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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 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 fraud. A Mr Eccles, of Bath, observing that this work was accompanied by no author's name, laid claim to it, transcribed the whole in his own hand, with blottings, interlineations, and corrections; and maintained his 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.
In a few years after this, he 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 misery and ruin, and spreading misery all around him, by pursuing a 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 very 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, while these sheets are passing the press, been called to the situation of a Judge of the Supreme Court of Session, with the unanimous approbation of 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,* 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,t upon the same plan, which was not less read and admired.
When the Royal Society of Edinburgh was instituted, Mr Mackenzie became one of its most active members, and he has occasionally enriched 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 Blacklock 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,
Begun the 23d January, 1779; ended 27th May, 1780. + Begun 6th February, 1785; ended 6th January, 1787.
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.
In 1808, Mr Mackenzie published a complete edition of his works, in eight volumes octavo ; including a tragedy, The Spanish Father, and a comedy, The White Hypocrite, which last was once performed at the Theatre-Royal, Covent-Garden. The tragedy had never been represented, in consequence of Mr Garrick's opinion, that the catastrophe was of too shocking a kind for the modern stage; though he owned the merit of the poetry, the force of some of the scenes, and the scope for fine action in the character of Alphonso, the leading person of the drama. ' In this edition also is given a carefully corrected copy of the tragedy of The Prince of Tunis, which had been represented at Edinburgh in 1763 with great success.
Among the prose compositions of Mr Mackenzie, is a political tract, An Account of the Proceedings of the Parliament of 1784, which he was induced to write at the persuasion of his old and steady friend, Mr Dundas, afterwards Lord Melville. It introduced him to the countenance and regard of Mr Pitt, who revised the work with particular care and attention, and made several corrections in it with his own hand. Some years after, Mr Mackenzie was appointed, on the recommendation of Lord Melville and Right Hon. George Rose, also his particular friend, to the office of Comptroller of the Taxes for Scotland, an appointment of very considerable labour and responsibility, and in discharging which this fanciful and ingenious author has shown his power of entering into and discussing the most dry and complicated details, when that became a matter of duty.
The time, we trust, is yet distant, when, speaking of this author as of those with whom his genius ranks him, a biographer may with delicacy tráce his personal character and peculiarities, or record the manner in which he has discharged the duties of a citizen. When that hour shall arrive, we trust few of his own contemporaries will be left to mourn him; but we can anticipate the sorrow of a later generation, when deprived of the wit which enlivened their hours of retirement, the benevolence which directed and encouraged their studies, and the wisdom which instructed them in their duties to society. It is enough to say here, that Mr Mackenzie survives, venerable and venerated, as the last link of the chain which connects the Scottish literature of the present age with the period when there were giants in the land—the days of Robertson, and Hume, and Smith, and Home, and Clerk, and Fergusson; and that the remembrance of an æra so interesting could not have been intrusted to a sounder judgment, a more correct taste, or a more tenacious memory. It is much to be wished, that Mr Mackenzie, taking a wider view of his earlier years than in the Life of Home, would place on a more permanent record some of the anecdotes and recollections with which he delights society. We are about to measure his capacity for the task by a singular standard, but it belongs to Mr Mackenzie's character. He has, we believe, shot game of every description which Scotland contains, (deer, and probably grouse, excepted) on the very grounds at present occupied by the extensive and splendid streets of the New Town of Edinburgh; has sought for hares and wild-ducks, where there are now palaces, churches, and assembly-rooms; and has witnessed moral revolutions as surprising as this extraordinary change of local circumstances. These mutations in manners and in morals have been gradual indeed in their progress, but most important in their results, and they have been introduced into Scotland within the last half century. Every sketch of them, or of the circumstances by which they were produced, from the pen of so intelligent an observer, and whose opportunities of observation have been so extensive, would, however slight and detached, rival in utility and amusement any work of the
As an author, Mr Mackenzie has shewn talents both for poetry and the drama. Indeed we are of opinion, that no man can succeed perfectly in the line of fictitious composition, without most of the properties of a poet, though he may be no writer of verses ; but Mr Mackenzie possesses the powers of melody in addition to those of conception. He has given a beautiful specimen of legendary poetry, in two little Highland ballads, a style of composition which becomes fashionable from time to time, on account of its simplicity and pathos, and then is again laid aside, when worn out by the servile imitators, to whom its approved facility offers its chief recommendation. But it is as a Novelist that we are now called on to consider our author's powers ; and the universal and permanent popularity of his writings entitles us to rank him among the most distinguished of his class. His works possess the rare and invaluable property of originality, to which all other qualities are as dust in the balance; and the sources to which he resorts to excite our interest, are rendered accessible by a path peculiarly his own. The reader's attention is not rivetted, as in Fielding's works, by strongly marked character, and the lucid evolution of a well-constructed fable; or as in Smollet's novels, by broad and strong humour, and a decisively superior knowledge of human life in all its varieties ; nor, to mention authors whom Mackenzie more nearly resembles, does he attain the pathetic effect which is the object of all three, in the same manner as Richardson, or as Sterne. An accumulation of circumstances, sometimes amounting to tediousness, a combination of minutely traced events, with an ample commentary on each, were thought necessary by Richardson to excite and prepare the mind of the reader for the affecting scenes which he has occasionally touched with such force; and without denying him his due merit, it must be allowed that he has employed preparatory volumes in accomplishing what has cost Mackenzie and Sterne only a few pages, perhaps only a few sentences.
On the other hand, although the two last named authors have, in particular passages, a more strong resemblance to each other than those formerly named, yet there remain such essential points of difference betwixt them, as must secure for Mackenzie the praise of originality, which we have claimed for him. It is needless to point out to the reader the difference between the general character of their writings, or how far the chaste, correct, almost studiously decorous manner and style of the works of the author of The Man of Feeling, differ from the wild wit, and intrepid contempt at once of decency, and regularity of composition, which distinguish Tristram Shandy. It is not in the general eonduct or style of their works that they in the slightest degree ap