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has been repeatedly acknowledged by the most distinguished characters who flourilhed in. his day; but a more decided proof, that these efforts were not only able but effectual, is afforded in the rancour with which he was treated by the friends of Mr. Hume; who, to this day, cannot forgive the contempt brought on their favourite sophistry, nor hear the name ot Beattie mentioned without accompanying it with one of those epithets which poorly conceal the consciousness of defeat. Of such a champion tor Christianity, it is surely desirable to know all that can be known; and we are here gratified, not only by such memoirs of Dr. Beattie as ar« interesting and satisfactory, but with such valuable additions to the literary history and characters ot his contemporai ics, 'as ought not to be received without ample acknowledgement.
The plan adopted by Sir William Forbes is that of Mason in his Life of Gray, and of Hayley in his Life of Cowper, consisting of an alternation of biographical detail, and of correspondence. This plan we have ever thought judicious, and to us therefore less apology seems necessary than Sir W. F. has thought proper to offer tor the introduction of epistolary correspondence, "not originally intended for the press." The propriety of printing such letters will not admit of a dispute, if the question be fairly stated, and if the task be placed injudicious hands. The practice is neither universally right, nor universally wrong. All depends upon the judgment employed in the selection; and if that be made in luch a manner, as neither to injure the feelings of the living, nor disgrace the memory of the dead, the public is benefited, and the writers are honoured. We may observe, however, that while SirW. appeals to the authority of Mason and Hayley, he is less correct in referring to that of the editor of Lord Orford's Works. The letters in his lordship's volumes, we know, were prepared, and very carefully prepared, by his lordship for the press. What has become of the originals we know not, but we have seen enough of his unpublished correspondence to convince us that he had more ways of writing than one.
As it is our object rather to exemplify the valuable contents of these volumes, than to anticipate the pleasure which our readers will find in the perusal of them in connection, we shall pass over cursorily the incidents of Dr. Beattie'g early life, which in him, as in most men of literary fame, are not very interesting. It appears that he struggled with considerable difficulties, owing to the narrow circumstances of his family, but that he very early drew the attention of a local 2 jpublic Eablic by his poetical attempts. As soon as he commenced is academical course, (at Aberdeen) he became noted for uncommon proficiency. In his 23d year he was chosen one of the ushers of the Grammar-school of Aberdeen, and, humble as this appointment was for a man of his talents and acquired knowledge, it served to bring him into a society, where his merits could be more duly appreciated, and where he had the opportunity of cultivating the friendship of persons of taste and learning.
Such was the fame he acquired here, that, a vacancy happening in the Marischal College, he was appointed Professor of Moral Philosophy, and begin in 1760-1 (in his 25th year) to deliver a course of lectures, which he continued to improve by gradual study, till he brought them to that perfection, of which some idea may be formed from the publication of the compendium of them, Entitled " Elements of Moral Science." His literary associates, at this time, were principally Drs. Gerard, Campbell, Reid, and Gregory, men, whose attainments are too well known to require recapitulation here. In 1760 he published his first collection of Poems, under the title of " Original Poems and Translations." This volume was very favourably received by'the public, but the author did not, upon mature consideration, join in the praises it received, and suppressed the greater number of pieces in his subsequent editions. In 1765, he published his "Judgment of Paris," which, after a second edition, he also thought proper to suppress. Instances of an author suppressing what is in its fair progress towards popularity, are surely rare, but whether from timidity, or just taste, Dr. Beattie was both rigidly severe in criticising, and peremptory in suppressing his early poetical productions.— The " Verses on the Death of Churchill" appeared soon after, with the author's name, and, we are told, had a rapid sale, and the author was partial to them. Of this poem, however, we have never seen a copy, nor can we find any notice of it in the literary journals of the time. Sir W. r. promises it in his Appendix, but when we refer to that, he appears to have changed or forgotten his intention.
We now advance to what may be considered as the most interesting part of this work, that in which we are presented with the correspondence of Dr. Beattie and his friends, on the subject of his celebrated "Essay on Truth," his first thoughts, his original design, the necessity there was for such an attempt, and the encouragement and discouragement he n:ct with in accomplishing his purpose. With respect to his views, they ie explained, in a letter to Dr. Blacklock, at
H 2 considerable considerable length, but in a manner which unfolds the character of the writer so plainly, that we (hall make no apology for extracting some part of it.
'' Perhaps you are anxious to know what first induced me to write on this subject; I will tell you as briefly as I can. In my younger days I read chiefly for the fake of amusement, and I sound nivsels best amused with the elastics, and what we call the btlltt littret. Metaphysics I dilliked; mathematics pleased me better; but I sound inv mind neither improved nor gratified by that study. When Providence allotted me my present station, it became incumbent on me to read what had been written on the subject of morals and human nature: the works oi Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, were celebrated as masterpieces in this way; to them, therefore, I had recourse. But as I began to study them with great prejudices in their favour, you will readily conceive how strangely I was surprised to find them, as I thought, replete with absurdities: I pondered these absurdities; I weighed the arguments, with which I was sometimes not a little confounded; and the result was, that I began at last to suspect my own understanding, and to think that I had not capacity for such a study. For I could not conceive it possible that the absurdities of these authors were so great as they seemed to me to be; otherwise, thought I, the world would never admire them so much. About this time some excellent antisceptical works made their appearance, particularly Reid's '* Inquiry into the Human Mind." 'I hen it was that I began to have a little more confidence in my own judgment, when 1 found it confirmed by those of whose abilities I did not entertain the least distrust. I reviewed my authors again, with a very different temper of mind. A very little truth will sometimes enlighten a vast extent of science. I found that the sceptical philosophy was not what the world imagined it to be, nor what I, following the opinion of the world, had hitherto imagined it to be, but a frivolous, though dangerous, system of verbal iubtilty, which it required neither genius, nor learning, nor taste, nor knowledge of mankind, to be able to put together; but only a captious temper, an irreligious spirit, a moderate command of words, and an extraordinary degree of vanity and presumption. You will easily perceive that 1 am speaking of this philosophy only in its most extravagant state, that is, as it appears in the works of Mr. Hume. The more I study it, the more am I confirmed in this opinion. But while I applauded and admired the sagacity of those who had led me into, or at least encouraged me to proceed in, this train of thinking, I was not altogether satisfied with them in another respect. 1 could not approve that extraordinary adulation which some of them paid to their arch-adversary. I could not conceive the propriety of paying compliments to a man's hear:, at the very time Oh; is proving
that r1«! his aim is to subvert the principles of truth, virtue, and religion; nor to his understanding, when we are charging him with publishing the grossest and most contemptible nonsL-nse. I thought I then foresaw, what I have since found to happen, thatthis controversy would be looked upon rather as a trial of (kill between two logicians, than as a disquisition in which the best interests of mankind were concerned; and that the world, espo> daily the fashionable part of it, would still be disposed to pay the greatest deference to the opinions of him who, even by the acknowledgment of his antagonists, was confessed to be the best philosopher and the soundest reasoner. All this has happened, and more. Some, to my certain knowledge, have said, that Mr. Hume and his adversaries did really act in concert, in order mutually to promote the sale of one another's works; as a proof of which they mention not only the extravagant compliments that pass between them, but also the circumstance of Dr. R.* and Dr. C.+ sending their manuscripts to be perused and cor. reeled by Mr. Hume before they gave them to the press. I, who know both the men, am very sensible of the gross falsehood of these reports. As to the affair of the manuscripts, it was, I am convinced, candour and modesty that induced them to it. But the world knows no such thing; and, therefore, may be excused for mistaking the meaning of actions that have really an equivocal appearance. I know likewise that they are sincere, not only in the detestation they express for Mr. Hume's irreligious tenets, but also in the compliments they have paid to his talents j for they both look upon him as an extraordinary genius, a point in which I cannot agree with them. But while 1 thus vindicate them from imputations, which the world from its ignorance of circumstances has laid to their charge, I "cannot approve them in every thing; I wisti they had carried their researches a little far. filer, and expressed themselves with a little more firmness and spirit. For well I know, that their works, for want of this, will never produce that effect which (if all mankind were cool metaphysical reasoners) might be expected from them. There is another thing in which my judgment differs considerably from that of the gentlemen just mentioned. They have great metaphysical abilities; ;;nd they love the m?taphyftcal sciences. 1 do not. I am convinced that this metaphysical spirit is the bane ol true learning, true taste, and true science; that to it we owe all this modern scepticism and atheism; that it has a bad effect upon the human faculties, and tends not a little to sour the temper, to subvert good principles, and to disqualify men for the business of life. You will now fee wherein my views differ from (hose of the other answerers of Mr. Hume. I want to show the world, that the sceptical philosophy is contradictory to itseit,
* "Dr. Reid." + "Dr., Campbell."
H 3 and and destructive of genuine philosophy, as well as of religion and virtue; that it is in its own nature so paltry a thing, (however it may have been celebrated by some) that to be despised it needs only to be known; that no degree of genius is necessary to qualify a man for making a figure in this pretended science; but rather a certain minuteness and suspiciousness of mind, and want of sensibility, the very reverse of true intellectual excellence; that metaphysics cannot possibly do any good, but may do, and actually have done, much harm; that sceptical philosophers, whatever they may pretend, are the corrupters of science, the pests of society, and the enemies of mankind. I want to show, that the same method of reasoning which these people have adopted in their books, if transferred into common life, would (how them to be destitute of common fense; that true philosophers follow a different method of reasoning; and that, without following a different method, no truth can be discovered. I want to lay before the public, in as strong a light as possible, the following dilemma: our sceptics either believe the doctrines they publish, or they do not believe them; if they believe them, they are fools—if not, they are a thousand times worse. I want also to fortify the mind against this sceptical poison, and to propose certain criteria of moral truth, by which some of the most dangerous sceptical errors may be detected and guarded against.
"You are sensible, that, in order to attain these ends, it is absolutely necessary for me to use great plainness of speech. My expressions must not be so tame as to seem to imply either a diffidence in my principles, or a coldness towards the cause I have undertaken to defend. And where is the man who can blame me for speaking from the heart, and therefore speaking with warmth, when I appear in the cause of truth, religion, virtue, and mankind ? I am sure, my dear friend Dr. Blacklock will not; he, who has set before me so many examples of this laudable ardour; he, whose style I should be proud to take for my model, if I were not aware of the difficulty, I may say the insuperable difficulty, of imitating it with success. You need not fear, however, that I expose myself by an excess of passion or petulance. I hope I shall be animated, without losing my temper, and keen, without injury to good manners. In a word, I will be as soft and delicate as the subject and my conscience will allow. One gentleman, a friend of yours*, I shall have occasion to treat with
* "The gentleman here alluded to by Dr. Beattie, as a friend of Dr. Blacklock's, was Mr. Hume, who had patronised Dr. Blacklock at an early period, and done him several acts of kindmss, which Dr. Blacklock never failed to acknowledge. But all intercourse between Mr. Hume and him had ceased (through no fault on the part of Dr. Blacklock) many years before the