Henry Mackenzie

Henry MacKenzie by Samuel Joseph 1822
Henry Mackenzie
Mackenzie's house at 6 Heriot Row, Edinburgh
The grave of Henry MacKenzie, Greyfriars Kirkyard

Henry Mackenzie FRSE (August 1745 – 14 January 1831, born and died in Edinburgh)[1] was a Scottish lawyer, novelist and writer. He was sometimes described as the Addison of the North. While Mackenzie is now remembered mostly as an author, his main income came from legal roles, which led in 1804–1831 to a lucrative post as Comptroller of Taxes for Scotland, whose possession allowing him to indulge his interest in writing.[2]


Mackenzie was born at Liberton Wynd in Edinburgh on 26 July 1745.[3] His father, Dr Joshua Mackenzie, was a distinguished Edinburgh physician[4] and his mother, Margaret Rose, belonged to an old Nairnshire family. Mackenzie's own family descended from the ancient Barons of Kintail through the Mackenzies of Inverlael.[5]

Mackenzie was educated at the High School and studied Law at University of Edinburgh. He was then articled to George Inglis of Redhall (grandfather of John Alexander Inglis of Redhall), who was attorney for the crown in the management of exchequer business. Inglis had his Edinburgh office on Niddry Wynd, off the Royal Mile,[6] a short distance from Mackenzie's family home.

In 1765 he was sent to London for his legal studies, and on his return to Edinburgh he set up his own legal office at Cowgatehead off the Grassmarket,[7] apparently as a partner with Inglis (but appearing in directories more as a rival), while he concurrently acted as attorney for the Crown.[8]

Mackenzie had tried for several years to interest publishers in what would become his first and most famous work, The Man of Feeling, but they rejected it. Finally, Mackenzie published it anonymously in 1771, but to instant success. The "Man of Feeling" is a weak creature, dominated by futile benevolence, who goes up to London and falls into the hands of those who exploit his innocence. The sentimental key in the book shows the author's acquaintance with Sterne and Richardson, but in Sir Walter Scott's summary assessment, his work lacked the story construction, humour and character of those writers.[9]

A clergyman from Bath named Eccles claimed authorship of the book, supporting his pretensions with a manuscript full of changes and erasures.[10] Mackenzie's name was then officially announced, but Eccles appears to have convinced some people. In 1773 Mackenzie published a second novel, The Man of the World, whose hero was as consistently bad as the Man of Feeling had been "constantly obedient to every emotion of his moral sense", as Sir Walter Scott put it.[11] Julia de Roubigné (1777) is an epistolary novel.

The first of his dramatic pieces, The Prince of Tunis, was staged in Edinburgh in 1773 with some success, but others were failures. Mackenzie belonged to a literary club in Edinburgh, at whose meetings papers in the manner of The Spectator were read. This led to the establishment of a weekly periodical, the Mirror (23 January 1779 – 27 May 1780), of which Mackenzie was editor and chief contributor. It was followed in 1785 by a similar paper, the Lounger, which ran for nearly two years and included one of the earliest tributes to the genius of Robert Burns.

In 1783, Mackenzie was a joint founder of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, as well as its Literary President in 1812–1828 and Vice President in 1828–1831.[12] At this stage he is listed as an "attorney at the exchequer" living at Browns Square off the Grassmarket.[13]

Mackenzie was an ardent Tory. He wrote many tracts intended to counteract doctrines of the French Revolution, contributing to the Edinburgh Herald under the pseudonym "Brutus".[14] Most remained anonymous, but he acknowledged his Review of the Principal Proceedings of the Parliament of 1784, a defence of the policy of William Pitt written at the desire of Henry Dundas. He was rewarded in 1804 with the office of comptroller of the taxes for Scotland.

In 1776 Mackenzie married Penuel, daughter of Sir Ludovich Grant of Grant. They had eleven children. He was in later years a notable figure in Edinburgh society, nicknamed the Man of Feeling, but in fact a hard-headed man of affairs with a kindly heart. Some of his literary reminiscences appeared in his Account of the Life and Writings of John Home, Esq. (1822). He also wrote a Life of Doctor Blacklock, prefixed to the 1793 edition of the poet's works.

In 1805 he was living in a townhouse at 55 George square.[15] In 1806 he moved to the newly completed house at 6 Heriot Row[16] and lived there as its first occupant until his death. it is noted that whilst all Heriot Row are large houses, 6 Heriot Row has four bays, not the three of the majority, making it a third larger than its neighbours.

In 1807 The Works of Henry Mackenzie were published surreptitiously, and he then himself superintended the publication of his Works (8 vols., 1808). There is admiring but discriminating criticism of his work in a Prefatory Memoir affixed by Sir Walter Scott to an edition of Mackenzie's novels in Ballantyne's Novelist's Library (vol. v., 1823).


Mackenzie's 1776 marriage to Penuel Grant made him an uncle by marriage to Lewis Grant-Ogilvy, 5th Earl of Seafield.[17] daughter of Sir Ludovic Grant,[18][19] His eldest son, Joshua Henry Mackenzie (1777–1851) was a senator of the College of Justice known as Lord MacKenzie, buried with his father in Greyfriars Kirkyard.[20] Two other sons, Robert and William, worked for the East India Company. He had two daughters, Margaret and Hope.[21] His nephew, Joshua Henry Davidson (1785–1847) was First Physician in Scotland to Queen Victoria.[22]


Henry Mackenzie died on 14 January 1831 at his Georgian townhouse at 6 Heriot Row. He is buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, in a grave facing north in the centre of the north retaining wall.[23]


MacKenzie was a Scottish Freemason initiated into Lodge Canongate Kilwinning, No. 2, (Edinburgh, Scotland), on 2 December 1784.[24]


A small cottage in Colinton is known as "Henry MacKenzie's Cottage". The building was listed based on a "historical connection", but appears absurd, as it never featured among Mackenzie's official addresses. It may therefore have been home to a namesake and therefore listed under false pretences.[25]


  • The Man of Feeling (1771)
  • The Man of the World (1773)
  • Julia de Roubigné (1777)
  • The Prince of Tunis
  • Review of the Principal Proceedings of the Parliament of 1784
  • Account of the Life and Writings of John Home, Esq.
  • Life of Doctor Blacklock
  • In 1779/1780 he edited The Mirror and in 1785/1787 The Lounger.[26]


  1. ^ The Century Cyclopaedia of Names (1894). p. 637.
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Drescher, H. W. (2004). "Mackenzie, Henry (1745–1831)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/17586. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ Monuments and monumental inscriptions in Scotland, The Grampian Society, 1871.
  5. ^ Mackenzie, Alexander (1894). History of the Mackenzies. Inverness: A & W Mackenzie.
  6. ^ Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1775–1776.
  7. ^ Williamson's Directory 1775.
  8. ^ Harold W. Thompson, A Scottish Man of Feeling (London: Oxford University Press, 1931), p. 81.
  9. ^ Scott, Walter (1829). Henry Mackenzie (1824). Miscellaneous Prose Works. 3. pp. 209–221.
  10. ^ Simon Stern, 'Sentimental Frauds,' Law & Social Inquiry 36 (2011): 83–113 (pp. 97–99).
  11. ^ [Sir Walter Scott], "A Short Sketch of the Author's Life and Writings," in Henry Mackenzie, The Man of Feeling (London, 1806), iv, reprinted in Scott, Miscellaneous Prose Works (Edinburgh: Cadell, 1847), 1: p. 344.
  12. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. 2006. ISBN 0-902-198-84-X.
  13. ^ Williamsons Street Directory 1784
  14. ^ Harris, Bob. "Scotland's Newspapers, the French Revolution and Domestic Radicalism (c. 1789–1794)". Scottish Historical Review. 84 (1): 49. doi:10.3366/shr.2005.84.1.38. ISSN 0036-9241 – via Edinburgh University Press.
  15. ^ Edinburgh Post Office directory 1805
  16. ^ Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1806
  17. ^ [2]
  18. ^ [3]
  19. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0-902-198-84-X.
  20. ^ "Monuments and monumental inscriptions in Scotland", The Grampian Society, 1871.
  21. ^ [4]
  22. ^ [5]
  23. ^ Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  24. ^ History of the Lodge Canongate Kilwinning, No. 2, compiled from the records 1677–1888 by Alan MacKenzie, 1888. p. 243.
  25. ^ HES statutory list Edinburgh.
  26. ^ Monuments and monumental inscriptions in Scotland, The Grampian Society, 1871.
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Mackenzie, Henry". Encyclopædia Britannica. 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 252–253.
  • Gale Group – Eighteenth-Century Collections Online
  • British Authors Before 1800: A Biographical Dictionary, edited by Stanley J. Kunitz and Howard Haycraft, New York, the H. W. Wilson Company, 1952.

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