Letter 75

Date 22 October/3 November 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. 26–27)
Publication П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 69–70
П. И. Чайковский. Письма к близким. Избранное (1955), p. 20 (abridged)
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 87–88
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Letters to his family. An autobiography (1981), p. 18–19 (English translation; abridged).

Text and Translation

Russian text
(original)
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
С[анкт]-Петербург
22 октября

Милая Саня! Письмо твоё я получил уже недели две тому назад и так долго не отвечал по свойственной мне лени. Живу я теперь у тёти Лизы и до того недоволен, что к 1 ноябрю непременно перееду. Во-первых, сырость невообразимая, и с тех пор, как я переехал, я постоянно чувствую себя нехорошо: то болят зубы, то руки и ноги, кашель постоянный и т. д. Во-вторых, далеко от всех центров, от Консерватории и т. д.; в-третьих, покоя нет ни малейшего, постоянный шум, звонки, раздающиеся у моей комнаты, и т. п. Вдобавок ко всему, я даже не могу перевезти рояль из опасения совершенно его испортить сыростью. Между тем занятия мои делаются очень серьёзны. К окончанию консерваторского курса мне задано большое сочинение, которое потребует тишины, покоя и инструмента.

У Давыдовых постоянно кто-нибудь болен; бедная Вера Васильевна с самого приезда возится с зубами. Я бываю у них довольно часто, и сегодня с Толей и Модей (которые отпущены по случаю Казанской Божьей Матери) будем у них обедать. Вообще жизнь их в последнее время приняла несколько мрачный колорит по причине постоянной болезни Веры и Лизаветы Васильевны. Уроки пения она решила не брать, и я боюсь, что это скверно подействует на бодрость её духа. Оно и в самом деле грустно: переехать в Петербург специально для того, чтобы заниматься музыкою, и видеть все свои планы и мечты мало-по-малу разрушающимися. Очень смеялся я над твоею рассеянностью, весьма родственною моей; легко воображаю я удивление Папаши, когда он получит письмо, в котором ты называешь его мопкой. Очень часто думаю я о Вас, милые мои, и смущаюсь при мысли о том, что Вы скучаете и порываетесь к чему-нибудь другому, когда крылья Вам обрезали и нельзя полететь, куда хочется. Напиши мне, Саша, каково расположение духа Лёвы, Николая Васильевича и твоё. Разнообразит ли Вашу жизнь хоть сколько-нибудь приезжая швейцарка? Дорого бы я дал, чтобы услышать французскую болтовню Тани и Веры. Напиши мне также что-нибудь про Анюту. Скажу тебе по секрету, что сын Амальи мне совсем не нравится и в сравнении с Анютой никуда не годится; всего неприятнее то, что на голове нет ни одного волоса, и хотя он невероятно толст, а это отсутствие волос придаёт ему всё-таки вид какой-то неотделанности. Тебе велела передать кучу нежностей тётя Катя, у которой я очень часто бываю и, когда хочу хорошенько заняться, провожу целый день с утра. Она всё так же выздоравливает и заболевает десять раз в сутки.

Расцелуй Лёву и детей. Николаю Васильевичу самый горячий поклон.

П. Чайковский

А тебя-то и позабыл наикрепчайшим образом расцеловать.


Dear Sanya! I received your letter some two weeks ago in fact, and it has taken me so long to answer because of my characteristic laziness. I am now living at Aunt Liza's and am so dissatisfied [with my lodgings] that I am going to move out again by 1 November without fail [1]. In the first place, the level of humidity is unbelievably high, and ever since I moved in I have been constantly feeling unwell: now my teeth have been aching, now my arms and legs; I have a chronic cough etc. Secondly, it is quite far from all the urban centres, from the Conservatory etc. Thirdly, it is impossible to enjoy the least bit of quiet, as there is a constant din: the door-bell is right next to my room and I hear it ring all the time, etc. Moreover, I cannot even have my piano brought here, as I am afraid of ruining it completely with the humidity. And all this when my work is entering a very serious phase. In order to finish my conservatory course I have been set a large composition, for which I require quiet, peace, and access to an instrument [2].

Over at the Davydovs' someone or other is constantly ill [3]. Poor Vera Vasilyevna has been having trouble with her teeth ever since they arrived. I visit them quite often, and today in fact I am going to have dinner at their place together with Tolya and Modya (who have been given a day off school on the feast of Our Lady of Kazan [4]). In general, the atmosphere at the Davydovs' has of late been somewhat clouded by the constant ailments of Vera and Lizaveta Vasilyevna [5]. She has decided not to have any singing lessons, and I fear this may have a dispiriting effect on her. I mean, it really is sad: having moved to Petersburg specifically to be able to study music, she is now seeing all her plans and dreams fall apart little by little. I laughed a lot at your absentmindedness, which is very much akin to mine — I can easily imagine Papasha's astonishment when he receives the letter in which you called him "mopka". I think about you very often, my dear ones, and I am troubled by the thought that you are feeling depressed and striving for something else when your wings have been clipped and you cannot fly where you would like to. Write to me, Sasha, and tell me what your mood is like, and also that of Leva and Nikolay Vasilyevich [6]. Does the newly-arrived Swiss governess at least brighten up your life a little? I would pay dearly to hear Tanya and Vera prattle in French! Write to me something about Anyuta too. I shall tell you in confidence that I don't like Amaliya's son at all, and that he absolutely cannot stand comparison with Anyuta. The most disagreeable thing about him is that he doesn't have a single hair on his head, and though he is unbelievably fat, still this absence of hair does make him look somehow incomplete. Aunt Katya has asked me to send you heaps of love — I visit her very often, and when I want to work well I go there early in the morning and spend the whole day there. She still has that habit of falling ill and recovering ten times a day.

Shower Lev and the children with kisses. Give my most fiery regards to Nikolay Vasilyevich.

P. Tchaikovsky

I say, I'd quite forgotten to shower you with the very warmest kisses.

Notes and References

  1. Tchaikovsky was then living in one of the furnished rooms at the boarding house opened a few years earlier by his aunt Yelizaveta Shobert on 11 Panteleimonovskaya Street — address provided in Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 182.
  2. On 12/24 October 1865, the Professors' Council at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory had determined that, in order to complete his course, Tchaikovsky should be set the task of writing a cantata for chorus and orchestra on the text of Schiller's Ode to Joy. Tchaikovsky duly worked on his cantata Ode to Joy during November and the first half of December, completing it in time for the public examination at the Conservatory on 29 December 1865/10 January 1866, at which the cantata was performed for the first time.
  3. Several members of the Davydov family were now living in Saint Petersburg (though they still spent the summer months at Kamenka). These included 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 generally got on very well with his in-laws.
  4. In pre-revolutionary Russia 22 October [O.S.] was a public holiday known as the Autumn Feast-day for Our Lady of Kazan and commemorated the liberation of Moscow from the Poles in 1612, during which the icon of Our Lady of Kazan was invoked by the Russian troops. The same event is now celebrated in Russia as a public holiday called National Unity Day (4 November [O.S.]).
  5. Yelizaveta Vasilyevna Davydova (1823-1904), elder sister of Lev Davydov.
  6. Nikolay Vasilyevich Davydov (1826-1916), 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.