Julia de Roubigné

Julia de Roubigné

Julia de Roubigné

Julia de Roubigné

Synopsis

This was Henry MacKenzie's third and last novel, one of his bettor-known works to emerge in the wake of Rousseau's Julie, ou la nouvelle Heloise, in the final quarter of the 18th century.

Excerpt

Henry Mackenzie's third and last novel was one of the betterknown works to emerge in the wake of Rousseau’s succès de scandale, Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloise, in the final quarter of the eighteenth century. Immediately popular with contemporaries, it seems nonetheless to have been something of a ‘novelist’s novel’, and has fared poorly since compared with the briefer, less complex Man of Feeling (1771), which caught — and indeed directed — the mood of an entire generation before becoming a historical curiosity interesting mainly to students of the cult of sensibility. Although (as this introduction will suggest) Julia de Roubigné offers both a more extended and reflective consideration of sensibility than the earlier novel, and a subtler understanding of the processes by which a mind comes to disorder, it has scarcely caught the attention of twentieth-century readers and critics. This edition aims to draw new readers to Mackenzie’s compelling final experiment in fiction.

Mackenzie’s novels play, in what seems to us now a very modern way, with the conditions of their own fictionality and authorship. in the opening pages of The Man of Feeling, the narrator retrieves a fragmentary manuscript from a curate who is tearing it up to supply wadding for his gun. Affecting to disparage the tale he is about to present to the reader, the narrator laments that mutilation has lessened its emotional power by depriving the manuscript of authorship:

Had the name of a Marmontel, or a Richardson, been on the title-page —
’tis odds I should have wept.

But . . .

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