Letter 2605a

Tchaikovsky Research
Date 24 November/6 December 1884
Addressed to Lev Davydov
Where written Paris
Language Russian
Autograph Location unknown [1]
Publication Tschaikowsky-Gesellschaft Mitteilungen, Heft 17 (2010), p. 6–8

Text and Translation

Russian text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
24 н[оября]/6 д[екабря] 1884

Милый Лёвушка! Получил сегодня пересланное мне из Davos"а письмо твоё и ужасно был ему обрадован.

Котека я нашёл лучше чем ожидал; надежда на выздоровление есть но только весьма возможно, что ему придётся ещё одну зиму провести в Давосе, а он бедный едва ли не больше смерти этого боится. Теперь два признака болезни особенно беспокоят его доктора: это во 1-х) ежедневная лихорадка и во 2-х) опухоль горловых связок от кашля, вследствие чего он не говорит, а как-то хрипит. Я был у его доктора и он дал мне честное слово, в случае если признано будет что Давос не годится для него, то он его сейчас отправит на юг Франции. В Давосе всё переполнено больными. И странно; несмотря на совершенно русскую зиму и жестокие морозы, — они целый день на воздухе и очень легко одеты, иные вовсе без пальто. Лечебное свойство Давоса не в чистоте воздуха, а в его крайней разжиженности, дающей слабогрудым или чахоточным в первом градусе возможность часто дышать, вследствие чего лёгкие, как бы от хорошей гимнастики крепнут, ранки заживляются и по большей части все выздоравливают совершенно. Но штука в том, что не всякого больного можно туда послать; если уже семь каверны — то помощи не будет. Если бы, чего Боже сохрани, Андреичу в самом деле угрожала чахотка, то не теряя времени советую его послать в Давос.

Я приехал в Париж главным образом для того чтобы немножко побыть в уединении. Я очень утомлён от Петербурга и Давоса. Пишу тебе мало ибо скоро увидимся в Москве: не позже 10-го я там буду.

Мне невыразимо жаль Флегонта. Что он, бедный, будет делать?


Целую и обнимаю тебя и Сашу. Очень, очень кланяюсь Андреичу.

П. Чайковский

24 November/6 December 1884

Dear Levushka! Today I received your letter, which was forwarded to me from Davos, and I was awfully gladdened by it.

I found Kotek in a better state than I had expected; there is hope of a recovery, only it is very likely that he will have to spend one more winter in Davos, and the poor fellow is afraid of that almost more than he is of dying. Two symptoms of his illness are now particularly troubling his doctor: these are, firstly, his daily fevers, and, secondly, a swelling of the vocal cords due to his cough, as a result of which he cannot speak normally, but only in a kind of wheezing manner. I went to see his doctor, and he gave me his word of honour that if it should be found that Davos is unsuitable for him, then he will have him taken to the south of France immediately [2]. Davos is chock-full with patients. And the odd thing is that, in spite of a truly Russian winter, with severely cold weather, they are all out of doors all day long and are very lightly dressed; some don't even have any overcoats on them at all. The curative property of Davos lies not in the purity of its air, but in the extreme rarefaction of the latter, which gives those who are weak-chested or consumptive in the first degree the opportunity to breathe frequently, as a result of which their lungs get stronger (just as if they were doing good gymnastic exercise), the lesions heal, and, for the most part, they all recover completely. However, the point is that one can't send every patient there; if you already have seven cavernae, then they won't help you. If, God forbid, Andreych[3] should really be in danger of developing consumption, then I advise you not to lose any time and to send him to Davos.

I have come to Paris mainly so as to be on my own for a while. Petersburg and Davos have left me very exhausted [4]. I am writing you just a brief letter, because we will soon see each other in Moscow: I'll be there by the 10th at the latest [5].

I feel ineffably sorry for Flegont [6]. What is the poor fellow going to do?

Little sister [7]

I kiss and embrace you and Sasha. Give my very, very warm regards to Andreych.

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. The autograph was auctioned on 14 July 2010 by R. R. Auction, Amherst (New Hampshire) [1], and advertised in November 2010 by Inlibris, Gilhofer Nfg. GmbH, Vienna.
  2. As it turned out, Iosif Kotek's tuberculosis had already progressed too far for him to be moved to a sanatorium on the French riviera, as Tchaikovsky had hoped, and he would die in Davos on 4 January 1885 [N.S.].
  3. The abbreviated form of the patronymic 'Andreyevich' suggests that this may be a nickname for Vladimir Andreyevich Plessky, the brother of Natalya Plesskaya and manager of Lev Davydov's offices on the Kamenka estate.
  4. Before going abroad Tchaikovsky had spent almost a whole month in Saint Petersburg (from 5/17 October to 1/13 November) in order to attend the rehearsals and the first performance of Yevgeny Onegin on the stage of the Mariinsky Theatre on 19/31 October 1884.
  5. In fact Tchaikovsky would not arrive in Moscow until 17/29 December 1884. After his return to Saint Petersburg from Europe, on 7/19 December, he decided to stop over in the imperial capital for longer than planned, mainly so as to attend the tenth performance of Onegin at the Mariinsky Theatre on 10/22 December and the premiere of his brother Modest's play Lizaveta Nikolayevna at the Aleksandrinsky Theatre the following day.
  6. Flegont was a tutor of the Davydov boys at Kamenka (that is, of Tchaikovsky's nephews, Dmitry, Vladimir ('Bob'), and Yury). See Пётр Чайковский. Биография, том II (2009), p. 616 (index). As recorded in his diary, Tchaikovsky had often played whist with him in the evenings while staying at Kamenka in April–June 1884 and generally enjoyed his company. See, for example, The Diaries of Tchaikovsky (1973), p.23–44. It is not clear what misfortune had befallen Flegont.
  7. "Sestritsa" ('little sister') here referred not to Tchaikovsky's younger sister, Aleksandra Davydova, but rather to his much older cousin, Anastasiya Vasilyevna Popova (1807–1894), the daughter of his paternal aunt Yevdokiya Popova. In letters to his brother-in-law Tchaikovsky would invariably refer to Aleksandra by her pet name 'Sasha' (as at the end of this letter).