Letter 8

Tchaikovsky Research
Date 2/14 May 1850
Addressed to Fanny Dürbach
Where written Alapayevsk
Language French
Autograph Location unknown
Publication Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1900), p. 56–57
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 11 (French text, and Russian translation, p. 12)
Из семейных воспоминаний (1995), p. 48 (Russian translation)
Notes Manuscript copy in: Klin (Russia): Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve

Text and Translation

Based on a manuscript copy in the Klin House-Museum Archive made by Modest Tchaikovsky, which may contain differences in formatting and content from Tchaikovsky's original letter. Spelling and punctuation errors in the French text have not been indicated.

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
2 Mai 1850

Chère et bonne M[ademois]elle Fanny!

C'est avec une grande joie que j'ai appris la nouvelle que Vous avez un élève si bon et si diligent. Je crois que vous êtes contente de lui parceque une docilité comme celle de votre élève peut contenter une gouvernante dans chaque temps et la consoler dans la douleur. Je veux aussi vous apprendre, ma chère M[ademois]elle Fanny, une nouvelle qui peut etre vous rejouira un peu; c'est la naissance de mes frères qui sont jume a ux (la nuit du premier Mai).

Je les ai déjà vus plusieurs fois; mais chaque fois que je les vois je crois que ce sont des Anges qui ont descendu sur la terre. Vous me demandez, chère M[ademois]elle Fanny qu'est ce que j'apprends: je vous citerai les sciences dont ma chère gouvernante m'enseigne: la grammaire Française, russe et allemande. La geographie, l'histoire universelle, aussi l'histoire sainte et l'Arithmetique; je traduis, j'analyse en français, en russe et en allemand et bien souvent la conjugaison.

«Le Voyage autour du monde» et «1-ier 'histoire d'Ermac» sont mes lectures. Le 1'ier ma gouvernante m'a fait cadeau, le second M[ada]me Lubarsky pour le souvenir de notre examen, quand il était pendant les fêtes de Noël.

Sachinka et Polinka vous saluent et vous baisent bien tendrement. Caroline vous présente ses respects.

Adieu ma bien bonne et bienaimée M[ademois]elle Fanny; je vous souhaite tout le bonheur possibles.

Votre reconnaissant éleve,


2 May 1850

Dear and good Mademoiselle Fanny!

It is with great joy that I learnt the news that you have a pupil who is so good and hard-working [1]. I think that you must be satisfied with him, because such good behaviour as that of your pupil can satisfy a governess at all times and console her in her grief. I, too, want to tell you some news, my dear Mademoiselle Fanny, that perhaps will gladden you a little — namely, the birth of my twin brothers (on the night of the first of May).

I have already seen them several times, but each time that I see them it seems to me that they are Angels who have descended on earth. You ask me, dear Mademoiselle Fanny, what it is that I am studying. I shall list for you the subjects which my dear governess [2] is teaching me: French, Russian, and German grammar, geography, universal history, and also sacred history and arithmetic. I translate and analyse texts in French, Russian, and German, and quite often I conjugate verbs.

"Le voyage autour du monde" [3] and the story of Ermak [4] are the books I am reading. The first was given to me as a present by my governess, the second was given to me by Mrs Lyubarskaya as a souvenir of our exam, which took place during the Christmas holidays.

Sashinka and Polinka send you their greetings and kiss you very affectionately. Caroline [5] sends you her compliments.

Goodbye, my very kind and much-loved Mademoiselle Fanny. I wish you every possible happiness.

Your grateful pupil,


Notes and References

  1. Fanny Dürbach was then working as a governess in Sarapul, a small city in the Western Urals area, some 70 km to the south of Votkinsk. Alapayevsk, where the Tchaikovsky family was living at the time, was in the Eastern Urals area.
  2. Pyotr's new governess was Anastasya Petrovna Petrova (1824–1893).
  3. The famous travel book by the French explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville (1729-1811).
  4. Ermak was a famous Cossack who led the Russian colonization of Siberia in the sixteenth century. There exist many historical accounts and literary works celebrating his exploits.
  5. Caroline (or in Russian spelling, "Karolina") was the nanny in charge of the composer's younger siblings Aleksandra and Ippolit.