Again, the Beinecke sketch differs from, and elaborates on, the original. A clump of deciduous trees has been replaced by a leaning fir tree, and more detailed shading is included in the Beinecke sketch.
We know from their letters, that they were back in Glasgow on 15 August, and both travellers put pen to paper in a joint letter to sum up their Scottish adventure. Their contributions to this joint letter, as well as acknowledging the wonderful experiences that they had had together and that they knew they would remember for the rest of their lives, describe the bleakness, greyness, primitiveness and melancholy nature of the Highlands. This was probably not just due to the bad weather that they experienced but the first four decades of the 19th-century saw towns and villages in the Scottish Highlands devastated by the “Highland Clearances” with whole communities north and south of the Great Glen being torn apart, villages burned to the ground, and former crofters being forced to emigrate or, if they stayed, pushed to the unfertile lands on the Scottish coasts to make way for the new practice of sheep-farming which was far more lucrative to the Lairds than allowing their lands to be Iived on and tilled by a human population. Klingemann, in typical expansive style, looks back on their Scottish journey as follows:
Klingemann – letter, Glasgow, 15 August 1829
Ever-memorable country! The mnemonic powers of the nose are well known, and…so the Highland smell will be remembered by us, a certain smoky atmosphere which every Highlander has about him. I once, while going along, closed my eyes and then correctly stated that five Highlanders had passed by – my nose had seen them. It is easy to determine the number of houses in the same way. As for the rest, the country is not as bad as certain people in great capitals would make out. It is almost exclusively a mountainous country, and as such it is remarkable. At night, when the storm rises, you find an inn with beds and rooms which you are not exactly obliged to share with cattle drovers, but with sporting John Bulls; if a fowl chances to run about the room or a pig squeaks under you, it is a proof that you may look forward to a new-laid egg and some pork next morning at breakfast; if the cart on which you travel jolts rather murderously, that is only the more temptation to get out and walk; if no officious fellow happens to be found to carry one’s things on foot, that is but a friendly invitation to make oneself comfortable and drive; if nothing is to be had but fresh herrings and beautiful rich cream, that indicates the patriarchal primitiveness which the modern world has so often on its lips; if the people make a clumsy effort at something better, with diluted wine and diluted bills, that show a pleasing disposition for culture. Altogether the inns, so few and far between, which on the map are marked as towns, perhaps represent nothing further than seeds of cities, here and there dotted over the broad moor, which by-and-by will swell and grow.
At last we issued from the Highlands, longing for the warm sun, which we had not seen for days, lounging in good carriages long unknown to us, driving through level country and cheerful villages, such as we had not been in for ages. The sun did really shine out here from the blue sky, only over the Highlands black clouds were hanging; but the longer and oftener we looked back, the bluer and more misty grew the mountains, at the feet of which we had been lying, all deep shades of colour mingled, and we might have become Highland-sick and wished ourselves back had we not known that the reality within that mountain land was grey, cold, and majestic. It was a sweet farewell to the heights which we at once abuse and love.
Mendelssohn’s own thoughts are also dated 15 August. These appear more reflective and poignant than Klingemann’s. We should remind ourselves that it was written by the 20-year-old Mendelssohn who, although of course he could not have known it, was over half-way through his short life. There is something in this letter which suggests an awareness that he might never again have such a carefree time, away from the immediate pressures of composing, performing or being the focus of attention in social circles.
Mendelssohn – letter, Glasgow, 15 August 1829
This, then, is the end of our Highland journey and the last of our joint letters. We’ve been happy together roaming round the country as gaily as if storm and rain had not existed. But they did exist. We had weather to make trees and rocks crash, and the newspapers have been full of its awfulness… To describe the wretchedness and the comfortless, inhospitable solitude of the country time and space do not allow; we wandered for ten days without meeting a single other traveller. What are marked on the map as towns, or at least villages, turn out to be just a few sheds huddled together, with just a single hole for door, window and chimney which has to serve for the entrances and exits of men, beasts, light and smoke. To any question the only answer you get is a dry “No!”. Whisky is the only drink. There are no churches, no streets, no gardens. The rooms are pitch-dark in broad daylight. Children and hens lie in the same straw. Many of the huts have no roof and crumbling walls, and many houses have been destroyed by fire… It’s no wonder the Highlands have been called melancholy. But we two have been happy enough, laughing, rhyming, sketching, growling at each other and at the world…eating everything eatable and sleeping for twelve hours every night. We won’t forget it as long as we live.