Letter 71

Date 1/13 September 1865
Addressed to Aleksandra Davydova
Where written Saint Petersburg
Language Russian
Autograph Location Saint Petersburg (Russia): National Library of Russia (ф. 834, ед. хр. 16, л. 20–21)
Publication П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 66–67
П. И. Чайковский. Письма к близким. Избранное (1955), p. 17–18
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 83–84
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Letters to his family. An autobiography (1981), p. 16–17 (English translation)

Text and Translation

Russian text
(original)
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
1 сентября 1865 г[ода]

Милая Саня! На этот раз письмо моё не будет длинно. Глазная болезнь, которая у меня началась ещё в Каменке, развилась до значительной степени; мне по вечерам нельзя ни читать, ни писать; глаза густо покрываются какою-то пеленой, к утру превращающейся во что-то гнойное. Впрочем, все единогласно уверяют меня, что это пустяки; один господин, страдавший тою же болезнью, посоветовал мне именно для этого случая составленную доктором Буяльским примочку; я сейчас её купил и по написании этого письма начну примачивать.

Путешествие от Киева до Петербурга было отвратительно; мы с Модестом жестоко голодали и чуть-чуть не опоздали к железной дороге. Петербург встретил нас ужаснейшим дождём, а в Гатчине я был свидетелем такой сильной грозы, какой не помню; у меня душа в пятки ушла; молнии так и падали кругом. Квартиру Лизав[ета] Мих[айловна] наняла мне очень сносную за баснословно дешёвую цену — 8 р[ублей] сер. у какой-то доброй старой немки. Вчера утром переехал. Комната очень маленькая и очень чистенькая; расположение духа моего после деревенского простора несколько хоть и страдает от этих крошечных размеров, но тут дело в привычке. Видел тётю Лизу с чадами, очень довольную старорусской поездкою, тётю Катю, Пиччиоли и всех моих приятелей. Тётя Катя ужасно тронута твоей припиской к моему письму.

Рубинштейн очень доволен, что я успел окончить работу; просит только, чтобы я насчёт терминов посоветовался с каким-нибудь филологом. Музыки ещё никакой не слышал; по странному стечению обстоятельств, на другой день моего приезда в первый раз играли в Павловске мои танцы, но афиши я увидал только вечером, когда ехать уже было поздно. Ларош был и остался ими очень доволен.

Целую тебя, милая, милая Саша, Лёву и детей тоже. Передай всем поклоны. Я часто, очень часто думаю о Каменке и её жителях.

П. Чайковский

Передай Вере Васильевне, что я исходил весь Киев, но Лёвдика не нашёл.

1 September 1865

Dear Sanya! This time my letter isn't going to be a long one. The disease of the eyes which I began to suffer from while still in Kamenka has developed further to a considerable degree. In the evenings I can neither read nor write. My eyes become covered with a kind of thick film which by the next morning turns into a purulent mass. However, everyone is assuring me unanimously that this is a mere bagatelle. One gentleman who has had the same disease recommended me precisely in this case to use the lotion made up by Dr Buyalsky [1]. I have just bought it and after writing this letter I shall start bathing my eyes with it.

The journey from Kiev to Petersburg was appalling. Modest and I almost starved to death and we almost missed the train [2]. At Petersburg we were welcomed by horrendous rain, whilst at Gatchina I witnessed an impressive storm the likes of which I had never seen before: my heart sank to my boots as the flashes of lightning kept cascading all around [3]. Lizaveta Mikhaylovna has rented a very tolerable apartment for me at a fabulously cheap price (8 silver rubles [a month]) from some kind old German lady. I moved in yesterday morning. My room is very small and very nice and clean. Certainly, after the wide expanses of the countryside my mood has been somewhat dampened by these tiny dimensions, but it is all a question of becoming accustomed to it. I have seen Aunt Liza and her children (she is very satisfied with their trip to Staraya Russa), Aunt Katya, Piccioli [4] and all my friends. Aunt Katya was very touched by your postscript to my letter [5].

Rubinstein is very satisfied with me because I managed to complete my task. He just wants me to consult some philologist regarding the [technical] terms [6]. I have still not heard any music whatsoever. By an odd coincidence, the day after I arrived my dances were played for the first time in Pavlovsk [7], but I only saw the posters in the evening, when it was too late to go. Laroche went, and was very satisfied with the whole thing.

I kiss you, dear, dear Sasha, and likewise Leva and the children. Give my regards to everyone. I think very, very often of Kamenka and its inhabitants.

P. Tchaikovsky

Tell Vera Vasilyevna that I walked all over Kiev but didn't manage to find Levdik's [8].

Notes and References

  1. Ilya Vasilyevich Buyalsky (1789-1866), distinguished Russian anatomist and surgeon; for more than thirty years he worked as a surgeon at the Marynskaya Hospital in Saint Petersburg. In February 1837 he had been summoned to tend the fatally-wounded Pushkin after his duel, but he was unable to prevent the poet's death.
  2. There was no railway connection to or from Kiev at the time, and Tchaikovsky and Modest had to travel on stage-coaches from Kamenka to the railway station nearest Saint Petersburg, which was at the city of Ostrov, in Pskov province. As Modest explains in his biography of the composer, their journey was made particularly arduous by the fact that Grand Duke Nikolay Nikolayevich (1831-1891) and his suite happened to be passing through the same route on their way to southern Russia, which meant that all the post-horses had been taken. Moreover, the grand duke's large suite had exhausted all the supplies at the inns along the route, and Tchaikovsky and his brother had nothing to eat but black bread and water for two days — see Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 181.
  3. All his life Tchaikovsky had a great fear of thunder-storms — note by Vladimir Zhdanov in П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 664.
  4. Luigi Piccioli (1812-1868) was an Italian singing-teacher who had settled in Saint Petersburg in the 1840s. As his wife was a friend of Yelizaveta Shobert, he made the acquaintance of the Tchaikovsky family and, in particular, had become friends with the future composer when the latter was sixteen. For some years Tchaikovsky had been strongly influenced in his musical tastes by Piccioli and the latter's exclusive veneration of Italian belcanto opera — see Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 116-117, and also Tchaikovsky's brief Autobiography (1889).
  5. This letter from Tchaikovsky to his maternal aunt Yekaterina Alekseyeva, written in Kamenka that summer, has not survived.
  6. Anton Rubinstein had set Tchaikovsky the task of translating François Auguste Gevaert's Handbook for Instrumentation. Tchaikovsky completed this assignment while at Kamenka that summer.
  7. On 30 August/11 September 1865 Tchaikovsky's Characteristic Dances for orchestra (presumably written in early 1865) were performed at an open-air concert in Pavlovsk, conducted by Johann Strauss II. This was the first public performance of any of Tchaikovsky's works. He would later include the Characteristic Dances in a somewhat altered form in his first opera, The Voyevoda (1867-68).
  8. Fyodor Levdik was the proprietor of the most well-known photographic studio in Kiev at the time. In Letter 70 to his sister from Kiev a week earlier, Tchaikovsky had written that he and Modest wanted to have their pictures taken by Levdik.