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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 235

Mackenzie’s The Man of Feeling was a Romantic novel written at the end of the sentimental era, although it was still extremely popular. Mackenzie, a literary lawyer in the 1700s, had difficulty getting his manuscript published and it remained unpublished for several years before he submitted it anonymously. The novel centers around Harley, a sensitive, kind man who puts others before himself and does his best to live a true and generous life. Although his parents died and Harley was raised by several people, he had some money to live on and he was comfortable, yet not wealthy. When his guardians suggested he undertake an attempt to get more money, he was reluctant but eventually gave in, in no small part because he was in love with Miss Walton and he felt that he would be able to offer her worthy life if he had more money.

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Harley travels in an attempt to gain money and land, and he is met with obstacle after obstacle. In each of these situations, Harley chooses kindness and virtue, putting others’ needs before himself. However he was (especially by today’s standards), somewhat weak; although this weakness could also be viewed as an asset because of his generosity.

Mackenzie himself was not at all like Harley; he was an outgoing man who sought fortune in various ways. The Man of Feeling was his first and most famous novel.

Places Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 664

Harley’s home

Harley’s home. Village in which Harley’s home is situated; it lies some way beyond a stagecoach terminus, though not as far north of London as the border of author Henry Mackenzie’s native Scotland. The only detail confided to the reader is that Harley’s aunt lives with him and looks after him. Harley is not the local squire but has an estate that includes a few tenant farms, one of which he eventually lets to Edwards.


*London. Capital of Great Britain, to which Harley journeys in the hope of obtaining the lease of Bancroft Manor. The “great man” whom he goes to see for help lives in Grosvenor Square in Mayfair, London’s richest district. While awaiting his reception, Harley spends a good deal of time in and around Hyde Park, on Mayfair’s western boundary. While there he attempts to exercise his supposed skill in the science of physiognomy (reading character in the facial features), but a typical misjudgment leads him to a taproom where he loses a considerable sum of money playing piquet; it is his fellow victim of that deception who informs him, after a chance meeting, that the lease has been dishonestly awarded, after which he resolves to go home.

Among the excursions Harley takes during his fruitless wait is one to Bedlam, a notorious hospital for the insane then located in Moorfields. Although Harley disapproves of making a spectacle out of suffering, he goes with a party to witness the anguish of the enchained patients deemed incurably mad and the silly projects of patients not deemed dangerous; he hears tales of woe in the female quarters. He also visits the house of a “Misanthropist” in order that he may contrast the madness of Bedlam with a cynical and distinctively modern species of wisdom. A more significant encounter takes place in the Strand, when he is accosted near Somerset House by one of many prostitutes loitering there. Taking pity on her, he takes her to a room in a nearby tavern, where she faints from hunger, and then visits her lodgings, where he hears her dismal tale of elopement, betrayal, abandonment, miscarriage, and ruination before her father arrives to save her.

On the road

On the road. Harley has several moving encounters while traveling to and from London; on his outward journey he meets an itinerant beggar, while his homeward journey—most of which he travels...

(The entire section contains 1094 words.)

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Critical Essays