« ZurückWeiter »
extremely aukward in the mouth of to the humble office of schoolmaster a recluse schalar. Such appears to of Fordoun, a small village about us to be the fault of those of Pope six miles from Lawrencekirk. Here and most of his contemporaries; nor he continued four years, which, the are Gray's altogether free from the duties of his office excepted, were same blemish. Beattie indeed, where spent in solitude and meditation. Our he attempts wit, either in prose or . author has given a very interesting poerry, always fails ; but the attempt account of what may be called the is rare, and his letters are more fre- 'pocsical education of the future bard, quently expressive only of unaffected which we cannot forbear extraca good sense and natural feeling. Good' ting. sense indeed appears to us to be more
In this obscure situation he must have characteristic of Dr Beattie's under passed many of his hours in solitude ; standing than any extensive philoso. for, except that of Mr Forbes, the parish phical talents, so that we are dispo- minister, who shewed him great kindsed to prefer bis letters, where it only ness, and in whose family, he frequently is required, to most of his other proše visited, he had scarcely any other socomposicionstyrt
ciety than that of the neighbouring peaDr Beattie was born at Lawrence: şantry, from whçse conversation he kirk in Kincardineshire, then a very information. But he had a nevet: fail.
could derive little amusement, and no small village, though since, chiefly we *ing resource in his own mind, in those believe through the exertions of Lord meditations which he loved to Sindulge, Gardenstoney it has become a place amidst the beautiful and sublime scenery of considerable importance. His fa. of that neighbourhood, which furnished
him with endless amusement. ther was a small farmer, of very 'respeerable character: At an early age sidence, a deep and extensive glen, fine
smail distance from the place of his re. he was sent to the parish school, and ly cloathed with woud, runs up into the began to display his poetical genius. mountains. Thither he frequently reIt is said to have been first rousedpaired, and there several of his earliest by Ogilvy's translation of Virgil. pieces were written. From that wild Among bpis school tellows he went and romantic spot lie crew, as from the by the name of the Poet, and used, life, soine of the finest descriptions, and
most beautiful pictures of nature, in his often, in the night-time, to get out perical compositions. He has been of bed, and walk about his chamber, heard to say, for instance, that the dein order to write down any poetical scription of the owl, in his charming thought'that had struck his fancy.?
" Retirement," In the year 1749, he went to the
“ Whence the scar'd owl, on pinions university of Aberdeen, and gained
grey, one of those bursaries which are be
“ Break's from the rustling boughs, Striped by a trial of merit. Here he ** And down the lone vale sails away was particularly noticed by Dr Black. * To more profound repose." well, Professor of Greek, and author
was drawn after real nature. And the of several learned publications, who
seventeenth stanza of the second book made bim a present of a book, with of the Minstrel," in which he so feel. an inscription importing that he con- ingly describes the spot of which he sidered him as the best of his scholars. most approved, for his place of sepulture, He attended also the divinity lectures, is so very exact a picture of the situawhen it was observed of bis discour- tion of the churchyard of Lawrencekirk, ses, as it had been of Thomson's, and in which is the school house where
which stands near to his mother's house, that he spoke poetry in prose,
daily taught, that he must cer. On finishing his course of study tainlŷ have had it in his view at the time at the university, he was appointed he wrote the following beautiful lines, Oct. 1806.
“ Let vanity adorn the marble tomb be forgiven for having dwelt on them 66 With trophies, rhymes, and scut so long cheons of renown,
His first patron was the late Lord “ In the deep dungeon of some Go. Gardenstown, who being at that time thic dome,
sheriff of the county of Kincardine, re% Where night and desolation ever sided occasionally at Woodstock, 2 frown.
house in the neighbourhood of Fordoun. “ Mine be the breezy hill that skirts To Mr Garden, Beattie became accidenthe down,
tally known, by his having found him one 5. Where a green grassy turf is all I day in his favourite glen, emp!oyed in crave,
writing with a pencil. On enquiring “ With here and there a violet be. what he was about, and finding that he strown,
was employed iu the composition of a “ Fast by a brook or fountain's mur poem, Mr Garden's curiosity was at. muring wave;
tracted, and from that period he took • And many an evening sun shine sweet
the young bard under, his protection. ly on my grave.
Dr Beattie has been frequently heard It was his supreme delight to saunter to mention an anecdote which took in the fields the live-long night, contem- place in the early part of his acquaintplating the sky, and marking the ap ance with that gentleman. Mr Garden, proach of day; and he used to describe having seen some of his pieces in ma. with peculiar animation the pleasure nuscript, and entertaining some doubt he received from the soaring of the lark of their being entirely of his own comin a summer morning, A beautiful position, in order to satisfy himself of the landscape, which he has magnificently abilities of the young poet, asked him, described in the twentieth stanza of the with politeness, to translate the invoca. first book of “the Minstrel,” corres.
tion to Venus from the first book of ponds exactly with what must have Lucretius. In compliance with this represented itself to his poetical imagina. quest, Beattie retired into the adjoining aion, on those occasions, at the approach wood, and in no long time produced of the rising sun, as he would view the the trazslation, bearing all the marks of grandeur of that scene from the hill in original composition, for it was much the neighbourhood of his native village. blotted with alterations and corrections.
The high hill which rises to the west of It was printed in the first collection of Fordoun would, in a misty morning, sup. Dr Beattie's poems in the year 1760, ply him with one of the images so beau. but omitted in ali the subsequent edi. tifully described in the twenty-first tions. stanza. And the twentieth stanza of
He also became known at this time the second book of “the Minstrel” de.
to Lord Monboddo (whose family seat scribes a night - scene unquestionably is in the parish of Fordoun,) with whom drawn from nature, in which he probab- he always maintained a friendly inter, ly had in view Homer's sublime descrip: course, although they essentially differed tion of the moon, in the eighth book of in some very material points, as must be the Iliad, so admirably translated by very apparent to those who are converPope, that an eminent critic has not
sant with their writings. scrupled to declare it to be superior to the original*. He used, himself, to tell,
This solitary and rural situation, that it was from the top of a high hill in in which he was placed during the the neighbourhood that he first beheld most susceptible period of life, doubt. the ocean, the sight of which, he decla. less tended to strengthen that pensed, made the most lively impression on sive cast, that devotion to the beau. his mind.
ties of nature, and that tender meIt is pleasing, I think, to contemplate lancholy by which his genius was these bis early habits, so congenial to the feelings of a poetical and warm ima.
characterised. gination; and, therefore, I trust I shall
In 1758 Beattie became usher to
the grammar school of Aberdeen; * Melmoth's Letters of Sir Thomas and however small the promotion Fitzosivorn, letter xx. p. 85.
with great and lasting advantages. part in it were digested into the form He had now
access to books and of an essay, which was ingrossed in the literary society, and met with op
album of the society. portunities of making friends, who Dr Beattie had not hitherto pub. were soon serviceable to him beyond lished any poems, except one or two his warmest expectations. On the which appeared in the Scots magas death of Dr Duncan, professor of zine ; but about this time he publishNatural Philosophy, Beattie, to his ed a small volume, which, besides own infinite surprise, was, through those usually appended to the Minthe interest of Mr Arbuthnot, late strel, contained a Translation of the secretary to the Board of Trustees, ten pastorals of Virgil, and one or two. appointed to succeed him; and he from Horace and Anacreon. It consoon after obtained, in the chair of tained also the Ode to Peace, and the Moral Philosophy, a situation more Triumph of Melancholy, which have suited to his genius and inclination. been omitted in some later editions. To the duties of this important of. This omission Sir William justly con. fice he proceeded from that time to
siders as unmerited, and, that they apply himself in a manner the most may not be lost altogether, has placed conscientious and indefatigable.
in the appendix. For our part, we Soon after this, Dr Beattie be. cannot help thinking this rather a came member of a philosophical so. strange place, and would have prefer. ciety, celebrated by the number of ed seeing them, along with the other great men whom it counted among poems in the projected general edition its members. Besides Beattie, it of our author's works. Dr Beattie's contained Reid, Gregory,' and Ge- judgement, in estimating his own proJard; men who, with genius and phi: duetions, has not been very conspiele losophy, united a sacred regard to ous; for, while he rejected these, he has truth, and to every thing connected retained a fable, entitled The Hares', with the best interests of the species. which possesses very little merit.We e extract the following short ac
This is probably owing not so much count of the mode of conducting it.
to its being a fable, as to its being a
humourous fable; for tho' Dr B. seems The members met at five o'clock in the evening (for in those days at Aber:
to have .aken great delight:in w Woeing deen, it was the custom to dine early,)
humorous poetry, it was a Cilent when one of the members, as presi. which nature had completely denied dent, took the chair, and left it at half him. Sir William proposes therefore an hour after eight, when they partook to reject it in the edition of his works; of a slight and unexpensive collation, a step with regard to the propriety and at ten o'clock they separated *. of which we are rather doubtful; for At these meetings, a part of the even
the collection of an author's works ing's entertainment was the reading a short essay, composed by one of the ought probably to contain all those members in his turn. Besides those which he acknowledged, and not a more formal compositions, thus read mere selection. We are left in the as discourses, a literary or philosophical dark as to the fate of the translations question was proposed each night, for from Virgil: though from a criticism, the subject of conversation at the sub. fuil of taste and discrimination, writ. sequent meetings. And it was the du
ten by Lord Woodhouselee, they apa ty of the proposer of the questiori to o. pen the discussion : by him also the o
pear to be possessed of considerable pinions of the members who took a
These poems were favourably re: * Rules of the Philosophical Society ceived, and procured Dr Beatrie a of Aberdeen, MS.
considerable degree of reputation. A
year or two after, he seems to have a logical confutation of its arguments formed the first design of his " Essay I intend farther to inquire into the naon Truth.” He thus mentions it in
ture of that modification of intellect a letter to Sir William Forbes.
which qualifies a man for being a scepI am a member of a club in this town tic; and I think I am able to prove who style themselves the Philosophical However, it will be summer before I
that it is not genius, but the want of it. Society. We have meetings every fortnight, and deliver discourses in our turn.
can finish my project. I own it is not
without indignation that I see sceptics I hope you will not think the worse of this Society, when I tell you, that to it
and their writings (which are the bare the world is indebted for “. A compara
not only of science, but also of virtue tive view of the Faculties, of Man," and
so much in vogue in the present age." Enquiry into Human Nature, on
P.79. the Principles of Common Sense.” Cri Some years after, in a leiter to ticism is the field in which I have hith. Dr Blacklock, when the work was erto (chiefly at least) chosen to expati.
now nearly completed, he explains ate; but an accidental question lately fur
more fully his views on the subject. nished me with an hint, which I made the subject of a two hours discourse at. In my younger days I read chiefly our last meeting. I have for some time for the sake of amusement, and I tound wished for an opportunity of publishing myself best amused with the classics, something relating to the business of and what we call the belles lettres. Me. my own profession, and I think I have taphysics I disliked; mathematics pleasnow found an opportunity; for the doc ed me beiter ; but I found my mind trine of my last discourse seems to be neither improved nor gratined by that of importance, and I have already finish. study. When Providence allcited me ed two-thirds of my plan. My doc my present station, it became incum. trine is this : that as we know nothing bent on me to read what had been writ. of the eternal relations of things, that to ten on the subject of morals and human us is and must be truth, which we feel nature : the works of Locke, Berkeley, that we must believo ; and that to us is and Hume, were celebrated as masterfalsehood, which we feel that we must pieces in this way ; to them therefore I disbelieve. I have shown, that all ges
had recourse. But as I began to study nuine reasoning does ultimately termi. them with great prejudices in their fanate in certain principles, which it is vour, you will readily conceive how impossible to disbelieve, and as impossi- strangely I was surprised to find them, ble to prove : that therefore the ultimate as I thouglit, replete with absurdities. standard of truth to us is common sens, I pondered these absurdities; I weighor that instinctive conviction into which ed the arguments, with which I was all true reasoning does resolve itself: sometimes not a litile confounded; that therefore what contradicts common and the result was, that I began at sense is in itself absurd, however subtle last to suspect my own understanding, the arguments which support it: for and to think that I had not capacity for such is the ambiguity and insufficiency such a study. For I could not conceive of language, that it is easy to argue on it possible that the absurdities of these either side of any question with acuteness authors were so great as they seemed to sufficient to confound one who is not ex. me to be; otherwise, thought I, the pert in the art of reasoning. My prin. world would never admire them so ciples, in the main, are not essentially much. About this time some excellent different from Dr Reid's; but they seem antisceptical works made their appear. to offer a more compendious method of
ance, particularly Reid's “ Inquiry in. destroying scepticism.
I intend to
to the Human Mind." Then it was show (and have already in part shown,) that I began to have a little more conthat all sophistical reasoning is marked fidence in my own judgement, when I with certain characters which distin found it confirmed by those of whose guish it from true investigation : and abilities I did not entertain the least disthus I flatter myself I shall be able to trust. I reviewed my authors again, discover a method of detecting sophis, with a very different temper of mind. try, even when one is not able to give A very little truth will sometimes en
lighten a vast extent of Science. I who knew both the men, am very sen. found that the sceptical philosophy was sible of the gross falsehood of these renot what the world imagined it to be, ports. As to the affair of the manunor what I, following the opinion of the scripts, it was, I am convinced, candour world, had hitherto imagined it to be; and modesty that induced them to it. but a frivolous, though dangerous, sys. But the world knows no such thing: and tem of verbal subtilty, which it required therefore may be excused for mistaking neither genius, nor learning, nor taste, the meaning of actions that have really nor knowledge of mankind, to be able an equivocal appearance. I know.liketo put together ; but only a captious wise that they are sincere, not only in temper, an irreligious spirit,a moderate the detestation they express for Hume's. command of words an extraordinary de- irreligious tenets, but also in the comgree of vanity and presumption. You pliments they have made to his talenis; will easily perceive that I am speaking for they both look upon him as an exof this philosophy only in its most extra- traordinary genius, a point in which I vagant state, that is, as it appears in the cannot agree with them. But while I works of Mr Hume. The more I study thus vindicate them from imputations it, the more am I confirmed in this o which the world from its ignorance of pinion. But while I applauded and ad. circumstances has laid to their charge, mired the sagacity of those who had led I cannot approve them in every thing. me into, or at least encouraged me to I wish they had carried their researches proceed in, this train of thinking, I was a little farther, andexpressed thems:lves not altogether satisfied with them in a with a little more firmness and spinother respect.
I could not approve rit. For well I know that their works, that extraordinary adulation which some for want of this, will never produce that of them paid to their arch-adversary. effect which (if all mankind were cool I could not conceive the propriety of metaphysical reasoners) might be expaying compliments to a man's heart pected from them. There is another at the very time one is proving that his thing in which my judgement differs aim is to subvert the principles of truth, considerably from that of the gentlemen virtue, and religion ; nor to his under. just mentioned. They have great metastanding, when we are charging him physical abilities; and they love the mewith publishing the grossest and most taphysical sciences. I do not. I am contemptible nonsense. I thought I convinced that this metaphysical spirit then foresaw, what I have since found is the bane of true learning, true taste, to happen, that this controversy would and true science; that to it we owe Le looked upon rather as a trial of skill all this modern scepticism and atheism; between two logicians, than as a disqui. that it has a bad effect upon the human sition in which the best interests of faculties, and tends not a little to sour mankind were concerned : and that the the temper, to subvert good principles, world, especially the fashionable part of and to disqualify men for the business it, would still be disposed to pay the of life. greatest deference to the opinions ofhim who, even by the acknowledgement of
The publication of this work, how. liis antagonists, was confessed to be the ever, had nearly heen stopt'; as the best philosopher and the soundest rea bookseller, alarmed by the abstrusesoner. All this has hiappened and more. ness of the subject, was unwilling to Sume, to my certain knowledge, have purchase it. This disliculty was resaid, that Mr Hume and his adversaries moved by the friendly interference of did really act in concert, in order mu.
Sir William and Mr Arbuthnot, in tually to promote the sale of one ano. ther's works; as a proof of which, they
the following manner : mention not only the extravagant coin In this dilemma, it occurred to me, pliments that pass between them, but that we might, without much artifice, also the circumstance of Dr R. * and bring the business to an easy conclusion Dr C. † sending their manuscripts to by our own interposition. We therebe perused and corrected by Mr Hume fore resolved, that we ourselves should before they gave them to the press. 1, be the purchasers, at a sum with which
we knew Dr Beattię would be well sa. * Dr Reid. Dr Campbell.