The Man of Feeling
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The Man of Feeling

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2.94 of 5 stars 2.94  ·  rating details  ·  660 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Mackenzie's hugely popular novel of 1771 is the foremost work of the sentimental movement, in which sentiment and sensibility were allied with true virtue, and sensitivity is the mark of the man of feeling. The hero, Harley, is followed in a series of episodes demonstrating his benevolence in an uncaring world: he assists the down-trodden, loses his love, and fails to achi...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published January 3rd 2002 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1771)
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Eighteenth Century List
39th out of 76 books — 20 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,656)
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Teresa
Though this book is continuously reviled for being overly-sentimental, a closer read shows an incredibly complex narrative. A question to ask while reading is who is the narrator and how fully does he condone Harley's actions/"motives." There is a layer of irony but it's a fascinating layer that doesn't ask the reader to judge Harley but to judge their own involvement in the ridiculous and cruel practices of the world. The layering of narrators, the weirdly intrusive "editor," and the fragmentar...more
Justin Evans
What more do you need from a contemporary novel? Clever clever narrative disruption? Check. Post-romantic fragmentation? Check. Rejection of final moral? Check. And every time someone writes a review saying 'why doesn't he man up' they prove why people should read this book *seriously*. Yeah, it's funny that the man tears up over seemingly everything - but he also hires hookers, so, you know, he's not such a snag. And honestly, the world probably would be a better place if people were actually u...more
kasia
This is the second or third time I've read this book, and oddly, it never gets easier. I find it fascinating, not least because it's weirdly difficult, and I'm not even entirely able to say how or why. I mean, it's fragmentary and jumps around in time, and the tone is somewhat unstable, but there's some other elusive quality about it that I can't quite describe. But it also has moments of being quite lucid and thoughtful in a really interesting way, and others of being hilariously funny, whether...more
Marya
How I would love to give this to any teen who declares him/herself "emo" and thinks it's something new and special. Then I'd like to introduce said teens to the twenty-something students in my undergrad class that sniggered and eye-rolled their way through this book. Now that would make for a great discussion.
J. Alfred
The back cover has Burns saying that he cherishes this book next to the bible. If one wishes to write sentimental poetry in a Scottish accent, then, one should become familiar with this book. It's pretty good, if one is fond of the sort of things that lead editors to include an "index of tears" in the back.
Leslie
This is unlikely to appeal to anyone without a particular interest in the period or the history of the English novel; its interest now is almost entirely historical. The most interesting thing about the book is its odd structure (or lack of structure). The narrator of the oddly elaborate frame story meets up with a sporting curate, who tells him of a bundle of papers left behind by an unknown man, which are much depleted by the curate's habit of using the manuscript as wadding for his gun. So wh...more
Jim
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lief
As a novel about sensibility and the changing of culture in 18th century England, _The Man of Feeling_ stands as an unparalleled novel. The novel follows the experiences of Harley--the last male in a low-ranking aristocratic family. The purpose of the novel is not so much to tell Harley's story (which is told as a fragmentary record) as to illustrate the way a man possessing sensibility (a man of feeling) reacts in various situations. The novel really shows how the aristocratic model was beginni...more
Kelsey
I tried really hard to like this book. I did. I had to read this for my post-modernism class I took in college, and when it came time to read this, I sat in the library of my school for two hours reading it. At the end of those two hours, I couldn't even remember what I had read.

Since this book is post-modern, it doesn't follow the "rules" structural books have. The first ten chapters of this novel are missing, and the narrator muses that they must have been used as wadding for a gun. It follows...more
James
The English Prince Myshkin... An interesting study but a bit tiresome and moralistic. Ironically, I didn't really ever feel that much for Harley. He just sort of blubbered along colourlessly, gaping at the world, in perpetual readiness to help or listen but not in a strenuous or particularly captivating fashion.
Ian
Wildly successful on its mid 1700s release, this has been reduced to a curiosity these days, embodying as it does and aspect of manliness that has subsequently been maligned. Harley is a man of sensibility or sentiment, which manifests itself in tears at every scene of pathos he encounters. What he really is, is sensitive, but that aspect of a man's character does not translate well to modern ears, being more used to machismo as the defining characteristic of even an advanced male of the species...more
Jeff
This was a bit dull. There were parts that were interesting, and the book wasn't unreadable; it's just not a real page-turner. But then it's short, so there you go.
Penny
I loved this book as the issues of disillusion are as relevant today as they were when this book was written. This edition is great as it has notes about the language in the back, which is a great resource as my knowledge of older forms of English is not the best by any means.

It is interesting to see how some of our reactions to various situations have not changed much. I would recommend this book to those who are looking for a commentary of social attitudes.
William March
I'm usually a sucker for sentimental literature from this period but I was not captivated by this book as I have been with others. The writing is very disjointed, which I understand was intentional, but it was distracting and caused me to lose interest.

I think part of the problem was the location where I was reading it. I was at a Starbucks with music and people talking which is not the ideal atmosphere for this type of text.

I'm going to reserve judgement on this book for now as I have determine...more
Lindsey
Brian and John both read this in college, and while it would have been more fun to have a class to discuss it with, I still enjoyed it on my own. I didn't realize there had been an actual era of "sentimental literature" in the 1700s, when people sincerely cried as they read this book and others like it. Eventually, though, tastes changed, and readers began to recognize the humorous absurdity of all the sappy moments. In fact, one of my favorite parts of the whole book is an appendix added by an...more
Kate
Favorite quotes: "He is cursed enough already: to him the noblest source of happiness is denied, and the cares of his sordid soul gnaw it . . .

There is rust about every man at the beginning; though in some nations . . . the ideas of the inhabitants, from climate, or whatever cause you will, are so vivacious, so eternally on the wing, that they must, even in small societies, have a frequent collision; the rust therefore will wear off sooner: but in Britain it often goes with a man to his grave
Nicole
May 18, 2012 Nicole rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nicole by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
Shelves: 2012, 1001-list-books
I enjoyed The Man of Feeling much more than I expected. Usually sentimental novels are not high on my list, but I found Mr. Harlan to be a sympathetic lead character. It was a quick read - less than 200 pages - and well-paced. It was very easy to read in spurts between doing other things. I found it to be one of the better books I've read from this particular section of the list (1700s).

Book 49 of The List
Erica
Lots of weeping, gushing, moist eyes and emotions too full to express. John Edwards's story about being pushed off his land by an ambitious, profit hungry squire is touching. Series of tales (in fragments, found as in a curate's waste paper) about Harley feeling for people and helping them, even though sometimes he's taken advantage of.
Stuart Macalpine
A Scottish sentimental novel, which the 'editor' explains was saved from a man using it as gun wadding, so the novel lacks many pages and has many gaps (all part of the conceit MacKenzie has designed but also a feature of the playful novels of this period) - it is really funny in parts, and worth reading for the opening chapters alone.
Jacqueline
Basically, this guy walks around and everyone he encounters offers up their life stories and he cries about how sad they are. Then everyone praises him for crying. And that's literally it. It's not even heroic benevolence, he's just not being a complete asshole to prostitutes and poor people. I could not have cared less.
Lauren
This book wasn't overly exciting or overly thrilling. But in a funny way, it was very satisfying. That is the best word for this book, satisfying. I enjoyed reading about the character and his adventures and really thinking about the book's thematic question if being overly generous is a good thing.
Julia
I was inclined to grab Mr. Harley by the hair and slap him hard across the mouth several times. He's always crying over something, and it is not becoming in a man to cry so much. I mean, a little bit is endearing, but this was just ridiculous.

I did, however, enjoy the Tale of the Prostitute.
Tina Dyer
The man of sentiment takes on the big bad world... and it is a miracle they didn't see him coming, because our Harley is a babe in the woods. He is, however, a genuinely nice guy, though prone to a certain emotional instability, and kind to everyone, even down-on-their-luck prostitutes.
Samiha
I had to read this for a class and it's a relatively short book, but it is SO boring. Was such a struggle to get through it and when I'm struggling to remain interested I don't absorb the story well enough!
Mike Jensen
I liked this book while I read it, but honestly I made little impresson. I do not remember a thing about it except for a generally good feeling about the story and the style.
Alice
If you're into episodic fiction or heavily philosophical narratives then this is for you!!!
If, like me, that's not really your thing then I'd stay away.

Han
I would've given it one star, but some parts of the novel were sentimental and moving. Definitely a lot of boring parts, though...
Tej
I could very easily have died without having read this book. The introduction was far more entertaining than the book itself.
Carol
This was an easy enough read, pleasant. I don't believe I'll ever really love sentimental literature.
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Julia de Roubigne The Man of Feeling: And Julia de Roubignac, a Tale The Story of La Roche The Mirror; A Periodical Paper Published in Edinburgh in the Years 1779 and 1780 Volume 1 The Man of the World

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“Indeed, I have observed one ingredient, somewhat necessary in a man’s composition towards happiness, which people of feeling would do well to acquire; a certain respect for the follies of mankind: for there are so many fools whom the opinion of the world entitles to regard, whom accident has placed in heights of which they are unworthy, that he who cannot restrain his contempt or indignation at the sight will be too often quarrelling with the disposal of things to relish that share which is allotted to himself. ” 0 likes
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