The not so anonymous Mr Macintosh

European Magazine

Of the various reviews of Macintosh’s Travels in the months following its publication in 1782, that which appeared in the newly established European Magazine is unusual in one specific respect: it contains a detailed biographical sketch of the book’s supposedly anonymous author.

The European Magazine had been established at the beginning of 1782 by the Scottish journalist James Perry (1756–1821) as a competitor to the more venerable Gentleman’s Magazine. Given that other contemporary reviews of Travels speculated at some length as to its unknown author, quite how the European Magazine knew who Macintosh was (and, indeed, knew so much about him) is uncertain.

 James Perry (1756–1821)

James Perry (1756–1821). National Portrait Gallery, D5511.

The “Anecdotes of the Author” which follows the review could only have come directly, we might assume, from Macintosh himself or from John Murray, so rich is that sketch in terms of biographical detail. It is possible that Macintosh and Perry were acquaintances (although a first glance indicates that Macintosh’s book was not in Perry’s personal library). In any event, it is perhaps more interesting to speculate about why Macintosh or Murray would wish to subvert the anonymity of Travels by revealing its authorship in this way.

Whatever its origin or intended purpose, the sketch was a flattering one and positioned Macintosh as a reliable and truthful witness. It concludes: “Mr. Macintosh is a person of very genteel appearance, and polite address, and his heart is warm and susceptible of friendship”.

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