Letter 17

Tchaikovsky Research
Date 5/17 March 1851
Addressed to Aleksandra Tchaikovskaya and Ilya Tchaikovsky
Where written Saint Petersburg
Language French
Autograph Location Saint Petersburg (Russia): National Library of Russia (ф. 834, ед. хр. 33, л. 15–16)
Publication П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 18–19 (dated early February)
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 22–23

Text and Translation

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

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Cheres Papa et maman

Voici la lettre que M. Berard vous envoiera avec mes Ведомости.

Cette semaine je n'ai pas taché d'apprendre et j'ai reçu 3 mauvaises notes pour lesquelles je suis resté pour le dimanche.

Je vous demande grand pardon je tacherai de ne pas apprendre si mal pour ne pas vous afliger. Je sais que je vous causerai avec cela des larmes. J'ai pleuré aussi, mais les larmes n'aident point mes charmants anges.

Quand je prie de tout mon coeur
Dieu éxauce ma prière
La prière est une soeur
Oui elle est comme une lumière:
Qui éclaire notre âme.

J'ai composé ces vers moi même en écrivant la lettre.

Laissons ça et parlons de notre sort.

Je ne sais pas pourquoi j'ai denouveau envie de composer des vers. Hier lorseque j'était ici j'ai composé une histoire depuis votre partie à la maison d'ici ma vie. M[onsieur] Berard est si bon pour moi que je ne puis l'exprimer. C'est presque tout-à-fait un ange de bonté.

Chere Papà je vous prie d'etre si bon d'adresser les lettres ici et non pas chez M[onsieur] Vacar.

C'est déja la troisième semaine et la quatrième nous ferons nos dévotions.

J'ai oublié de vous écrire que déja depuis longtemps. Le prince Oldenbourg était chez nous. J'etais très content quand il s'approcha de moi et commenca à me parler. Qui étes vous! Ou demeure votre pére et enfin assez longtemps. Chère maman vous ne pouvez pas vous imaginer comme j'étais triste, quand j'avais recu la nouvelle que vous etez malade. Vous avez mal à l'oreil.

Adieu ma chère maman et mon très cher papa. Je prierais Dieu qu'il guérisse votre maladie.

Je prie votre bénédiction.

Pierre Tschaikovsky

Saluez à tante Lyse et à toutes mes soeurs et cousines et à tout mes frères.

Pierre Tschaikovsky

Dear Papa and Mama

Here is the letter which Monsieur Bérard [1] will send you together with my report.

This week I made no effort to learn and I received three poor marks, for which I was made to stay behind on Sunday.

I ask you very much for your forgiveness. I shall try not to learn so badly so as not to distress you. I know that because of this I will bring tears into your eyes. I too have cried, but tears are of no use, my delightful angels.

When I pray with all my heart,
God grants my prayer.
Prayer is a sister,
Yes, she is like a light
Which illuminates our soul.

I have composed these verses myself when writing this letter.

Let us leave this and talk about our fate.

I do not know why I again feel like composing some verses. Yesterday, when I was here, I composed a story [about] my life here since your departure home. M[onsieur] Bérard is so good to me that I can't describe it. He is almost entirely an angel of goodness.

Dear Papa, I ask you to be so kind as to address your letters here, and not to M[onsieur] Vakar's house [2].

It is now the third week [of Lent], and on the fourth we shall be saying our prayers.

I forgot to write to you that a long time ago the prince of Oldenburg [3] visited us. I was very glad when he walked up to me and began to talk to me. Who are you? Where does your father live?—and indeed [we spoke] for quite a long time. Dear mama, you cannot imagine how sad I was when I received the news that you are ill. Your ear has been aching.

Goodbye, my dear mama and my very dear papa. I shall pray to God that He may cure your illness.

I ask for your blessing.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Give my greetings to Aunt Liza and to all my sisters and cousins and to all my brothers.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. 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 which Pyotr was attending at the time. He was the latter's favourite teacher. See Пётр Чайковский. Биография, том I (2009), p. 46.
  2. Modest Alekseyevich Vakar was a friend of Ilya Tchaikovsky's who had agreed to act as the guardian of young Pyotr after his enrolment in the Imperial School of Jurisprudence in Saint Petersburg in September 1850. Although the latter was a boarding-school, Pyotr was allowed to stay at the Vakars' house on Sundays and on other holidays.
  3. Prince Pyotr of Oldenburg (1812-1881) had founded the Imperial School of Jurisprudence in 1835. He was a cultured man and a noted music-lover who sometimes invited students of the school to concerts at his palace. Apart from Tchaikovsky, the prince would also encourage Aleksey Apukhtin when he joined the school a year later, and in fact to an even greater extent because Apukhtin's artistic gifts were much more pronounced at the time. For the 50th anniversary of the school in 1885, Tchaikovsky would write a Jurisprudence March and a Jurists' Song, both of which were dedicated to the memory of the school's founder. For more information on the school, see Tchaikovsky. The quest for the inner man (1993), chapter 2, and Пётр Чайковский. Биография, том I (2009), chapter 2.