Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/137

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SIR GEORGE MACKENZIE. 507

a hiatus of considerable extent, in the elegant literary pursuits of Mackenzie ; but after his retirement from public life, he wrote another work which may be classified with those just mentioned The Moral History of Frugality ; nor in this classification must we omit his Essay on Reason. Mackenzie had as- sociated himself with the elegant wits of England, and his opportunities enabled him, if he was inferior in the actual bullion of genius to many of his country- men who had gone before him, to give it a more elegant, or, at least, fashion- able form. It is probable that any direct imitation, on the part of Mackenzie, may have been from the writings of Cowley, who, in the youth of the ambitious Scottish author, was the acknowledged leader of refinement in English composi- tion. From his opponent Evelyn, he may also have derived facilities in com- position ; but it is probable that the best tone he assumed was imparted by the colloquial influence of Dryden. Of Mackenzie, that great man has left an interesting memorial : " Had I time, I could enlarge on the beautiful turns of words and thoughts, which are as requisite in this, as in heroic poetry itself. With these beautiful turns I confess myself to have been unacquainted, till about twenty years ago, in a conversation which I had with that noble wit of Scotland, Sir George Mackenzie. He asked me why I did not imitate, in my verse, the turns of Mr Waller and Sir John Denham, of whom he repeated many to me. I had often read with pleasure, and with some profit, these two fathers of our English poetry, but had not seriously enough considered their beauties, which give the last perfection to their works. Some sprinkling of this sort I had also formerly in my plays, but they were casual and not designed. But this hint, thus seasonably given me, first made me sensible of my own wants, and brought me afterwards to seek for the supply of them in other English authors." This is given by Dryden in his Discourse on the Origin and Progress of Satire, pre- fixed to his Juvenal, published two years after Mackenzie's death. Mackenzie is characterized by the Edinburgh Review, as having been in his style not exempt from Scotticisms: "but he is perfectly free from those, perhaps, more disagree- able vices, into which more celebrated Scottish writers have been betrayed, by a constant fear of Scotticism. He composes easily and freely, and his style is that of a man who writes his native language." Meanwhile, along with his elegant prose, he found time and inclination to dabble in poetry. Sometime during hia early years, at the bar, he wrote " Celias' Country House and Closet/' a poem in English epics, and written in a manner more nearly akin to the style of Pope and his contemporaries, than that which flourished in the author's own time. Such a passage as the following will enable the reader to comprehend at once the merit of the work, and, taking into consideration the political life of the author, its artificial feeling :

" O happy country life, pure as its air ; Free from the rage of pride, the pangs of care ; Here happy souls lie bathed in soft content, And are at once secure and innocent. No passion here but love : here is no wound, But that by which lovers their names confound On barks of trees, whilst with a smiling face, They see those letters as themselves embrace."

Country life, and love in the midst of it, were standing characteristics of the fashionable poetry of- the period, and the stormy politician, anxious, like Riche- lieu, to distinguish himself in song, must submit to them, as absolutely as the love-sick swain, to whom they are a natural habit. The author seems to have been apprehensive that the fruit of his more elegant studies would not give the