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(67) Page 54 - Mackenzie, Henry
54
MACKENZIE, HENRY, one of the most illustri-
ous names connected with polite literature in Scot-
land. He was born at Edinburgh in August, 1745,
while the citizens were preparing, by ineffectual for-
tifications, for the dreaded attack of Prince Charles
Stuart, then collecting his army in the Highlands.1
The nativity of Mr. Mackenzie was fixed by himself
at a public meeting which he attended late in life
upon the venerable alley denominated Liberton's
Wynd, now removed in order to admit of a bridge
for the connection of the High Street with the
southern districts of the city. His father was Dr.
Joshua, or (as his name is spelled in the Scots Maga-
zine for 1800, where his death is recorded), Josiah
Mackenzie, an eminent physician. Dr. Mackenzie
was, we believe, a native of Fortrose, upon the
Moray Frith, but had removed in early life to Edin-
burgh, where he acquired an extensive practice as a
physician, and distinguished himself in the world of
letters as author of a volume of Medical and Literary
Essays2 The mother of the author of the Man of
Feeling was Margaret, eldest daughter of Mr. Rose
of Kilravock, a gentleman of ancient family in Nairn-
shire.
After being educated at the high-school and uni-
versity of Edinburgh, Mr. Mackenzie, by the advice
of some friends of his father, was articled to Mr.
Inglis of Redhall, in order to acquire a knowledge
of the business of the exchequer, a law department
in which he was likely to have fewer competitors
than in any other in Scotland. To this, though not
perfectly compatible with the literary taste which he
very early displayed, he applied with due diligence;
and in 1765 went to London to study the modes of
English exchequer practice, which, as well as the
constitution of the court, were similar in both coun-
tries. While there, his talents induced a friend to
solicit his remaining in London, and qualifying him-
self for the English bar. But the anxious wishes of
his family that he should reside with them, and the
moderation of an unambitious mind, decided his re-
turn to Edinburgh; where he became, first partner,
and afterwards successor, to Mr. Inglis, in the office
of attorney for the crown.
His professional labour, however, did not prevent
his attachment to literary pursuits. When in Lon-
don he sketched some part of his first and very popu-
lar work The Man of Feeling, which was published in
1771, without his name, and was so much a favour-
ite with the public, as to become, a few years after,
the occasion of a remarkable fraud. A Mr. Eccles
of Bath, observing the continued mystery as to the
author, laid claim to the work as his own, and, in
order to support his pretensions, transcribed the
whole with his own hand, with an appropriate allow-
ance of blottings, interlineations, and corrections.
1 Sir Walter Scott, in the memoir of Mr. Mackenzie prefixed
to his novels in Ballantyne's Novelist's Library, states that
his birth took place "on the same day on which Prince Charles
landed."   This, however, is incompatible with the fact of Mr.
M. having been born in August, as the prince landed on the
25th of July.    We may here also mention that the original
source of the memoir itself was not, as implied by Sir Walter,
a Paris edition of the Man of Feeling, but a publication en-
titled The British Gallery of Contemporary Portraits.
2 "We have heard that some of Harley's feelings were taken
from those of the author himself, when, at his first entrance on
the dry and barbarous study of municipal law, he was looking
back, like Blackstone, on the land of the Muses, which  he was
condemned to leave behind him.    It has also been said, that
the fine sketch of Miss Walton was taken from the heiress of
a family of distinction, who ranked at that time high in the
Scottish fashionable world.    But such surmises are little worth
the tracing; for we believe no original character was ever com-
posed by any author, without the idea having been previously
suggested by something which he had observed in nature."
�Sir Walter Scott, in Ballantyne's Novelist's Library.
So plausibly was this claim put forward, and so per-
tinaciously was it adhered to, that Messrs. Cadell
and Strachan, the publishers, found it necessary to
undeceive the public by a formal contradiction.
Though Mr. Mackenzie preserved the anonymity
of the Man of Feeling for some years (probably from
prudential motives with reference to his business),
he did not scruple to indulge, both before and after
this period, in the literary society with which the
Scottish capital abounded. He informs us in his
Life of Home that he was admitted in boyhood as a
kind of page to the tea-drinkings which then con-
stituted the principal festive entertainment of the
more polished people in Edinburgh: and his early
acquaintance with Hume, Smith, Robertson, Blair,
and the rest of the literary galaxy then in the ascend-
ant, is evidenced from the same source. He was an
early intimate of the ingenious blind poet Dr.
Blacklock; and at the house of that gentleman, as
we have been informed by a survivor of the party,
then a youthful boarder in the house, met Dr. John-
son and Boswell when the former was passing through
Edinburgh on his journey to the Hebrides. To quote
the words of our informant�"Several strangers had
been invited on the occasion (it was to breakfast);
and, amongst others, Dr. Mackenzie, and his son
the late Mr. Henry Mackenzie. These gentlemen
went away before Dr. Johnson; and Mrs. Blacklock
took the opportunity of pronouncing a panegyric
upon the father and son, which she concluded by-
saying, that though Dr. Mackenzie had a large
family, and was married to a lady who was his son's
step-mother, nevertheless the son lived with his own
wife and family in the same house,3 and the greatest
harmony obtained among all the parties. On this
Dr. Johnson said, 'That's wrong, madam;' and
stated a reason, which it were as well to leave un-
chronicled. This settled Mrs. Blacklock's opinion
of the doctor. Several years ago, on calling to re-
membrance the particulars of this breakfast with Mr.
Henry Mackenzie, he said there was another reason
for Mrs. Blacklock's dislike: she had filled no less
than twenty-two cups of tea to Dr. Johnson at this
breakfast; which, I told Mr. M., was too many,
for Mrs. Blacklock had appointed me to number
them, and I made them only nineteen!"4
Some years after the publication of the Man of
Feeling, Mr. Mackenzie published his Man of the
World, which was intended as a counterpart to the
other. In his former fiction he imagined a hero con-
stantly obedient to every emotion of his moral sense.
In the Man of the World he exhibited, on the con-
trary, a person rushing headlong into misery and
ruin, and spreading misery all around him, by pur-
suing a happiness which he expected to obtain in de-
3 Their residence was in one of the floors of a tall house at
the junction of the Cowgate and Grassmarket, either above or
below a floor occupied by Mrs. Syme, the maternal grand-
mother of Lord Brougham.
4 Our correspondent's introduction to this anecdote may be
deemed worthy of the reader's notice.    "I was twice in com-
pany with Dr. Johnson, when he came to Edinburgh, on his
journey to the Hebrides.    Being then a boarder in Dr. Black-
lock's, my request to be present at the breakfast given to Dr.
Johnson was readily granted.    The impression which I then
received of him can never be effaced; but it was not of an un-
pleasant nature.    He did not appear to me to be that savage
which some of my college companions had described him: on
the contrary, there was much sauvity and kindness in his
manner and address to Dr. Blacklock.   The blind poet gener-
ally stood in company, rocking from one side to another; he
had remarkably small white hands, which Dr. Johnson held
in his great paws during the most part of the time they con-
versed together, caressing and stroking them, as he might have
done those of a pretty child."    It is necessary to mention that
the great moralist was, by Boswell's showing, in one of his
gentlest moods on this occasion.

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