1887 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry Mackenzie

P. W. Clayden, in The Early Life of Samuel Rogers (1887) 111-13.



Henry Mackenzie, with whom a long friendship was begun on this [1789] meeting in Edinburgh, was then in middle age. He was born in Edinburgh, in August, 1745, on the very day on which Prince Charles Edward landed in Scotland. He had been in London in 1765, to study the modes of English Exchequer practice, as Sir Walter Scott tells us in his pleasant account of Mackenzie, in the "Lives of the Novelists." He had sketched the outlines of his principal work, the "Man of Feeling," during his residence in London, but had not finished and published it till 1771. It was anonymous, but it at once became the most popular novel of its time. Like George Eliot's "Adam Bede," it was the subject of a false claim. A man named Eccles transcribed the 'whole, made corrections, blottings, and interlineations in the manuscript thus produced, and pertinaciously declared himself to be the author of the book. Mackenzie was thus compelled to own and claim his offspring. His "Man of the World" is regarded by Scott as a second part of "The Man of Feeling," while "Julia de Roubigne" was written, Scott says, in some degree as a counterpart to the earlier work. Rogers had read and admired this pathetic story, and went to Edinburgh full of desire to see its author, who was then one of the most distinguished persons in the literary society of the Scottish capital. Rogers's feeling with respect to Mackenzie at this time was that with which a young writer regards an author of established fame. He first saw him at Adam Smith's dinner-table, and remarks in his diary on his soft and pleasing manners. Mackenzie was an admirable talker. Just thirty years after Rogers had first met him Mr. Ticknor, the author of the "History of Spanish Literature," records in his diary that he had breakfasted one morning with Mackenzie at Lady Cumming's. "He is now old," says Ticknor, "but a thin, active, lively little gentleman, talking fast and well upon all common subjects, and without the smallest indication of the 'Man of Feeling' about him." Rogers and he corresponded occasionally for five-and-forty years, and Mackenzie more than once visited Rogers in London. Their sympathy with each other was purely literary, for Mackenzie wrote against the French Revolution in the days when all liberal spirits in England were still hoping everything from it. He lived on through all the changes it brought, and saw the Monarchy of July, and the agitation for English Reform before he died. In a letter announcing his death, in January 1831, when he had got half-way through his eighty-sixth year, his son, Mr. J. H. Mackenzie expressed gratitude to Rogers, "for your kind friendship to my father, which added so sensibly to the enjoyment of his declining years." Mr. Joshua Henry Mackenzie, afterwards became a judge of the Edinburgh Court of Session, and his daughter, Miss Mackenzie of Moray Place, Edinburgh, is now the sole descendant of of "The Man of Feeling."