The Man of Feeling By Henry Mackenzie

Henry Mackenzie, Courtesy of Scottish National Gallery

Henry Mackenzie’s The Man of Feeling at one level is the fragmented story of a well-meaning, yet naive man named Harley. On another level, the novel is the story of our emotional landscapes: of sorrow and joy, of anger and love, and finally of virtue and loss. In a series of discontinuous vignettes, we follow Harley on his unsuccessful trip to London to ask a favor of a baronet. Though the journey was unsuccessful, the characterization of Harley begins to develop into an ever-sentimental person that reacts to the woes, tirades , and wisdom of the different situations and people he encounters. Along the journey, Harley befriends a beggar, who blurs the lines between honesty and necessity. He empathizes with some of the inmates of Bedlam, an 18th century insane asylum. He learns a lesson on honor and politeness from a misanthrope and then is duped in a game of cards by two con artists. Drawn to the suffering of prostitute, Harley becomes a character in her story of the disastrous consequences of seduction. In one of the many emotional climaxes of the novel, Harley sees the reunion of the prostitute and her father who has been searching her for decades. Having gone through a financially fruitless trip, Harley begins his journey homeward. In the stage-coach on the way home, he encounters many characters and reflects with an old man on the vanity of poets and how the young are no longer taught to be sensible. Harley now comes to hear the tragic story of Old Edwards, a man who has sacrificed everything for his children only to find that they have died of grief in his absence. This grief shrouds the rest of the novel, as Harley finds the schoolhouse of his youth destroyed and learns that the love of his life, Miss Walton, intends to marry another man. Suddenly, the story is interrupted by a brief narrative of the journeys of a boy and his tutor as they help a dying man in prison and learn a lesson on virtue. Returning to the story of Harley, we find him some years in the future, as a sickly young man who has accepted that he is to die. In a powerful scene, the dying Harley finally reveals his love to Miss Walton, who reveals that she too has loved Harley. With one last brief smile, Harley dies by her side. In the final chapters we are told of the burial of Harley and the author relates that the world has lost a very noble man, a man of feeling.

IntroductionChapter XI of Bashfulness--A Character--His Opinion on that Subject
Chapter XII of Worldly Interests
Chapter XIII The Man of Feeling in Love
Chapter XIV He Sets Out on His Journey--The Beggar and His Dog
Chapter XIX He Makes a Second Expedition to the Baronet's
Chapter XX He Visits Bedlam--The Distresses of a Daughter
Chapter XXI The Misanthropist
Chapter XXV His Skill in Physiognomy
Chapter XXVI The Man of Feeling In a Brothel
Chapter XXVII His Skill in Physiognomy is Doubted
Chapter XXVIII He Keeps His Appointment
Chapter XXIX The Distresses of a Father
A Fragment Showing His Success With the Baronet
Chapter XXXIII He Leaves London--Characters In a Stage-Coach
Chapter XXXIV He Meets an Old Acquaintance
Chapter XXXV He Misses an Old Acquaintance--An Adventure Consequent Upon It
Chapter XXXVI He Returns Home--A Description of His Retinue
A Fragment The Man of Feeling Talks of What He Does Not Understand--An Incident
Chapter XL The Man of Feeling Jealous
Lavinia. A Pastoral
The Pupil. A Fragment
Chapter LV He Sees Miss Walton, and is Happy
Chapter LVI The Emotions of the Heart
The Conclusion

About the Author
Essential Questions and Themes
Related Topics (Extended Information)