English Literature, Considered as an Interpreter of English History eBook

Henry Coppée
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 540 pages of information about English Literature, Considered as an Interpreter of English History.

THE MAN OF FEELING.—­In 1771 the world was equally astonished and delighted by the appearance of his first novel, The Man of Feeling.  In this there are manifest tokens of his debt to Sterne’s Sentimental Journey, in the journey of Harley, in the story of the beggar and his dog, and in somewhat of the same forced sensibility in the account of Harley’s death.

In 1773 appeared his Man of the World which was in some sort a sequel to the Man of Feeling, but which wearies by the monotony of the plot.

In 1777 he published Julia de Roubigne, which, in the opinion of many, shares the palm with his first novel:  the plot is more varied than that of the second, and the language is exceedingly harmonious—­elegiac prose.  The story is plaintive and painful:  virtue is extolled, but made to suffer, in a domestic tragedy, which all readers would be glad to see ending differently.

At different times Mackenzie edited The Mirror and The Lounger, and he has been called the restorer of the Essay.  His story of the venerable La Roche, contributed to The Mirror, is perhaps the best specimen of his powers as a sentimentalist:  it portrays the influence of Christianity, as exhibited in the very face of infidelity, to support the soul in the sorest of trials—­the death of an only and peerless daughter.

His contributions to the above-named periodicals were very numerous and popular.

The name of his first novel was applied to himself as a man.  He was known as the man of feeling to the whole community.  This was a misnomer:  he was kind and affable; his evening parties were delightful; but he had nothing of the pathetic or sentimental about him.  On the contrary, he was humorous, practical, and worldly-wise; very fond of field sports and athletic exercises.  His sentiment—­which has been variously criticized, by some as the perfection of moral pathos, and by others as lackadaisical and canting—­may be said to have sprung rather from his observations of life and manners than to have welled spontaneously from any source within his own heart.

Sterne and Goldsmith will be read as long as the English language lasts, and their representative characters will be quoted as models and standards everywhere:  Mackenzie is fast falling into an oblivion from which he will only be resuscitated by the historian of English Literature.

CHAPTER XXIX.

THE HISTORICAL TRIAD IN THE SCEPTICAL AGE.

   The Sceptical Age.  David Hume.  History of England.  Metaphysics.  Essay
   on Miracles.  Robertson.  Histories.  Gibbon.  The Decline and Fall.

THE SCEPTICAL AGE.

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