Robert Shelton Mackenzie was born June 22, 1809 in Limerick, Ireland. Mackenzie began his newspaper career editing a county journal in Hanley, Staffordsville, England. After writing for various papers and contributing several biographies to the Georgian Era, Mackenzie was appointed the English correspondent for the New York Evening Star in 1834, possibly making Mackenzie the first European correspondent to any American paper (Baugh). While maintaining several connections to English newspapers, Mackenzie contributed articles to the Star on politics, literature, fashion, and "gossip of high life" until 1851. Mackenzie came to New York in 1852 as a result of financial difficulties and the early death of his first wife. While in New York, Mackenzie served as literary editor and political writer for an unidentified daily and as the music and dramatic critic for an unidentified Sunday paper. (Killis Campbell, in his 1917 book The Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, speculates that this paper was the New York Times.) After the establishment of the Philadelphia Press, Mackenzie moved to that city in July 1857, where he became that paper's literary and foreign editor and dramatic critic. Mackenzie held this position for twenty years. Near the end of his life, he worked as a literary editor at the Philadelphia Evening News. He also wrote several original published works over the course of his life. Mackenzie died November 21, 1881, despite the popular belief that he died November 30, 1880, and he is buried in Philadelphia (Baugh).
Mackenzie's relationship to Pfaff's and the Bohemians is uncertain. In "Our New York Letter," Mackenzie is mentioned as one of English's "associates" at the bar (English, "The Club" 202). A closer review of "Our New York Letter" associates Mackenzie with the Bohemian Club, a group of journalists that arose after the Pfaff's era ("Our New York Letter"). There are, however, a few clear connections between the Pfaffians and Mackenzie. When Fitz-James O'Brien arrived in New York in 1852, he carried with him a letter of introduction from Mackenzie that he presented to several prominent New York editors in the hope of securing employment (Winter, Old Friends, 75-76). Later, though, Mackenzie wrote an article critiquing O'Brien, especially his claim to being a baron (Gunn, vol. 10, 108, 137-9). This was an insult that O'Brien did not take lightly, according to Thomas Gunn, who wrote about an incident that erupted between O'Brien and the publisher of Mackenzie's article (Gunn, vol. 13, 206). Most notably, Mackenzie was embroiled in the controversy surrounding Gardette's "The Fire Fiend." When the poem was first published in the Philadelphia Press, Mackenzie quickly authenticated the work as Poe's, only to change his position and condemn Gardette for his hoax. Mackenzie's changing of positions on the work led to an exchange of letters between himself and Gardette and criticism of Mackenzie in the Saturday Press. A notable "Curiousities of Criticism" credited to Henry Clapp concludes with the "Query" "What is the opinion of Dr. Mackenzie worth? Yours, without much doubt on the subject, A.B." (Clapp, "Curiousities," 40).
He was the literary editor for the Philadelphia Press in 1864.
Clapp discusses Mackenzie's affirmation in the Philadelphia Press that the poems published in "The Fire Fiend and other Poems, by Charles D. Gardette" appeared to be written by Poe. Clapp also notes Mackenzie's subsequent denials of Poe's authorship of the poems. Clapp tracks Mackenzie's responses to the poems: 30 Sept. 1864, "We believe that Poe wrote them," 17 Nov. 1864, "I thought Poe could not have written them," 21 Nov. 1864, "We never believed that Poe wrote them," and finally, "It did not decieve any critic in this country."
The piece ends with the "Query": What is the opinion of Dr. Mackenzie worth? Yours, without much doubt on the subject, A.B.
Briefly mentioned in connection with Gardette's Poe hoax, "The Fire-Fiend." Also mentioned in context of the English actor William Macready, who, like Mackenzie, was also tricked into believing that "The Fire-Fiend" was actually authored by Poe himself (261).[pages:261]
English dissociates himself from Mackenzie, mentioned as one of English's "associates" at Pfaff's in "Our New York."[pages:202]
Gardette claims that Mackenzie never gave him the privildege of "justifying" his work with "The Fire Fiend."
Banks tells Gunn about Mackenzie's praise of his book: "Dropping in at the Ornithoryncus at night in company with Sol, met Banks who spoke of his book. How Shelton Mackenzie 'very much admired it,' 'liked every bone in it but one,' and 'undertook to find him a publisher'."[pages:60]
Gunn writes about Mackenzie's letter: "Talking of Irishman, there's that old 'blower' Shelton MacKenzie, in a 'London letter' written at Philadelphia, to the 'Constellation,' vilifying and lying about Thackeray in a thoroughly Celtic manner. Reason; Thackeray's Irish Sketchbook and Irishmen in his novels; which Irishmen can not forgive. And when they hate they lie: they can't be fair to an evening. Some time ago MacKenzie put Doyle above florious John Leech(!) as an artist; attributing Punch's decadence to the Irishman's retirement. Bah! Erin go Brag! Brag! Brag! I wonder how many Generations it takes to graft something like veracity, and fair play into the Celt – whether it can be done, after all!" (108)
Gunn describes Mackenzie's article about Fitz-James O'Brien: "Old Shelton MacKenzie has written an article on O'Brien, in the Constellation; just the sort of article one Irishman would write of another. There's one lie in it, I know, that asserting the precedence of Doesticks Witches of N.Y over O'B's fortune tellers. All the rest I've heard before. The assumed baronetry has caused much mirth to those who know the man. It's in accordance with his principle of when desperately cornered to do some- thing audacious. 'When in doubt, play a trump.' Not being known in Boston and anticipating that a real live baronet might get the entree to 'society' – O'B[rien]'s constant aspiration – he has trumped up this characteristic lie" (137).
Gunn attaches a newspaper clipping written by Mackenzie, regarding the rumor that O'Brien is the heir to an Irish baronetcy (139).[pages:108, 137, 139]
Gunn tells of O'Brien's attack of Roberts, the publisher of Mackenzie's article, "Another O'Brien incident. He met Roberts of the "Constellation," in a bar-room, Clapp, George Arnold, Shepherd and others being present, when one of the party introduced O'B. to Roberts. It was subsequent to the publication of Shelton Mackenzie's attack on O'B., who drew himself up inquiring if Roberts were the publisher of the paper, and on being answered in the affirmative first walked aside with him, then returned and abused him to his face, before those assembled, as a liar, blackguard, &c. Roberts took it sensibly, said that O'B. was surrounded by friends, he without any, that he didn't want a bar-room brawl, but offered his card and what subsequent satisfaction a private interview might afford, and so left. O'Brien asserts that he sent Wilkins to him with a hostile message and that Roberts tendered some apology" (205-7).[pages:206]
Ramsay tells Gunn his letters were addressed to Mackenzie's landlady: "Talking with Ramsay this morning, he told me that he had written letters to Forney's Philadelphia 'Press', for which his hotel expenses were to be defrayed, exhibiting sundry envelopes, addressed to a German woman, the landlady of Shelton Mackenzie, and rather pluming himself on his ingenuity."[pages:150]
This text identifies the following pseudonym: Sholto (86).[pages:86]
Mentioned in reference to the Bohemian Club, which may be a post-Pfaff's group of journalists, even though they are described here as frequenting "Pfaaf's" [sic]. See Thomas Dunn English's "That Club at Pfaaf's [sic]."[pages:64]
When O'Brien arrived in New York in 1852, he brought with him a letter of introduction from Dr. Mackenzie which he presented to prominent editors such as Major Noah and General Morris. In 1852, Dr. Mackenzie was living in Liverpool, but he was "later eminent in the journalism of Philadelphia" (75-76).[pages:75-76]
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