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Mackay was born in
Perth, Scotland in 1814. His mother died shortly after he was born, whereupon
his father, an officer in the Royal Navy, sent Charles to live with a nurse in
the age of sixteen he was employed as the private secretary to William Cockerill,
an ironmaster based in Belgium. In his spare time he wrote articles for the
local newspaper, then returned to Britain to write for London newspapers, and in
1835 became assistant to George Hogarth on the Morning Chronicle. He was
in auspicious company: other journalists on the paper included Charles Dickens
and William Hazlitt.
1844 he moved from the Morning Chronicle to edit The Glasgow Argus.
While there he contributed articles and poetry to the Daily News, a newspaper
set up by Charles Dickens. In 1848 he returned to London to join the staff of
the London Illustrated News, becoming its editor in 1852.
than Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Mackay
publications include an anthology of his poetry, a dictionary of Lowland Scotch,
and a two volume autobiography published two years before his death in 1899.