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James Beattie: A Brief Biography

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James Beattie (be´ti), a Scottish poet and philosophical writer, born at Laurencekirk, Kincardineshire, in 1735, died at Aberdeen 1803. He studied at Marischal College, Aberdeen, for four years, and received the M.A. degree. In 1753 he was appointed schoolmaster at Fordoun, a few miles from his native place; from whence he obtained a mastership in the Grammar School of Aberdeen, and ultimately was installed professor of moral philosophy and logic in Marischal College. In 1760 he published a volume of poems, which he subsequently endeavoured to buy up, considering them unworthy of him. In 1765 he published a poem, The Judgment of Paris, and in 1770 his celebrated Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth, attacking Helvetius and Hume and advocating what was afterwards called the doctrine of Common Sense, for which the University of Oxford conferred on him the degree of D.C.L., and George III honoured him, when on a visit to London, with a private conference and a pension. He next published in 1771 the first book of his poem The Minstrel, and in 1774 the second; this is the only work by which he is now remembered. In 1776 he published dissertations on Poetry and MusicLaughter and Ludicrous Composition, &c.; in 1783 Dissertations, Moral and Critical; in 1786 Evidences of the Christian Religion; and in 1790-3 Elements of Moral Science. His closing years were darkened by the death of his two sons.—Bibliography: Margaret Forbes, Beattie and His Friends; A. Mackie, James Beattie, the Minstrel: Some Unpublished Letters.


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