1856 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Shelton Mackenzie

George and Evert Duyckinck, in Cyclopedia of American Literature (1856; 1875) 2:815-16.



Dr. Mackenzie was born in Drew's Court, Limerick County, Ireland, June 22, 1809. His father was at the time an officer in the British army. Young Mackenzie was educated at a school in Fermoy, and at the age of thirteen was apprenticed to a surgeon apothecary in Cork, with whom he remained three years. After passing his medical examination, he opened a school in Fermoy; and in 1829, having been a newspaper reporter, became editor of a county journal in Staffordshire, England. In 1830-'31, he was engaged in London in writing biographies for the Georgian Era (4 vols., 8vo), and subsequently as leading editor of the Liverpool Journal and other papers; while he was a diligent correspondent on political, literary, and social topics of the Evening Star, a daily paper in New York, published by the late M. M. Noah. In 1845, he was editor and part proprietor of a railway journal in London, and in 1847 was an active member of Lord Brougham's Law Amendment Society. He published in England, Lays of Palestine (1829); Titian, an art novel (3 vols., 8vo, 1843); Partnership en Commandite, a legal treatise (8vo, 1847); Mornings at Matlock, a collection of fugitive pieces (3 vols., 8vo, 1850).

In 1852 Dr. Mackenzie came to America, and made his residence in New York, where he became literary editor of the New York Times, and engaged in various literary undertakings. He edited, with an introduction and notes, Sheil's Sketches of the Irish Bar (New York, Redfield, 1854); The Noctes Ambrosianae, a very complete edition, with numerous notes, and biographies of Professor Wilson and other writers; containing a great deal of new matter (1854, 5 vols.); an edition of Curran's Life, by his son, and an original collection, with notes and prefaces. of the writings of Dr. Maginn (5 vols., 12mo).

In 1857, Dr. Mackenzie became literary and foreign editor of the Philadelphia Press, having taken up his residence in that city, where he has continued to reside. In addition to the books whose titles we have given, the record of a life devoted to literature, and the genial furtherance of the literary labors of others, Dr. Mackenzie is the author of Bits of Blarney (1855), consisting of Irish biographies, tales, sketches, and poetry, and of Tressilian and his Friends (12mo, 1859). He also edited Memoirs of Robert Houdin (1859).

Dr. Mackenzie has recently written two works of literary biography which are models in their way, having a grasp of illustrative detail that sums up the research of years within a duodecimo, to the exhaustion of the subject, and an easy charm of style that holds the reader's attention to the close. These are: The Life of CharIes Dickens: Personal Recollections and Anecdotes — Letters by Boz never before published, and Uncollected Papers in Prose and Verse, 1870; and Sir Walter Scott: the Story of His Life, 1871, inscribed to the "Autocrat of the Breakfast Table." Few of the literati of America could have made as copious a collection of incidents and anecdotes worthy of preservation, from written and unwritten sources, to exhibit faithfully the character and writings of these chief novelists of modern times.

Dr. Mackenzie is an industrious and rapid writer, having a thorough mastery of literary incident, anecdote, and gossip. He began to prepare his edition of the Noctes Ambrosianae in the last week of April, 1854, on receipt of the news, by steamer, of Professor Wilson's death on April 3, and the work was published August 15. In the interim, he had to feed the press at five different printers, besides doing his full quota of newspaper work. The Life of Dickens, begun June 15 and published August 3, was written in five weeks; and the biography of Scott between the last week of March and the publication day on the Scott centenary — August 15.

He received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Glasgow at the age of twenty-five, and was subsequently admitted Doctor of Civil Law at Oxford.

MRS. ADELHEID SHELTON MACKENZIE, the wife of Dr. Mackenzie, has written several attractive romances: Married Against Reason, 1869; and Aureola; or, The Black Sheep, 1871, a story of social life in Germany, narrating the trials of a young lady dauntless enough to set at defiance the over-rigorous social etiquette of her country.