Biography of James Beattie
Professor James Beattie FRSE was a Scottish poet, moralist and philosopher.
He was born the son of a shopkeeper and small farmer at Laurencekirk in the Mearns, and educated at Aberdeen University. In 1760, he was appointed Professor of moral philosophy there as a result of the interest of his intimate friend, Robert Arbuthnot of Haddo. In the following year he published a volume of poems, The Judgment of Paris (1765), which attracted attention. The two works, however, which brought him most fame were:
His Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth (1770), intended as an answer to David Hume, which had great immediate success, and led to an introduction to the King, a pension of £200, and the degree of LL.D. from Oxford; and
his poem of The Minstrel, of which the first book was published in 1771 and the second in 1774, and which constitutes his true title to remembrance, winning him the praise of Samuel Johnson. It contains much beautiful descriptive writing.
Beattie was prominent in arguing against the institution of slavery, notably in his Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth and Elements of Moral Science.
Beattie underwent much domestic sorrow in the death of his wife and two promising sons, which broke down his own health and spirits.
A biographical sketch, An Account of the Life of James Beattie, LL.D., was published in 1804 by Alexander Bower.
James Beattie's Works:
Original Poems and Translations (1760)
The Judgement of Paris (1765)
Poems on Several Subjects (1766)
An Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth (1770)
The Minstrel; or, The Progress of Genius (1771/2) two volumes
Essays, on the nature and immutability of truth in opposition to sophistry and scepticism. On poetry and music as they affect the mind. On laughter and ludicrous composition. On the utility of classical learning (1776)
Essays on Poetry (1778)
Scoticisms, Arranged in Alphabetical Order, Designed to Correct Improprieties of Speech and Writing (1779)
Poems on several occasions (1780)
Dissertations Moral and Critical (1783)
The Evidence of the Christian Religion Briefly and Plainly Stated (1786) 2 vols.
The theory of language. Part I. Of the origin and general nature of speech. Part II. Of universal grammar (1788)
Elements of Moral Science (1790–1793) two volumes
The Poetical Works of James Beattie (1831) edited by A. Dyce
The poetical works of Beattie, Blair, and Falconer (1868) edited by Charles Cowden Clarke
James Beattie's Day-Book, 1773-1778 (1948) edited by R. S. Walker
James Beattie's Diary (1948) edited by R. S. Walker
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James Beattie Poems
Elegy (Tir'd with the busy crouds)
Tir'd with the busy crouds, that all the day Impatient throng where Folly's altars flame, My languid powers dissolve with quick decay, Till genial Sleep repair the sinking frame.
Song, In Imitation Of Shakspeare's
1 Blow, blow, thou vernal gale! Thy balm will not avail
The Hares, A Fable.
Yes, yes, I grant the sons of earth Are doom'd to trouble from their birth. We all of sorrow have our share; But say, is yours without compare?
Hope Beyond The Grave
'Tis night, and the landscape is lovely no more; I mourn, but, ye woodlands, I mourn not for you; For morn is approaching, your charms to restore,
Epitaph: Being Part Of An Inscription Fo...
Farewell, my best-beloved; whose heavenly mind Genius with virtue, strength with softness join'd; Devotion, undebased by pride or art,
Life And Immortality
'O ye wild groves, oh, where is now your bloom!' (The muse interprets thus his tender thought) Your flowers, your verdure, and your balmy gloom,
Laws, as we read in ancient sages, Have been like cobwebs in all ages. Cobwebs for little flies are spread, And laws for little folks are made;
Elegy, Written In The Year 1758
Still, shall unthinking man substantial deem The forms that fleet through life's deceitful dream? On clouds, where Fancy's beam amusive plays,
O how canst thou renounce the boundless store Of charms which Nature to her votary yields! The warbling woodland, the resounding shore,
Epitaph, Intended For Himself
1 Escaped the gloom of mortal life, a soul Here leaves its mouldering tenement of clay,
At the close of day, when the hamlet is still, And mortals the sweets of forgetfulness prove, When nought but the torrent is heard on the hill,
The Minstrel ; Or, The Progress Of Geniu...
I. Of chance or change O let not man complain, Else shall he never never cease to wail: For, from the imperial dome, to where the swain
1 Tired with the busy crowds, that all the day Impatient throng where Folly's altars flame,
Ode To Peace
I. 1. Peace, heaven-descended maid! whose powerful voice From ancient darkness call'd the morn; And hush'd of jarring elements the noise
Laws, as we read in ancient sages,
Have been like cobwebs in all ages.
Cobwebs for little flies are spread,
And laws for little folks are made;
But if an insect of renown,
Hornet or beetle, wasp or drone,
Be caught in quest of sport or plunder,
The flimsy fetter flies in sunder.