Letter 57

Date 17/29 July 1861
Addressed to Ilya Tchaikovsky
Where written Antwerp
Language Russian
Autograph Location Saint Petersburg (Russia): National Library of Russia (ф. 834, ед. хр. 33, л. 81–82)
Publication П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 52–53
П. И. Чайковский. Письма к близким. Избранное (1955), p. 7–8 (abridged)
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 66–67
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Letters to his family. An autobiography (1981), p. 6–7 (English translation; abridged)

Text and Translation

Russian text
(original)
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Антверпен
17/29 июля 1861

Милый Папаша! В Гамбурге мы прожили неделю; извините, что оттуда не писал Вам, — всё как-то не мог собраться с мыслями. Гамбург несравненно лучше Берлина. Квартиру мы занимали в лучшей части города, и с нашего балкона вид был превосходный. Вообще там неделя прошла незаметно, — увеселений множество. Каждый вечер мы проводили очень приятно: то какое-нибудь гулянье, то бал с женщинами двусмысленного поведения, которыми этот город изобилует, то посещение мест, где веселится низшая часть населения. Это чрезвычайно весело и разнообразно. Например, балаган какой-нибудь — вы входите, и Вам предлагают прокатиться на лошади верхом. Вы садитесь на деревянную лошадь, какой-то немец трубит в трубу, и Вас вертят до одурения, или большой балаган, где за десять копеек Вам и пляшут, и поют, и гимнастические штуки делают, и играют на фортепиано — и всё это к величайшему восторгу зрителей. Русских в Гамбурге мы видели многих. Во-первых, постоянно виделись с двумя русскими моряками, с которыми Писарев имеет дело; во-вторых, с путешественниками, в числе которых я нашёл двух товарищей по Училищу, весьма милых юношей. Едят в Гамбурге ужасно много и хорошо; обед за table d'hôt'ом длится два часа, и это стоит около восьмидесяти копеек. Кроме того там существуют погребки, в которых завтракать и ужинать можно и дёшево и хорошо. Вообще оттуда я уезжал с некоторой грустью. Вчера мы приехали в Антверпен. Дорога от Кельна до Бельгии чрезвычайно интересна; туннелей бесконечное множество, — это меня очень занимало. Антверпен не произвёл на меня особенно приятного впечатления. Притом я надеялся получить от Вас письмо; получили ли Вы моё первое? В нём находился адрес в Антверпен. Во всяком случае надеюсь, что в Париже найду от Вас известия. Писарев уехал отсюда на целый день куда-то осмотреть заводы. Я совершенно один и порядочно скучаю; во всём городе нет ни одной души знакомой; попробовал сейчас пошляться, да ничего интересного нет. Боюсь, что придётся здесь прожить довольно долго. Хотелось бы скорей в Париж; там скучно и быть не может. Извините, что сегодня письмо моё и коротко и скучно. Я нахожусь в довольно гадком расположении духа. Кланяйтесь всем нашим: когда Тётя Лиза едет? учатся ли Толя и Модя? Амалью видел сегодня во сне. А Мина много хохочет? Катя — объедается огурцами? Машурочке кланяйтесь. Авдотье Яковлевне, если она будет, скажите, что Гамбург совратил меня с пути истины, и тоже ей поклонитесь хорошенько.

П. Чайковский

Пожалуй, что пишите в Париж, poste restante, или на имя Ольховских адресуйте. Попросите Амалию, Толю и Модю, если нечего делать им, написать.

Antwerp
17/29 July 1861

Dear Papasha! We stayed in Hamburg for a week. I'm sorry that I didn't write to you from there: I just couldn't manage to collect my thoughts. Hamburg is incomparably better than Berlin. We took lodgings in the finest part of the city, and the view from our balcony was magnificent [1]. Indeed, our week there passed by imperceptibly: there were lots of entertainments. We spent each evening very agreeably: now we went to some pleasure-ground, now to some ball with women of easy virtue, of which there are plenty in this city, now we visited the places where the lowest strata of the population enjoy themselves. This is extremely fun and varied. For example, there is one fair-booth where you walk in and you are invited to take a ride on a horse. You mount a wooden horse, some German blows a trumpet, and you are swung round and round until you get giddy. Or there is also a larger booth where for ten kopecks you can get people to dance and sing and perform gymnastic tricks and play the piano for you — and all this to the utmost delight of the spectators [2]. We met lots of Russians in Hamburg. First of all, we constantly got together with two Russian sailors with whom Pisarev is conducting some business; and secondly, with travellers, among whom I encountered two schoolfriends, very nice young men. In Hamburg people eat an awful lot and awfully well. A dinner at the table d'hôte will go on for two hours, and it costs around 80 kopecks. In addition to that, there are cellars in which one can get a very cheap and good lunch or supper. Indeed, I left Hamburg with a certain feeling of sadness. We arrived in Antwerp yesterday. The rail journey from Cologne into Belgium is extremely interesting: there is an infinite multitude of tunnels, which fascinated me very much. Antwerp hasn't made a particularly agreeable impression upon me. Besides, I had been hoping to receive a letter from you here — did you get my first one? It contained our address in Antwerp. In any case, I hope to find some news from you waiting for me in Paris. Pisarev has gone away for a whole day to inspect some factories somewhere. I am utterly alone and am feeling pretty bored. There is not one familiar soul in the whole city. I just had a go at doing some strolling, but there was nothing interesting. I am afraid lest we have to stay here for quite a long time. I would like to get to Paris as soon as possible, for there is just no way it could ever be boring there. I am sorry that my letter today is both brief and boring. I am in a rather foul mood. Give my regards to all our folks. When is Aunt Liza going? Are Tolya and Modya applying themselves to their studies? I saw Amaliya in a dream today. Is Mina still giggling a lot? And Katia, is she stuffing herself with cucumbers?[3]. Give my regards to Mashurochka [4]. Tell Avdotya Yakovlevna, if she is there, that Hamburg has led me astray, and give my very warm regards to her too.

P. Tchaikovsky

Please, do write to me in Paris, poste restante or by addressing your letter to the Olkhovskys [5]. Would you ask Amaliya, Tolya and Modya to write as well if they don't have anything else to do?

Notes and References

  1. Tchaikovsky, who was on his first trip abroad as a travelling companion and interpreter for the engineer Vasily Vasilyevich Pisarev (an acquaintance of his father's), stayed in Hamburg from 10/22 July to 16/28 July 1861. The two travellers put up at the elegant "Hotel St. Petersburg", on the Jungfernstieg in central Hamburg. Peter Feddersen, the author of an outstanding study of Tchaikovsky's visits to, and connections with, Hamburg, cites the 24 July 1861 [N.S.] issue of the newspaper Hamburgischer Correspondent, where under the heading "Arrivals from abroad" we find the following information: "Hotel St. Petersburg: B. Pissareff u. P. Czackovsky [...] v. St. Petersburg" — see Tschaikowsky in Hamburg. Eine Dokumentation (2006), p. 10. Feddersen also points out that Tchaikovsky had every reason to be delighted with the view from their balcony, because that hotel looked out onto the fine canal and bridge networks around the Binnenalster and the Kleine Alster.
  2. Before citing this passage from the letter, Peter Feddersen observes of the entertainments that were available in Hamburg: "Indeed, there were many places in Hamburg where one could have a good time. The suburb of St. Pauli (between Millerntor and Altona), whose establishments could be reached round the clock now that the city gates were no longer closed, had plenty to offer. The spectrum of entertainments in this suburb ranged from gin-shops and brothels to respectable beer halls, from music-halls and popular theatres to more ambitious temples of the Muses" — quoted from Tschaikowsky in Hamburg. Eine Dokumentation (2006), p. 10.
  3. Vilgelmina ('Mina') and Yekaterina ('Katya') were younger sisters of Tchaikovsky's cousin Amaliya Litke.
  4. Marya ('Mashurochka') Yegorovna Foss was a nanny and governess in the Shobert family.
  5. Nikolay Ivanovich Olkhovsky (1819-1868) and his wife Lidiya Vladimirovna Olkhovskaya (née Tchaikovskaya; 1836-1892) who was a cousin and childhood playmate of the composer's: she was the daughter of Ilya Tchaikovsky's elder brother, Vladimir. Lidiya had lost her mother when she was quite little, in 1842, and had been effectively adopted by Tchaikovsky's parents. Her husband was director of the Saint Petersburg Mint, as well as a playwright (pseudonym "Onyx") whose plays were very popular in their time. See Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 131, note 1.