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that there is more of this innocent delusion than of voluntary imposture in the world. But this may teach us how unfit a man of ordinary faculties is to investigate the character, morally and intellectually, of others. Unless he have penetration of judgement which can pierce through the veil thrown by every man round his actions; unless he can separate apparent from real motives, taking that analogy of incitement for his guide which is found to exist in the general course of human events; and unless he have that perspicuity of intellect which can enable him to argue from effects to causes, he can never hope to scan the recesses of thought, nor consequently to depict the man, except by broad and undistinguishing features.
The truth of this is amply illustrated hy the Life of Beattie, as detailed by Sir William Forbes, in which we learn much of the author, and little of the man, From it, however, the information contained in the following pages is chiefly obtained.
James Beattie, LL.D. was born on the 25th of October, 1735, at Laurencekirk, in the county of Kincardine, in Scotland. It was, at the period of his birth, an obscure hamlet;
bụt has since risen to the rank of a borough of barony (as such small towns are called in Scotland, holding a rank somewhat above that of a village) by the attention and encouragement of Lord Gardenstown.
The father of Dr. Beattie was James Beattie, who kept a small retail shop in the village, and rented a little farm in the neighbourhood, where, for several generations, his forefathers had toiled in the labours of the field. His mother's name was Jean Watson; and they had six children, of whom the youngest was James, the subject of the present memoir. His father is said to have been a man possessing a degree of intellectual knowledge beyond his condition in life. His mother too has been called
woman of uncommon abilities;" but these are terms too commonly lavished upon objects of affection to be received as true. This mother, however, after the death of her husband, contrived, with the aid of her eldest son David, who managed the farm, and her own attention to the shop, to bring up her family witti respectability and comfort. Her son James she placed at the parish school of Laurencekirk.
What he acquired, while at school, cannot now be distinctly known." It is certain, how
DR. JAMES BEATTIE.
ever, that he had the use of but few books. Those that he could procure he read with avim, dity; and among the first that he became acquainted with, was Ogilby's translation of Virgil. He was indebted, for the perusal of others, to the kindness of the Rev. Mr. Thom-, son, at that time minister of the parish. Of this clergyman Dr. Beattie always spoke with grateful tenderness.
The wonders that are usually recorded of the early years of men of genius, are entitled to little credit. The quatrain, ascribed to the infant powers of Dr. Johnson, was long believed to be his, till he acknowledged that the weak ambition of his father had prompted him, to write it, and to represent it as his son's, i When men become eminent, curiosity is rousch to trace the steps by which they ascended;1 and these retrospective views are tinged, more or less, with the medium through which the man himself is seen. Infantile pucrilities are then exalted into prophetic tokens; and the mere accidents of life are transformed into purposcs illustrative of the future. Dr. Beattie is said to have acquired tlie name of the poet while at school : this is not improbable; for in an obscure village, with ploughboys for com
petitors, such a distinction might be cheaply acquired: but it is also told, that, when a youth, be used to get out of bed, and walk about his chamber, to meditate and to compose in the dead of night. These things are more easily affirmed than believed.
1 In the year 1749, he commenced his academical course, and attended the Greek class in Marischal College, Aberdeen, at that time taught by Dr. Blackwell, well known by his “ Memoirs of the Court of Augustus," and other productions upon classical subjects. The scholar became attached to his preceptor; and the preceptor had sagacity to discover the talents of his scholar. He was the first that awoke, in the mind of Beattie, the consciousness of his own genius. He was early distinguished by him as superior to all his class-fellows; and at the close of the session 1749-50, he received from him a book, elegantly bound, with the following inscription on it: Iacobo Beattie, in prima classe, ex comitatu Mernensi, post examen publicum librum hunc epistvosti, proce mium dedit T. Blackwell, Aprilis 30. MDCCL.
As the finances of young Beattie were, of course, but limited, he became a candidate for one of the bursaries, which are annually
bestowed on such of the students as are unable to bear the usual expenses attendant on a university education. These bursaries are small annual stipends, to which, however, accord. ing to Sir W. Forbes, no opprobrious distinction, no menial office, nor any degrading servitude, are annexed. On the contrary, it is a proof of superior merit; “ for, instead of being a sinecure to which the student is presented without trial, it is the reward of learning, after a competition among those who are the candidates, and of whose literary merits the professors of the university are the judges.
Dr. Beattie continued his attendance at the university of Aberdeen during four years, and at the same time directed his attention towards philosophy and theology. That he was a diligent student, appears from some papers found after his decease, which evince the assiduity and labour that he thought necessary for a successful application to literature; and some of his notes on the classical authors display considerable critical acumen. (See Life by Şir W. Forbes, vol. i. p. 21. 8vo. edit.)
Beattie, while a student in divinity, seems to have incurred the same charge as Thomson did, that his language was too poetical.