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JAMES BEATTIE, LL.D.
BORN 1735—DIED 1803.
The subject of the present memoir was born at LawrenceKirk in the county of Kincardine. His father seems to have been a person in many respects superior to his rank in life. Though only the tenant of an inconsiderable farm, and con. sequently filling a station in society very little favourable to the cultivation of a taste for literature, he is said to have possessed a fondness for books, and to have exhibited a decided talent for poetical composition. Young Beattie was not yet ten years old when his father died: but they who know how soon the first impulse is given to the mind; how deeply every early impression is stamped upon the character; and how tenaciously the good and evil of the parent cling about the child, may, perhaps, be inclined to attribute somewhat of the celebrity of the man to the example and the instructions which were presented to the opening genius of the boy.
After the loss of this invaluable parent, our poet found a kind and fatherly protector in his elder brother; who placed him at a school in his native place, and continued him there, under a tutor of the name of Milne, till, in 1749, he obtained a bursary at the Marischal College, Aberdeen. This exhibition, which is said to have been the best in the university, did not produce him more than five pounds ayear. Beattie was not more distinguished for his diligent attention to the studies of the place, than for the moral pro
priety of his conduct. In this period of his life he laid the foundation of that various and useful learning which he afterward brought forward so effectively in the course of his literary life. The only science from which he was averse was the mathematics. In this he attained no ex traordinary proficiency. He scrupulously performed all that was required of him by the regulations of the college; but it was by an effort of duty, not an impulse of inclination. It presented him with all the labour and none of the sweets of study; and after the appointed task was completed, he returned with redoubled eagerness to subjects which were more in unison with the ardour of his affections and the liveliness of his imagination. His exemplary conduct, and the decided marks of ability that he displayed in the course of his college life, secured to him the favours of the Professors Blackwell and Gerard, under whose instruction he more immediately fell from his situation in the university. In 1750 he obtained the premium for the best Greek analysis of the fourth book of the Odyssey, and, after completing the appointed course of study, he was, in 1753, graduated as Master of Arts, which in the Scotch universities is the first degree conferred.
Immediately on his leaving college he was appointed master of the school of Fordoun, the parish adjoining Lawrence-Kirk. While in this obscure and humble situation, he published in the Scottish Magazine a few pieces of poetry.
These productions, though marked by very slight indi. cations of the talent which their author subsequently displayed, obtained him some local fame, and were the means of making him known as a meritorious and ingenious young man to Mr. Garden, an eminent Scottish lawyer, and to the celebrated Lord Monboddo. By these his first patrons Beattie was introduced to the tables of the gentry of his immediate neighbourhood, and was received with kindness and consideration in those higher classes of society, to which it is very unusual for the parochial schoolmaster to obtain the honour of admittance.
Beattie had not been master of the school of Fordoun above four years, when he became candidate for the mastership of the high-school of Aberdeen; but failed in his application. It is said that his successful competitor was