Letter 68

Date 28 July/9 August 1864
Addressed to Aleksandra Davydova
Where written Trostinets
Language Russian
Autograph Location Saint Petersburg (Russia): National Library of Russia (ф. 834, ед. хр. 16, л. 16–17)
Publication Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1900), p. 191 (abridged)
П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 64
П. И. Чайковский. Письма к близким. Избранное (1955), p. 16
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 80–81
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Letters to his family. An autobiography (1981), p. 14–15 (English translation)

Text and Translation

Russian text
(original)
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
28 июля 1864

Милая Саша! Напрасно ты думаешь, что меня нет в Каменке потому, что у Голицына мне так хорошо, что я не могу с ним расстаться. Я не скрываю, что мне здесь очень хорошо, но не сомневаюсь в том, что у тебя, с твоим мужем, детьми и всем Вашим семейством, — мне было бы гораздо ещё лучше. Но как сердце меня ни тянет к тебе, — а рассудок ясно говорит, что по весьма многим причинам следует мою поездку в Каменку отложить до будущего лета и уж тогда — прямо из Петербурга на все три месяца. Чтоб ты не думала, что я недостаточно стремлюсь к Вам душой, я тебе скажу, что перед отъездом из Петербурга я хлопотал ехать прямо к тебе, но обстоятельства этого не позволили; сюда же я приехал, надеясь без особенных неудобств пробраться к тебе.

Благодарю тебя за письмо. Оно меня действительно успокоило; я немножко боялся, чтоб ты не сердилась. Худая погода, о к[ото]рой ты пишешь, меня ни мало не ужасает, — здесь она нисколько не лучше. Живу я очень покойно и, кроме Голицына, никого не вижу. Скажи Вере Васильевне, что «Гроза» моя сильно подвигается и что она (т. е. В[ера] В[асильевна]) рискует услышать её в Русском музык[альном] общ[естве]. От Папаши, Толи и Моди не имею уже с месяц никаких известий.

Не получила ли ты на моё имя писем; если да, то перешли их, пожалуйста, сюда!

Итак, ещё раз благодарю тебя, милая Саша, грущу до смерти, что не могу быть у тебя, но повинуюсь своей судьбе и прошу твоего извиненья, что не исполнил обещания. Поцелуй Лёву и Алёшу. Таню и Веру пожми и разлобызай от меня нещадно. Кланяйся низко Александре Ивановне и Е[лизавете], А[лександре], С[офье] и Вере Васильевнам.

28 July 1864

Dear Sasha! You are wrong to suppose that the reason why I'm not in Kamenka is that I feel so well at Golitsyn's [1] that I cannot bring myself to part with him. I make no secret that I feel very well here, but I have no doubt that at your place, in the company of your husband, children, and all your family, I would feel far better. However, for all that my heart draws me towards you, my reason says distinctly that for many reasons I must postpone my visit to Kamenka until next summer: then I would come directly from Petersburg and stay the whole three months. So that you do not imagine that my heart's longing to be with you isn't that great, let me tell you that before my departure from Petersburg I made preparations to travel straight to your place, but circumstances didn't allow me to [2]; moreover, I came here hoping that I would be able to make my way to you without any particular inconvenience.

I thank you for your letter. It really did set my mind at rest: I had been somewhat afraid lest you should be angry with me. The bad weather which you write about doesn't frighten me in the least: here it is in no way better. I am leading a very quiet life, and, apart from Golitsyn, I am seeing no one [3]. Tell Vera Vasilyevna that my "Storm" is rumbling along, and that she (i.e. Vera Vasilyevna) may run the risk of hearing it at the Russian Musical Society. I haven't had any news from Papasha, Tolya and Modya for about a month.

Have you perhaps received any letters addressed to me? If yes, then please forward them to me here!

And so, I thank you once again, dear Sasha; I am terribly sad that I cannot be at your place, but I must submit to my destiny. I beg your forgiveness for not having kept my promise. Give a kiss to Leva and Alyosha [4]. Hug and mercilessly smother Tanya and Vera with kisses from me. Give my humble regards to Aleksandra Ivanovna and Yelizaveta, Aleksandra, Sofya, and Vera Vasilyevna [5].

Notes and References

  1. Tchaikovsky was spending the summer at the estate of his friend Prince Aleksey Vasilyevich Golitsyn (1832-1901) in Trostinets, Kharkov province. He had been introduced to Golitsyn, a diplomat with a great interest in the arts, some years earlier, when he was still working at the Ministry of Justice. Golitsyn was one of the few society friends of Tchaikovsky's who stayed in touch with him after his decision to abandon the hedonistic lifestyle of a young man about town and to devote himself to music in earnest. Moreover, as Modest Tchaikovsky tells us in his biography of the composer, Golitsyn generously helped him to find pupils and often invited him to dine at his house in Saint Petersburg — see Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 175. Golitsyn also moved in the aristocratic homosexual circles of Saint Petersburg and other European cities, and Tchaikovsky would frequently meet up with him during his long stays abroad in later years, even though he had ambivalent feelings about his friend's lifestyle. For more details on Golitsyn and his friendship with the composer, see Tchaikovsky. The quest for the inner man (1993).
  2. According to Modest, his brother did not have enough money to make the journey to Kamenka that summer: there was as yet no railway connection to the Ukraine, and travelling to Kiev by stage-coach was very expensive. Tchaikovsky had therefore accepted Prince Golitsyn's invitation to make use of a free seat in his private stage-coach with which he was travelling from Moscow to Kharkov — see Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 175.
  3. It is worth supplementing this letter with the more detailed account provided by Modest in his biography: "This stay [at Trostinets] remained in Pyotr Ilyich's memory like something out of a fairy-tale. Until then he had never before been surrounded by such luxury and opulence. He was given complete freedom to do what he liked. The location proved to be wondrous, with many varied walks, one better than the other. In the mornings and afternoons he would apply himself to his work or undertake solitary excursions, and only at dinner-time and in the evenings did he join the prince and his guests". On Tchaikovsky's name-day (29 June/10 July), Golitsyn organised some festivities in honour of his friend. A celebratory breakfast was followed later that evening by a carriage ride through the forest, "where the whole road had been flanked with flaming pitch barrels, while in a pavilion in the midst of the woods a feast for the peasants had been set up as well as a sumptuous supper in honour of the subject of the celebration" — see Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 175.
  4. Aleksey Vasilyevich Davydov (1846-1909), the younger brother of Lev Davydov.
  5. Aleksandra Ivanova Davydova (née Potapova; 1802-1895) was the mother of Lev Davydov. In the autumn of 1863 she had moved to Saint Petersburg together with her daughters Yelizaveta (1823-1904), Aleksandra (1827-1917), Sofya (1832-1903), and Vera (1843-1923), although they continued to spend the summer months at Kamenka. Tchaikovsky had very quickly become friends with the whole family. He especially liked to listen to Aleksandra Ivanovna talk about her eventful life: her late husband, Vasily Lvovich Davydov (1792-1855), had taken part in the famous "Decembrist uprising" of 1825, and she had followed him into exile in Siberia. She had also been acquainted with Pushkin, because the poet had often stayed at the Davydovs' family estate at Kamenka. Among Aleksandra Ivanovna's daughters, it was Vera whom Tchaikovsky found the most congenial because of her love of music. As Modest put it in his biography of the composer, he acted as Vera's "musical protector and cicerone", introducing his sister-in-law to the works of Schumann, Berlioz, and Glinka. Vera would in fact fall in love with Tchaikovsky, but her feelings were not reciprocated and she later married a much older man, Vice-Admiral Ivan Ivanovich Butakov (1822-1882). Although the other Davydov sisters, except for Yelizaveta, were not as interested in music, Tchaikovsky also enjoyed their company very much, especially that of Yelizaveta, who was very artistic herself (she was an accomplished illustrator of travel books) and had known such leading artists as the writer Nikolay Gogol and the painter Aleksandr Ivanov. In letters to his own relatives Tchaikovsky would frequently refer to Aleksandra Ivanovna and her daughters Yelizaveta and Aleksandra as "our three angels" or "our three darlings" — see Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 173-175.