Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/134

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504


GEORGE MACKENZIE (EARL OF CROMAETV).


How long he remained in the situation alluded to has not been ascertained. The latter years of his life were spent in Edinburgh, and are said to have been cheered by the bounty of the earl of Breadalbane. He died in that city, October, 1812, in the 89th year of his age.

" In his young days," says the author of Bibliotheca Scoto-Celtica, " Mac- intyre was remarkably handsome, and throughout his whole life, he possessed a very easy and agreeable disposition. Although, when provoked, his enemies generally fell the effects of his pride and resentment, yet to his benefactors he was equally grateful. He was very fond of company and a cheerful glass, and was not only very agreeable over his bottle, but also very circumspect. Al- though Macintyre discovered an early inclination to poetry, he did not produce any thing till the memorable battle of Falkirk, a description of which forms the first song in the valuable collection published by him, wherein it is said to have been his first regular attempt at composition. The collection contains lyric, comic, epic, and religious compositions, of such merit as renders it diffi- cult to say in what department of poetry this writer most excelled. * * His poetical talents justly entitled him to rank among the first of Celtic bards, for all good judges of Celtic poetry agree that nothing like the purity of his Gaelic, and the style of his poetry, has appeared in the Highlands. 8 Of Donacha Ban it might justly be said,

1 Nan leabhadh eas' 6g jrach oran a's sgeul, Cha chuireadh neach beo a ghlas-ghuib air a* bheul !' "

MACKENZIE, GEORGE, first earl of Cromarty, a distinguished political and literary character, was born in the year 1630, being the eldest son of Sir John Mackenzie of Tarbat, by Margaret, daughter of Sir George Erskine of Innerteil, one of the senators of the college of justice. He succeeded his father in 1654, and acted a conspicuous part in the irregular warfare carried on at that period by general Middleton, against the forces of Cromwell. After the Restoration, when Middleton received an earldom, and was appointed to the direction of Scottish affairs, Sir George Mackenzie became his principal confidant, and had a prominent share in the transactions connected with the celebrated billeting act, which ended in the common disgrace of the earl and Sir George. The latter, consequently, remained unemployed throughout the whole administration of the duke of Lauderdale. He afterwards obtained that promotion to which his extraordinary talents entitled him. In 1678, he was appointed justice general for Scotland, and, in 1681, a lord of session, and lord register. In 1685, James II. created him viscount of Tarbat, by which name he is best known. Though an active and unscrupulous agent of the two last Stuarts, he

8 Note by a correspondent. All this must be taken in a very qualified sense. There is nothing approaching to sublimity in the whole range of Macintyre 's compositions. His poem in praise of Bendourain is in somewhat of a heroic strain ; but it scarcely deserves the name of Epic. Alexander Macdonald was far superior to him in what is usually understood by the term genius ; but from his classical education he was less scrupulous about the purity of his


style, and his works abound in classical allusions. It is to the purity of his language, and the harmony of his numbers, that Macintyre owes his fame in a great measure. In these quali- ties he is almost equalled if not rivalled by Mary Macleod, an untutored poetess, but her


compositions are not so numerous, and she had not the varied talent of Macintyre. As al- ready said, bis poetry is chiefly of a descriptive character, and Dr Johnson's criticism on Thomson's Seasons may be applied to him, with this qualification, that his comprehension of the vast was not equal to his attention to the minute. His love songs are remarkable for delicacy of sentiment and his descriptions of the chase are very animated. Here he was quite at home. Some of his pieces are valuable as descriptive of country manners, now al- most extinct. He may be called the Pope of the Highlands, as Macdonald was the Byron, and William Ross the Burns. Macdonald had more originality of genius than any of the Highland poets; but it was irregular and not under proper restraint Ros', for tenderness and sensibility, was what Burns may be supposed to have been if he had been born and bred in the Highlands. l.Iacintyre was more agreeable.