1829 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry Mackenzie

Felicia Hemans, 1829; Memorials of Mrs. Hemans, ed. Chorley (1836) 2:61-62.



He is now very infirm, and his powers of mind are often much affected by the fitfulness of nervous indisposition; so that his daughter, who introduced me to his sitting room, said very mournfully as we entered, "You will see but the wreck of my father." However, on my making some allusion, after his first kind and gentle reception of me, to the "men of other times" with whom he had lived in such brilliant association, it was really like the effect produced on the Last Minstrel,—

—when he caught the measure wild,
The old man raised his face, and smiled,
And lighted up his faded eye;

for he became immediately excited, and all his furrowed countenance seemed kindling with recollections of a race gone by. It was singular to hear anecdotes of Hume, and Robertson, and Gibbon, and the other intellectual "giants of old," from one who had mingled with their minds in familiar converse. I felt as if carried back at least a century.

"Ah!" said he, half playfully, half sadly, "there were men in Scotland then!" I could not help thinking of the story of Ogier the Dane, — do you remember his grasping the iron crow of the peasant who broke into his sepulchre and exclaiming, "It is well! there are men in Denmark still." Poor Miss Mackenzie was so much affected by the sudden and almost unexpected awakening of her father's mind, that on leaving the room with me, she burst into tears, and was some time before she could conquer her strong emotion.