Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Macfarlane, Charles

MACFARLANE, CHARLES (d. 1858), miscellaneous writer, a native of Scotland, was son of Robert Macfarlane, by his wife, daughter of John Howard and widow of Major Harris, who was killed at the massacre of Patna in 1763. From January 1816 to May 1827 he lived in Italy and travelled through every part of the Peninsula, acquiring complete familiarity with its language and literature. In 1827 he went to Turkey and resided for sixteen months in Constantinople and the Turkish provinces. He returned to England on 2 Feb. 1829, settling in London, and supported himself by literary work. He was for many years a valuable member of Charles Knight's staff.

Accompanied by his eldest son, a youth of sixteen, Macfarlane returned to Turkey in 1847, and on his way home, in the summer of 1848, visited Messina, and made a tour through the kingdom of Naples, the Abruzzi, the marches of Ancona, and Rome. About July 1857 he was nominated a poor brother of the Charterhouse, where he died on 9 Dec. 1858. James Robinson Planché, his collaborator in several of Knight's publications, found him 'a most amusing companion and a warm friend.' Macfarlane's best work was the ‘Civil and Military History of England,’ which he contributed to Knight's ‘Pictorial History,’ edited by George Lillie Craik, 8 vols. 8vo, 1838–44. The struggles between the houses of York and Lancaster are described with especial spirit and knowledge. An abridgment, with a continuation to date, was published, under the title of ‘The Cabinet History of England,’ 26 vols. 12mo, London, 1845–7. Another edition, with the title changed to ‘The Comprehensive History of England,’ appeared under the editorship of the Rev. Thomas Thomson, 4 vols. 8vo, London, 1856–61, and again in 1876–8; and a third, with a continuation to 1884, by Thomas Archer, was issued as ‘The Popular History of England,’ 3 vols. 8vo, London, 1886. For Knight Macfarlane also compiled anonymously two pleasant little volumes called ‘The Book of Table Talk,’ 1836 (another edition 1847), for which Planché wrote a brief history of stage costume.

Macfarlane's historical novels are readable, but his biographies of Gresham (1847), Marlborough (1852), Wellington (1853, 1877, 1886), and Napoleon I (1852, 1879, 1880, 1886), his histories and books of travel, go far to justify the ‘Athenæum's’ reference to him as a ‘voluminous, not a luminous writer.’ Macfarlane's writings, other than those already noticed, include: 1. ‘Constantinople in 1828,’ 4to, London, 1829 (two editions; translated into French, 2 vols. 8vo, Paris, 1829). 2. ‘The Armenians, a Tale of Constantinople,’ 3 vols. 12mo, London, 1830. 3. ‘Barba Yorghi (or Uncle George), the Greek Pilot,’ in vol. i. of ‘The Sisters' Budget,’ 8vo, London, 1831. 4. ‘The Romance of History; Italy,’ 3 vols. 12mo, London, 1832 (and 1872). 5. ‘The Seven Apocalyptic Churches. The Etchings by T. Knox,’ 4to, London, 1832. 6. ‘The Lives and Exploits of Banditti and Robbers in all parts of the World,’ 2 vols. 12mo, London, 1833 (and 1837, in the ‘Family Library’). 7. ‘The French Revolution,’ 4 vols. 8vo, London, 1844–5, in Knight's ‘Library for the Times.’ 8. ‘Our Indian Empire,’ 8vo, London, 1844, in the same series. 9. ‘The Camp of Refuge’ (anon.), 2 vols. 12mo, London, 1844 (also 1880–1887); a tale of the conquest of the Isle of Ely. 10. ‘A Legend of Reading Abbey’ (anon.), 12mo, London, 1845, in ‘Knight's Weekly,’ No. 62. 11. ‘The Dutch in the Medway’ (anon.), 12mo, London, 1845, in the same series, No. 43. These three tales were published collectively, under the title of ‘Old England Novelettes,’ 4 vols. 18mo, 1846–7. 12. ‘The Romance of Travel; the East,’ 2 vols. 12mo, London, 1846–7, in ‘Knight's Weekly,’ Nos. 81, 111. 13. ‘Popular Customs, Sports, and Recollections of the South of Italy,’ 12mo, London, 1846, in ‘Knight's Monthly Volume,’ originally contributed to the ‘Penny Magazine’ between 1834 and 1845. 14. ‘A Glance at Revolutionized Italy,’ 2 vols. 8vo, London, 1849. 15. ‘Sicily, her Constitutions, and Viscount Palmerston's Sicilian Blue-Book,’ 8vo, London, 1849, an appendix to the above. 16. ‘Turkey and its Destiny,’ 2 vols. 8vo, London, 1850. 17. ‘The Neapolitan Government and Mr. Gladstone,’ 8vo, London, 1851. 18. ‘A History of British India,’ 8vo, London, 1852 (1857, 1858, and 1881). 19. ‘Japan, an account Geographical and Historical … With Illustrations from Designs by A. Allom,’ 8vo, London, 1852. 20. ‘The Catacombs of Rome, with Illustrations,’ 12mo, London, 1852 (1854 and 1855). 21. ‘The Great Battles of the British Army,’ 8vo, London, 1853 (2nd edit. 1854). 22. ‘Kismet, or the Doom of Turkey,’ 8vo, London, 1853. 23. ‘The Camp of 1853, with Hints on Military Matters for Civilians,’ 12mo, London, 1853. 24. ‘Patriots of China,’ 8vo, London, 1853. 25. ‘The Chinese Revolution, with details of the Habits, Manners, and Customs of China and the Chinese,’ 16mo, London, 1853. He also translated Desbarolles's ‘Two French Artists in Spain,’ 8vo, 1851.

[Athenæum, 18 Dec. 1858, p. 800; Planché's Recollections; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

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