Letter 58

Tchaikovsky Research
Date 29 July/10 August 1861
Addressed to Ilya Tchaikovsky
Where written London
Language Russian
Autograph Location Saint Petersburg (Russia): National Library of Russia (ф. 834, ед. хр. 33, л. 83–84)
Publication П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 53–54
П. И. Чайковский. Письма к близким. Избранное (1955), p. 8–9
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 67–68
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Letters to his family. An autobiography (1981), p. 7–8 (English translation)

Text and Translation

Russian text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
29 июля/10 августа 1861 г[ода]

Милый Папаша! После Брюсселя, в котором время я провёл не слишком весело, мы три дни прожили с Писаревым в Остенде. Здесь было очень хорошо. Я ужасно люблю море, особенно когда оно шумит, а в эти дни оно как нарочно сумасшествовало! Купался очень усердно. Дамы и мужчины купаются в открытом море вместе; не думаю, чтоб три купанья могли принесть пользу, а всё-таки мне там как-то необыкновенно хорошо чувствовалось. Там мы очень сошлись с одной московской дамою, путешествующею с доктором. Она владетельница Шайтанского завода, урождённая Ярцова, а замужем была за генералом Кузьминым. Мы с ней вместе совершили путешествие в Лондон. Сей последний «дистанция-с огромного размера!» Мы поселились в довольно скромной гостинице и целые дни проводили в осматривании города. Только что сейчас ходил в Вестминстерское аббатство и в Парламент. Вчера и третьего дни мы были в Хрустальном дворце; здание действительно великолепное, но внутри как-то слишком пестро. Были также в Темзенском туннеле, где от духоты со мной чуть дурно не сделалось. Вообще я бы время проводил очень приятно, если б меня не томила неизвестность об Вас. Письма ждут меня в Париже, и сердце моё рвётся туда, а Василий Васильевич всё откладывает. Лондон очень интересен, но на душу делает какое-то мрачное впечатление. Солнца в нём никогда не видно, дождь на каждом шагу. Мне чрезвычайно по вкусу здесь еда. Кушанья просты, даже грубы, но сытны и вкусны. Третьего дня были в увеселительном саду Креморн'e — подобного этому я ничего не видел. Когда входишь, так кажется что-то волшебное; там видел и старого знакомого Леотора. Были в концерте певицы Патти, которая в Лондоне производит страшный фурор, но на меня особенного впечатления не сделала. Оставляю место для Василия Васильевича. Поцелуйте покрепче Анатошку и Модю и кланяйтесь и целуйте всех остальных. Уехала тётя Лиза? Какие об ней известия?

Преданный Ваш сын,

П. Чайковский

29 July/10 August 1861

Dear Papasha! After Brussels, where I didn't have an all too enjoyable time, Pisarev [1] and I spent three days in Ostend. There it was very nice. I love the sea very much, especially when it is rough, and during those days it so happened to be roaring! I bathed very diligently. Ladies and gentlemen bathe in the open sea together. I don't think that three baths could be of any use, and yet when I was there, for some reason I felt extraordinarily well. We became very good friends there with a lady from Moscow who was travelling with her doctor. She is the owner of a factory in Shaytansk [2]; her maiden name is Yartsova and she was married to General Kuzmin. We made the journey to London together with her. The latter city is "a range of huge proportions"! [3] We have put up at a rather modest hotel and have spent whole days looking round the city. Just now I went on an excursion to Westminster Abbey and to the Parliament. Yesterday and the day before, we were at the Crystal Palace [4]. The building really is magnificent, but inside it is somehow rather too motley. We were also in the Thames Tunnel [5], where it was so stifling that I almost began to feel sick. On the whole, I could have a pleasant time here were it not for the fact that I am tormented by not having any news of you. There are letters waiting for me in Paris, and that is where I am bursting to go, yet Vasily Vasilyevich [Pisarev] keeps putting off our departure. London is a very interesting city, but it makes a rather gloomy impression on one's soul. The sun is never to be seen, and it is constantly raining. The food here is extremely to my liking. The dishes are simple, even coarse, but filling and tasty. The day before yesterday, we went to the Cremorne pleasure gardens [6]—I have never seen anything like it. When you go in, it seems like something magical. I also saw there an old acquaintance: Léotard [7]. We have been to a concert by the singer Patti, who is creating a mighty furore in London, though she made no particular impression upon me [8]. I am leaving some space for Vasily Vasilyevich. Kiss very warmly Anatoshka and Modya, and give my regards and a kiss to everyone else. Has Aunt Liza left? What news have you had of her?

Your devoted son,

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. Vasily Vasilyevich Pisarev, the engineer and acquaintance of his father's whom Tchaikovsky had accompanied abroad in the capacity of an interpreter and secretary. This was Tchaikovsky's first trip outside Russia, made possible by the fact that Pisarev had agreed to pay all his travel expenses.
  2. Shaytansk is a small settlement on the banks of the river Neyva, near Alapayevsk (where Ilya Tchaikovsky had been the manager of a metallurgy plant).
  3. Tchaikovsky is quoting a line from Act II, Sc. 5 of the comedy Woe from Wit (Горе от ума; 1825) by Aleksandr Sergeyevich Griboedov (1795-1829). These words are spoken by Colonel Skalozub, who in the scenes where he appears talks almost only of matters related to his army career and the military. Thus, when Famusov, the father of the play's heroine, begins to sing the praises of Moscow, Skalozub can only think of comparing the city to a shooting-range because of its vast, sprawling proportions.
  4. The Crystal Palace, a huge building made of glass and iron only, was originally erected in Hyde Park to house the Great Exhibition of 1851, but was moved to Sydenham three years later, where it was used as an exhibition, entertainment and recreational centre. In an article he wrote in 1872, Tchaikovsky would recall how during his visit to the Crystal Palace he had heard the 'Hallelujah Chorus' from Handel's Messiah: "it was performed by several thousand voices, and there are no words with which I could describe the overwhelming effect of strength and might which this choral movement by Handel produced on the listeners" (TH 269). Gerald Norris has established that what Tchaikovsky attended on 8 August 1861 [N.S.] was the Metropolitan Charity Children's Annual Festival and Choral Performance, which brought together the 5,000 children of the Metropolitan Charity Schools in a choral concert conducted by Henry Buckland, Vicar of St. Paul's — see Stanford, the Cambridge Jubilee, and Tchaikovsky (1980), p. 300.
  5. The Thames Tunnel, constructed by Marc Isambard Brunel (1769–1849) and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806–1859), extended under the river from Rotherhithe to Wapping, first opening to pedestrians in 1843, and later adapted for trains in 1869.
  6. The pleasure gardens at Cremorne occupied almost sixteen acres between the Thames and King's Road, Chelsea, and on these beautiful grounds were such attractions as "a superb pagoda decked with hundreds of coloured lanterns, statues, fountains, temples, Swiss chalets, a maze, an American bowling-alley, a Turkish pavilion, side-shows and shooting galleries". There was also the Crystal Platform (a huge dance-floor), the Cirque Oriental with equestrians and acrobats, the Octagon Theatre where a troupe of dogs and monkeys would perform tricks, various music halls and speciality acts, as well as spectacular firework displays at night — see Stanford, the Cambridge Jubilee, and Tchaikovsky (1980), p. 299-300.
  7. Jules Léotard (d. 1870), the legendary French trapeze artist who had also performed in Saint Petersburg.
  8. On 9 August 1861 [N.S.], the famous Italian soprano Adelina Patti (1843-1919) gave a concert at the Crystal Palace, accompanied by an orchestra conducted by August Manns (1825-1907). She sang five numbers, including Lucia's aria "Regnava nel silenzio" from Act I of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor and Amina's aria "Ah, non giunge" from Bellini's La Sonnambula. She had made her sensational English début at Covent Garden only three months earlier, and during that period had appeared no less than twenty-five times on that theatre's stage in six different operas. Gerald Norris, citing an article by Dickens in the December 1861 issue of All the Year Round, suggests that when Tchaikovsky heard her at this concert her voice may have been showing signs of wear — see Stanford, the Cambridge Jubilee, and Tchaikovsky (1980), p. 300-301. Adelina Patti would also appear regularly with the Italian Opera companies in Saint Petersburg and Moscow in the 1870s, and Tchaikovsky would mention her frequently in his music review articles, praising, in particular, her performances as Rosina in The Barber of Seville and as Amina in La Sonnambula (see TH 269 and TH 294).