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Moskoestroem, or Malstroem, is a remarkable whirlpool off the shore of Norland, which will involve boats, and even ships; nay, the bellowing struggles of the whale have not always redeemed him from the danger.' (I. 549.) The following sketch of the domestic occupations of a venerable patriarch well known to every critic, is rapid, but masterly. Mistakes multiply, and an old hallucination becomes the father of a numerous progeny.' (I. xii.) This edition has gained in perfection what it lost in delay. (xvi.) With many other instances of one thing being said for the sake of sound, while a perfectly different thing is
Such are a very few of the specimens which every page of these volumes furnishes, to make us dissent from those foreigners eminently versed in the English language,' who rate so high our author's purity of grammar and expression.' Something more than a journey to Paris, and an unshaken faith in his own perfections, is requisite to make Mr Pinkerton worthy of half the praises he lavishes upon his book, and its style. In truth, it was long ago observed by a shrewd judge, that good sense is the - source of good writing; and with that our author does not appear to be considerably imbued. '
ART. XII. An Account of the Life and Writings of James Beattie, LL.D. late Professor of Moral Philosophy and Logic in the Marischal College and University of Aberdeen: Including many of his original Letters. By Sir W. Forbes of Pitsligo, Baronet, one of the Executors of Dr Beattie. 2 vol. 4to. pp. 840. Edinburgh and London. 1806.
WE E cannot transcribe this title without some feelings of sadness, which we think will be participated by most of our readers. Nothing can be more melancholy than the closing scene of Dr Beattie's life; and his amiable biographer had scarcely given to the world this account of the sufferings and virtues of his friend, when he, too, was called away from this scene of separations, and left society to lament a loss at least as irreparable. The author of the Minstrel will of course be further known, and longer remembered; but the moral fame of his friend will not be circumscribed, either by a narrow sphere, or a short duration. Over all this country, at least, his exemplary probity, and unwearied
It is off the fhore of Norway. Norland, in profe, is a province fituated, not on the North Sea, but on the Gulph of Bothnia.
wearied beneficence, will not soon be forgotten; and if this were the proper place for such a record, it would be easy for us to collect from facts, which are both recent and notorious, the materials of an eulogium, for which poets and philosophers would be gainers by exchanging their laurels.
It is not, however, with the personal merits, either of the author or the biographer, that we are now concerned, but with the writings which they have given to the public; and of these, we are sorry to say, that our judgment is by no means so favourable. For what Sir William Forbes has written in these volumes, we can easily forgive him; but he cannot escape censure for much of what he has published. In his own person he has said little; and that little he has delivered with so much apparent candour, such a natural partiality, and such a total absence of all sort of offensive pretension, as would disarm a more ungentle criticism than any which we profess to exercise:-but he has filled two quarto volumes with the correspondence of his friend; and protesting, as we have always done, against the multiplication of needless quartos, and the publication of ordinary epistles, we cannot avoid saying, that his book is a great deal larger, and a great deal duller, than we are bound to tolerate.
The life of Dr Beattie is a tale that is soon told; and could excite, perhaps, no great interest in the telling. His letters, again, which occupy at least nine tenths of the work, can scarcely be considered as letters at all. With the exception of those very dull ones which relate to the business in which he was immediately engaged,-the printing of his books, and the advancement of his fortune,-they appear to us to be mere bits of dissertation, and fragments of criticism; and might almost be mistaken for college exercises, or portions of lectures en rhetoric and belles lettres. In this point of view, they certainly are not altogether without merit; for they are often neat, y, and ingenious; but they are totally destitute of the familarity, simplicity, and confidential directness of a private correspondence; and, at the same time, are too trifling, superficial, and unconnected, to be of any value, when considered as miscella short, they contain no anecdotes or sallie character, and no play of natural hum mend them as letters; and it is needless t no duller, or more unprofitable reading, of slight criticism and broken dissertation in the letters, too, which would have good a more impartial editor. There is a good and animosity towards his literary opponents, and something too like adulation towards bishops and pious noblemen, and old ladies of rank and fortune.
s speculations. In wit,-no traits of fancy, to recom, that there can be two thick quartos There are other faults concealment from l of paltry conceit
Though we have thus discharged our conscience, by saying all the ill we think of this publication, we do not despair of being able to interest our readers by a pretty full account of its conThe life and opinions of Dr Beattie, though they cannot vivify two vast quartos, may still serve to animate a few of our humbler octavos, and are really worth all the time we shall require our readers to bestow upon them. We shall endeavour, therefore, to make a short abstract of the biography, and then to give some specimens of the letters which fill these volumes; subjoining, if we can find room, a few observations on the general merits and character of Dr Beattie's productions.
This eminent scholar was born in Kincardineshire in 1735. His father kept a small shop in the village of Laurencekirk, and rented a small farm in the neighbourhood. He was the youngest of six children; and, after acquiring some Latin at the parish school, was sent to the university of Aberdeen in 1749. Here his expenses were in part defrayed by a bursary or exhibition, to which he was preferred upon public trial by the masters, and remained four years studying philosophy and divinity, with a view to the Scottish church. When his course of study was finished, however, no appointment of this kind was in prospect for him; and he was glad to accept of the office of schoolmaster and parish clerk in the parish of Fordoun in 1753, where he continued for four solitary years, extremely poor, and utterly unheard of in the world, though he had begun to write verses, and had been personally introduced to two of our Scotish Judges, who resided occasionally in his neighbourhood. In 1758, he was appointed. one of the ushers to the grammar school of Aberdeen, and began to obtain some distinction among the men of letters who com posed that university. In 1760, he was appointed professor of philosophy, and continued to discharge the duties of that situa tion till within a short time of his death. Aberdeen had at this time to boast of Dr Campbell, Dr Reid, Dr Gerard, and Dr Gregory, among its professors; and the benefits which their new associate must have derived from their society, were rendered still more invaluable, by the harmony in which they all lived with each other, and the openness and familiarity with which they communicated their sentiments. In a kind of literary club, which met twice a month, they discussed freely all the topics of literature and philosophy that occurred to any of them; and it was in this society that all those speculations took their rise, which have since made their names so familiar to all who read for instruction. In 1760, he published a small collection of poems, the greater part of which were left out of the subsequent editions; and, in 1763, made his first visit to London, where
he does not seem to have had any acquaintance, except with his bookseller, and some nameless Caledonians from his own district. In 1765, he formed an acquaintance with the poet Gray, who was at that time on a visit to the Earl of Strathmore, and became his dear friend and admirer for the short period of his after life. In 1767, he married, and appears to have begun his Minstrel, and his Essay on Truth. On the subject of the latter, there is an immense deal of epistolary dissertation between Dr Beattie and his literary friends; and certainly there never was a work on which so much preparation and getting up were expended. It made its appearance in 1770; and as it had been diligently extolled and anticipated by all the orthodox enemies of scepticism, it speedily acquired a greater reputation than any metaphysical work had attained, since the days at least of Bishop Berkeley. It took amazingly with the bishops and masters of academies throughout England; and prepared for the author a most gracious reception among all who had conceived a dread and detestation of the Scottish philosophy. In 1771, he published the first canto of the Minstrel, which rose also into a rapid and less unaccountable popularity. There is something ingenious, we think, though rather scholastic, in his own remarks upon this poem, which we extract from a letter to Lady Forbes in 1772.
Again, your Ladyfhip muft have obferved, that fome fentiments are common to all men; others peculiar to perfons of a certain charac
Of the former fort, are those which Gray has fo elegantly expreffed in his Church-yard Elegy ;' a poem which is univerfally underftood and admired, not only for its poetical beauties, but also, and perhaps chiefly, for its expreffing fentiments in which every man thinks himself interefted, and which, at certain times, are familiar to all men. Now the fentiments expreffed in the " Minftrel," being not common to all men, but peculiar to perfons of a certain caft, cannot poffibly be interefting, because the generality of readers will not understand, nor feel them fo thoroughly, as to think them natural. That a boy should take pleasure in darkness or a ftorm-in the noife of thunder, or the glare of lightning; fhould be more gratified with liftening to mufic at a distance, than with mixing in the merriment occafioned by it; fhould like better to fee every bird and beaft happy and free, than to exert his ingenuity in deftroying or enfnaring them-thefe, and fuch like fentiments, which, I think, would be natural to perfons of a certain caft, will, I know, be condemned as unnatural by others, who have never felt them in themfelves, nor obferved them in the generality of mankind. Of all this I was fufficiently aware before I publifhed the "Minftrel," and, therefore, never expected that it would be a popular poem. I. 205. 206. What follows, however, as it partakes of anecdote, will probably be more interesting to most readers.
I find you are willing to fuppofe, that, in Edwin, I have given
only a picture of myfelf, as I was in my younger days. I confefs the fuppofition is not groundlefs. I have made him take pleasure in the fcenes in which I took pleasure, and entertain fentiments fimilar to thofe, of which, even in my early youth, I had repeated experience. The fcenery of a mountainous country, the ocean, the fky, thoughtfulness and retirement, and fometimes melancholy objects and ideas, had charms in my eyes, even when I was a school-boy; and at a time when I was fo far from being able to exprefs, that I did not understand my own feelings, or perceive the tendency of fuch purfuits and amufements: and as to poetry and mufic, before I was ten years old, I could play a little on the violin, and was as much mafter of Homer and Virgil, as Pope's and Dryden's tranflations could make me.' I. 207.
Dr Beattie, it seems, had bestowed such intense labour in the composition of his Essay, that his health was impaired by the exertion; and he now found it necessary to take a journey to the South, with a view to repair his exhausted spirits. He paid a second visit to London, accordingly, in summer 1771; and having been introduced by his friend Dr Gregory to the particular notice of Mrs Montagu, immediately made his way to all the distinguished literary society which the metropolis could then afford. As he was sufficiently learned, and free from most of the prejudices for which Scotchmen are usually disliked by the scholars of the South, he proved very generally acceptable in the circles to which he was introduced; and was received into distinguished favour by all the pious churchmen and orthodox nobility, who had been taught to shudder at infidels and sceptics. These honourable connexions he took care to retain, by an assiduous and complimentary correspondence; and having reason to think, that, through their interest, some considerable addition might be obtained to his fortune, he returned again to London in 1773, with a view to solicit a pension, or some sinecure place under government. Here he lived fine with bishops and dutchesses for several months; had his picture painted in allegorical triumph by Sir Joshua Reynolds; was admitted an honorary Doctor of Laws at Oxford; and obtained the King's warrant for a pension of 2001. a year. He had also the honour of a private interview with their Majesties, of which he has left a long and most minute account in his Diary. As few are permitted to look so near upon royalty, it may be amusing to some of our readers to see a part of this record.
At twelve, the Doctor and I went to the King's houfe, at Kew. We had been only a few minutes in the hall, when the King and Queen came in from an airing, and as they paled through the hall, the King called to me by name, and afked how long it was fince I came from town. I anfwered, about an hour. "I fhall fee " fays he, "in a little." The Doctor and I waited a confiderable time, (for the King