The Man of Feeling

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Author: Henry Mackenzie
Language: English
Wordcount: 37,325 / 109 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 55.3
LoC Category: PN
Downloads: 2,050
mnybks.net#: 4662
Genre: Essays
Excerpt

have mentioned. One of these was, the prospect of his succeeding to an old lady, a distant relation, who was known to be possessed of a very large sum in the stocks: but in this their hopes were disappointed; for the young man was so untoward in his disposition, that, notwithstanding the instructions he daily received, his visits rather tended to alienate than gain the good-will of his kinswoman. He sometimes looked grave when the old lady told the jokes of her youth; he often refused to eat when she pressed him, and was seldom or never provided with sugar-candy or liquorice when she was seized with a fit of coughing: nay, he had once the rudeness to fall asleep while she was describing the composition and virtues of her favourite cholic-water. In short, be accommodated himself so ill to her humour, that she died, and did not leave him a farthing.

The other method pointed out to him was an endeavour to get a lease of some crown-lands, which lay contiguous to his little paternal estate. This, it was im

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Average Rating of 4 from 1 reviews: ****
2012.01.19
Jim Paris
****.

In 18th century England, and to a similar extent in Western Europe, there was a literature of Sensibility in which characters attempted to live a highly moral life while at the same time freely showing their emotions, especially when giving in to tears. One of the classics of this sensibility was the Scottish author Henry Mackenzie's The Man of Feeling, which looked at the life of a thoroughly likeable young man who, although not the sharpest tack in the box, submitted to his most generous impulses on all occasions. Even when his health is giving way, he opines:

There is a certain dignity in retiring from life at a time, when the infirmities of age have not sapped our faculties. This world, my dear Charles, was a scene in which I never much delighted. I was not formed for the bustle of the busy, nor the dissipation of the gay; a thousand things occurred, where I blushed for the impropriety of my conduct when I thought on the world, though my reason told me I should have blushed to have done otherwise. - It was a scene of dissimulation, of restraint, of disappointment. I leave it to enter on that state which I have learned to believe is replete with the genuine happiness attendant upon virtue. I look back on the tenor of my life, with the consciousness of few great offences to account for. There are blemishes, I confess, which deform in some degree the picture. But I know the benignity of the Supreme Being, and rejoice at the thoughts of its exertion in my favour. My mind expands at the thought I shall enter into the society of the blessed, wise as angels, with the simplicity of children.

Although we do not tend to value such emotions today, they were a fresh discovery to our ancestors after all the snuff and lace cuffs of the Age of Reason. It also resulted in such wonderful books as Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield, Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, Sterne's Sentimental Journey, and Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard."


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