Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/145

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HENRY MACKENZIE. 515


ceeded four hundred copies ; but this was more than sufficient to bring it under the notice of a wide and influential circle, and to found the reputation it has since enjoyed. When re-published in duodecimo volumes, a considerable sum was realized from the copyright, out of which the proprietors presented 100 to the Orphan Hospital, and treated themselves to a hogshead of claret, to be drunk at their ensuing meetings.

The Lounger, a work of exactly the same character, was commenced by the same writers, and under the same editorship, February 6, 1785, and continued once a-week till the 6th of January, 1787 ; out of the hundred and one papers to which it extended, fifty-seven are the production of Mackenzie. One of the latter papers the editor devoted to a generous and adventurous critique on the poems of Burns, which were just then published, and had not yet been ap- proven by the public voice. As might have been expected, Mackenzie dwells most fondly on the Addresses to the Mouse and the Mountain Daisy, which struck a tone nearest to that prevailing in his own mind.

On the institution of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Mr Mackenzie became one of the members ; and amongst the papers with which he enriched its trans- actions, are an elegant tribute to the memory of his friend lord Abercromby, and a memoir on German tragedy ; the latter of which bestows high praise on the Emelia Galatti of Lessing, and on the Robbers by Schiller. For this memoir he had procured the materials through the medium of a French work ; but desiring afterwards to enjoy the native beauties of German poetry, he took lessons in German from a Dr Okely, who was at that time studying medicine in Edinburgh. The fruits of his attention to German literature appeared further in the year 1791, in a small volume, containing translations of the Set of Horses by Lessing, and of two or three other dramatic pieces. But the most remarkable result of his studies in this department, was certainly the effect which his me- moir produced on the mind of Sir Walter Scott, then a very young man. It gave a direction to the genius of this illustrious person, at a time when it was groping about for something on which to employ itself ; and, harmonizing with the native legendary lore with which he was already replete, decided, perhaps, that Scott was to strike out a new path for himself, instead of following tamely on in the already beaten walks of literature.

Mr Mackenzie was also an original member of the Highland Society ; and by him were published the volumes of their Transactions, to which he pre- fixed an account of the institution, and the principal proceedings of the so- ciety. In these Transactions is also to be found his view of the controversy respecting Ossian's Poems, and an interesting account of Gaelic poetry.

Among Mackenzie's compositions are several political pamphlets, all upon the Tory side ; the first being " An Account of the Proceedings of the Parliament of 1784," in which he strongly defended the views of his friend, Mr Henry Dundas, afterwards viscount Melville. At the time of the French Revolution, he wrote various tracts, with the design of counteracting the progress of liberal principles in his own country. These services, with the friendship of Lord Melville and Mr George Rose, obtained for him, in 1804, the lucrative office of comptroller of taxes for Scotland, which he held till his death.

In 1793, Mr Mackenzie wrote the life of Dr Blacklock, prefixed to a quarto edition of the blind poet's works, which was published for the benefit of his widow. Mr Mackenzie's 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. In 1812, he read to the Royal Society his Life of John Home, which was some years after prefixed to an edition of that poet's works, and also published separately. At the time he