métropole. Фланерство. Собор. Певчие. Обед в Gr[and] Hotel. Чай дома. С Алёшей [ходили] в сад Тиволи. 9 June. Slept a lot. In Kharkov at 4 o'clock [25]. Because of the exhibition we ended up not in the Grand Hotel, but at the Métropole. Milling around. The cathedral. The choristers. Lunch at the Grand Hotel. Tea at home. Went with Alyosha to the Tivoli Gardens.

Notes and References

  1. Here Tchaikovsky describes a bout of tonsillitis (referred to in the diary referred as the "sensation"), which had started on 22 May/3 June and lasted about two weeks. In Letter 2502 to Nadezhda von Meck written on 7/19 June, Tchaikovsky provided a summary of his illness: "I had some sort of inflammation in my throat with a strong fever and such a terrible pain in my throat that during course of one day I could not even swallow a little sip of water. It is much better now, but I feel very weak". Some 20h-century biographers interpreted this innocent description by Tchaikovsky of his sore throat as a "revelation of self-tormenting morbidity" — see Nicolas Slonimsky, Further light on Tchaikovsky (1938), p. 145-146.
  2. Grigory Davydov (1870-1919), the son of Lev Davydov's younger brother Aleksey.
  3. Natalya Andreyevna Plesskaya ("Nata") was a very close friend and confidant of Tchaikovsky's sister Sasha. See Yury Davydov, Записки о П. И. Чайковском (1962), p. 36-37.
  4. Stanislav Blumenfeld (1850-1897), pianist and former music teacher of the Davydov children, who lived in Kiev. The previous year the composer's niece Tatyana Davydova ("Tanya") had become pregnant by Blumenfeld, and the composer and his brother Modest were the only two members of the family to be entrusted with the secret; they took Tanya to Paris, and arranged her medical care. After she gave birth to a boy on 26 April/8 May 1883, Georges-Léon, the composer himself registered the child's birth, organised his baptism, and provided financial support. Tanya had since remained in Paris with the child, but Tchaikovsky's concern that her secret might be revealed was the reason for his "dreadful, frenzied agitation" mentioned in this diary entry. The composer later helped to arrange Georges-Léon's eventual adoption by his brother Nikolay Tchaikovsky.
  5. Vladimir Andreyevich Plessky—nicknamed "Baldy" (Лысый) by Tchaikovsky—was the manager of Nikolay Davydov's estate, and landowner of the neighbouring estate at Yanovka. The composer had friendly relations with Vladimir and his Swiss-born wife Yuliya (who was also governess to Lev Davydov's daughters), their children Boris, Mikhail and Dolya. Vladimir was also the brother of Natalya ("Nata") Plesskaya. See Yury Davydov, Записки о П. И. Чайковском (1962), p. 36.
  6. Tchaikovsky was arranging his recently-composed Suite No. 3 for piano 4 hands.
  7. Gorodki was a game played by striking blocks of wood with a stick.
  8. Vera Vasilyevna Butakova (1848-1923), Lev Davydov's sister. In the late 1860s she was in love with Tchaikovsky, but her feelings were not reciprocated (see Alexander Poznansky, Tchaikovsky. The quest for the inner man (1993), p. 102-105). Widowed two years earlier, she now lived at the 'big house' in Kamenka, and seemed still to harbour some of her youthful infatuation with Tchaikovsky, appearing constantly to be luring Tchaikovsky into embarrassing encounters.
  9. The composer's brother Modest had telegraphed from Saint Petersburg that due to illness his departure for Nikolay Konradi's estate at Grankino, where Tchaikovsky planned to spent the next month, would be delayed.
  10. Otto Kern, a businessmen specializing in the sugar industry.
  11. Throughout this diary Tchaikovsky used the symbol "Z" represent his negative feelings at Kamenka, usually in the context of cards and gambling, but also as a result of his earlier daily disappointments and distress in regard to his routine in the Davydov household. Similarly, "X" was used to represent his self-reproach at harbouring such uncharitable feelings. See also Alexander Poznansky, Tchaikovsky. The quest for the inner man (1993), p. 436-440.
  12. This sentence was suppressed in previous editions of the diaries, and is reproduced here for the first time, except for the omission of one word, which Tchaikovsky did not write himself. It is probable that the mysterious "M" was not a lady, but a young man; otherwise it is difficult to explain either Tchaikovsky's concealment of the name under initial or of the editors' excision of the portion of the entry. In his letters to Modest, Tchaikovsky occasionally referred to young men with whom he had sexual encounters, by feminine pronouns, and he used on occasion humorously female names for his fellow homosexual (and even for non-homosexual) friends and relatives. See Alexander Poznansky, Tchaikovsky. The quest for the inner man (1993), p. 138-150; Valery Sokolov, «Письма П. И. Чайковского без купюр. Неизвестные страницы эпистолярии (1995), p. 127-128, 133.
  13. This popular phrase, which Tchaikovsky used many times in his diaries and letters, is the refrain from Nikolay Gogol's 1835 short story The Diary of a Madman (Записки сумасшедшего), also quoted by Masha in Anton Chekhov's play Three Sisters (Три сeстры) (1900).
  14. The Trostyanka woods, near Kamenka.
  15. Nikolay Masalitinov was a lover of Tchaikovsky's society friend Aleksey Golitsyn. For more on Masalitinov and Golitsyn, see Alexander Poznansky, Tchaikovsky. The quest for the inner man (1993), p. 55, 92, 140, 357-359, 460, 510.
  16. Mme de Croazot was the French governess of the daughters of Nikolay Vasilyevich Davydov (brother of Lev): Mariya (known as "Manya") and Varvara.
  17. Tchaikovsky's sister Aleksandra was about to leave for abroad.
  18. Vadim ("Dima") Presleni, son of Lev Davydov's sister Yekaterina.
  19. Dr Kulikov worked at the hospital in Kamenka.
  20. A friend or relative of the Davydovs'.
  21. Vladimir Plessky.
  22. Ivan Panayev (1812-1862), writer and journalist, whose Memoirs (Воспоминания) were published in 1861.
  23. A local resident of Kamenka.
  24. Flegont Biesterfeldt, tutor to Lev Davydov's children.
  25. Tchaikovsky and Aleksey Sofronov spent one day in Kharkov, waiting for Modest's arrival from Saint Petersburg on 10/22 June. Modest came alone, since Nikolay Konradi had gone to his family estate at Grankino a week earlier. The next day Tchaikovsky, Modest and Aleksey started their journey to Grankino, which took about 12 hours on by horse carriage.