Henry Mackenzie FRSE (August 1745 - 14 January 1831 died at Edinburgh) was a Scottish lawyer, novelist and writer. He was sometimes described as the Addison of the North. While Mackenzie is now mostly remembered as an author, his principal income came from legal roles, leading in 1804-1831 to a lucrative post as Comptroller of Taxes for Scotland, which allowed him to indulge his interest in writing.
Mackenzie was born at Liberton Wynd in Edinburgh on 26 July 1745. His father, Dr Joshua Mackenzie, was a distinguished Edinburgh physician and his mother, Margaret Rose, belonged to an old Nairnshire family.
Mackenzie was educated at the High School and then 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, 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 Cowhatehead off the Grassmarket, apparently as a partner with Inglis (but appearing in directories more as a rival), while he concurrently acted as attorney for the Crown.
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 would not accept it. Finally, Mackenzie published it anonymously in 1771, 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 these writers.
A clergyman from Bath named Eccles claimed authorship of the book, bringing in support for his pretensions a manuscript full of changes and erasures. Mackenzie's name was then officially announced, but Eccles appears to have induced some people to believe him. 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.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 measure of success, but others were failures. In Edinburgh Mackenzie belonged to a literary club, 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.
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". Most of them 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 (1804) by 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 his later years, a notable figure in Edinburgh society. He was nicknamed the "man of feeling", but in reality he was 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 1807 The Works of Henry Mackenzie were published surreptitiously, and he then himself superintended the publication of his Works (8 vols., 1808). There is an admiring but discriminating criticism of his work in the Prefatory Memoir prefixed by Sir Walter Scott to an edition of his novels in Ballantyne's Novelist's Library (vol. v., 1823).
Mackenzie's 1776 marriage to Penuel Grant, daughter of Sir Ludovic Grant.] made him uncle by marriage to Lewis Grant-Ogilvy, 5th Earl of Seafield. 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. Two other sons, Robert and William, worked for the East India Company. He also had two daughters, Margaret and Hope. His nephew, Joshua Henry Davidson (1785-1847) was First Physician in Scotland to Queen Victoria.
Mackenzie died at home, in the huge Georgian town house of 6 Heriot Row, on 14 January 1831. He is buried at Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh, in a grave facing north in the centre of the north retaining wall.
MacKenzie was a Scottish Freemason. He was Initiated in Lodge Canongate Kilwinning, No.2, (Edinburgh, Scotland), on 2 December 1784.