Letter 73

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Date early/mid October 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. 24–25)
Publication П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 68–69
П. И. Чайковский. Письма к близким. Избранное (1955), p. 19 (abridged)
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 85–86
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Letters to his family. An autobiography (1981), p. 17–18 (English translation).

Text and Translation

Russian text
(original)
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Милая моя Саша! Напишу тебе вкратце всё, что со мною произошло с тех пор, как я тебе не писал. Во-первых, болезнь глаз хотя и не идёт crescendo, но и к выздоровлению не очень близко, всё оттого, что никак не могу собраться к какому-нибудь доктору; впрочем, в понедельник решил непременно итти к Блессичу. Квартира моя была мне до того противна, что я решился переехать к тёте Лизе, у которой нанял весьма порядочную и дешёвую комнату, к сожалению, весьма далеко от Консерватории. Впрочем это для меня в настоящее время полезно, ибо, как тебе не безызвестно, я подвержен геморрою. Братья будут спать у меня, по крайней мере, тётя Лиза обещалась так устроить. О приезде ваших в четверг и воскресенье тебе уже известно, и это письмо я тебе пишу у них, сидя у Алёши в комнате перед обедом. Занимаюсь я теперь гораздо менее прошлого года, по причине глаз, которые вечером отказываются смотреть на ноты, буквы и тому подобную работу. По будням обедаю всего чаще у Пиччиоли, также у тёти Кати, тёти Лизы и у Лизаветы Михайловны, которая продолжает быть с нами внимательной и услужливой до невероятной степени; я не знаю, что бы я без неё делал: она возится с моим бельём, зашивает шинели и пальто, перетаскивает меня с одной квартиры на другую, посещает братьев и т. д. Модест, бедный, был недавно на целое воскресенье наказан, и очень несправедливо. Анатолий начал брать уроки на скрипке, и мне ужасно совестно, милая Саша, что это причиняет тебе излишний расход. Я заставлю их обоих написать тебе из Училища.

Насчёт того, что ты мне писала о воспоминаниях, оставленных в Каменке, я отказываюсь верить, это не лезет мне в голову, и если б было справедливо, т. е. серьёзно, то действовало бы на меня очень неприятным образом.

Вообще же, несмотря на некоторые невзгоды, расположение духа у меня довольно розовое, кажется, оттого собственно, что снедающее меня самолюбие (это мой главнейший недостаток) в последнее время было польщено несколькими музыкальными успехами и впереди я предвижу другие.

Целую тебя, Саша, очень крепко, а также милого Лёвушку и детей.

П. Чайковский
My dear Sasha! I shall give you a brief summary of everything that has happened to me since I wrote to you last. First of all, although the disease of my eyes is not going in crescendo, still I am quite a long way yet from a full recovery, and this is all because I just cannot bring myself to go and see a doctor. However, I have decided that on Monday I shall without fail go and see Blessich [1]. I found my apartment so detestable that I finally decided to move to Aunt Liza's place, where I have rented a very decent and cheap room, though it is unfortunately also very far from the Conservatory [2]. Still, at the present moment that is beneficial for me, because, as you know, I suffer from haemorrhoids. The twins are going to sleep at my place; at least Aunt Liza has promised to arrange that. As you are already aware, your folks [3] arrived here on Thursday and Sunday, and I am in fact writing this letter to you from their place (I'm sitting in Alyosha's [4] room, waiting for dinner). I am now working far less than was the case last year on account of my eyes, which in the evenings refuse to look at notes, letters, and other such work. On weekdays I dine most often at the Picciolis' [5], as well as at Aunt Katya's, Aunt Liza's, and at Lizaveta Mikhaylovna's, who continues to be incredibly attentive and obliging towards us [6]. I don't know what I would do without her: she takes care of my linen, mends my greatcoats and overcoats, drags me from one set of lodgings to another, visits the twins etc. Modest, poor fellow, was recently punished with detention lasting a whole Sunday, and very unfairly too. Anatoly has started having violin lessons, and I feel terribly ashamed, dear Sasha, because this is causing you additional expenses. I shall get both of them to write to you from the School.

With regard to what you wrote to me about the memories left behind at Kamenka, I refuse to believe this—I just can't get it into my head—and if it were true, that is, something serious, then this would have a very unpleasant effect on me [7].

In general, though, despite certain adversities, my mood is quite rosy—I think this is actually because the pride which is consuming me (this is my principal defect) has lately been flattered by some musical successes, and I can foresee other such successes in the near future [8].

I kiss you very warmly, Sasha, and likewise dear Levushka and the children.

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. Tchaikovsky was suffering from a disease of the eyes which had apparently started while he was still at Kamenka that summer, and which made it difficult for him to read in the evenings. See Letter 71 to his sister  [back]
  2. Shortly after his arrival in Saint Petersburg from Kamenka in early/mid September 1865 Tchaikovsky began renting an apartment in Prince Aleksey Golitsyn’s House on the Moika River Embankment. His landlady was a kind elderly German woman (see Letter 71), but he was very unhappy with the small size of the room. After about a month, therefore, he moved into one of the furnished rooms in the boarding house opened a few years earlier by his aunt Yelizaveta Shobert on 11 Panteleymonovskaya Street. Addresses provided in Modest Tchaikovsky, Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 182  [back]
  3. i.e. Aleksandra's in-laws, the Davydovs. Among those members of the Davydov family who were now living in Saint Petersburg (though they still spent the summer months at Kamenka) were Aleksandra Ivanova Davydova (née Potapova; 1802-1895), her daughters Yelizaveta (1823-1904), Aleksandra (1827-1917), Sofya (1832-1903), and Vera (1843-1923), and her son Aleksey (1846-1909). Tchaikovsky got on very well with the whole family  [back]
  4. Aleksey Vasilyevich Davydov (1846-1909), the younger brother of Lev Davydov  [back]
  5. 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 Modest Tchaikovsky, 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  [back]
  6. For financial reasons, the recently retired Ilya Tchaikovsky had decided to leave Saint Petersburg in the spring of 1865 and went to live with his eldest daughter Zinayda in the Urals for a year. Shortly before leaving the capital he had married for a third time, to Yelizaveta Mikhaylovna Aleksandrova (née Lipport), herself a widow. Yelizaveta stayed behind in Saint Petersburg with some relatives, and, as the above letter shows, she was a very good stepmother to the composer and his younger brothers Anatoly and Modest, who were attending the School of Jurisprudence  [back]
  7. This refers to the romantic feelings which Aleksandra's sister-in-law, Vera Davydova, had conceived for Tchaikovsky over the last two years, and which she had evidently now confided to Aleksandra. Although he did not requite her feelings beyond the extent of friendship (though one that was based on a shared love of music), Vera's infatuation with Tchaikovsky continued even after her marriage, in 1871, to a much older man, Vice-Admiral Ivan Butakov (1822-1882). See Alexander Poznansky, Tchaikovsky. The quest for the inner man (1993), p. 102-105, 435  [back]
  8. By the time of writing this letter Tchaikovsky had composed a String Quartet in B-flat major, which would receive its first performance at a musical soiree for students at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory on 30 October/11 November 1865, and also an Overture in F major, which would be performed for the first time by a conservatory orchestra conducted by Tchaikovsky himself, in a concert on 27 November/9 December 1865 in the hall of the Mikhaylovsky Palace in Saint Petersburg. Of the quartet, only one movement has survived (an Allegro), and the overture would soon afterwards be reworked by Tchaikovsky for large symphony orchestra — note by Vladimir Zhdanov in П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 664  [back]