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painful necessity of separation from her husband. The care of the children now entirely devolved on the father, whose sensibility received such a shock from the melancholy circumstance alluded to, as could only be aggravated by an apprehension that the consequences of Mrs. Beattie's disorder might not be confined to herself. This alarm, which often preyed on bis spirits, proved happily without foundation. His children grew up without the snallest appearance of the hereditary evil; but when they had just begun to repay his care by a display of early genius, sweetness of temper and filial affection, he was compelled to resign them both to an untimely grave. His eldest son died November 19, 1790, in his twenty-second year; and his youngest on March 14, 1796, in his eighteenth year. The death of the latter was occasioned by a rapid fever. The suddenness of the shock made it more deeply felt by the father, as he had not yet recovered from the loss of the eldest, who was taken from him by the slow process of consumption.
Soon after the death of James Hay, his father drew up an account of his Life and Character; to which were added, Essays and Fragments, written by this extraordinary youth. Of this volume a few copies only were printed, and were given as “ presents « to those friends with whom the author was particularly acquainted or comected." Dr. Beattic was afterwards induced to permit the Life and some of the Essays and Fragments to be printed for publication. The life is perhaps one of the most interesting and affecting narratives in our language. It is written with great simplicity of style, and with so much impartiality in those passages where praise or censure can have admittance, that there is probably no reader of whatever judgment who would not rather subscribe to his opinion than exert the privilege of criticism. It is impossible, indeed, to contemplate without emotion the exquisite tenderness of an affectionate and mourning parent, soothing himself by the remembrance of filial piety and departed excellence; and humbly, yet fondly, endeavouring to engage the sympathies of the world in behalf of a genius that might have proved one of its brightest ornaments.
After the loss of this amiable youth, who in 1787 had been appointed successor to his father, and had occasionally lectured in the professor's chair, Dr. Beattie resumed that employment himself, and continued it, although with intervals of sickness and depression, until the unexpected death of his second and last child, in 1796. His hopes of a successor, of his name and family, had probably been revived in this youth, who exhibited many proofs of early genius, and for some time before his death had prosecuted his studies with great assiduity. But here too he was compelled again to subscribe to the uncertainty of all human prospects. Great, however, as the affliction was, it would be pleasing to be able to add that he acquiesced with pious resignation, and laid hold on the hopes he knew so well how to recommend, and which yet might have cheered, if not gladdened his declining life. But from this period he began to withdraw from society, and brooded over the sorrows of his family, until they overpowered his feelings, and abstracted him from all the comforts of friendship and all power of consolation. Of the state of his mind, sir William Forbes has given an instance so extremely affecting, that no apology can be necessary for introducing it here.
14 Sir Wm. Forbes intimates that her symptoms of insanity were of an earlier date. “ Altbough it did Dot, for a considerable time, break out into open insanity, yet in a few years after their marriage, showed itself in caprices that embittered every hour of his life, till, at last, it unquestionably contributed to bring him to his grave.” C.
" The death of his only surviving child completely unbinged the mind of Dr. Beattie, the first symptom of which, ere many days bad elapsed, was a temporary but almost total loss of memory respecting his son. Many times he could not recollect what had become of him: and after searching in every room of the house, be would say to his niece, Mrs. Glennie, “You may think it strange, but I must ask you if I have a son, and where he is ?' She then felt herself under the painful necessity of bringing to his recollection his son Montagu's sufferings, which always restored him to reason. And he would often, with many tears, express his thankfulness that he had no child, saying, • How could I have borne to see their elegant minds mangled with madness! When he looked, for the last time, on the dead body of his son, he said, 'I have now done with the world :' and he ever after seemed to act as if he thought so."
The last three years of his life were passed in hopeless solitude, and he even dropt his correspondence with many of those remote friends with whom he bad long enjoyed the soothing interchange of elegant sentiment and friendly attachment. His health, in this voluntary confinement, gradually decayed, and extreme and premature debility, occasioned by two paralytic strokes, terminated his good and useful life, on the 18th day of August, 1803. His reputation was so well founded and so extensive, that he was universally lamented as a loss to the republic of letters, and particularly to the university to which he had been so long a public benefactor and an honour.
Of his general character a fair estimate may be formed from his works, and it is no small praise that his life and writings were in strict conformity. No man ever felt more strong impressions of the value of the virtues he recommended than Dr. Beattie. Although he disdained the affectation of feeling, and the ostentation of extraordinary purity, he yet more abhorred the character of those writers wliose professions and prac tice are at variance. His zeal for religious and moral truth, however censured by those to whom religiou and truth are adverse, originated in a mind fully convinced of the importance of what he prescribed to others, and anxious to display, where such a display was neither obtrusive nor boastful, that his conviction was sincere, and his practice resolute.
It may not be amiss in this place to take some notice of a slander which the friends, at least the injudicious ones, of Hume have been industrious to propagate, because, if true, it would have proved a littleness of mind of which none who kuew Dr. Beattie could accuse him. It has been said that he submitted his juvenile poems to Mr. Hume, at that time considered as the arbiter of taste, who either returned them with severe censure, or spoke of them with contempt, and that this was the real motive which prompted Dr. Beattie to write the Essay on Truth. Such is the story; and who ever compares the provocation with the revenge, will not think it very probable 15. It is the part of malignity itself to search painfully for one bad motive where so many good ones are at hand. Nothing surely can be more false or absurd than this piece of slavder. If Mr. Hume criticised Dr. Beattie's poetry with severity, which may be admitted, he certainly could not have been a more rigid censor than the author himself. Dr. Beattie, almost as soon as his volume of early poems was published, and while the praises of every friend and of many strangers were yet sounding in his ears, suppressed the farther publication, and endeavoured to recover the copies that had been circula
15 See a letter on this subject, in sir Wm. Forbes' Life, vol. 1. p. 330.
ted; and for many years refused all applications to reprint the few articles in our present volume, and that with the utmost pertinacity. The presumptiou therefore must be, either that he originally thought as slightingly of those poems as Mr. Hume, or that Mr. Hume bad brought him over to his opinion. In either case there could be no such breach of friendship, and surely no such indignant recollection as to provoke the Essay on Truth. The fact will be acknowledged by all who bad personal intimacy with Dr. Beattie, and they only can be the proper judges of his feelings, that it was not the severity of criticism that he at any time dreaded or avoided. In Gray, who was his intimate friend and correspondent, he found a critic whose opinions might have mortified the vanity of the least conceited of youthful poets. On one occasion, indeed, Gray placed the dangers of poetry before his eyes in such a striking light that he appeared willing to renounce the Muses altogether 16. Such was our author's diffidence in all his productions, that he ventured nothing without consulting his friends, and received very few proposals of correction in which he did not acquiesce. If with this humble and respectful disposition Mr. Hume insulted his feelings, or wished to discourage the early attempts of genius, although his conduct might not provoke the Essay on Truth, it forms a part of his character on which his friends ought to be silent, unless they can explain it in a more satisfactory manner.
As a poet, it must be confessed that Dr. Beattie came slowly into the world; he did not astonish in his days of childhood and ignorance, by those wonderful efforts which speak the extraordinary teachings of nature. That he had a talent for poetry will not be denied, but it was a talent to be cultivated, and in this respect he has not differed from the most eminent names on the list of English poets. “ To touch and re-touch," says Cowper," although some writers boast of negligence, and others would be ashamed to show their foul copies, is the secret of almost all good writing, especially in verse." Dr.Beattie was a poet without self-love and without conceit, and his fame might be safely trusted in his own hands. What he wrote, and at whatever period of his life, he was able to criticise with impartiality and with taste. He had an eye rather to future than to present reputation, and so far was he from soliciting the complimentary opinions of friends, that I suspect he did not rate very highly the judgment of those who had praised the early productions of his Muse. It is certain that he suppressed those poems, in defiance of their suffrages ; and, until he was encouraged to publish The Minstrel, never in his own opinion had laid a fair claim to the reputation of a poet. The many touchings and retouchings he made in this excellent poem are no inconsiderable proofs of his judgment and his diffidence, for he frequently corrected that which all who then distributed the rewards of fame considered as perfect.
As a philosopher, it is no deduction from his merit that his celebrated Essay is now little read. It rose to higher reputation in its day than any work of the kind ever published ; and the little opposition made to it is a proof that it answered the full purpose of the author. His expectations, indeed, were moderate: he knew that in controversy it is more easy to gain the victory than to impose terms on the vanquished. Hume, we are told, remained silent, in consequence of a resolution he had formed, not to answer any opponent; and after declining all notice of Dr. Campbell, whose superiority, in his Essay on Miracles, has never been disputed, it was not to be supposed he would
16 Mason's Life of Gray, p. 319, edit. 4to. 1775.