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The Man of Feeling

3.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,238 Ratings  ·  60 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, Oxford World's Classics, 119 pages
Published August 1st 2009 by Oxford University Press (first published 1771)
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Feb 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.


My dog had made a point on a piece of fallow-ground, and led the curate and me two or three hundred yards over that and some stubble adjoining, in a breathless state of expectation, on a burning first of September.

It was a false point, and our labour was vain: yet, to do Rover justice (for he’s an excellent dog, though I have lost his pedigree), the fault was none of his, the birds were gone: the curate showed me the spot where th
Nov 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: long-18thc, 2013, 2014
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
Feb 17, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-lit
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.
Hulabalu Cheesenet
I mean its fine. It's not too terrible. I get that it's trying to be knowing but where are the GAGS???????
Bryn Hammond
I have the fondest memories of Sterne's A Sentimental Journey. This other piece of sentimentalism didn't altogether live up to them, but then Mackenzie doesn't try to be a wit like Sterne. Great edition from Broadview, heaps of material around this 90-page non-novel. It's written to be fragmentary and a bit meta, and he doesn't take his fashion of sensibility over-seriously (neither did Sterne). Later on he rescinded and wrote against sensibility (included in the Broadview), in terms very famili ...more
Jan 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 10, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Justin Evans
May 13, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Dec 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Emily Ross
This book is rather difficult to follow and understand, incredibly difficult to understand the message that MacKenzie is trying to put forward. Harley is rather a boring character and the most developed character is Edwards, but by the time I got to his section, I didn't care for the novel at all.
May 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From 1771, the actual novel is 90 pages with footnotes, doubled in this critical edition with all kinds of extra material contemporary to its composition plus recent critical writing.
The sentimental novel rose at a time when there was still some suspicion about the merit of fiction (you can read this anywhere of course), and the belief that either history or invented situations that told the reader exactly how to feel about certain things were superior to mere fantasy (which was basically for le
Nov 28, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know why I read this. Or, if I have to put something down, then I read this because the power was out for 24 hours and this was the only thing I had on my tablet that I hadn't read, and when it got too dark to read by daylight that was my only remaining option. But why did I have it on my tablet? Because it's exactly the kind of book that gets talked about in an English graduate seminar. Something about how impossible it is to understand Romantic or sentimental novels without this, which ...more
Mar 07, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
Adam Stevenson
I don’t believe in the concept of guilty pleasures, I think a person should stand up loud and proud about their pleasures, especially when it comes to music, books and films.

That said, there are corners of my cd collection that occasionally make me blush; I love girl groups, especially Phil Spector/ Joe Meek ones, I know all of the words to ‘Leader of the Pack’ and ‘Baby Love’ and I have a big soft spot for twee-pop.

What has this to do with ‘The Man of Feeling’? I hear me ask. Simply that I i
Marlene Willinger
Except for the extremely boring narrative and the complicated sentences (which have to be expected as it was written in 1771) this was actually not that bad of a book
I don't know what to say without sounding too harsh; we're dealing with literature from a period I don't particularly like and my pen can turn rather brutal. It's still nice to know and experience the changes novels went through before reaching their current form, so reading old books is not a waste of time, but this one did make me feel rather silly for bothering.

There are many points against this short novel. Firstly, it's a fragmentary novel with many jumps and sudden changes of the tale, mak
I honestly considered making this review one word: #meh. The main thing this book had in its favor was its main character, Harley. The main thrust of the story is Harley going through life, meeting people, hearing their stories and trying to help them (usually with money). Sometimes this works out and sometimes it doesn't because not all of these people are worthy of Harley's help. The point of the book is questioning whether Harley is a fool for being so sentimental and naive, or whether he's s ...more
Judith Rich
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Karen Loder
For some reason this book just did not stick to me at all. I couldn't read it and focus or care at all! Harley is of course an endearing character. This, however, is not a novel but a collection of fragments about a series of time this man cried. And he cried a lot. I'm amazed that those who read this when it was a very popular book cried. Sure the subjects are sad and pitiful, but there is no connection built between the reader and the characters since they appear often unintroduced in fragment ...more
Monty Milne
Apr 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a pleasurable and thought provoking read. The author presents his stories-within-stories and invites us to make a judgement about the actions of his characters: this is by no means an uncritical appreciation of the kinds of behaviour labelled "sentimental."

Why is MacKenzie so much more agreeable than other sentimentalists, such as Rousseau? I think because he is more nuanced, and therefore more honest. When Dickens shows us the death of Little Nell, he wants to make us cry - which is w
Jun 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1001-books
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
Jun 29, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, fiction
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
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
William March
Jul 02, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Dec 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mayhap in my future travels I will encounter a gentle soul, despondent and amiss in this cruel world, utterly in need of the warming edification only a proper reading of The Man of Feeling could grant, and then I will be in the enviable position to bestow such a paperback kindness upon them, indeed it would create a scene so powerful to even halt “an angel on his errands of mercy!” And then everyone would cry heartily a good while.

p.s. this book has, no joke, an "Index to Tears," although, remar
Nov 15, 2016 rated it liked it
An interesting book that's tone is as ambiguous as the way it's suppose to make you feel. I found myself cringing, crying, laughing and mourning the many situations Harley the protagonist finds himself in as he deals with the many challenges of 18th century London life. I very much enjoyed the experience of reading it, but found it a bit outdated. A great book for understanding the age of sensibility, the Scottish Enlightenment and British literature in general.
Sep 01, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The mopiest, sadsackiest, depressingest, cloud-over-your-headiest novel I've ever read.

As such, I don't know why any human would consider this entertaining. A man travels around, listening to other people's problems before the book culminates with his own unrequited misery before he drops dead? Who is amused by this kind of thing? In any era or age?

Thankfully, it was over before I officially needed a Prozac prescription.
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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. ” 1 likes
“but the world is apt to make an erroneous estimate: ignorant of the dispositions which constitute our happiness or misery, they bring to an undistinguished scale the means of the one, as connected with power, wealth, or grandeur, and of the other with their contraries.  Philosophers and poets have often protested against this decision; but their arguments have been despised as declamatory, or ridiculed as romantic.” 0 likes
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