Letter 72

Date 8/20 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. 22–23)
Publication П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 67–68
П. И. Чайковский. Письма к близким. Избранное (1955), p. 18–19 (abridged)
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 84–85
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Letters to his family. An autobiography (1981), p. 17 (English translation; abridged).

Text and Translation

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

Милая Саня! Вот уже более недели я в Петербурге и всё ещё не успел вполне войти в колею так называемой столичной жизни. Квартира моя, сначала показавашаяся мне сносной, теперь начинает сильно не нравиться, хотя, по правде сказать, она очень хороша для своей цены; просто я ещё не свыкся с её микроскопическими размерами. Хозяйка женщина добрейшая, а кухарка уже подружилась со мной, так же как и живущие на её попечении кошки; следовательно, будущее мне улыбается. Глаз мой всё ещё не проходит, и заниматься по вечерам решительно не могу; кажется, без доктора не обойдётся, хотя при одной этой мысли меня так и пробирает мороз по коже. Обедаю я по очереди у Пиччиоли и обеих тёток, отношения которых самые холодные. Раз вместе с братьями обедал у Лизаветы Михайловны. A propos, в пылу благодарности за всевозможные оказываемые ею услуги я знаменитую банку вишен подарил ей, а не M[ada]]me Piccioli. Братья беспрестанно бывают дома, ночуют в доме Литке, а день проводят неразлучно со мною. На-днях как-то получил от Толи письмо из Училища с просьбой немедленно туда приехать, так как Языков желает со мной поговорить. Я сейчас же отправился, но Языков был болен, и я должен был отправиться к инспектору. Этот последний объявил мне, что они решили, не подвергнув Модеста экзамену, оставить в классе, главнейшим образом оттого, что ему будет трудно по молодости лет и при наклонности его к головным болезням быть в четвёртом классе; пускай лучше отдохнёт. Мне оставалось только найти это мнение довольно основательным, что я и объяснил ему. Два дни тому назад приехал сюда Коля для покупки мебели, и сегодня он угощал нас (т. е. братьев, К[олю] Шоберта и меня) обедом. Ипполита до сих пор ни разу никто из нас не видел, и завтра Коля едет к нему. Наша прошлогодняя кухарка живёт у него, и Лизавета Михайловна, которая раз туда ездила, говорит, что у них хозяйство идёт хорошо.

Время я вообще провожу покамест довольно праздно и поэтому немного скучаю; причиною моего бездействия глаза, что меня чрезвычайно бесит, хотя я и знаю, что болезнь скоропреходящая. Начинаю помышлять о будущем, т. е. о том, что мне придётся делать по окончании в декабре курса Консерватории, и всё более и более убеждаюсь, что уже мне теперь нет другой дороги, как музыка. От службы я очень отстал, да притом при имеющих совершиться преобразованиях места получать будет очень трудно. (Вне Петербурга и Москвы я жить не в состоянии.) Весьма вероятно, что уеду в Москву.

Вчера было Танюшино рождение. Милая Танюрка, как часто я об ней вспоминаю! Расцелуй её и Веру и Анюту. Лёвушку тоже. Николаю Васильевичу хорошенько поклонись.

Целую тебя.

П. Чайковский

8 September 1865

Dear Sanya! It is now over a week that I have been in Petersburg, and yet I have still not managed to settle into the groove of so-called city life. My apartment, which at first seemed tolerable to me, is now beginning to displease me very much, even though, to be honest, it is very good considering what I'm paying for it. It's simply that I still haven't become accustomed to its microscopic dimensions [1]. My landlady is a most kind woman, and the cook has already become friends with me, as have all the cats living under her care. Consequently, my future prospects look very bright. My eye has still not cleared up, and there is simply no way I can work in the evenings [2]. I think I won't be able to manage without a doctor, although the very thought of that sends shivers down my spine. I am dining by turns at the Picciolis' [3] and at the houses of both aunts, whose relations are very strained. I went with the twins to have dinner with Lizaveta Mikhaylovna once. By the way, in the ardour of my gratitude for all the favours she has been doing me, I gave her the celebrated jar of cherries rather than to Madame Piccioli. The twins are constantly at home, that is, they sleep at the Litkes' house [4], but they are otherwise inseparable from me all day long. The other day, I had a letter from Tolya, sent from the School [of Jurisprudence], in which he asked me to go there at once, since Yazykov [5] wanted to have a word with me. I headed for the School immediately, but Yazykov was ill, so I had to go and look for the inspector. The latter informed me that they had decided to keep Modest back [in the fifth form], without subjecting him to an examination, above all because, on account of his youth and his propensity to headaches, he would find it tough in the fourth form. Better for him to have some rest, the inspector said. I could not but find this opinion to be quite well-founded, and that is what I explained to him. Two days ago, Kolya arrived here to buy some furniture, and today he treated us (that is, the twins, Kolya Shobert [6], and me) to dinner. So far none of us has seen Ippolit at all, but tomorrow Kolya is going to visit him. The cook we had last year is now living with him, and Lizaveta Mikhaylovna, who has been to see him once, says that their housekeeping is going very well.

On the whole I have been spending my time rather idly so far, and that is why I am feeling a bit bored. The reason for my idleness is my eyes, and this is extremely infuriating for me, even though I know that it is an illness which will pass soon. I am starting to think about the future—that is, about what I'm going to do after completing my course at the Conservatory in December [7], and I am becoming more and more convinced that there is no other way for me now than music. I have very much lost touch with state service, and besides, as a result of the reforms which are due to take place it will become very difficult to obtain a post. (I cannot live outside of Petersburg and Moscow.) It is most likely that I shall leave for Moscow.

Yesterday it was Tanyushina's birthday. Dear Tanyurka, how often I think of her! Shower her and Vera and Anyuta with kisses. Levushka likewise. Give Nikolay Vasilyevich [8] my very warm regards.

I kiss you.

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. The Tchaikovskys no longer had a family home in Saint Petersburg. Already in the spring of that year, Ilya Tchaikovsky, who had retired from state service but who had many debts to pay, had decided to leave the expensive imperial capital and to go and live for a year with his eldest daughter, Zinayda, in the Urals. At the same time he also formalized his union with Yelizaveta Lipport by marrying her. She, however, stayed behind in Saint Petersburg with some relatives of hers — note based on Vladimir Zhdanov's note in П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 664, and supplemented by reference to Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 117.
  2. As he had already informed his sister in Letter 71 a week earlier, Tchaikovsky was suffering from a disease of the eyes.
  3. 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 Tchaikovsky's brief Autobiography (1889). Even after he had become more independent in his musical views Tchaikovsky still liked to visit the Picciolis' house where he also had a chance to practice his Italian.
  4. i.e. at the house of their cousin Amaliya Litke.
  5. Major General Aleksandr Petrovich Yazykov (1802-1878) was the director of the Imperial School of Jurisprudence. For more details on his career and the disciplinarian regime which he tried to introduce into the school, see Tchaikovsky. The quest for the inner man (1993), chapter 2.
  6. Nikolay ("Kolya") Shobert (d. 1870), a nephew of Vasily Shobert (the husband of Tchaikovsky's maternal aunt Yelizaveta Shobert).
  7. On 29 December 1865/10 January 1866 Tchaikovsky's cantata Ode to Joy would be performed as his graduation piece during a public examination at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory.
  8. Nikolay Vasilyevich Davydov (1826-1916), the elder brother of Lev Davydov. A retired army officer, he was the owner of Kamenka but he had handed over the management of the estate to his more practically minded younger brother in 1860. Nikolay had stayed on in Kamenka, devoting himself to his various hobbies (principally the reading of books on politics, history, and philosophy) — see Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 178.