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poetical attempts, which, as they were published in in the midst of literary society, and had easy acthe Scots Magazine, with his initials, and some-cess to books, and his colloquial talents daily intimes with his place of abode, must have contri- creased the number of his friends. His emolubuted to make him yet more known and respected. ments were not great, but his situation had a con
The church of Scotland was at this time the sequence in the opinion of the public, which to so usual resource of well educated young men, and young a man was not a little flattering. with their academical stores in full memory, there He had not long been an usher at this school bewere few difficulties to be surmounted before their fore he published a volume of poems. An author's entrance on the sacred office. Although this first appearance is always an important era. Mr. church presents no temptations to ambition, Mr. Beattie's was certainly attended with circumstances Beattie appears to have regarded it as the only that are not now common. This volume was anmeans by which he could obtain an independent nounced to the public in a more humble manner rank in life; and with his diligence, was confident than the present state of literature is thought to that the transition from the studies of philosophy demand in similar cases. On the 10th of March, and ethics to that of divinity, would be easy. He 1760, not the volume itself, but Proposals for printreturned, therefore, during the winter to Marischal ing original Poems and Translations were issued. College, and attended the divinity lectures of Dr. The poems appeared accordingly on the 16th of Robert Pollock, of that college, and of professor February, 1761, and were published both in LonJohn Lumsden, of King's, and performed the ex- don and Edinburgh. They consisted partly of ercises required by the rules of both. One of his original composition, and partly of the pieces forfellow-students informed Sir William Forbes, that merly printed in the Scots Magazine, but altered during their attendance at the divinity-hall, he and corrected; a practice which Beattie carried heard Mr. Beattie deliver a discourse, which met almost to excess in all his poetical works. with much commendation, but of which it was re- The praise bestowed on this volume was very marked by the audience, that he spoke poetry in flattering. The English critics who then dispensed prose.
the rewards of literature, considered it as an acWhile the church seemed his only prospect, and quisition to the republic of letters, and pronounced one which he never contemplated with satisfaction, that, since Mr. Gray (whom in their opinion Mr. although few young men lived a more pious and Beattie had chosen for his model) they had not inet regular life, there occurred, in 1757, a vacancy for with a poet of more harmonious numbers, more one of the masters of the grammar-school of Aber- pleasing imagination, or more spirited expression. deen, a situation of considerable importance in all This verdict they endeavoured to confirm by exrespects. The school, which is a public founda- tracts from the Ode to Peace, and the Triumph of tion, is conducted by a rector, or head master, and Melancholy. But notwithstanding praises which three subordinate masters; the whole is in the so evidently tended to give a currency to the poems, patronage of the magistrates of the city, who are, and which were probably repeated with eagerhowever, governed in their choice by the issue of ness by the friends who had encouraged the pub a very severe trial of the candidate's ability, car- lication, the author, upon more serious consideraried on by the professors of the university. On tion, was so dissatisfied with this volume as to this occasion, Mr. Beattie was advised to become destroy every copy he could procure. Nor was a candidate; but he was diffident of his qualifica- this a sudden or splenetic humour in Beattie. tions, and did not think himself so fully possessed Some years after, when his taste and judgment of the grammatical niceties of the Latin language, became fully matured, he refused to acknowledge as to be able to answer readily, any question that above four of them; namely, Retirement, Ode to might be put to him by older and more experienced Hope, Elegy on a Lady, and the Hares, and these judges. In every part of his life, it may be here he almost re-wrote before he would permit them observed, Beattie appears to have formed an exact to be printed with the Minstrel. estimate of his own talents; and in the present But notwithstanding the lowly opinion of the instance he failed just where he expected to fail, author, these poems, during their first circulation, rather in the circumstantial than the essential re- which was chiefly in manuscript, contributed so quisites for the situation to which he aspired. The much to the general reputation he acquired, that other candidate was accordingly preferred. But he was considered as an honour to his country, Beattie's attempt was attended with so little loss and deserving of a higher rank among her faof reputation, that a second vacancy occurring a voured sons. Accordingly a vacancy happening few months after, and two candidates appearing, in Marischal College, his friends made such earn. both unqualified for the office, it was presented to est applications in his behalf, that in September, him by the magistrates in the most handsome man- 1760, he was appointed by the royal patent proner, without the form of a trial, and he immedi- fessor of philosophy. His department in this hoately entered upon it in June, 1758. He was now nourable office extended to moral philosophy and
logic; and it added, in his mind, a very affecting era of his life; for this work carried his fame far importance to it, that his was the last course of in- beyond all local bounds and local partialities. It is struction previous to the students leaving college, not, however, necessary to enter minutely into the and dispersing themselves in the world. history of a work so well known.
This promotion was sudden and unexpected; When this work was completed, so many diffiand it may be supposed that a youth of twenty-culties occurred in procuring it to be published, five must have been ill prepared to give a course that his friends, Sir William Forbes and Mr. Arof lectures, and a train of instructions on subjects buthnot, were obliged to become the purchasers, which had been but imperfectly treated by veteran unknown to him, at a price with which they philosophers. Yet it is evident from his printed thought he would be satisfied. Sir William acworks, that most of the subjects which belong to cordingly wrote to him that the manuscript was his province, had been familiarized to him by a long sold for fifty guineas, as the price of the first edicourse of reading and thinking, and that he had tion. In a very grateful letter addressed to his very early accustomed himself to composition; and friends, he answered that “the price really exit is highly probable that he brought into the proceeded his warmest expectations.” fessor's chair, such a mass of materials, as could The first edition of this essay was published in with very little trouble be moulded into shape for an octavo volume, in 1770, and bought up with his immediate purpose. It is certain, however, such avidity that a second was called for, and pubthat such was his diligence, and such his love of lished in the following year. The interval was those studies, that within a few years he was not short, but as the work had excited the public atonly enabled to deliver an admirable course of lec- tention in an extraordinary degree, the result of tures on moral philosophy and logic, but also to the public opinion had reached the author's car, prepare for the press those works on which his and to this second edition he added a postscript, in fame rests; all of which, there is some reason to vindication of a certain degree of warmth of which think, were written, or nearly written, before he he had been accused. gave the world the result of his philosophical stu- The Essay on Truth, whatever objections were dies in the celebrated Essay on Truth. It may be made to it, (and it met with very few public oppo added likewise, that the rank he had at this time nents,) had a more extensive circulation than proattained in the university entitled him to associate bably any work of the kind ever published. This more on a level with Reid and with Campbell, with may be partly attributed to the charms of that Gerard and with Gregory, men whose opinions popular style in which the author conveyed his were in many points congenial, and who have all sentiments on subjects which his adversaries had been hailed by the sister country among the revi- artfully disguised in a metaphysical jargon, the vers of Scotch literature. With the gentlemen meaning of which they could vary at pleasure; but already mentioned, and a few others, he formed a the eagerness with which it was sought arose society, or club, for the discussion of literary and chiefly from the just praise bestowed upon it by philosophical subjects. A part of their entertain the most distinguished friends of religion and learnment was the reading a short essay, composed by ing in Great Britain. With many these, of each member in his turn. It is supposed that the high rank, both in church and state, the author works of Reid, Campbell, Beattie, Gregory, and had the satisfaction of dating his acquaintance Gerard, or at least the outlines of them, were first from the publication of this work. There appeardiscussed in this society, either in the form of es- ed, indeed, in the public in general, an honourable says, or of a question for familiar conversation. wish to grace the triumph of sound reasoning over
In 1765, Mr. Beattie published the Judgment pernicious sophistry. Hence, in less than four of Paris, a poem, in 4to. Its design was to prove years, five large editions of the Essay were sold. that virtue alone is capable of affording a gratifica- It was translated into several foreign languages, tion adequate to our whole nature; the pursuits and attracted the notice of many eminent persons of ambition or sensuality promising only partial in France, Germany, Holland, Italy, and other happiness, as being adapted not to our whole con- parts of the continent. stitution, but only to a part of it. The reception Among other marks of respect, the University of this poem, however, was unfavourable, and al- of Oxford conferred the degree of Doctor of Laws though he added it to a new addition of his poems on the author; and on his second arrival in Lonin 1766, yet it was never again reprinted, and even don, he was graciously received by the king, who nis biographer has declined reviving its memory bestowed a pension on him, and admitted hiin to by an extract.
a private conference. It was in July, 1771, that Although he had acquired a station in which Dr. Beattie first visited London, and commenced his talents were displayed with great advantage, a personal acquaintance with men of the highest and commanded a very high degree of respect, the eminence, with Lord Mansfield and Lord Lyttelpublication of the Essay on Truth was the great 'ton, Drs. Hurd, Porteus, Johnson, Mr. Burke,
and, indeed, the whole of the literary society, | tice of it. It was objected, also, that the sentiwhose conversations have been so pleasantly de- ment of the first stanza appeared too close a copy tailed by Mr. Boswell. He returned to Scotland from a passage in Gray's celebrated elegy; and sewith a mind elevated and cheered by the praise, veral lines were pointed out as unequal, and inthe kindness, and the patronage of the good and consistent with the general measure, or with the great.
dignity of the subject. These objections appear Soon after his visit to London, he was solicited, to have coincided with the author's reconsideration: by a very flattering proposal, sent through the and he not only adopted various alterations rehands of Dr. Porteus, to enter into the church of commended by his friends, particularly by Mr. England. A similar offer had been made some Gray, but introduced others, which made the subtime before, by the Archbishop of York, but de- sequent
, editions of his poems far more perfect than clined. It was now renewed with more importu- the first. nity, and produced from him the important reasons The Minstrel, however, in its first form, conwhich obliged him still to decline an offer which tained so many passages of genuine poetry, the he could not but consider as “ great and generous.” | poetry of nature and of feeling, and was so eagerly By these reasons, communicated in a letter to Dr. applauded by those whose right of opinion was inPorteus, we find that he was apprehensive of the contestable, that it soon ran through four editions; injury that might be done to the cause he had es- and in 1774, the author produced the second book. poused, if his enemies should have any ground for This, although of a more philosophical cast, and asserting that he had written his Essay on Truth, less rich in those descriptions which appeal to with a view to promotion : and he was likewise every heart, yet contained imagery so noble, and of opinion that it might have the appearance of so many proofs of the “lively, plastic imagination," levity and insincerity, and even of want of princi- as to place the author in the first ranks of modern ple, were he to quit, without any other apparent poetry. As the success of the second book was motive than that of bettering his circumstances, not inferior to that of the first, it was the general the church of which he had uniformly been a wish that the author would fulfil his promise by member. Other reasons be assigned, on this oc- completing the interesting subject; but the incasion, of some, but less weight, all which pre- creasing business of education, the cares of a vailed on his friends to desist from farther solicita- family, and the state of his health, originally delition, while they honoured the motives by which cate, and never robust, deprived him of the time he was induenced. In the same year he refused and thought which he considered as requisite. In the offer of a professor's chair in the University 1777, however, he was induced to publish the two of Edinburgh, considering his present situation as parts of the Minstrel together, and to add a few best adapted to his habits and to his usefulness, of his juvenile poems. In his advertisement he and apprehending that the formation of a new so- informs us, that “they are all of which he is willciety of friends might not be so easy or agreeable ing to be considered as the author.” About this in a place where the enemies of his principles were time some poems were ascribed to him which he numerous. To some of his friends, however, these never wrote; and those pieces which he wished to reasons did not appear very sound.
consign to oblivion, were published by persons who Although Mr. Beattie had seemingly withdrawn hoped to profit by the established fame of the his claims as a poet, by canceling as many copies author. of his juvenile attempts as he could procure, he During the preceding year, (1776) he prepared was not so unconscious of his talents, as to relin- for the press a new edition of the Essay on Truth, quish what was an early and favourite pursuit, in a more elegant form than it had hitherto worn, and in which he had probably passed some of his and attended with circumstances of public esteem most delightful hours. A few months after the which were very flattering. The subscription moappearance of the Essay on Truth, he published ney was a guinea, but we are not certain that subthe first book of the Minstrel, in 4to, but without scribers were limited to that sum. The list of subhis name. In consequence of this omission, the scribers amounted to four hundred and seventypoem was examined with all that rigour of criticism six names, of men and women of the first rank in which may be expected in the case of a work, for life, and of all the distinguished literary characters which the author's name can neither afford protec- of the time. The copies subscribed for amounted tion nor apology. He was praised for having to seven hundred and thirty-two, so that no inconadopted the measure of Spenser, because he had /siderable sum must have accrued in this delicate the happy enthusiasm of that writer to support manner to the author. Dr. Beattie was by no and render it agreeable; but objections were made means rich; his pension was only two hundred to the limitation of his plan to the profession of the pounds, and the annual amount of his professorMinstrel, when so much superior interest might ship never reached that sum. be excited by carrying him on through the prac- The Essays added to this volume, and which
he afterwards printed separately in octavo, were daughter of Dr. James Dun, rector or head master on Poetry and Music: on Laughter and Ludi- of the grammar school of Aberdeen, a man of crons Composition; and on the Utility of Classical great personal worth, and an excellent classical Learning. The first, which was written in 1762, scholar. when the author had only reached his twenty- With this lady Dr. Beattie enjoyed for many seventh year, evinces a great fund of reading, and years as much felicity as the married state can afsuch acquaintance with ancient and modern litera- ford; and when she visited London with him, she ture, and such discrimination in objects of criticism, shared amply in the respect paid to him, and in as are rarely found in persons of that age. the esteem of his illustrious friends. By her he
During a visit to the metropolis, in 1784, Dr. had two sons, James Hay, so named from the Earl Beattie submitted to the Bishop of London, with of Errol, one of his old and steady friends; and whose friendship he had long been honoured, a Montague, from the celebrated Mrs. Montague, in part of a work which at that prelate's desire he whose house Dr. Beattie frequently resided when published in 1786, entitled, Evidences of the Chris- in London. While these children were very tian Religion briefly and plainly stated, 2 vols. young, Mrs. Beattie was seized with an indisposi12mo. This likewise formed part of his con- tion, which, in spite of all care and skill, termicluding lectures to his class, and he generally dic-nated in the painful necessity of separation from tated an abstract of it to them in the course of the her husband. The care of the children now desession.
volved on the father, whose sensibility received In the preface to his Dissertations, he intimated such a shock from the melancholy insanity alluded a design of publishing the whole of his Lectures to, as could only be aggravated by an apprehenon Moral Science, but from this he was diverted. sion that the consequences of Mrs. Beattie's disHe was encouraged, however, to present to the order might not be confined to herself. This public, in a correct and somewhat enlarged form, alarm, which often preyed on his spirits, proved the abstract which he used to dictate to his scho- happily without foundation. His children grew lars. Accordingly, in 1790, he published his Elo up without the smallest appearance of hereditary ments of Moral Science, vol. i. 8vo.
evil; but when they had just begun to repay his In vol. ii. there occurs a dissertation against the care by a display of early genius, sweetness of temslave trade, which the author informs us he wrote per and filial affection, he was compelled to rein 1778, with a view to a separate publication. sign them both to an untimely grave. His eldest He exposed the weak defences set up for that son died November 19, 1790, in his twenty-second abominable traffic with great acuteness, and thus year; and his youngest March 14, 1796, in his had the honour to contribute to that mass of con- eighteenth year. The death of the latter was ocviction, which at length became irresistible, and casioned by a rapid fever. The suddenness of the delivered the British nation from her greatest re- shock made it more deeply felt by the father, as proach.
he had not yet recovered from the loss of the eldTo the second volume of the Transactions of est, who was taken from him by the slow process the Royal Society of Edinburgh, published in 1790, of consumption. he contributed Remarks on some Passages of the Soon after the death of James Hay, his father Sixth Bod of the Æneid. This was, in fact, a drew up an account of his Life and Character; to dissertation on the Mythology of the Romans, as which were added, Essays and Fragments, written poetically described by Virgil, in the episode of by this extraordinary youth. Dr. Beattie was afthe descent of Æneas into hell; and his object terwards induced to permit the Life and some of was to vindicate his favourite poet from the charge the Essays and Fragments to be printed for pubof impiety, &c. brought against him by Warburton lication. The Life is a most interesting and afand others. In the same year he is said to have fecting narrative. It is impossible, indeed, to consuperintended an edition of Addison's periodical template without emotion the exquisite tenderness papers, published at Edinburgh, in 4 vols. 8vo. of an affectionate and mourning parent, soothing In this, however, he contributed only a few notes himself by the remembrance of filial piety and to Tickell's Life of Addison, and to Dr. Johnson's departed excellence, and humbly, yet fondly, enremarks. It were to be wished he had done more; deavouring to engage the sympathies of the world Addison never had a warmer admirer, nor a more of a genius that might have proved one of its successful imitator. He always recommended brightest ornaments. Addison's style to his pupils, and it is evident After the loss of this amiable youth, who in from the whole of his works that it was his own 1787 had been appointed successor to his father, and model.
had occasionally lectured in the professor's chair, In 1794, appeared the last work our author com- Dr. Beattie resumed that employment himself, and posed, and its history requires some notice of his continued it, although with intervals of sickness family. In 1767, he married Miss Mary Dun, and depression, until the unexpected death of his
second and last child, in 1796. His hopes of as his philosophical and critical works, his praise was successor of his name and family, had probably yet higher in all the personal relations of public been revived in this youth, who exhibited many and private life. His excellence as an instructor proofs of early genius, and for some time before his may be gathered from his printed works; but it redeath had prosecuted his studies with great assi- mains to be added, that few men have exceeded duity. But here too he was compelled again to him in anxious and kind attentions to his pupils. subscribe to the uncertainty of all human pros- It was his practice, while they were under his care, pects. Great, however, as the affliction was, it to invite them by small parties to his house, and would be pleasing to be able to add that he ac- unbend his mind in gay conversation, encouraging quiesced with pious resignation, and laid hold on them to speak with familiarity on common topics, the hopes he knew so well how to recommend, and and to express their doubts with freedom on any which yet might have cheered, if not gladdened subjects connected with their studies. his declining life. But from this period he began None were more affected by his melancholy reto withdraw from society, and brooded over the treat from society, than those who could recollect sorrows of his family, until they overpowered his him in his happier days of health and hope. He feelings, and abstracted him from all the comforts had a keen relish for social intercourse, and was of friendship and all powers of consolation. Of remarkably cheerful and communicative. It has the state of his mind, Sir William Forbes has not yet been mentioned, but it may be observed given an instance so touching, that no apology from various parts of his writings, that he had a can be necessary for introducing it here. turn for humour, and a quick sense of the ridicu
“The death of his only surviving child com- lous. This, however, was so chastened by the elepletely unhinged the mind of Dr. Beattie, the first gance of his taste, and the benevolence of his dissymptoms of which, ere many days had elapsed, position, that whatever fell from him of that kind was a temporary but almost total loss of memory, was devoid of coarseness or asperity. In converrespecting his son. Many times he could not re- sation he never endeavoured to gain superiority, collect what had become of him: and after search- or to compel attention, but contrived to take his ing in every room in the house, he would say to just share, without seeming to interrupt the loquahis neice, Mrs. Glennie, ' You may think it strange, city of others. He had, however, what most men but I must ask you if I have a son, and where he have who are jealous of their reputation, a degree is ?” She then felt herself under the painful ne- of reserve in promiscuous company, which he encessity of bringing to his recollection his son Mon- tirely discarded among those whom he loved and tague's sufferings, which always restored hiin to in whom he confided. reason. And he would often, with many tears, In London it is yet remembered that his colloexpress his thankfulness that he had no child, say- quial talents were much admired, and no doubt ing, 'How could I have borne to see their elegant procured him a long continuance of those friendminds mangled with madness!" When he looked ships with men of rank, which are rarely to be for the last time, on the dead body of his son, he preserved without something more than the mere said 'I have now done with the world:' he ever possession of genius. His modest and engaging after seemed to act as if he thought so." manners rendered him equally acceptable to the
The last three years of his life were passed in courtly and elegant Mansfield, and to the rough hopeless solitude, and he even relinquished his and unbending Johnson. To Mrs. Montague's correspondence with many of those remote friends literary parties he was ever most acceptable; and with whom he had long enjoyed the soothing in- he lived with the then bishop of London, with Sir terchange of elegant sentiment and friendly at- Joshua Reynolds, and with Mr. Burke, on terms tachment. His health, in this voluntary confine of the easiest intimacy. If flattery could have ment, gradually decayed, and extreme and pre- spoiled him, he had enough; as in England, for mature debility, occasioned by two paralytic whatever reason, his character always stood highstrokes, terminated his good and useful life on the er even than in his own country. 18th day of August, 1803. His reputation was so Dr. Beattie's person was rather above the midwell founded and so extensive, that he was uni- dle size. His countenance was very mild, and his versally lamented as a loss to the republic of let- smile uncommonly placid and benign. His eyes ters, and particularly to the University to which were remarkably piercing and expressive, and he had been so long a public benefactor and an there was a general composure in his features honour.
which Sir Joshua Reynolds has given admirably Of his general character a fair estimate may be in the picture, which has been engraven for his formed from his works, and it is no small praise life by Sir William Forbes. that his life and writings were in strict conformity His frame was apparently stout, and even rowith each other.
bust, but this certainly was not the case. Its oriWhatever reputation Dr. Beattie enjoyed from ginal conformation may have been that of strength