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The Scottish Nation

DANIEL, ROBERT MACKENZIE, an eminent novelist, designated from his originality and graphic power of depicting human life, “the Scottish Boz,” was born in Inverness-shire in 1814. His father was a small landed proprietor or laird, within a short distance of the county-town, and Robert was the youngest child of a rather numerous family. His school education having been completed at Inverness, he was sent at the age of fifteen to Marischal college, Aberdeen, where he remained for three years, after which, with the view of studying for the bar, he removed to Edinburgh, and entered the office of a writer to the signet, at the same time attending the law and moral philosophy classes in the university of that city. After a residence of four years at Edinburgh, Mr. Daniel began to abandon the idea of following the profession of an advocate. The tardiness of success at the Scottish bar, to any but those of powerful connexion amongst writers or solicitors, is proverbial. He looked before him, and beheld in the vista of professional struggle long years of obscurity and neglect. He thought that he might meet with success as a literary man in London, and, accordingly, we find him there in the latter part of 1836. he wrote for periodicals by the dozen, but his communications were often rejected. After a season of trial and vexation, he was for a brief period engaged in connexion with the ‘Courier,’ an evening paper long since discontinued. He subsequently became editor of the ‘Court Journal,’ which he conducted for the space of two years. Of Mr. Daniel’s ephemeral productions, poetical and prose, we can take no account, scattered as they are over numerous London Magazines, to which he in time found admission. His maiden novel was the Scottish heiress,’ which was produced in 1842. The marked success which attended this, his first considerable attempt, encouraged him to another effort in the following year, and accordingly the ‘Gravedigger’ appeared in 1843. His second production, however, was scarcely received with the same amount of popular applause as the first, and it was always regarded by its author as a failure.

      IN 1844, Mr. Daniel, having recently married, removed from London to Jersey, hoping that there he might find that quiet and repose so requisite to continuous literary labour. There, in a short space of time, he produced the ‘Young Widow,’ which, from the universal favour with which it was greeted, at once placed its author in a distinguished position amongst popular novelists. He was now in regular demand at the circulating libraries – a work by the “Scottish Boz” was sure to command a sale, and he needed no longer indulge misgivings as to his prospect of success in that department of literature which he had adopted. His next effort was the ‘Young Baronet,’ which was fated to be the last published in its author’s lifetime. It was published in November 1845, and fully supported the opinions which the best critics had already expressed of Mr. Daniel’s talents. In January 1845, Mr. Daniel accepted the editorship of a paper then started in Jersey, designated the ‘Jersey Herald.’ In the small community of the Channel Islands, the tide of party politics runs to an inconceivable height; and any individual occupying the position of editor of a public journal, is always regarded as the rightful devoted victim of personal abuse, from all who differ in opinion from that system of policy which he advocates.

      There are, or were then, two political parties in Jersey – the Rose party, and the Laurel party. They are so called from the distinctive badge which the adherents of each respectively wear in their buttonholes on gala days. Their politics of course have nothing to do with the politics of England, but originate entirely within their own little circle. The Rose party may be regarded as the Whigs of the locality, and very illiberal Whigs they are; the Laurel party may be called the Tories; and, if there is a pin to choose between them, the latter are decidedly the more liberal of the two. Mr. Daniel was the editor of a Rose paper, and the numerous attacks, both personal and literary, of which he was the victim, at the hands of the Laurelites, embittered the existence of a man not adapted for, at least, that species of party strife. He conducted the ‘Jersey Herald’ till September 1846, when he was overtaken by a mental malady, on the appearance of which he was removed by his friends to Bethlehem Hospital, London, where he died in March 1847, aged 33. A posthumous production from his pen, entitled ‘The Cardinal’s Daughter,’ was considered one of his best works of fiction.

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