Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/146

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516 HENKY MACKENZIE.


read this paper to the Society, he also laid before them, in connexion with it, some Critical Essays, chiefly relative to dramatic poetry, which have not been published.

Mackenzie was himself a dramatic writer, though not a successful one. A tragedy, written by him in early life, under the name of The Spanish Father, \vas never represented ; in consequence of Mr Garrick's opinion, that the catas- trophe was of too shocking a kind for the modern stage ; although he owned the merit of the poetry, the force of some of the scenes, and the scope for fine act- ing in the character of Alphonso, the leading person in the drama. In 1773, Mr Mackenzie produced a tragedy under the title of The Prince of Tunis, which, with Mrs. Yates as its heroine, was performed with applause for six nights, at the Edinburgh theatre. Of three other dramatic pieces by Mr Mackenzie, the next was The Shipwreck, or Fatal Curiosity, which might be described as an alteration of Lilly's play under the latter of the two names. The comedies en- titled the Force of Fashion, and The White Hypocrite, both of which were unsuccessful, complete the list. Mr Mackenzie's grand deficiency as a dramatic author was his inability to draw forcible characters. His novels and tales charm by other means altogether; but in the drama, striking characters, and a skilful management of them, are indispensable.

In 1S03, Mackenzie published a complete edition of his works in eight vo- lumes. From that period, and indeed from one considerably antecedent to it, he might be said to have abandoned literature, though, to use his own affecting image, as employed at one of the meetings of the Royal Society, the old stump would still occasionally send forth a few green shoots. The patronage of the government was unfortunately extended in a somewhat improper shape, in as far as the office bestowed upon him, though lucrative, required unremitting per- sonal labour. He was thus unable, even if he had been willing, to cultivate literature to any considerable purpose. Such leisure as he possessed, he spent chiefly in healthy recreations in shooting, particularly, and angling, to which he was devotedly attached, and the former of which he had practised in early life, on the ground now occupied by the New Town of Edinburgh. He thus protracted his days to a healthy old age, until he finally stood amidst his fellow men, like Noah amongst his descendants, a sole-surviving specimen of a race of literary men, all of whom had long been consigned to the dusL His recollec- tions of the great men who lived in his youth, were most distinct and interest- ing; but it is to be regretted, that with the exception of what he has given in his Life of Home, he never could be prevailed upon to commit them to paper. The sole physical failing of his latter years was a slight deafness, which, how- ever, seemed only to give him the greater power of speech, as, by a natural deception of the mind, he probably conceived, that what was inaudible to him- self, was so, or ran the risk of being so, to his hearers also. At length, after a comparatively brief period of decline, he died, January 14, 1831, in the eighty- sixth year of his age.

By his wife, Miss Penuel Grant, daughter of Sir Ludovick Grant, of Grant, Bart., and lady Mary Ogilvie, Mr Mackenzie had eleven children, the eldest of whom was a judge of the courts of session and justiciary and a younger, Mr Holt Mackenzie, one of the members of the privy council.

As a novelist and essayist, Mackenzie still ranks in the first class, though, perhaps, rather by a reflection of his former fame, than through any active or sincere appreciation of his writings by the present generation. It is, perhaps, unfair to judge of the .intellectual efforts of an author, by any other age than his own, seeing that, as Johnson well remarks, the most of men content themselves if they only can, in some degree, outstrip their predecessors. Yet it is impos-