Letter 15

Date 1/13 February 1851
Addressed to Aleksandra Tchaikovskaya
Where written Saint Petersburg
Language French
Autograph Location Saint Petersburg (Russia): National Library of Russia (ф. 834, ед. хр. 33, л. 13–14)
Publication П. И. Чайковский. Письма к родным (1940), p. 17–18
П. И. Чайковский. Полное собрание сочинений, том V (1959), p. 20–21.

Text and Translation

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

French text
English translation
By Luis Sundkvist
1 Février 1851

Chére Maman!

Je vous écris à vous seule, car je crois bien que Papa est déjà en voyage pour Pétersbourg. Je suis sûr qu'il viendra, quoique j'aie lu dans sa dernière lettre que peut-être il viendra en été. Non, je ne veux pas croire á cela, il ne laissera pas tomber toutes mes éspérances, j'attends oui, j'attends avec grande impatience son arrivée, et je prie chaque jour pour lui Dieu qu'il veille sur lui pendant tout son voyage. Et pour vous, je prie aussi de ne pas vous envoyer aucune maladie.

Je vous attends, ma chère maman, pour l'été, ou pour l'autômne ou pour l'hiver, et même pour l'année prochaine.

Je me porte très bien et Nicolas aussi. Monsieur Vacar est très bon. Mais une bonté d'ange qui m'étonne beaucoup, c'est celle de Monsieur Bérar.

Aujourd'hui nous avions le résultât, je suis resté sur ma place; je suis le troisième.

Pour la conduite j'en ai reçu 10, car comme chez nous on inscrit pour les polissoneries; je n'était pas inscrit une fois et on m'a ajouté une balle pour la conduite; si ce mois je ne ferai point de polissonerie, je recevrai 11, et l'autre mois non plus je recevrai 12.

Chère et bonne maman! j'ai pour vous une prière. Envoyez moi des livres c'est-à-dire L'éducation maternelle, puis mes petits musiciens, et Ermack que je n'ai pas finis de lire.

Baisez pour moi toutes mes soeurs et frères et cousines, Tante Lyse, M-elle Anastasie Petroff et surtout ma bonne cousine sesstriza; dites-lui que je ne mange plus de miel, personne ne m'en donne, et je n'ai plus de si bonne cousine.

Adieu, chère Maman, vous, mon ange consolateur, en un mot ma charmante maman.

Votre fils dèvoué, qui vous aime et vous adore

Pierre Tschaikovsky

Quand vous écrivez à M[ademois]elle Fanny et à ma tante Надежда Тимофеевна?

1 February 1851

Dear Mama!

I am writing to you alone, because I really do think that Papa is already on his way to Petersburg. I am certain that he will come, even though I read in his last letter that he might perhaps be coming in the summer. No, I do not want to believe that; he will not allow all my hopes to be dashed. I am expecting, yes, I am expecting his arrival with great impatience, and every day I pray to God for him, asking that He may watch over him during all his journey. And for you too I pray that He may not send you any illness.

I am waiting for you to come, my dear mama, in the summer, or in the autumn, or in the winter, or even next year.

I am very well, and so is Nikolay. Mr Vakar [1] is very kind. But an angelic goodness which surprises me very much, is that of M[onsieur] Bérard [2].

Today we received our grades. I have retained my place: I am the third best pupil.

I received 10 for conduct, because, as at home, here too we are taken down for any pranks. I wasn't taken down a single time and I got an extra mark for conduct. If this month I don't get up to any pranks, I shall receive 11, and if in the next month I don't get up to any either, I shall receive 12.

Dear and kind mama! I have a favour to ask of you. Send me some books, that is to say, L'éducation maternelle [3], then my petits musiciens [4], and Ermak [5], which I haven't finished reading yet.

Kiss for me all my sisters and brothers and cousins, Aunt Liza, Mlle Anastasiya Petrova [6], and above all my kind cousin Sestritsa [7]: tell her that I don't eat honey any more — nobody gives me any — and I don't have my so kind cousin any more.

Goodbye, dear Mama, you, my angel comforter — in a word, my enchanting Mama.

Your devoted son who loves you and adores you.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky

When are you going to write to Mademoiselle Fanny and to my aunt Nadezhda Timofeyevna?[8]

Notes and References

  1. Modest Alekseyevich Vakar was a friend of Ilya Tchaikovsky's who had agreed to act as the guardian of young Pyotr after his enrolment in the Imperial School of Jurisprudence in Saint Petersburg in September 1850. Although the latter was a boarding-school Pyotr was allowed to stay at the Vakars' house on Sundays and on other holidays. Pyotr's brother Nikolay, two years his senior, was also in Saint Petersburg as a boarder at the Mining College. The two brothers would meet on Sundays at the Vakars' house.
  2. 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 where Pyotr was at the time, and he would eventually become the latter's favourite teacher. See Пётр Чайковский. Биография, том I (2009), p. 46.
  3. A textbook by the French writer and poetess Amable Tastu (1798-1885): Education maternelle, simples leçons d'une mère à ses enfants (Paris, 1835) — reference provided in П. И. Чайковский. Избранные письма (2002), p. 348.
  4. Les petits musiciens (Paris, several editions), a book for children by the French writer Eugénie Foa (1796-1853), who wrote many such books for young readers — reference provided in П. И. Чайковский. Избранные письма (2002), p. 348.
  5. Ermak was a famous Cossack who led the Russian colonization of Siberia in the sixteenth century. In the 1830s-40s several books about his exploits had been published, but it is not clear which one of them Tchaikovsky was reading — note in П. И. Чайковский. Избранные письма (2002), p. 348.
  6. Anastasiya Petrovna Petrova (1824–1893) had joined the Tchaikovsky family in Alapayevsk on 24 November/6 December 1849 as a governess, specifically with the task of preparing Pyotr for the School of Jurisprudence in Saint Petersburg. After spending some three years with the Tchaikovskys she worked as a governess in various other families, but returned to her first employer in 1859, when she took charge of the twins, Anatoly and Modest.
  7. 'Sestritsa', or 'little sister', was the affectionate name for Tchaikovsky's cousin, Anastasiya Vasilyevna Popova (1807–1894), the daughter of Ilya Tchaikovsky's older sister Yevdokiya Popova.
  8. Nadezhda Timofeyevna Valtseva (d. 1851), the composer's godmother; she was an elderly relative of his mother Aleksandra. The icon of the Mother of God of Kazan which she bequeathed to him hangs to this day in the composer's bedroom at the Tchaikovsky House-Museum in Klin.