A Scottish Man of Feeling: Some Account of Henry Mackenzie, Esq., of Edinburgh, and of the Golden Age of Burns and Scott

A Scottish Man of Feeling: Some Account of Henry Mackenzie, Esq., of Edinburgh, and of the Golden Age of Burns and Scott

A Scottish Man of Feeling: Some Account of Henry Mackenzie, Esq., of Edinburgh, and of the Golden Age of Burns and Scott

A Scottish Man of Feeling: Some Account of Henry Mackenzie, Esq., of Edinburgh, and of the Golden Age of Burns and Scott

Excerpt

'Sir,' said Christopher North in 1822, Henry Mackenzie will live as long as our tongue, or longer. Those who attempt to read this book may conclude that the robust prophecy has already been fulfilled; but I trust that I am sufficiently master of 'our tongue' to explain my purpose.

This is not primarily a biography of Henry Mackenzie, Esq., of Edinburgh. It is the first attempt ever made by an American or any one else to account for the literature of that Golden Age which produced David Hume, Robert Burns, and Sir Walter Scott. With general histories of Scottish literature we are supplied, as well as with charming books of literary anecdotes; but I think that no previous author has attempted to explain how within the lifetime of one man the sentiment, intellect, and faith of Scotland found expression in works of such consistent and enduring beauty. These books, we say, only Scots could have written, and only Scots of the Golden Age; but where shall we find an estimate of the temper and feeling of that age? Certainly no such account is to be found in the innumerable histories of English literature written by English and American scholars; there you will discover only a bewildered acknowledgement of the 'Highland sentiment and Lowland humour' which, by the grace of Heaven and the Act of Union, somehow produced great writers -- writers who, as we are beginning to realize, revivified English letters and furnished America with traditions not yet exhausted. Obviously the history of modern literature in English needs revision by some one acquainted with the Scottish contributions; unfortunately the Scots, though a nation of princely biographers and historians, have not cared to undertake the task. The present volume is therefore a series of hints and guesses regarding matters of growing interest -- of interest not merely to students but to all who love the zestful pages of Burns and Scott.

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