Letter 39

Tchaikovsky Research
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Date 11/23 November 1851
Addressed to Aleksandra Tchaikovskaya and Ilya Tchaikovsky
Where written Saint Petersburg
Language French
Autograph Location Saint Petersburg (Russia): National Library of Russia (ф. 834, ед. хр. 33, л. 55–56)
Publication П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 35–36
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 40–41

Text and Translation

Spelling and punctuation errors in the original text have not been indicated

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
Le 11 Novembre l'an 1851
S[ain]t Petersbourg

Mes anges et mes bons Papa et Maman!

Je dois vous dire: mais ne vous chagrinez pas que ce dimanche je suis puni pour les trois mauvaises notes que j'ai reçu pendant la semaine. J'éspére et j'ose mème vous dire et vous promettre que cela n'arrivera plus jamais. Au moi décembre quand vous reviendrez denouvau alors jamais, jamais, vous n'entendrez pas des mots de M[onsieur] Berrard dire qu'il est mécontent de moi. Mais aprésent M[onsieur] Berrard trouve que je me suis changé; si c'est come ça alors je tâcherai de tout mon possible de se corriger. Mais peut étre vous écrira-t-il quelque chose de moi; alors vous saurez tout. Mais j'aime toujour M[onsieur] Berard comme un Ange. Après vous il est aussi mon père; et comme s'est déja sur que nous perdrons M[onsieur] Berrard ici à l'école et comme nous aurons un nouvel protecteur jamais je ne l'aimerai comme M[onsieur] Berrard. Mais M[onsieur] Berrard que je suis un peu faux voici danquels accidents. Une fois je jouais du piano lorsque quelques éléves passèrent par la sale ou je jouis. Je jouais une polca et plusieurs commencérent à danser. Aprés eux survinrent des autres et firent le méme. M[onsieur] Berrard qui se trouvait enbas entendit un bruit qui se faisait audessu de lui. Il se dépéche d'aller l'arréter. Comme mes camarades entendirent que la porte s'ouvre, ils courrurent à l'instant. Je restai seul et M[onsieur] Berrard me demanda qui étaient les danseurs. Il y en avait tant que dans mon embarras je les oubliai. Alors l'éléve qui était alors de service survint et lui raconta ceux qui dansaient. Mais Berrard me regarda alors avec mécontentement et me dit que c'était de la fausseté. Je n'ai pas besoin de vous raconter les autres détails parceque quand vous viendrez ici à St. Petersbourg vous saurez tout. J'attend cette semaine ou vous arriverez ici.

Je baise mille fois vos mains et je baise aussi tout le monde.

Je prie votre bénédiction.

P. Tschaikovsky

11th of November 1851
Saint Petersburg

My angels, my kind Papa and Mama!

I have to tell you — but don't be upset — that this Sunday I have been punished for the three poor grades which I received in the course of the week. I hope, and I even venture to tell you and to promise you that this will never happen again. In December, when you return here, you will never, never again hear Mr Bérard [1] say that he is dissatisfied with me. However, at present Mr Bérard considers that I have changed — if that is the case, then I shall do my best to try to correct myself. But perhaps he himself will write to you something about me: then you will know everything. However, I still love Mr Bérard like an Angel. After you, he is also my father; and since it is already certain that we shall lose Mr Bérard here at the school and that we shall have a new master, I shall never love the latter as I love Mr Bérard. However, Mr Bérard [considers] that I was a bit false in the following events. I was playing the piano once, and some pupils happened then to walk past the hall where I was playing. I played a polka and several of them started dancing. After them others came and did the same. Mr Bérard, who was downstairs, heard the noise which was going on above him. He rushed upstairs to put an end to it. When my comrades heard the door opening they ran off instantly. I alone remained there, and Mr Bérard asked me who the dancers had been. There were so many of them that in my embarrassment I forgot who they were. Then the pupil who was on duty at the time turned up and told him who had been dancing. But Bérard then gave me a dissatisfied look and told me that I had acted falsely [2]. There is no need for me to tell you the other details, because when you come here to Saint Petersburg, you will find out everything. I am awaiting the week when you will arrive here [3].

I kiss your hands a thousand times and also kiss everyone else.

I ask for your blessing.

P. Tchaikovsky

Notes and References

  1. Joseph Bérard (known in Russia as Iosif Iosifovich Berar; 1800-1883) taught literature and French at the School of Jurisprudence, including in the preparatory class which Pyotr was attending at the time. He was the latter's favourite teacher. See Пётр Чайковский. Биография, том I (2009), p. 46.
  2. Modest Tchaikovsky, in his biography of the composer, observed after citing this paragraph: "One can only wish that people lied more often in this way, because to anyone who is acquainted with school-life it should be obvious that the pupil in the given case simply didn't want to betray his classmates". See Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 1 (1997), p. 67.
  3. During his visit to Saint Petersburg in September 1851, Ilya Tchaikovsky seems to have explained to Pyotr and his brother Nikolay, who were both attending boarding-schools in the Imperial capital, that the whole family would be moving from Alapayevsk to Saint Petersburg the following spring, and that prior to that he (and possibly their mother too) would visit Pyotr and Nikolay again around Christmas or in January. Ilya did not in fact come to Saint Petersburg in January, but in early/mid-May 1852 he did finally make the move to the capital with his family.