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The Man of Feeling   By: (1745-1831)

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Transcribed by David Price, email, from the 1886 Cassell & Company edition.



Henry Mackenzie, the son of an Edinburgh physician, was born in August, 1745. After education in the University of Edinburgh he went to London in 1765, at the age of twenty, for law studies, returned to Edinburgh, and became Crown Attorney in the Scottish Court of Exchequer. When Mackenzie was in London, Sterne's "Tristram Shandy" was in course of publication. The first two volumes had appeared in 1759, and the ninth appeared in 1767, followed in 1768, the year of Sterne's death, by "The Sentimental Journey." Young Mackenzie had a strong bent towards literature, and while studying law in London, he read Sterne, and falling in with the tone of sentiment which Sterne himself caught from the spirit of the time and the example of Rousseau, he wrote "The Man of Feeling." This book was published, without author's name, in 1771. It was so popular that a young clergyman made a copy of it popular with imagined passages of erasure and correction, on the strength of which he claimed to be its author, and obliged Henry Mackenzie to declare himself. In 1773 Mackenzie published a second novel, "The Man of the World," and in 1777 a third, "Julia de Roubigne." An essay reading society in Edinburgh, of which he was a leader, started in January, 1779, a weekly paper called The Mirror, which he edited until May, 1780. Its writers afterwards joined in producing The Lounger, which lasted from February, 1785, to January, 1787. Henry Mackenzie contributed forty two papers to The Mirror and fifty seven to The Lounger. When the Royal Society of Edinburgh was founded Henry Mackenzie was active as one of its first members. He was also one of the founders of the Highland Society.

Although his "Man of Feeling" was a serious reflection of the false sentiment of the Revolution, Mackenzie joined afterwards in writing tracts to dissuade the people from faith in the doctrines of the Revolutionists. Mackenzie wrote also a tragedy, "The Prince of Tunis," which was acted with success at Edinburgh, and a comedy, "The White Hypocrite," which was acted once only at Covent garden. He died at the age of eighty six, on the 13th June, 1831, having for many years been regarded as an elder friend of their own craft by the men of letters who in his days gave dignity to Edinburgh society, and caused the town to be called the Modern Athens.

A man of refined taste, who caught the tone of the French sentiment of his time, has, of course, pleased French critics, and has been translated into French. "The Man of Feeling" begins with imitation of Sterne, and proceeds in due course through so many tears that it is hardly to be called a dry book. As guide to persons of a calculating disposition who may read these pages I append an index to the Tears shed in "The Man of Feeling."


My dog had made a point on a piece of fallow ground, and led the curate and me two or three hundred yards over that and some stubble adjoining, in a breathless state of expectation, on a burning first of September.

It was a false point, and our labour was vain: yet, to do Rover justice (for he's an excellent dog, though I have lost his pedigree), the fault was none of his, the birds were gone: the curate showed me the spot where they had lain basking, at the root of an old hedge.

I stopped and cried Hem! The curate is fatter than I; he wiped the sweat from his brow.

There is no state where one is apter to pause and look round one, than after such a disappointment. It is even so in life. When we have been hurrying on, impelled by some warm wish or other, looking neither to the right hand nor to the left we find of a sudden that all our gay hopes are flown; and the only slender consolation that some friend can give us, is to point where they were once to be found. And lo! if we are not of that combustible race, who will rather beat their heads in spite, than wipe their brows with the curate, we look round and say, with the nauseated listlessness of the king of Israel, "All is vanity and vexation of spirit... Continue reading book >>

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