three-part song and peals of laughter between the mouthfuls, shows how gaily life went on outside the concert-room.
At length the musical season was over. Felix and Klingemann left London about July 21, and, stopping at York and Durham, were in Edinburgh by the 28th. On the 29th they were present at the annual competition of Highland Pipers in the Theatre Royal. On the 30th, before leaving 'the gray metropolis of the north,' they went over Holyrood Palace, saw the traditional scene of the murder of Rizzio, and the chapel, with the altar at which Mary was crowned standing 'open to the sky, and surrounded with grass and ivy, and everything ruined and decayed'; 'and I think,' he continues, 'that I found there the beginning of my Scotch Symphony.' The passage which he then wrote down was the first 16 bars of the Introduction, which recurs at the end of the first movement, and thus forms, as it were, the motto of the work.
From Edinburgh they went to Abbotsford, and thence by Stirling, Perth, and Dunkeld, to Blair-Athol; then on foot by Fort-William to Tobennory, sketching and writing enormous letters at every step. On the way they visited Fingal's Cave, and Felix, writing 'auf einer Hebride'—'on one of the Hebrides'—Aug. 7, gives twenty bars of music, 'to show how extraordinarily the place affected me.' These 20 bars, an actual inspiration, are virtually identical with the opening of the wonderful Overture which bears the name of 'Hebrides' or 'Fingal's Cave.' Then came Glasgow, and then Liverpool. At Liverpool they went over a new American liner called the Napoleon, and Felix, finding a Broadwood piano in the saloon, sat down to it and played for himself and his friend the first movement of Fanny's 'Easter-Sonata'—whatever that may have been. Home was always in his thoughts. Then to Holyhead for Ireland, but the weather was dreadful (apparently as bad as in 1879)—'yesterday was a good day, for I was only wet through three times.' So he turned back to Liverpool, there said good-bye to Klingemann, and went on by Chester to the house of Mr. John Taylor, the mining engineer, at Coed-du near Holywell. Here he remained for some days, seeing a very pleasant side of English country life, and making an indelible impression on his hosts; and here he composed the three pieces which form op. 16, the first of which, in key, tempo, and melody, closely resembles the introduction to the Scotch Symphony. The following letter, written after his death by a member of the Taylor family, gives a good idea of the clever, genial, gay, and yet serious, nature of the man at this happy time of life:—
It was in the year 1829 that we first became acquainted with Mr. Mendelssohn. He was introduced to us by my aunt, Mrs. Austin, who had well known his cousin Professor Mendelssohn, at Bonn. He visited us early in the season in Bedford Row, but our real friendship began at Coed-du, which was a house near Mold in Flintshire, rented for many years by my father, Mr. John Taylor.
Mr. Mendelssohn came down there to spend a little time with us, in the course of a tour in England and Scotland. My father and mother received him kindly, as they did everybody, but his arrival created no particular sensation, as many strangers came to our house to see the mines under my father's management, and foreigners were often welcomed there. Soon however we began to find that a most accomplished mind had come among us, quick to observe, delicate to distinguish. There was a little shyness about him, great modesty. We knew little about his music, but the wonder of it grew upon us; and I remember one night when my two sisters and I went to our rooms how we began saying to each other 'Surely this must be a man of genius … we can't be mistaken about the music; never did we hear any one play so before. Yet we know the best London musicians. Surely by and bye we shall hear that Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy is a great name in the world.'
My father's birthday happened while Mr. Mendelssohn was with us. There was a grand expedition to a distant mine, up among the hills; a tent carried up there, a dinner to the miners. We had speeches, and health-drinkings, and Mendelssohn threw himself into the whole thing, as if he had been one of us. He interested himself in hearing about the condition and way of life of the Welsh miners. Nothing was lost upon him. A letter that he wrote to my brother John just after he left Coed-du, charmingly describes the impressions he carried away of that country. Sometimes he would go out sketching with us girls, sitting down very seriously to draw, but making the greatest fun of attempts which he considered to be unsuccessful. One figure of a Welsh girl he imagined to be like a camel, and she was called the camel accordingly. Though he scorned his own drawings, he had the genuine artist-feeling, and great love for pictures. I need not say how deeply he entered into the beauty of the hills and the woods. His way of representing them was not with the pencil; but in the evenings his improvised music would show what he had observed or felt in the past day. The piece called The Rivulet, which he wrote at that time, for my sister Susan, will show what I mean; it was a recollection of a real actual rivulet.
We observed how natural objects seemed to suggest music to him. There was in my sister Honora's garden, a pretty creeping plant, new at that time, covered with little trumpet-like flowers. He was struck with it, and played for her the music which (he said) the fairies might play on those trumpets. When he wrote out the piece (called a Capriccio in E minor) he drew a little branch of that flower all up the margin of the paper.
The piece (an Andante and Allegro) which Mr. Mendelssohn wrote for me, was suggested by the sight of a bunch of carnations and roses. The carnations that year were very fine with us. He liked them best of all the flowers, would have one often in his button-hole. We found he intended the arpeggio passages in that composition as a reminder of the sweet scent of the flower rising up.Mr. Mendelssohn was not a bit 'sentimental,' though he had so much sentiment. Nobody enjoyed fun more than he, and his laughing was the most joyous that could be. One evening in hot summer we staid in the wood above our house later than usual. We had been building a house of fir branches in Susan's garden up in the wood. We made a fire, a little way off it, in a thicket among the trees, Mendelssohn helping with the utmost zeal, dragging up more and more wood: we tired ourselves with our merry work; we sat down round our fire, the smoke went off, the ashes were glowing, it began to get dark, but we could not like to leave our bonfire. 'If we had but some music,' Mendelssohn said; 'Could any one get something to play on?' Then my brother recollected that we were near the gardener's cottage, and that the gardener had a fiddle. Off rushed our boys to get the fiddle. When it came, it was the wretchedest thing in the world, and it had but one string. Mendelssohn took the instrument into his hands, and fell into fits of laughter over it when he heard the sounds it made. His laughter was very catch-
- They can be traced by Felix's sketches.
- F.M. i. 240.
- F.M. i. 240; Hogarth, 77. I owe the date to the kindness of Mr. Glen of Edinburgh.
- F.M. i. 244.
- 10 of the present score, as he afterwards diminished the notation by one half. A facsimile is given in F.M. i. 257.
- Both Allegros are in 6-8, and the Andante is repeated at the end of each. The piece is dated Coed-du, Sept. 4.
- This piece was long a favourite of his. A water-colour drawing by Schirmer, inspired by Felix's playing of it, is still in the possession of the family (Dev. 175). [App. p.716 "the MS. is headed 'Am Bach,' and the tradition of the Taylors is that it depicts the actual stream, its waterfalls, broad shallows, and other features."]
- The account given above of the origin and intention of these three pieces (op. 16) is confirmed by a letter of his own printed in F.M. i. 279. The autograph of No. 1 is headed 'Nelken und Bosen in menge'—Carnations and Roses in plenty.
- Compare Mos. i. 297.