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their sight. Prophetic whispers of imperishable fame soothed their souls; and, proudly eminent in the consciousness of anticipated celebrity, they trod the path, obscure and hid. den, which was to terminate in the wide field of renown and glory. These cherished visions of superior minds, serve not only to brighten the immediate course of life, but they act as stimulants by which they are themselves verified: and there can be little doubt that Beat. tie, who confessed that he has given an adum-; bration of bis own boyhood in the character of: Edwin, felt all those trembling expectations of future fame which he was destined to accom- } plish. This ardent, this cheering hope accompanied his progress from the humble privacy of a village schoolmaster, to the more dignified post of a teacher of moral wisdom.
Of the life of Dr. Beattie not much is rccorded. He has been made his own historian, by a plan well suited to supply deficiency of knowledge in the narrator, but which can seldom please equal to a perspicuous and copious detail of facts. Sir William Forbes, who bad long been his friend, became also his biographer, but with few qualities for the task. As bis communication with Dr. Beattie was more
epistolary-than personal, he knew little of the man beyond what he learned from his letters; and of these he has not been sparing. The nar, rative part of Sir William's Life, might be comprised within very scanty limits. Neither does he appear to possess the force or discrimination of mind which is requisite to paint the intellectual and moral character of Dr. Beattie, What he has written, any man might have written with the same accumulation of papers before him. His picture is but a copy of Dr. Beattie's self-delincation : such as Beattie describes himself, such his friend describes him: but he who has learned to penetrate the motives of human action, and the principles of human thought, will receive, with cautious deliberation, the opinions each man entertains of himself. There are two. kinds of deception; voluntary and involun. tary. A man practises the first when his speech is contrary to his knowledge; and this is cri. minal. The second is almost every man's error : for who is there that does not persuade himself into the belief of virtues which he possesses only in imagination. But this is venial: it is the inseparable lot of human fallibility; and I am willing to think, with Shaftsbury,
that there is more of ihis 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 ap. parent 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 by the Life of Beattie, as detailed by Sir William Forbes, in wbich 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;
but 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 Lad ioiled in the labours of the field. His mo. ther'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 with 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, howa
ever, that he had the use of but few books. Those that he could procure he read with avi. 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. Thomsón, at that time minister of the parish. Of this elergyman 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. When men become eminent, curiosity is roused to trace the steps by which they ascended; and these retrospective views are tinged, more or less, with the medium through which the man himself is seen. Infantile.puerilities are then exalted into prophetic tokens; and the mere accidents of life are transformed into
purposes illustrative of the future. Dr. Beattie is said to have acquired the name of the poet while at school: this is not improbable; for in an obscure village, with ploughboys for com