Henry Mackenzie

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Henry MacKenzie by Samuel Joseph 1822
Henry Mackenzie
Mackenzie's house at 6 Heriot Row, Edinburgh
The grave of Henry MacKenzie, Greyfriars Kirkyard

Henry Mackenzie FRSE (26 July 1745 – 14 January 1831) was a Scottish lawyer, novelist and writer. He was also known by the sobriquet "Addison of the North." While Mackenzie is now mostly remembered as an author, his principal income came from legal roles, ending in 1804–1831 with a lucrative post as Comptroller of Taxes for Scotland, which allowed him to indulge his interest in writing.[1]


Mackenzie was born at Liberton Wynd in Edinburgh on 26 July 1745.[2] His father, Dr Joshua Mackenzie, was a distinguished Edinburgh physician[3] and his mother, Margaret Rose, belonged to an old Nairnshire family.

Mackenzie was educated at the High School and then studied Law at University of Edinburgh. He was then articled to George Inglis of Redhall (grandfather of John Alexander Inglis of Redhall), who was attorney for the crown in the management of exchequer business. Inglis had his Edinburgh office on Niddry Wynd, off the Royal Mile[4], a short distance from Mackenzie's family home.

In 1765 he was sent to London to prosecute his legal studies, and on his return to Edinburgh he set up his own legal office at Cowhatehead off the Grassmarket.[5] apparently as a partner with Inglis (but appearing in directories more as a rival), whom he concurrently acted as attorney for the crown.[6]

Mackenzie had attempted to interest publishers in what would become his first and most famous work, The Man of Feeling, for several years, but they would not even accept it as a gift. Finally, Mackenzie published it anonymously in 1771, and it became instantly successful. The "Man of Feeling" is a weak creature, dominated by a futile benevolence, who goes up to London and falls into the hands of people who exploit his innocence. The sentimental key in which the book is written shows the author's acquaintance with Sterne and Richardson, but, in Sir Walter Scott's summary assessment, his work lacked the story construction, humour, and strong character of these writers.[7]

A clergyman from Bath named Eccles claimed authorship of the book, bringing in support of his pretensions a manuscript full of changes and erasures.[8] Mackenzie's name was then officially announced, but Eccles appears to have induced some people to believe in him. In 1773 Mackenzie published a second novel, The Man of the World, the hero of which was as consistently bad as the "Man of Feeling" had been "constantly obedient to every emotion of his moral sense," as Sir Walter Scott says.[9] Julia de Roubigné (1777) is an epistolary novel.

The first of his dramatic pieces, The Prince of Tunis, was produced in Edinburgh in 1773 with a certain measure of success. The others were failures. At Edinburgh Mackenzie belonged to a literary club, at the meetings of which papers in the manner of The Spectator were read. This led to the establishment of a weekly periodical called the Mirror (23 January 1779 – 27 May 1780), of which Mackenzie was editor and chief contributor. It was followed in 1785 by a similar paper, the Lounger, which ran for nearly two years and had the distinction of containing one of the earliest tributes to the genius of Robert Burns.

In 1783 he was a joint founder of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He served as the Society's Literary President 1812 to 1828 and as Vice President 1828 to 1831.[10]

Mackenzie was an ardent Tory, and wrote many tracts intended to counteract the doctrines of the French Revolution, writing in the Edinburgh Herald under the pseudonym "Brutus".[11] Most of these remained anonymous, but he acknowledged his Review of the Principal Proceedings of the Parliament of 1784, a defence of the policy of William Pitt, written at the desire of Henry Dundas. He was rewarded (1804) by the office of comptroller of the taxes for Scotland. In 1776 Mackenzie married Penuel, daughter of Sir Ludovich Grant of Grant. They had eleven children. He was, in his later years, a notable figure in Edinburgh society. He was nicknamed the "man of feeling," but he was in reality a hard-headed man of affairs with a kindly heart. Some of his literary reminiscences were embodied in his Account of the Life and Writings of John Home, Esq. (1822). He also wrote a Life of Doctor Blacklock, prefixed to the 1793 edition of the poet's works.

In 1807 The Works of Henry Mackenzie were published surreptitiously, and he then himself superintended the publication of his Works (8 vols., 1808). There is an admiring but discriminating criticism of his work in the Prefatory Memoir prefixed by Sir Walter Scott to an edition of his novels in Ballantyne's Novelist's Library (vol. v., 1823).

He died at home, 6 Heriot Row, a huge Georgian townhouse in Edinburgh's New Town on 14 January 1831.[12]

He is buried at Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh. The grave lies facing north in the centre of the northern retaining wall.


Mackenzie married Penuel Grant,[13] daughter of Sir Ludovic Grant in 1776.[14] He was uncle, my this marriage, to Lewis Grant-Ogilvy, 5th Earl of Seafield.[15]

MacKenzie's eldest son, Joshua Henry Mackenzie (1777-1851) was a Senator of the College of Justice (known as Lord MacKenzie). He is buried with his father in Greyfriars Kirkyard.[16] Two other sons, Robert and William, both worked for the East India Company. He also had two daughters, Margaret and Hope.[17]

His nephew, Joshua Henry Davidson (1785-1847) was First Physician in Scotland to Queen Victoria.[18]


  • The Man of Feeling (1771)
  • The Man of the World (1773)
  • Julia de Roubigné (1777)
  • The Prince of Tunis
  • Review of the Principal Proceedings of the Parliament of 1784
  • Account of the Life and Writings of John Home, Esq.
  • Life of Doctor Blacklock

In 1779/80 he was editor of The Mirror and from 1785 to 1787 he was editor of The Lounger.[19]


  1. ^ http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/content/images/famousscots/fstranscript52.htm
  2. ^ Drescher, H. W. (2004). "Mackenzie, Henry (1745–1831)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/17586. Retrieved 2016-01-15.  (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  3. ^ Monuments and monumental inscriptions in Scotland, The Grampian Society, 1871.
  4. ^ Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1775-76
  5. ^ Williamson's Directory 1775
  6. ^ Harold W. Thompson, A Scottish Man of Feeling (London: Oxford University Press, 1931), 81.
  7. ^ Scott, Walter (1829). Henry Mackenzie (1824). Miscellaneous Prose Works. 3. pp. 209–21. 
  8. ^ Simon Stern, 'Sentimental Frauds,' Law & Social Inquiry 36 (2011): 83-113 (p. 97-99).
  9. ^ [Sir Walter Scott], "A Short Sketch of the Author's Life and Writings," in Henry Mackenzie, The Man of Feeling (London, 1806), iv, rpt in Scott, Miscellaneous Prose Works (Edinburgh: Cadell, 1847), 1: 344.
  10. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X. 
  11. ^ Harris, Bob. "Scotland's Newspapers, the French Revolution and Domestic Radicalism (c.1789–1794)". Scottish Historical Review. 84 (1): 49. doi:10.3366/shr.2005.84.1.38. ISSN 0036-9241 – via Edinburgh University Press. 
  12. ^ https://www.royalsoced.org.uk/cms/files/fellows/biographical_index/fells_indexp2.pdf
  13. ^ https://www.royalsoced.org.uk/cms/files/fellows/biographical_index/fells_indexp2.pdf
  14. ^ http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/content/images/famousscots/fstranscript52.htm
  15. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X. 
  16. ^ Monuments and monumental inscriptions in Scotland: The Grampian Society, 1871
  17. ^ http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/content/images/famousscots/fstranscript52.htm
  18. ^ http://cullenproject.ac.uk/people/1313/
  19. ^ Monuments and monumental inscriptions in Scotland, The Grampian Society, 1871
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Mackenzie, Henry". Encyclopædia Britannica. 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 252–253. 
  • Gale Group - Eighteenth-Century Collections Online
  • British Authors Before 1800: A Biographical Dictionary, edited by Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft, New York, The H. W. Wilson Company, 1952.

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