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The interest of the Earl of Errol acquired for him the post of professor of moral philosophy and logic in the Marischal College of Aberdeen; in which capacity he published a work, entitled “ An Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth, in opposition to Sophistry and Scepticism,” 1770. Being written in a popular manner, it was much read, and gained the author many admirers, especially among the most distinguished members of the Church of England; and, at the suggestion of Lord Mansfield, he was rewarded with a pension of 2001. from the King's privy purse.
In 1771 his fame was largely extended by the first part of his “ Minstrel,” a piece the subject of which is the imagined birth and education of a poet. Although the word Minstrel is not with much propriety applied to such a person as he represents, and the “ Gothic days” in which he is placed are not historically to be recognised, yet there is great beauty, both moral and descriptive, in the delineation, and perhaps no writer has managed the Spenserian stanza with more dexterity and harmony. The second part of this poem, which contains the maturer part of the education of the young bard, did not appear till 1774, and then left the work a fragment. But whatever may be the defects of the Minstrel, it possesses beauties which will secure it a place among the approved productions of the British muse.
Beattie visited London for the first time in 1771, where he was received with much cordiality by the admirers of his writings, who found equal cause to love and esteem the author. Not long afterwards, the degree of LL. D. was conferred on him by his college at Aberdeen. In 1777 a new edition, by subscription, was published of his “ Essay on Truth,” to which were added three Essays on subjects of polite literature. In 1783 he published “ Dissertations Moral and Critical,” consisting of detached essays, which had formed part of a course of lec-' tures delivered by the author as professor. His last work was “ Evidences of the Christian Religion, briefly and plainly stated,” 2 vols. 1786. His time was now much occupied with the duties of his station, and particularly with the education of his eldest son, a youth of uncommon promise. His death of a decline was a very severe trial of the father's fortitude and resignation; and it was followed some years after by that of his younger son. These afflictions, with other domestic misfortunes, entirely broke his spirits, and brought him to his grave at Aberdeen, in August, 1803, in the 68th year of his age.
THE PROGRESS OF GENIUS.
The design was, to trace the progress of a poeti
cal genius, born in a rude age, from the first dawning of fancy and reason, till that period at which he may be supposed capable of appearing in the world as a Minstrel, that is, as an itinerant poet and musician; - a character which, according to the notions of our forefathers, was not only
respectable but sacred. I have endeavoured to imitate Spenser in the mean
sure of his verse, and in the harmony, simplicity, and variety of his composition. Antique expressions I have avoided ; admitting, however, some old words, where they seemed to suit the sub ject : but I hope none will be found that are now obsolete, or in any degree not intelligible to a
reader of English poetry. To those who may be disposed to ask, what could
induce me to write in so difficult a measure, I can only answer, that it pleases my ear, and seems, from its Gothic structure and original, to bear some relation to the subject and spirit of the poem. It admits both simplicity and magnificence of sound and of language, beyond any other stanza that I am acquainted with. It allows the sententiousness of the couplet, as well as the more complex modulation of blank verse.
What some critics have remarked, of its uniformity growing at last tiresome to the ear, will be found to hold true, only when the poetry is faulty in other respects.
Book I. A,! who can tell how hard it is to climb The steep where Fame's proud temple shines afar ; Ah! who can tell how many a soul sublime Has felt the influence of malignant star, And waged with Fortune an eternal war ; Check'd by the scoff of Pride, by Envy's frown," And Poverty's unconquerable bar, In life's low vale remote has pined alone, Then dropt into the grave, unpitied and unknown !
And yet the languor of inglorious days,
The rolls of fame I will not now explore;
Fret not thyself, thou glittering child of pride,
Though richest hues the peacock’s plumes adorn,
Liberal, not lavish, is kind Nature's hand;