Beattie, James

, LL. D. an eminent philosopher, critic, and poet, was born at Laurencekirk, in the county of Kincardine, Scotland, on the 25th day of October, 1735. His father, who was a farmer of no considerable rank, is said to have had a turn for reading and fur versifying; but, as he died in 1742, when his son was only seven years of age, could have had no great share in forming his mind. James was sent early to the only school his birth-place afforded, where he passed his time under the instructions of a tutor named Milne, whoin he used to represent as a “good grammarian, and tolerably skilled in the Latin language, but destitute of taste, as well as of some other qualifications essential to a good teacher.” He is said to have preferred Ovid as a school-author, whom Mr. Beattie afterwards | gladly exchanged for Virgil. Virgil he had been accustomed to read with great delight in Ogi ivy’s and Dryden’g translations, as he did Homer in that of Pope; and these, with Thomson’s Seasons, and Milton’s Paradise Lost, of all which he was very early fond, probably gave him that taste for poetry which he afterwards cultivated with so much success. He was already, according to his biographer, inclined to making verses, and among his schoolfellows went by the name of The Poet.

At this school he made great proficiency by unremitting diligence, and appeared to much advantage on his entering Marischal college, Aberdeen, in 1749, where he obtained the first of those bursaries or exhibitions which were left for the use of students whose parents are unable to support the entire expences of academical education. Here he first studied Greek, under principal Thomas Blackwell, author of the “Inquiry into the Life and Writings of Homer,” &c. who with much of the austerity of pedantry, was kind to his diligent scholars, and found in Mr. Beattie a disposition worthy of cultivation and of patronage. In the following year he bestowed on him the premium for the best Greek analysis, which happened to be part of the fourth book of the Odyssey, and at the close of the session 1749-50, he gave him a book elegantly bound, with the following inscription: “Jacobo Beattie, in prima classe, ex comitatu Mernensi*, post examen publicum librum hunc a^rewovl*, prsemium dedit T. Blackwell, Aprilis 3* MDCCL.” The other professor, with whom Mr. Beattie was particularly connected, was the late Dr. Alexander Gerard, author of “The genius and evidences of Christianity;” “Essays on Taste and Genius” and other works. Under these gentlemen our author’s proficiency, both at college and during the vacations, was very exemplary, and he accumulated a much more various stock of general knowledge than is usual with young men whose ultimate destination is the church. The delicacy of his health requiring amusement, he found, as he supposed, all that amusement can give, in cultivating his musical talents, which were very considerable.

The only science in which he made no extraordinary proficiency, was mathematics, in which although he performed the requisite tasks, he was eager to return to sub­“The Mearns,” the vernacular name of the 9ounty of Kincardine. | jects of taste or general literature. In every other branch of academical study, he never was satisfied with what he learned within the walls of the college. His private reading was extensive and various, and he became insensibly partial to the cultivation of those branches on which his future celebrity was to depend.

In 1753, having gone through every preparatory course of study, he took the degree of M. A. and had now technically finished his education. Having hitherto been supported by the generous kindness of an elder brother, he wished to exonerate his family from any further burden. With this laudable view, there being a vacancy for the office of school-master and parish-clerk to the parish of Fordoun, adjoining to Laurencekirk, he accepted the appointment, August 1, 1753; but this was neither suited to his disposition, nor advantageous to his progress in life. He obtained in this place, however, a few friends, particularly lord Gardenstown and lord Monboddo, who honoured him with encouraging notice; and his imagination was delighted by the beautiful and sublime scenery of the place, which he appears to have contemplated with the eye of a poet. His leisure hours he employed on some poetical attempts, which, as they were published in the “Scots Magazine,” with his initials, and sometimes with his place of abode, must have contributed to make him yet better known and respected.

The church of Scotland was at this time the usual resource of well-educated youn^ men, and with their academical stores in full memory, there were few difficulties to be surmounted before their entrance on the sacred office. Although this church presents no temptations to ambition, Mr. Beattie appears to have regarded it as the only means by which he could obtain an independent rank in life. He returned, therefore, during the winter, to Marischal college, and attended the divinity lectures of Dr. Robert PolJock, of that college, and of professor John Lumsden, of King’s, and performed the exercises required by the rules of both. One of his fellow-students informed sir William Forbes, that during their ^tendance at the divinity-hall, he heard Mr. Beattie deliver a discourse, which met with much commendation, but of which it was remarked by the audience, that he spoke poetry in prose.

While the church seemed his only prospect, and one which he never contemplated with satisfaction, there occurred, in 1757, a vacancy for one of the masters of the | grammar school of Aberdeen, a situation of considerable importance in all respects. On this occasion Mr. Beattie was advised to become a candidate; but he was diffident of his qualifications, and did not think himself so retentive of the grammatical niceties of the Latin language as to be able to answer readily any question that might be put to him by older and more experienced judges. In every part of life, it may be here observed, Mr. Beattie appears to have formed an exact estimate of his own talents and in the present instance he failed just where he expected to fail, rather in the circumstantial than the essential requisites for the situation to which he aspired. The other candidate was accordingly preferred. But Mr. Seattle’s attempt was attended with so little loss of reputation, that a second vacancy occurring a few months after, and two candidates appearing, both unqualified for the office, it was presented to him by the magistrates in the most handsome manner, without the form of a trial, and he immediately entered upon it in June 1758.

He had not been long an usher at this school before he published a volume of poems. An author’s first appearance is always an important era. Mr. Beattie’s was certainly attended with circumstances that are not now common. This volume was announced to the public in a more humble manner than the present state of literature is thought to demand in similar cases. On the 18th of March 1760, not the volume itself, but “Proposals for printing original Poems and Translations,” were issued. The poems appeared accordingly, on Feb. 16, 1761, and were published both in London and Edinburgh. They consisted partly of originals, and partly of the pieces formerly printed in the Scots Magazine, but altered and corrected, a practice which Mr. Beattie carried almost to excess in all his poetical works.

The praise bestowed on this volume was very flattering. The English critics, who then bestowed the rewards of literature, considered it as an acquisition to the republic of letters, and pronounced that since Mr. Gray (whom in their opinion Mr. Bealtie had chosen for his model) they had not met with a poet of more harmonious numbers, more pleasing imagination, or more spirited expression. But notwithstanding praises which so evidently tended to give a currency to the poems, and which were probably repeated with eagerness by the friends who had encouraged the | lication, the author, upon more serious consideration, was so dissatisfied with this volume as to destroy every copy he could procure, and some years after, when his taste and judgment hecame fully matured, he refused to acknowledge above four of them, namely, Retirement, ode to Hope, elegy on a Lady, and the Hares, and these he almost rewrote before he would permit them to be printed with the Minstrel.

But notwithstanding the lowly opinion of the author, these poems contributed so much to the general reputation he had acquired, that he was considered as deserving of a higher rank. Accordingly a vacancy happening in Marischal college, his friends made such earnest applications in his behalf, that in September 1760 he was appointed, by his late majesty’s patent, professor of philosophy. His department in this honourable office extended to moral philosophy and logic; and such was his diligence, and such his love of these studies, that within a few years he was not only enabled to deliver an admirable course of lectures on moral philosophy and logic, but also to prepare for the press those works on which his fame rests; all of which, there is some reason to think, were written, or nearly written, before he gave the world the result of his philosophical studies in the celebrated " Essay on Truth.’ 7 It may be added, likewise, that the rank he had now attained in the university entitled him to associate more upon a level with Reid and with Campbell, with Gerard and with Gregory, men whose opinions were in many points congenial, and who have all been hailed, by the sister country, among the revivers of Scotch literature. With these gentlemen and a few others, he formed a society or club for the discussion of literary and philosophical subjects. A part of their entertainment was the reading a short essay, composed by each member in his turn. It is supposed that the works of Reid, Campbell, Beattie, Gregory, and Gerard, or at least the outlines of them, were first discussed in this society, either in the foYm of essay, or of a question for familiar conversation.

In 1765, Mr. Beattie published “The Judgment of Paris,” a poem, in 4to. Its design was to prove that virtue alone is capable of affording a gratification adequate to our whole nature, the pursuits of ambition or sensuality promising only partial happiness, as being adapted not to our whole constitution, but only to a part of it. So simple | a position seems to require the graces of poetry to set it off. The reception of this poem, however, was unfavourable, and although he added it to a new edition of his poems, in 1766, yet it was never again reprinted, and even his biographer has declined reviving its memory by an extract. To this edition of 1766 he added a poem “On the talk of erecting a Monument to Churchill in Westminster-hall,” which, sir William Forbes says, was first published separately, and without a name. That it was printed separately we are informed on undoubted authority, but we question if it was ever published for sale unless in the above-mentioned edition of his poems. The asperity with which these lines are marked induced his biographer, contrary to his first intention, to omit them, but they are added to his other poems, in the late edition of “English Poets.*

*

In the autumn of the year 1765, Mr. Gray came to Scotland on a visit to the late Karl of Strathmore. Dr. Beattie, who was an enthusiastic admirer of Gray, as soon as he heard of his arrival, addressed to him a letter, which procured him an invitation to Glammis castle, and this led to a friendship and correspondence between these two eminent poets and amiable men, which continued, without interruption, till the death of Mr. Gray.” Sir William Forbes, vol. I. p. 70. In the same year he became acquainted with his biographer, who has, by the life of Beattie, raised a monument to the excellence of his own character, carcely inferior to that he intended for his friend,

Although Mr. Beattie had now acquired a station in which his talents were displayed with great advantage, and commanded a very high degree of respect, the publication of the “Essay on Truth” was the great era of his life; for this work carried his fame far beyond all local bounds and local partialities. It is not, however, necessary to enter minutely into the history of a work so well known. Its professed intention was to trace the several kinds of evidence and reasoning up to their first principles, with a view to ascertain the Standard of Truth, and explain its Immutability. He endeavours to show that his sentiments, however inconsistent with the genius of scepticism, and with the practice and principles of sceptical writers, were yet perfectly consistent with the genius of true philosophy, and with the practice and principles of those whom all acknowledge to have been the most successful in the investigation of truth; and he concludes with some inferences or rules, by which the most important fallacies of the sceptical philosophy may be detected by every person of common sense, even though he should not possess acuteness of | metaphysical Itnowledge sufficient to qualify him for a logical confutation of them.

When this work was completed, so many difficulties occurred in procuring it to be published, that his friends, sir William Forbes and Mr. Arbuthnot, were obliged to become the-pnrchasers, unknown to him, at a price with which they thought he would be satisfied. Sir William accordingly wrote to him that the manuscript was sold for fifty guineas, as the price of the first edition. This edition was published in an octavo volume in 1770, and bought up with such avidity that a second was called for, and published in the following year. The interval was short, but as the work had excited the public attention in an extraordinary degree, the result of public opinion had reached the author’s ear, and to this second edition he added a postscript, in vindication of a certain degree of warmth of which he had been accused.

The “Essay on Truth,” whatever objections were made to it, and it met with very few public opponents*, had a more extensive circulation than probably any work of the kind ever published. This may be partly attributed to the charms of that popular style in which the author conveyed his sentiments on subjects which his adversaries had artfully disguised in a metaphysical jargon, the meaning of which they could vary at pleasure; but the eagerness with which it was bought up and read, arose chiefly from the just praise bestowed upon it by the most distinguished friends of religion and learning in Great Britain. With many of these of high rank both in church and state, the author had the pleasing satisfaction of dating his acquaintance from the publication of this work. There appeared, indeed, in the public in general, an honourable wish to grace the triumph of sound reasoning over pernicious sophistry. Hence in less than four years five large editions of the Essay were sold f, and it was translated into several foreign languages, and attracted the notice of many emi­* The principal publication was Dr. hut the flippant and sarcastic style he

Priestley’s " Examination of Dr. Reid assumed on this occasion was disapon the Human Mind; Dr. Beattie on proved even hy his own friends, the Nature and Immutability of Truth;

and Dr. Oswald’s Appeal to Common f The first appeared in May 1770;

Sense," Oct. 1775. Dr. Priestley pre-the second, April 1771 the third in.

fersthe system of Dr. Hartley, which 1772; the fourth, Jan, 1773; and the

he was then endeavouring to introduce, fifth, Feb. 1774. | nent persons in France, Germany, Holland, Italy, and other parts of the continent.

Among other marks of respect, the university of Oxford conferred the degree of LL.D. on the author*, and on his second arrival in London he was most graciously received by his Majesty, who not only bestowed a pension on him, but admitted him to the honour of a private conference. Many years after, when Dr. Beattie went to pay his respects to his Majesty, he was still received with every mark of royal condescension and kindness.

It was in July 1771 that Dr. Beattie first visited London, and commenced a personal acquaintance with men of the first eminence, with lord Mansfield and lord Lyttelton, Drs. Kurd, Porteus, Johnson, Mr. Burke, and, indeed, the whole of the literary society whose conversations have been so pleasantly detailed by Mr. Boswell; and returned to Scotland with a mind elevated and cheered by the praise, the kindness, and the patronage, of the good and great. It was, however, on his second visit to London, in 1773, that he received his degree from Oxford, and those honours from his majesty, which we anticipated as a direct, though not an immediate consequence of the services he rendered to his country by the publication of the “Essay on Truth.*

*

He had received this honour some time before from King’s college, Aberdeen. He was afterwards chosen member of the Zealand society of arts and sciences, and of the literary and philosophical society of Manchester, and was a fellow of the royal society of Edinburgh.

His conversation with his majesty is detailed at some length by himself, in a diary published by sir William Forbes.

Soon after this visit to London he was solicited by a very flattering proposal sent through the hands of Dr. Porteus, late bishop of London, to enter into the church of England. A similar offer had been made some time before by the archbishop of York, but declined. It was now renewed with more importunity, and produced from him the important reasons which obliged him still to decline an offer which he could not but consider as “great and generous.” By these reasons, communicated in a letter to Dr. Porteus, we find that he was apprehensive of the injury that might be done to the cause he had espoused, if his enemies should have any ground for asserting that he had written his Essay on Trutn, with a view to promotion: and he was likewise of opinion, that it might have the appearance of levity and | insincerity, and even of want of principle, were he to quit, without any other apparent motive than that of bettering his circumstances, the church of which he had hitherto been a member. Other reasons he assigned, on this occasion, of some, but less weight, all which prevailed on his friends to withdraw any farther solicitation, while they honoured the motives by which he was influenced. In the same year he refused the offer of a professor’s chair in the university of Edinburgh, considering his present situation as best adapted to his habits and to his usefulness, and apprehending that the formation of a new society of friends might not be so easy or agreeable in a place where theenemies of his principles were numerous. To some of his friends, however, these reasons did not appear very convincing.

Although Mr. Beattie had apparently withdrawn his claims as a poet, by cancelling as many copies of his juvenile attempts as he could procure, he was not so inconscious of his admirable talents, as to relinquish what was an early and favourite pursuit, and in which he had probably passed some of his most delightful hours. A few months ;;fter the appearance of the “Essay on Truth,” he published the “First Book of the Minstrel,” in 4to, but without his name. By this omission, the poem was examined with all that rigour of criticism which may be expected in the case of a work, for which the author’s name can neither afford protection or apology. He was accordingly praised for having adopted the measure of Spenser, because he had the happy enthusiasm of that writer to support and render it agreeable; but objections were made to the limitation of his plan to the profession of the Minstrel, when so much superior interest might be excited by carrying him on through the practice of it. These objections appear to have coincided with the author’s re-consideration; and he not only adopted various alterations recommended by his friends, particularly Mr. Gray, but introduced others, which made the subsequent editions of this poem far more perfect than the first.

The Minstrel, however, in its first fornij contained somany passages of genuine poetry, the poetry of nature and of feeling, and was so eagerly applauded by those whose right of opinion was incontestable, that it soon ran through four editions; and in 1774, the author produced the Second Book;" and as its success was not inferior to that | of the first, h was the general wish that the author would fulfil his promise by completing the interesting subject; but the increasing business of education, the cares of a family, and the state of his health, originally delicate, and never robust, deprived him of the time and thought which he considered as requisite. In 1777, however, he was induced to publish the two parts of the Minstrel together, and to add a few of his juvenile poems.

During the preceding year, 1776, he prepared for the press a new edition of the “Essay on Truth,” in a more splendid form than it had hitherto appeared in, and attended by a very liberal subscription, and with other circumstances of public esteem which were very flattering. The list of subscribers amounted to four hundred and seventy-six names of men and women of the first rank in life, and of all the distinguished literary characters of the time. The copies subscribed for amounted to seven hundred and thirty-two, so that no inconsiderable sum must have accrued in this delicate manner to the author. Dr. Beattie was by no means rich; his pension was only two hundred pounds, and the annual amount of his professorship never reached that sum.

The Essays added to this volume, and which he afterwards printed separately in 8vo, were “On Poetry and Music” on “Laughter and ludicrous Composition and” on the utility of Classical Learning." They were written many years before publication, and besides being read in the private literary society already mentioned, had been submitted to the judgment of his learned friends in England, who recommended them to the press.

For the frequent introduction of practical and serious observations, he offers a satisfactory reason in the preface to “Dissertations Moral and Critical, on Memory and Imagination; on Dreaming; the Theory of Language; on Fable and Romance; on the Attachments of Kindred; and Illustrations on Sublimity,1783, 4to. These, he informs us, were at first composed in a different form, being part of a course of prelections read to those young gentlemen whom it was his business to initiate in the elements of moral science; and he disclaims any nice metaphysical theories, or other matters of doubtful disputation, as not suiting his ideas of moral teaching. Nor was this the disgust of a metaphysician “retired from business.” He had ever been of the same opinion, Dr. Beattie’s aim was, indeed > | in all his lectures, “to inure young minds to habits of attentive observation; to guard them against the influence of bad principles; and to set before them such views of nature, and such plain and practical truths, as may at once improve the heart and the understanding, and amuse and elevate the fancy*.

Of these Essays, the preference has been generally given to those on “Memory and Imagination,” and on “Fable and Romance,” and to “The Theory of Language,” and in re-publishing the latter separately for the use of seminaries of education, he complied with the wish, of many readers and critics.

During a visit to the metropolis in 1784, Dr. Beattie submitted to the late bishop of London, with whose friendship he had long been honoured, a part of a work which at that excellent prelate’s desire he published in 1786, entitled “Evidences of the Christian Religion briefly and plainly stated,” 2 vols. 12mo. This likewise formed part of his concluding lectures to his class, and he generally tlictated an abstract of it to them in the course of the session. From a work of this kind, and on a subject which had employed the pens of the greatest and best English writers, much novelty was not to be expected, nor in its original form was any novelty intended. It must be allowed, however, that he has placed many of the arguments for the evidences of Christianity in a very striking and persuasive light, and it is not too much to suppose that if he could have devoted more time and study to a complete review and arrangement of what had, or might be advanced on these evidences, he would have produced a work worthy of his genius, and worthy of the grandeur and importance of the subject.

In the preface to Dr. Seattle’s “Dissertations,” he intimated a design of publishing the whole of his lectures on Moral Science, but from this he was diverted by the cogent reasons there assigned. He was encouraged, however,

* Cowper’s praise of this volume, ts his ease too, that his own character too valuable to be omitted “Beat-appears in every page, and, which it tie, the most agreeable and amiable very rare, we see not only the writer, writer 1 ever met with the only au-but the man and the man so gentle, thor I have seen whose critical and so well tempered, so happy in his rephilosophical researches are diversified ligion, and so humane in his philosoand embellished by a poetical imagi-phy, that it is necssary to love him if nation, that makes even the driest one has any sense of what is lovely.” subject, and the leanest, a feast for an Hayley’s Life of Cowper, vol. III. epicure in boks. He is Bo much at p. 247. | to present to thd public, in a correct and somewhat enlarged form, the abstract which he used to dictate to his scholars. Accordingly, in 1790, he published “Elements of Moral Science,” vol. I. 8vo, including psychology, or perceptive faculties and active powers; and natural theology, with two appendices on the Incorporeal Nature and on the Immortality of the Soul. The second volume was published in 1793; containing ethics, economics, politics, and logic. All these subjects are necessarily treated in a summary manner; but it will be found sufficiently comprehensive, not only for a text-book, or book of elements, which was the professed intention of the author, but also as an excellent aid to the general reader who may not have an opportunity of attending regular lectures, and yet wishes to reap some of the advantages of regular education.

In vol. II. there occurs a dissertation against the Slave Trade, which the author informs us he wrote in 1778 with a view to a separate publication. He exposed the weak defences set up for that abominable traffic with wonderful acuteness, and thus had the honour to contribute to that mass of conviction which at length became irresistible, and delivered the nation from her greatest reproach.

To the second volume of the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, published in 1790*, he contributed “Remarks on some passages of the sixth book of the Æneid.” This was, in fact, a dissertation on the mythology of the Romans, as poetically described by Virgil, in the episode of the descent of ^neas into hell; and the author’s object was to vindicate his favourite poet from the charges of impiety, &c. brought against him by Warburton and others. In the same year he is said to have superintended an edition of “Addison’s periodical Papers,” published at Edinburgh in 4 vols. 8vo. To this, however, he contributed only a few notes to Tickell’s Life of Addison, and to Dr. Johnson’s remarks. It were to be wished he had done more. Addison never had a warmer admirer,. nor a more successful imitator.

In 1794 appeared the last work our author composed, and its history requires some notice of his family. In 1767 be married Miss Mary Dun, daughter of Dr. James Dun,

* Abmit 1773 he printed a letter tairwl a few specimens of translations

to Dr. Blair " On the improvement of of the Palms. He printed also some

Psalmody in Scotland." This was years after a list of ScuUicism-j, for th$

uuly privately circulated. It con-use of his students. | rector or head master of the grammar-school of Aberdeen, a man of great personal worth, and an excellent classical scholar.

With this lady Dr. Beattie enjoyed for many years as much felicity as the married state can add; and when she visited London with him, she shared amply in the respect paid to him, and in the esteem of his illustrious friends. By her he had two sons, James Hay, so named from the earl of Errol, one of his old and steady friends; and Montagu, from the celebrated Mrs. Montagu, in whose house Dr. Beattie frequently resided when in London. While these children were very young, Mrs. Beattie was seized with an indisposition, which, in spite of all care and skill, terminated in the painful necessity of separation from her husband*. The care of the children now entirely devolved on the father, whose sensibility received such a shock from the melancholy circumstance alluded to, as could only be aggravated by an apprehension that the consequences of Mrs. Beattie’s disorder might not be confined to herself This alarm, which often preyed on his spirits, proved happily without foundation. His children grew up without the smallest appearance of the hereditary evil; but when they had just begun to repay his care by a display of early genius, sweetness of temper, and filial affection, he was compelled to resign them both to an untimely gravey His eldest son died November 19, 1790, in his twentysecond year; and his youngest on March 14, 1796, in his eighteenth year.

Soon after the death of James Hay, his father drew up an account of his “Life and Character; to which were added,” Essays and Fragments,“written by this extraordinary youth. Of this volume a few copies only were printed, and were given as” presents to those friends with whom the author was particularly acquainted or connected." Dr. Beattie was afterwards induced to permit the Life and some of the Essays and Fragments to be printed for publication. The life is perhaps one of the most interesting and affecting narratives in our language.

After the loss of this amiable youth, who, in 1787, had

‘ Sir Wm. Forbes intimates that her marriage, it shewed itself ia caprices

symptoms of insanity were of an ear-that embittered every hour of his Jii’e,

Her date. “Although it did not, for a till, at last, it unquestionably oonlriconsiderable time, breakout into open buted to bring him to his grave.” insanity, yet in a few years after their | been appointed successor to his father, and had occasionally lectured in the professor’s chair, Dr. Beattie resumed that employment himself, and continued it, although with intervals of sickness and depression, until the unexpected death of his second and last child, in 1796. His hopes of a successor, of his name and family, had probably been revived in this youth, who exhibited many proofs of early genius, and for some time before his death had prosecuted his studies with great assiduity. But here too he was compelled again to subscribe to the uncertainty of all human prospects. From this period he began to withdraw from society, and brooded over the sorrows of his family, until they overpowered his feelings, and abstracted him from all the comforts of friendship and all power of consolation. Of the state of his mind, sir William Forbes has given an instance so extremely affecting, that no apology can be necessary for introducing it here.

The death of his only surviving child completely unhinged the mind of Dr. Beattie, the first symptom of which, ere many days had elapsed, was a temporary but almost total loss of memory respecting his son. Many times he could not recollect what had become of him; and after searching in every room of the house, he would say to his niece, Mrs. Glen me, * You may think it strange, but I must ask you if I have a son, and where he is?‘ She then felt herself under the painful necessity of bringing to his recollection his son Montagu’s sufferings, which always restored him to reason. And he would often, with many tears, express his thankfulness that he had no child, saying, * How could I have borne to see their elegant minds mangled with madness!’ When he looked for the last time on the dead body of his son, he said, * I have now done with the world:’ and he ever after seemed to act as if he thought so.

The last three years of his life were passed in hopeless solitude, and he even dropt his correspondence with many of those remote friends with whom he had long enjoyed the soothing interchange of elegant sentiment and friendly attachment. His health, in this voluntary confinement, gradually decayed, and extreme and premature debility, occasioned by two paralytic strokes, terminated his life, on the 18th of August, 1803. His reputation was so well founded and so extensive, that he was universally lamented as a loss to the republic of letters, and particularly to the | university to which he had been so long a public benefactor and an honour.

Of his general character a fair estimate may be formed from his works, and it is no small praise that his life and writings were in strict conformity. No man ever felt more strong impressions of the value of the virtues he recommended than Dr. Beattie. Although he disdained the affectation of feeling, and the ostentation of extraordinary purity, he yet more abhorred the character of those writers whose professions and practice are at variance. His zeal for religious and moral truth, however censured by those to whom religion and truth are adverse, originated in a mind fully convinced of the importance of what he prescribed to others, and anxious to display, where such a display was neither obtrusive nor boastful, that his conviction was sincere, and his practice resolute. 1

1

Life prefixed to his poems, in the late edition of the “English Poets.” The more copious and minute life of Dr. Beattie lately published by sir William Forbes exhibits him in the character of an epistolary writer. His letters embrace a very large portion of the literary history of his time, but it may be doubted whether they have always the ease and vivacity which are expected in this species of composition. They are valuable, however, as exhibiting many lesser traits of his character, and as disclosing its lesser infirmities.