Sidor som bilder
PDF

he had planted himself, as upon a terrace, on an eminence vastly above the audience, and he kept that sublime level to the end. He looked from his throne of elevated sentiment upon the under-world of spectators with a most sovran and becoming contempt. There was excellent pathos delivered out to them: an they would receive it, so ; an they would not receive it, so. There was no offence against decorum in all this; mothing to condemn, to damn. Not an irreverent symptom of a sound was to be heard. %. procession of verbiage stalked on through four and five acts, no one venturing to predict what would come of it, when to— wards the winding up of the latter, Antonio, with an irrelevancy that seemed to stagger Elvira herself—for she had been coolly arguing the point of honour with him—suddenly whips out a poniard, and stabs his sister to the heart. The effect was, as if a murder had been committed in cold blood. The whole house rose up in clamorous indignation demandingjustice. The feeling rose far above hisses. I believe at that instant, if

they could have got him, they would have torn the unfortunate author to pieces. Not that the act itself was so exorbitant, or of a complexion different from what they themselves would have applauded upon another occasion in a §. or an Appius— but for want of attending to Antonio's words, which palpably led to the expectation of no less dire an event, instead of being seduced by his manner, which seemed to promise a sleep of a less alarming nature than it was his cue to inflict upon Elvira, they found themselves o trayed into an accompliceship of murder, a perfect misprision of parricide, while they dreamed of nothing less. M., I believe, was the only }. who suffered acutely from the ailure; for G. thenceforward, with a serenity unattainable but by the true philosophy, abandoning a precarious popularity, retired into his fast hold o speculation,-the drama in which the world was to be his tiring room, and remote posterity his applauding spectators at once, and actors. ELIA,

TO CELIA.
Old Fictions say that Love hath eyes, ,

*** * *

[ocr errors]

To one our graces all unveil,
To one our flaws are all exposed;
But when with tenderness we hail,
He smiles, and keeps the Critic closed.

But when he's scorn'd, abused, estranged,

He opes the eye of evil ken, • * And all his angel friends are changed **

To demons—and are hated then

Yet once it happ'd that, semi-blind, t He met thee, on a summer day, - o And took thee for his mother kind,

And frown'd as he was push'd away.

But still he saw thee shine the same,
Though he had ope'd his evil eye,
And found that nothing but her shame
Was left to know his mother by 1

And ever since that morning sun,

He thinks of thee; and blesses Fate,
That he can look with both, on one

Who hath no ugliness to hate.

CONTINUATION OF DR. JOHNSON'S
1Liuca of the £octs.
No. VI.
THE LIFE OF JAMES BEATTIE, - - - of

- JAMEs BEATTIE was born on the 25th of October, 1735, at Laurencekirk, in the county of Kincardine, in Scotland. His father, who kept a small shop in that place, and rented a little farm near it, is said to have been a man of acquirements superior to his condition. At his death, the management of his concerns devolved on his widow. David, the eldest of her six children, was of an age to assist his mother. James, the youngest, she placed at the parish school of his native village, which about forty years before had been raised to some celebrity by Ruddiman, the grammarian, and was then kept by one Milne. This man had also a cometent skill in grammar. His other §. were supplied by the natural quickness of his pupil, and by the attention of Mr. Thomson, the minister of Laurencekirk, who, being a man of learning, admitted you Beattie to the use of his library, an probably animated him by his en*..." He very early became sensible to the charms of English verse, to which he was first awakened by the perusal of Ogilby's Virgil. Before he was ten years-old, he was as well acquainted with that writer and Homer, as the versions of Pope and Dryden could make him. His schoolfellows distinguished him by the name of the Poet. At the age of fourteen, he was sent to Marischal College, Aberdeen, where he attended the Greek class, taught by Doctor Blackwell, author of the Memoirs of the Court of Augustus, and was by him singled out as the most promising of his scholars. The slender pittance spared him b his mother would scarcely have o ficed for his support, if he had not added to it one of the bursaries or pensions that were bestowed on the most deserving candidates. Of a discourse which he was called on to deliver at the Divinity Hall, it was observed, that he spoke poetry in prose. Thomson was censured for a similar impropriety in one of his

youthful exercises; but Beattie gained the applause of his audience. His academical education being completed, on the 1st of August, 1753, he was satisfied with the humble appointment of parish-clerk and schoolmaster at the village of Fordoun, about six miles distant from Laurencekirk. Here he attracted the notice of Mr. Garden, at that time sheriff of the county, and afterwards one of the Scotch judges, with the appellation of Lord Gardenstown. In a romantic glen near his house, he chanced to find Beattie with pencil and paper in his hand; and, on questioning him, discovered that he was engaged in the composition of a poem. Mr. Garden desired to see some of his other poems; and doubting whether they were his own productions, requested him to translate the invocation to Venus at the opening of Lucretius, which Beattie did in such a manner as to remove his incredulity. In this retirement, he also became known to Lord Monboddo, whose family seat was in the parish; and a friendly intercourse ensued, which did not terminate till the death of that learned but visionary man. In 1758, he was removed from his employment at Fordoun, to that of Usher in the Grammar School of Aberdeen, for which he had been an unsuccessful competitor in the preceding year, but was now nominated without the form of a trial. At Aberdeen, his heart seems to have taken up its rest; for no temptations could afterwards seduce him for any length of time to quit it. The professorship of Natural Philosophy in the Marischal College, where he had lately been a student, being vacant in 1760, Mr. Arbuthnot, one of his friends, exerted himself with so much zeal in the behalf of Beattie, that he obtained that appointment; although the promotion was such as his most sanguine wishes did not aspire to. Soon after he was further gratified, by being permitted to ex

change it for the professorship of Moral Philosophy and Logic, for which he thought himself better fitted. In discharge of the duties belonging to his new function, he immediately entered on a course of lectures, which, as appears from his diary in the possession of Sir William Forbes, he repeated with much diligence for more than thirty years.

This occupation could not have been very favourable to his poetical o: He had, since his twentieth year, been occasionally a contributor of verse to the Scots Magazine; and in 1760, he published a collection of poems, inscribed to the Earl of Erroll, to whose intervention he had been partly indebted for the office he held in the college. Though the number of these pieces was not considerable, he omitted several of them in subsequent editions, and among others a translation of Virgil's Eclogues, some specimens of which, adduced in a letter written by Lord Woodhouselee, author of the Principles of Translation, will stand a comparison with the parallel passages in Dryden and Warton.

In the summer of 1763, his curiosity led him for the first time to London, where Andrew Millar, the bookseller, was almost his only acquaintance. Of this journey no particular is recorded but that he visited Pope's house at Twickenham.

In 1765, having sent a letter of compliment to Gray, then on a visit to the Earl of Strathmore, he was invited to Glammis Castle, the residence of that nobleman, to meet the English poet, in whom he found such a combination of excellence as he had hitherto been a stranger to. This appears from a letter written to Sir William Forbes, his faithful friend and biographer, with whom his intimacy commenced about the same time.

. I am sorry you did not see Mr. Gray on his return ; you would have been much pleased with him. Setting aside his merit as a poet, which, however, in my opinion, is greater than any of his contemporaries can boast, in this or in any other nation, I found him possessed of the most exact taste, the soundest judgment, and the most extensive learning. He is happy in a singular facility of expression. His conversation abounds in original observations, delivered with no appearance of sententious formality, and seeming to arise spontane.

ously without study or premeditation. I passed two very agreeable days with him at Glammis, and found him as easy in his manners, and as communicative and frank, as I could have wished.

Gray could not have requited him with such excess of admiration; but continued during the rest of his life to regard Beattie with affection and eSteem. It was not till the spring of this year, when his Judgment of Paris was rinted, that he again appeared beore the public as an author. This piece he inserted in the next edition of his poems in 1766, but his more mature judgment afterwards induced him to reject it. Some satirical verses on the death of Churchill, at first published without his name, underwent the same fate. The Wolf and the Shepherds, a Fable, and an Epistle to i. Rev. Mr. Thomas Blacklock, which appeared in the second edition, he also discarded from those subsequently published. He now projected and began the Minstrel, the most popular of his poems. Had the original plan been adhered to, it would have embraced a much wider scope. In 1767, he married Mary, the daughter of Dr. Dun, rector of the Grammar School at Aberdeen. This union was not productive of the happiness, which a long course of previous intimacy had entitled him to expect. The object of his choice inherited from her mother a constitutional malady which at first showed itself in capricious waywardness, and at length broke out into insanity. From this misery he sought refuge in the exercise of his mind. His residence at Aberdeen had brought him into the society of several among his countrymen who were engaged in researches well suited to employ his attention to its utmost stretch. Of these, the names of Reid, author of An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense— and Campbell, Principal of Marischal College, author of An Essay on Miracles, are the most distinguished. His own correspondence with his friends about this time evinces deep concern at the progress of the sceptical philosophy, diffused by the writings of Hobbes, Hume, Mandeville, and even, in his opinion, of Locke and Berkeley. Conceiving the study of metaphysics itself to be the origin of this mischief, in order that the evil might be intercepted at its source, he proposed to demonstrate the futility of that science, and to appeal to the common sense and unsophisticated feelings of mankind, as the only infallible criterion on subjects in which it had formerly been made the standard. That his meaning was excellent, no one can doubt; whether he discovered the right remedy for the harm which he was desirous of removing, is much more questionable. To magnify any branch of human knowledge beyond its just importance may, indeed, tend to weaken the force of religious faith; but many acute metaphysicians have been good Christians; and before the question thus agitated can be set at rest, we must suppose a certain proficiency in those inquiries which he would proscribe as dangerous. After all, we can discover no more reason why sciolists in metaphysics should bring that study into discredit, than that religion itself should be disparaged through the extravagance of famaticism. To have met the subject fully, he ought to have shown that not only those opinions which he controverts are erroneous, but that all the systems of former metaphysicians were so likewise. The Essay on Truth, in which he endeavoured to establish his own hypothesis, o finished in 1769, he employed Sir William Forbes and Mr. Arbuthnot to negotiate its sale with the booksellers. They, however, refused to purchase it on any terms; and the work would have remained unpublished, if his two friends, making use of a little pious fraud, had not informed him that the manuscript was sold for fifty guimeas, a sum which they at the same time remitted him, and that they had stipulated with the booksellers to be partakers in the profits. The book accordingly appeared in the following year; and having gained many admirers, was quickly followed by a second impression, which he revised and corrected with much pains. In the autumn of 1771, he again visited London, where the reputation obtained by the Essay and by the first book of the Minstrel, then recently published, opened for him an introduction into the circles most re

[graphic]

spectable for rank and literature. Lord Lyttleton declared that it seemed to him his once most beloved minstrel, Thomson, was come down from Heaven refined by the converse of purer spirits than those he lived with here, to let him hear him sing again the beauties of nature and the finest feelings of virtue, not with human, but with angelic strains. He added his wishes that it were in his o to do Beattie any service. From rs. Montagu he on different occasions received more substantial tokens of regard. Except the trifling emolument derived from his writings, he had hitherto been supported merely by the small income appended to his professorship. But the Earl of Dartmouth, a nobleman to whom nothing that concerned the interests of religion was indifferent, representing him as a fit object of the royal bounty, a pension of two hundred pounds a year was now granted him. Previously to his obtaining this favour, he was first presented to the King, and was then honoured by an interview with both their Majesties. The particulars of this visit were minutely recorded in his diary. After much commendation of his Essay, the sovereign pleasantly told him that he had never stolen but one book, and that was his. “I stole it from the Queen,” said his Majesty, “ to give it to Lord Hertford to read.” In the course of the conversation, many questions were put to him concerning the Scotch Universities, the revenues of the Scotch clergy, and their mode of preaching and praying. When Beattie replied, that their clergy sometimes prayed a quarter or even half an hour without interruption, the King observed, that this practice must lead into repetitions; and that even our own liturgy, excellent as it is, is faulty in this reect. While the subject of his pension was under consideration, the Queen made a tender of some present to him through Dr. Majendie, but he declined to encroach on her Majesty's munificence, unless the aplication made to the crown in his {...} should prove unsuccessful. A mercenary spirit, indeed, was not one of his weaknesses. Being on a visit at Bulstrode, his noble hostess, the Duchess of Portland, would have had him take a present of a hundred ounds to defray the expenses of his }. into England; but he excused Holi, as well as he was able, for not accepting her Grace's bounty. With his pension, his wishes appear to have been bounded. Temptation to enter into orders in our church was thrice offered him, and as often rejected; once in the shape of a general promise of patronage from Dr. Drummond, Archbishop of York; next, of a small living in Dorsetshire, in the gift of Mr. John Pitt; and the third time, of a much more valuable benefice, which was at the disposal of Dr. Thomas, Bishop of Winchester. In answer to Dr. Porteus, through whom the last of these offers came, and whose friendship he enjoyed during the remainder of his life, he represented, in addition to ather reasons for his refusal, that he was apprehensive lest his acceptance of preferment might render the motives for his writing the Essay on Truth suspected. He at the same time avowed, that if “he were to have become a clergyman, the church of England would certainly have been his choice; as he thought that in regard to church-government and church-service, it had many great and peculiar advantages.” Unwillingness to part from Aberdeen was, perhaps, at the bottom of these stout resolutions. It was confessedly one of the reasons for which he declined a proposition made to him in the year 1773, to remove to the chair of Moral Philosophy in Edinburgh; though he was urged by his friends not to neglect this opportunity of extending the sphere of his usefulness, and the change would have brought him much pecuniary advantage. His reluctance to comply was increased by the belief that there were certain persons at Edinburgh to whom his principles had given offence, and in whose neighbourhood he did not expect to live so quietly as he wished. In the same year, he was complimented with the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws, by the University of Oxford, at the installation of Lord North in the Chancellorship. He now, therefore, lived on at Aberdeen, making occasionally brief visits to England, where he was always j both at the court and by

those many individuals of eminence to -whom his talents and virtues had

recommended him. In the summers he usually indulged himself with passing some time at Peterhead, a town situated on the most easterly promontory of Scotland, and resorted to for its medicinal waters, which he thought beneficial to his health; for he had early in life been subject to a vertigimous disorder, the recurrence of which at times incapacitated him for any serious application. The second book of the Minstrel appeared in 1774. In 1776 he was prevailed on to publish, by subscription, in a more splendid form, his essay on Truth, which was now accompanied by two other essays, on Poetry and Music, and on Laughter and Ludicrous Composition; and by Remarks on the Utility of Classical Learning. This was succeeded in 1783, by dissertations moral and critical, on Memory and Imagination, on Dreaming, on the Theory of Language, on #. and Romance, on

the Attachments of Kindred, and on

Illustrations of Sublimity; being, as he states in the preface, “part of a course of prelections read to those young gentlemen whom it was his business to initiate in the elements of moral science.” In 1786, he published a small treatise, entitled Evidences of the Christian Religion, at the suggestion of Porteus, who was now a bishop; and in 1790 and 1793 two volumes of Elements of Moral Science, containing an abridgment of his public lectures on moral philosophy and logic." His only remaining publication was an edition of the juvenile works of the elder of his two sons, who was taken off by a consumption (November 1790), at the age of twenty-two. To the education of this boy he had attended with such care and discernment as the anxiety of a parent only could dictate, and had watched his unfolding excellence with fondness such as mone but a parent could feel. At the risque of telling my reader what he may, perhaps, well remember, I cannot but relate the method which he had taken to impress on his mind, when a child, the sense of his dependance on a Supreme Being ; of which Porteus well observed, that

« FöregåendeFortsätt »