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.