1771
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lavinia. A Pastoral.

The Man of Feeling.

Henry Mackenzie


A pastoral ballad in twenty-five anapestic quatrains by Henry Mackenzie, ever remembered as "the Man of Feeling." Poor Colin is hopelessly in love with the gracious Lavinia, who apparently does not return his affection; he resolves to die in order that his spirit might test the affections of the haughty maid (the conclusion is indebted to Nicholas Rowe's Collin's Complaint). This ballad is a particularly well developed character of the sentimentalist in love and at war with all the world: "Oh fool! in the circle to shine | That Fashion's gay daughters approve, | You must speak at the fashions incline;— | Alas! are there fashions in love?" The novel was published anonymously and "Lavinia" was afterwards published in periodicals without the author's name.

The ballad appears near the end of the novel, where it is penned Harley, the hero of the fiction, believing that his love for Miss Walton is hopeless. It is thus introduced by the narrator: "The following pastoral he left, some time after, on the handle of a tea-kettle, at a neighbouring house where we were visiting; and as I filled the tea-pot after him, I happened to put it in my pocket by a similar act of forgetfulness. It is such as might be expected from a man who makes verses for amusement. I am pleased with somewhat of good-nature that runs through it, because I have commonly observed the writers of these complaints bestow some epithets on their lost mistresses rather too harsh for the mere liberty of choice, which led them to prefer another to the poet himself: I do not doubt the vehemence of their passion; but alas! the sensation of love are something more than the returns of gratitude" pp. 232-33.

Critical Review: "By those who have feeling hearts, and a true relish for simplicity in writing, many pages in this miscellaneous volume will be read with satisfaction. There is indeed fable enough in this volume to keep the attention of the majority of novel readers; there is not business enough in it for the million; but there are several excellent reflections, which sufficiently discover the author's invention and judgment, delicacy and taste. The story of Old Edwards is exquisitely affecting: the whole thirty-fourth chapter, indeed, in which it is introduced, is written in a very masterly manner" 31 (June 1771) 482-83.

London Magazine: "There is much good sense, but very little order, in this novel; the sentiments do honour to humanity, and the general propensity of the observations give such striking lessons upon life, that we cannot dismiss the article without laying an extract before our readers" 40 (August 1771) 411.

Town and Country Magazine: "There is considerable merit in this novel; which is both instructive and entertaining" 3 (August 1771) 436.

R. Davenport Adams: "Henry Mackenzie, essayist and novelist (b. 1745, d. 1831), wrote The Man of Feeling (1771); The Man of the World, and Julia de Roubigne; besides contributing largely to The Mirror (1778); The Lounger (1785); and the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He also published a volume of translations and dramatic pieces, in 1791; a Life of Blacklock, in 1793; and a Life of John Home, author of Douglas, in 1812. An edition of his works was published in 1808" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 368.

Oliver Elton: Sterne's "best known and most gifted disciple was Henry Mackenzie (1745-1831), whose Man of Feeling (1771) still keeps a shadowy celebrity. In Sterne the poise between humour and pathos is on a razor edge, and is too often upset; in Mackenzie there is a permanent overbalance. A mop is positively required to wipe up the floods of tears that are shed on the smallest pretext. Deathbeds, too, are unreasonably numerous. Yet the Man of Feeling is also in debt to Fielding and Goldsmith, and is not entirely to be mocked at" Survey of English Literature 1730-1780 (1928) 1:248-49.



Why steals from my bosom the sigh?
Why fix'd is my gaze on the ground?
Come, give me my pipe, and I'll try
To banish my cares with the sound.

Ere now were its notes of accord
With the smile of the flow'r-footed muse;
Ah! why by its master implor'd
Shou'd it now the gay carrol refuse?

'Twas taught by LAVINIA'S smile
In the mirth-loving chorus to join:
Ah me! how unweeting the while!
LAVINIA — cannot be mine!

Another, more happy, the maid
By fortune is destin'd to bless—
Tho' the hope has forsook that betray'd,
Yet why shou'd I love her the less?

Her beauties are bright as the morn,
With rapture I counted them o'er;
Such virtues these beauties adorn:
I knew her, and prais'd 'em no more.

I term'd her no goddess of love,
I call'd not her beauty divine:
These far other passions may prove,
But they could not be figures of mine.

It ne'er was apparell'd with art,
On words it could never rely;
It reign'd in the throb of my heart,
It spoke in the glance of my eye.

Oh fool! in the circle to shine
That fashion's gay daughters approve,
You must speak at the fashions incline;—
Alas! are there fashions in love?

Yet sure they are simple who prize
The tongue that is smooth to deceive;
Yet sure she had sense to despise
The tinsel that folly may weave.

When I talk'd, I have seen her recline
With an aspect so pensively sweet,—
Tho' I spoke what the shepherds opine,
A fop were asham'd to repeat.

She is soft as the dew-drops that fall
From the lip of the sweet-scented pea;
Perhaps, when she smil'd upon all,
I have thought that she smil'd upon me.

But why of her charms should I tell?
Ah me! when her charms have undone!
Yet I love the reflection too well,
The painful reflection to shun.

Ye souls of more delicate kind,
Who feast not on pleasure alone,
Who wear the soft sense of the mind,
To the sons of the world unknown;

Ye know, tho' I cannot express,
Why I foolishly doat on my pain;
Nor will ye believe it the less
That I have not the skill to complain.

I lean on my hand with a sigh,
My friends the soft sadness condemn;
Yet, methinks, tho' I cannot tell why,
I should hate to be merry like them.

When I walk'd in the pride of the dawn,
Methought all the region look'd bright:
Has sweetness forsaken the lawn?
For, methinks, I grow sad at the sight.

When I stood by the stream, I have thought
There was mirth in the gurgling sound;
But now 'tis a sorrowful note,
And the banks are all gloomy around!

I have laugh'd at the jest of a friend;
Now they laugh and I know not the cause,
Tho' I seem with my looks to attend,
How silly! I ask what is was.

They sing the sweet song of the May,
They sing it with mirth and with glee;
Sure I once thought the sonnet was gay,
But now 'tis all sadness to me.

Oh! give me the dubious light
That gleams thro' the quivering shade;
Oh! give me the horrors of night
By gloom and by silence array'd!

Let me walk where the soft-rising wave
Has pictur'd the moon on his breast:
Let me walk where the new-cover'd grave
Allows the pale lover to rest!

When shall I in its peaceable womb
Be laid with my sorrows asleep!
Should LIVINIA chance on my tomb—
I could die if I thought she would weep.

Perhaps, if the souls of the just
Revisit their mansions of care,
It may be my favourite trust
To watch o'er the fate of the fair.

Perhaps the soft thought of her breast
With rapture more favour'd to warm;
Perhaps, if with sorrow oppress'd,
Her sorrow with patience to arm.

Then! then! in the tenderest part
May I whisper, "Poor COLIN was true;"
And mark if a heave of the heart
The thought of her COLIN pursue.

[pp. 233-38]