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BIOGRAPHICAL NOTICES, &c.
FOR the biographical part of the following Memoir, we are chiefly indebted to a short sketch of the life of our distinguished contemporary, compiled from the most authentic sources, and prefixed to a beautiful duodecimo edition of The Man of Feeling, printed at Paris a few years since. We have had the farther advantage of correcting and enlarging the statements which it contains, from undoubted authority.
HENRY MACKENZIE, Esq. was born at Edinburgh, in August 1745, on the same day on which Prince Charles Stuart landed in Scotland. His father was Dr Joshua Mackenzie, of that city; and his mother, Margaret, the eldest daughter of Mr Rose of Kilravock, of a very ancient family in
1 [The original source of the memoir alluded to, is the publication entitled "The British Gallery of Contemporary Portraits. London, 1808," &c.]
[" Prince Charles Stuart landed in Scotland on the 25th of July, 1745,--but he raised his standard on the 19th of August."]
Nairnshire. After being educated at the Highschool and University 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 profession, although not perfectly compatible with that literary taste which he very early displayed, Mr Mackenzie 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, are similar in both countries. While there, his talents induced a friend to solicit his remaining in London, and qualifying himself 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 return to Edinburgh: and here he became, first, partner, and afterwards successor, to Mr Inglis, in the office of the Attorney for the Crown.
His professional labour, however, did not prevent his attachment to literary pursuits. When in London, he sketched some part of his first, and very popular work, The Man of Feeling, which was published in 1771, without his name; and was so much a favourite with the public, as to become, a few years after, the occasion of a remarkable literary fraud. A young clergyman, Mr Eccles, of Bath, observing that this work was unaccompanied by an author's name, laid claim to it, transcribed the whole in his own hand, with blottings,
interlineations, and corrections; and maintained his assumed right with such plausible pertinacity, that Messrs Cadell and Strachan (Mr Mackenzie's publishers) found it necessary to undeceive the public by a formal contradiction. This impostor was afterwards drowned while bathing in the river Avon.1
In a few years after this, Mr Mackenzie published his Man of the World , which seems to be intended as a second part to The Man of Feeling. It breathes the same tone of exquisite moral delicacy, and of refined sensibility. In his former fiction, he imagined a hero constantly obedient to every emotion of his moral sense; in The Man of the World, he exhibited, on the contrary, a person rushing headlong into guilt and ruin, and spreading misery all around him, by pursuing a selfish and sensual happiness which he expected to obtain in defiance of the moral sense. His next production was Julia de Roubigné , a novel in a series of letters. The fable is deeply interesting, and the letters are written with great elegance and propriety of style.
In 1776, Mr Mackenzie was married to Miss Penuel Grant, daughter of Sir Ludovick Grant of Grant, Bart., and Lady Margaret Ogilvy, by whom he has a numerous family; the eldest of whom, Mr Henry Joshua Mackenzie, has been called to the situation of a Judge of the Supreme Court of
1 [The Gentleman's Magazine for September 1777, gives an epitaph on Mr Eccles, which begins thus:
"Beneath this stone The Man of Feeling lies."]
Session, with the unanimous approbation of his profession and his country.
In 1777, or 1778, a society of gentlemen,' of Edinburgh, were accustomed at their meetings to read short essays of their composition, in the manner of the Spectator, and Mr Mackenzie being admitted a member, after hearing several of them read, suggested the advantage of giving greater variety to their compositions, by admitting some of a lighter kind, descriptive of common life and manners; and he exhibited some specimens of the kind in his own writing. From this arose the Mirror, 2 a well-known periodical publication, to which Mr Mackenzie performed the office of editor, and was also the principal contributor. The success of the Mirror naturally led Mr Mackenzie and his friends to undertake the Lounger, upon the same plan, which was not less read, admired, and generally circulated.
When the Royal Society of Edinburgh was instituted, Mr Mackenzie became one of its most active members, and he has occasionally enriched
[This society comprised, besides Mr Mackenzie, and Mr (afterwards Lord) Craig, who also was a frequent contributor to the Mirror and Lounger-Mr Cullen, afterwards Lord Cullen; Mr Macleod Bannatyne, afterwards Lord Bannatyne, and created a Baronet on his retirement from the bench; George Hume, afterwards Lord Wedderburn; and some others, all, except Mr Mackenzie, connected with the bar. To the periodical papers of this club, articles were likewise contributed by Lord Hailes, Henry the Historian, Professor Richardson of Glasgow, and Mr David Hume, afterwards Baron of the Exchequer.]
2 Begun the 23d January, 1779; ended 27th May, 1780. 3 Begun 6th February, 1785; ended 6th January, 1787.
the volumes of its Transactions by his valuable communications; particularly by an elegant tribute to the memory of his friend, Judge Abercromby, and a memoir on German Tragedy. He is one of the original members of the Highland Society; and by him have been published the volumes of their Transactions, to which he has prefixed an account of the Institution and principal proceedings of the Society, and an interesting account of Gaelic poetry.
In the year 1792, he was one of those literary men who contributed some little occasional tracts to disabuse the lower orders of the people, led astray at that time by the prevailing frenzy of the French Revolution. In 1793, he wrote the Life of Dr Blacklock, at the request of his widow, prefixed to a quarto edition of that blind poet's works. His intimacy with Blacklock gave him an opportunity of knowing the habits of his life, the bent of his mind, and the feelings peculiar to the privation of sight, under which that amiable and interesting poet laboured.
The literary society of Edinburgh, in the latter part of last century, whose intimacy he enjoyed, is described in his Life of John Home, which he read to the Royal Society in 1812, and, as a sort of Supplement to that Life, he then added some Critical Essays, chiefly on Dramatic Poetry, which have not been published. He has since contributed to the Society a curious Essay on Dreaming, which was heard with much interest.
In 1808, Mr Mackenzie published a complete edition of his works, in eight volumes octavo; including a tragedy, The Spanish Father, and a