|Date||22 August/3 September 1856|
|Addressed to||Fanny Dürbach|
|Where written||Saint Petersburg|
|Publication|| (1959), p. 56–57 (French text with Russian translation, p. 57–58)|
(1995), p. 60 (abridged Russian translation)
|Notes||Manuscript copy in: Klin (Russia): Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve|
Text and Translation
By Luis Sundkvist
22 VIII 1856
Reconnaîtrez vous l'écriture d'un jeune homme de 16 ans qui, lorsque Vous l'avez quitté n'en avait que 8. Oui! sans doute, car l'écriture est toujours si mauvaise qu'autre fois — mais le petit garçon est devenu grand jeune homme, si grand, que, si par hasard Vous le rencontriez Vous ne le reconnaîtrez pas. Et le jeune homme setrès bien de Vous, et la preuve est cette lettre que Vous lisez.
Bien, bien de choses se sont passés depuis que nous nous sommes séparés; je Vous raconterez tout sansdétails. Vous savez bien que Papa avait reçu une place dans l'Oural, ou il a passé près de trois ans; moi, je n'y ai été qu'un an, après quoi, Maman est venu me placer en pension pour me préparer pour des Droits. J'ai été deux ans dans cette pension, après quoi toute notre famille quittait l'Oural, pour ne plus y retourner. Vous ne pouvez pas Vous imaginer quel changement j'ai trouvé dans tous mes frères et sœurs. C'était difficile à reconnaître Lydie, tellement elle avait grandi et embelli; en un étrange contraste s'est dans toute sa personne. Rappelez Vous de cette capricieuse Lydie d'autrefois — et bien, lorsque je la revis après deux ans de séparation elle était une grande, belle et charmante personne. Maman apporta aussi avec elle deux petits jumeaux, qui sont des grands garçons de six ans. Un an et demi après leur arrivée, Zina une jeune homme nommé Olhovsky dont elle soupirait pendant 4 ans; maintenant elle est mère de deux enfants qui tout deux sont nés en où elle demeure avec son mari.
Enfin il faut que je Vous conte un horrible malheur qui nous est arrivé il y a 2 ans et demi. 4 moisle départ de Zina, Maman tomba tout à coup malade du choléra et, quoique elle était dangereusement malade grâce aux redoublés des elle retrouva la santé, mais ce n'était pas pour longtemps, car trois ou quatre jours de convalescence elle mourut sans avoir eu le temps de dire adieu à tous ceux qui l'entouraient. Quoi qu'elle n'avait pas la force distinctement une parole — on comprit cependant qu'elle voulait absolument se communier, et le prêtre avec le saint Sacrements à temps, car après s'être communiée elle rendit son âme à Dieu. Le jour de l'enterrement de Maman Papa à son tour tomba malade de choléra de sorte qu'on attendait sa mort de minute en minute — mais grâce a Dieu dans une semaine il reprit la santé. Papa plaça Sacha au couvent de Smolnoï d'où elle est sortie il y a un mois et quoique elle n'a que 14 ans elle est un entièrement formée. Lydie à le colonel Olhovsky, du mari de Zina, un homme admirable et qui l'adore, elle à une délicieuse petite fille. Lydie elle est une admirable personne et moralement parlant. Nicolas est un énorme jeune homme de 18 ans; Hyppolite est placé dans le corps de Marine et il apprend bien. Papa se porte bien, il n'a pas du tout — il Vous salue et Vous prie de ne pas nous oublier. Sacha Vous embrasse. Nous avec notre oncle, frère ainé de Papa; mes cousines sont des admirables personnes. moi, au plus vite possible une grande lettre, je l'attendrai avec impatience.
Votre affectueux et,
Mon adresse: à Monsieur le général Tchaikovsky, S[aint] Pétérsbourg, Wassili ostrow, I-ière ligne maison Osterlov. Pour remettre à P. T. étudiant de l'écoledes Droits.
22 VIII 1856
Will you be able to recognize the handwriting of a young man of 16 who was no more than 8 years old when you left him? Yes! Without any doubt, for the handwriting is as bad as it was then, but the little boy has become a big young man (so big in fact that if you were to meet him by chance, you would not recognize him). And this young man remembers you very well, the proof of which being the letter you are now reading.
Many, many things have happened since we were separated. I shall tell you about everything without going into details. As you know, Papa received a post in the Urals, where he spent nearly three years. I was there just for a year, after which Mama took me here to put me in a boarding-school where I was to be prepared for the School of Jurisprudence. I spent two years in that boarding-school, after which our whole family left the Urals, never to go back there again. You cannot imagine how changed I found all my brothers and sisters. It was difficult to recognize Lidiya, so much had she grown and so beautiful had she become. In general, a strange contrast had taken place in her whole being. Do you remember how capricious Lidiya was back then? Well, when I saw her again after two years of separation she was a tall, beautiful, and charming person. Mama also brought with her two little twins, who at the moment are two big 6-year-old boys . A year and a half after their arrival [in Saint Petersburg], Zina married a young man called Olkhovsky, for whom she had been languishing for four years. She is now the mother of two children both of whom were born in Siberia, as that is where she lives with her husband .
Finally, I must tell you of a terrible misfortune which happened to us two and a half years ago. Four months after Zina's departure, Mama suddenly fell ill with cholera, and, although she was gravely ill, she recovered thanks to the doctors' redoubled efforts. This was not for long, though, because after three or four days of convalescence she died without having had time to say farewell to all those around her . Although she did not have the strength to articulate distinctively a single word, we understood that she wanted to receive communion at all costs, and the priest arrived just in time with the Holy Sacrament, because after having taken communion she gave up her soul to God. On the day that Mama was buried, Papa himself fell ill with cholera so that his death was expected at any moment, but, thanks be to God, within a week he had recovered. Papa sent Sasha to the Smolnyi Convent , which she left a month ago, and, even though she is just 14 she is now a fully-fledged young lady. Lidiya has married Colonel Olkhovsky, the brother of Zina's husband, an admirable man who adores her . She already has a delightful little daughter. Lidiya herself is an admirable person, in terms of her appearance and her character. Nikolay is a huge young man of 18. Ippolit has been enrolled in the Naval Corps, and he is doing well in his studies. Papa is in good health; he hasn't aged at all. He sends you greetings and asks you not to forget us. Sasha embraces you. We are at present living with our uncle, Papa's elder brother. My cousins are wonderful . Do write me a big letter as soon as possible — I shall be awaiting it impatiently.
Your affectionate and devoted,
Notes and References
- Tchaikovsky had last seen his beloved governess in September 1848. When his father decided to move to Moscow with the whole family, Fanny Dürbach stayed on at Votkinsk, finding employment with another family. She did not stay with the Tchaikovskys because the older children (Nikolay, Pyotr, and their cousin Lidiya) were going to be placed in boarding-schools and no longer needed a governess, while Aleksandra and Ippolit were still too young to benefit from her teaching.
- Ilya Tchaikovsky was appointed manager of the ironworks at Alapayevsk, in the Urals, in early 1849, and the whole family (except Nikolay, who stayed behind in a boarding-school in Saint Petersburg) moved to Alapayevsk in May that year. In August 1850 Aleksandra Tchaikovskaya took her son Pyotr with her to Saint Petersburg, where he was enrolled in the "preparatory class" of the Imperial School of Jurisprudence. The former was in fact a separate boarding-school in its own right which prepared young children for the entrance exams into the School of Jurisprudence proper. It was in May 1852 that Ilya Tchaikovsky, who had now saved up enough money, was finally able to realize his dream of moving back to Saint Petersburg and reuniting the whole family again.
- The composer's cousin Lidiya Vladimirovna Tchaikovskaya (married name Olkhovskaya; 1836-1892) was the daughter of Ilya Tchaikovsky's elder brother, Vladimir. She lost her mother when she was quite little, in 1842, and was effectively adopted by Ilya Tchaikovsky and his wife Aleksandra. Fanny Dürbach had originally been engaged by Aleksandra as a governess for her eldest son Nikolay and for Lidiya, though Pyotr would soon join in their lessons. Lidiya was reportedly a very wilful child, but, as Tchaikovsky notes in this letter, her character improved greatly as she grew up.
- The composer's twin brothers Anatoly and Modest were born in Alapayevsk on 1/13 May 1850.
- In January 1854, the composer's half-sister Zinayda (Ilya Tchaikovsky]]'s only child from his first marriage) married Yevgeny Ivanovich Olkhovsky (1824–1876). The newly-wed couple moved first to the Urals and then to Yekaterinburg, in Siberia.
- Aleksandra Tchaikovskaya died in Saint Petersburg on 13/25 June 1854.
- The Smolny Institute, named after the nearby Smolny Convent, with its distinctive blue-and-white cathedral, was a prestigious boarding-school for girls of the nobility in Saint Petersburg. The composer's sister Aleksandra had been enrolled there in 1852, but two years later the recently widowed Ilya Tchaikovsky decided that he needed his daughter's help to look after the young twins, Anatoly and Modest, and she left the Smolny Institute for a while. Aleksandra later managed to complete her course of instruction there — note based on information provided by Alexander Poznansky.
- The composer's cousin Lidiya Vladimirovna Tchaikovskaya (see note 3 above) married Nikolay Ivanovich Olkhovsky in 1854.
- Tchaikovsky got on very well with his cousins Anna and Lidiya, the daughters of his uncle Pyotr Petrovich Tchaikovsky. Anna Merkling, as the older of the two was known after her second marriage, remained the composer's favourite cousin throughout all his life.