Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/136

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506 SIR GEORGE MACKENZIE.

all the classical authors usually taught in schools. He afterwards studied Greek and philosophy in the universities of St Andrews and Aberdeen, and civil law in that of Bourges in France; and, in January, 1659, before the termination of his twenty-third year, entered as an advocate at the Scottish bar.

In 1660, he published his Aretina, or Serious Romance, in which, according to his kind biographer, Ruddiman, he gives " a very bright specimen of his gay and exuberant genius." His talents must have been early observed and appre- ciated, for in 1661, his third year at the bar, he was selected as one of the counsel of the marquis of Argyle, then tried by a commission of parliament for high treason. On this occasion, he acted with so much firmness, and even bold- ness, as at once established his character. As the counsel for Argyle were apf pointed by parliament, they presented a petition under form of protest, that in the defence of their client, they might not be made responsible for every ex- pression they might utter, but that a latitude and freedom of expression, suitable to the extent and difficulty of the charges they were called upon to canvass, might be allowed them. This being peremptorily refused, Sir George and his associates took such steps, in consequence, as subjected them to the imminent risk of a charge of treason : " it is impossible to plead for a traitor," said the young lawyer, " without speaking treason ! " an antithesis certainly more bold than true, but calculated to make a considerable impression upon the multitude. The counsel only escaped from the consequences of their rashness by the special mercy of the court

The purely literary labours of this eminent person, appear to have been chiefly executed during his earlier years. His " Religio Stoici, or a short Dis- course upon several divine and moral subjects," appeared in 1663. Two years afterwards, he published his Moral Essay upon Solitude, preferring it to public employment, with all its appendages, such as fame, command, riches, pleasures, conversation, &c. This production was answered by the celebrated Evelyn, in a Panegyric on Active Life. " It seems singular," says the Edin- burgh Review, " that Mackenzie, plunged in the harshest labours of ambition, should be the advocate of retirement, and that Evelyn, comparatively a recluse, should have commended that mode of life which he did not choose." 1 But it is probable that each could write most freshly on circumstances disconnected with the daily events of his life, while speculative ingenuity was all they cared to reach in their arguments. " You had reason to be astonished," says Evelyn, writing to Cowley, " that I, who had so much celebrated recess, should become an advocate for the enemy. I conjure you to believe that I am still of the same mind, and there is no person who can do more honour, and breathe more after the life and repose you so happily cultivate and advance by your example; but as those who praised dirt, a flea, or the gout, so have I public employment, and that in so weak a style compared with my antagonists, as by that alone it would appear, that I neither was nor could be serious. In 1667, Mackenzie pub- lished his Moral Gallantry, one of the reflective treatises of the period, intend, ing to prove the gentlemanliness of virtue, and the possibility of establishing all moral duties on principles of honour a theory supported by arguments which, had any of the nicer metaphysical minds of the succeeding age thought -fit to drive to their ultimate principles, they might have found to be somewhat inimi- cal to the author's hearty church of England feelings, or even the principles of Christianity. But Mr Mackenzie was not a metaphysician, and religion re- quired to be plainly spoken, in terms of presbyterianism or papistry, before it attracted his legal attention. To this production he added a Consolation against Calumnies. The fiery course of politics which he had afterwards to run, made

1 xxxvi. 5.