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- The Man of Feeling - 1/20 -

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."

I looked round with some such grave apophthegm in my mind when I discovered, for the first time, a venerable pile, to which the enclosure belonged. An air of melancholy hung about it. There was a languid stillness in the day, and a single crow, that perched on an old tree by the side of the gate, seemed to delight in the echo of its own croaking.

I leaned on my gun and looked; but I had not breath enough to ask the curate a question. I observed carving on the bark of some of the trees: 'twas indeed the only mark of human art about the place, except that some branches appeared to have been lopped, to give a view of the cascade, which was formed by a little rill at some distance.

Just at that instant I saw pass between the trees a young lady with a book in her hand. I stood upon a stone to observe her; but the curate sat him down on the grass, and leaning his back where I stood, told me, "That was the daughter of a neighbouring gentleman of the name of WALTON, whom he had seen walking there more than once.

"Some time ago," he said, "one HARLEY lived there, a whimsical sort of man I am told, but I was not then in the cure; though, if I had a turn for those things, I might know a good deal of his history, for the greatest part of it is still in my possession."

"His history!" said I. "Nay, you may call it what you please," said the curate; for indeed it is no more a history than it is a sermon. The way I came by it was this: some time ago, a grave, oddish kind of a man boarded at a farmer's in this parish: the country people called him The Ghost; and he was known by the slouch in his gait, and the length of his stride. I was but little acquainted with him, for he never frequented any of the clubs hereabouts. Yet for all he used to walk a-nights, he was as gentle as a lamb at times; for I have seen him playing at teetotum with the children, on the great stone at the door of our churchyard.

"Soon after I was made curate, he left the parish, and went nobody knows whither; and in his room was found a bundle of papers, which was brought to me by his landlord. I began to read them, but I soon grew weary of the task; for, besides that the hand is intolerably bad, I could never find the author in one strain for two chapters together; and I don't believe there's a single syllogism from beginning to end."

"I should be glad to see this medley," said I. "You shall see it now," answered the curate, "for I always take it along with me a- shooting." "How came it so torn?" "'Tis excellent wadding," said the curate.--This was a plea of expediency I was not in a condition to answer; for I had actually in my pocket great part of an edition of one of the German Illustrissimi, for the very same purpose. We exchanged books; and by that means (for the curate was a strenuous logician) we probably saved both.

When I returned to town, I had leisure to peruse the acquisition I had made: I found it a bundle of little episodes, put together without art, and of no importance on the whole, with something of nature, and little else in them. I was a good deal affected with some very trifling passages in it; and had the name of Marmontel, or a Richardson, been on the title-page--'tis odds that I should have wept: But

One is ashamed to be pleased with the works of one knows not whom.


There is some rust about every man at the beginning; though in some nations (among the French for instance) the ideas of the inhabitants, from climate, or what other cause you will, are so vivacious, so eternally on the wing, that they must, even in small societies, have a frequent collision; the rust therefore will wear off sooner: but in Britain it often goes with a man to his grave; nay, he dares not even pen a hic jacet to speak out for him after his death.

"Let them rub it off by travel," said the baronet's brother, who was a striking instance of excellent metal, shamefully rusted. I had drawn my chair near his. Let me paint the honest old man: 'tis but one passing sentence to preserve his image in my mind.

He sat in his usual attitude, with his elbow rested on his knee, and his fingers pressed on his cheek. His face was shaded by his hand; yet it was a face that might once have been well accounted handsome; its features were manly and striking, a dignity resided on his eyebrows, which were the largest I remember to have seen. His person was tall and well-made; but the indolence of his nature had now inclined it to corpulency.

His remarks were few, and made only to his familiar friends; but they were such as the world might have heard with veneration: and his heart, uncorrupted by its ways, was ever warm in the cause of virtue and his friends.

He is now forgotten and gone! The last time I was at Silton Hall, I saw his chair stand in its corner by the fire-side; there was an additional cushion on it, and it was occupied by my young lady's favourite lap dog. I drew near unperceived, and pinched its ears in the bitterness of my soul; the creature howled, and ran to its mistress. She did not suspect the author of its misfortune, but she bewailed it in the most pathetic terms; and kissing its lips, laid

The Man of Feeling - 1/20

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