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grammar school of Aberdeen, a situation of considerable importance in all respects. On this occasion Mr. Beattie was advised to become a candidate; bụt 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. Beattie'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 com
This volume was announced to the public in a more hunable 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 partl.y of originals, and partly of the pieces formerly printed in the Scots Magazine, but altered and corrected, a practice vehich Mr. Beattie carried almost to excess in all his poeti cal works.
The praise bestowed on this volume was very flattering. The English critics, who then bestowed the rewards of li. terature, considered it as an acquisition to the republic of letters, and pronounced that since Mr. Gray (whom in their opinion Mr. Beattie had chosen for his model) they had not met with a poet of more harmonious numbers, more pleasing imagination, or more spirited expression. But notwit.hstanding praises which so evidently tended to give a curren cy to the poems, and which were probably repeated with eagerness by the friends who had encouraged the pub
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 thern 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.” 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 form of essay, or of a question for familiar conversation. In 1765, Mr. Beattie published “ The Judgment of Pa
a poem, in 4to. Its design was to prove that virtue alone is capable of affording a gratification adequate to our whofe 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 bas 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 *."
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 bis 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 eridence 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 metaphysi
* “ In the autumn of the year 1765, men, which continued, without interMr. Gray came to Scotland on a visit ruption, till the death of Mr. Gray.” to the late Earl of Strathmore. Dr. -Sir Willium Forbes, vol. I. p. 70. In Beattie, who was an enthusiastic ad the same year he became acquainted mirer of Gray, as soon as he heard with his biographer, who has, by the of his arrival, addressed to bim a let life of Beattie, raised a monument to ter, which procured him an invitation the excellence of his own character, to Glammis castle, and this led to a scarcely inferior to that he intended friendship and correspondence between for his friend. these two eminent poets and amiable
cal knowledge 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 purchasers, 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
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 t'; 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 + The first appeared in May 1770; Sense,” Oct. 1775. Dr. Priestley pre the second, April 1771; the third in fers the 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. Hurd, Porteus, Johnson, Mr. Burke, and, indeed, the whole of the literary society whose conversations have been 80 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.” 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 Truth, with a view to promotion : and he was likewise of opinion, that it might have the appearance of levity and
* He had received this honour some sciences, and of the literary and philotime before from King's college, Aber- sophical society of Manchester, and deen. He was afterwards chosen mem was a fellow of the royal society of ber of the Zealand society of arts and Edinburgh.