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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Beattie, Dr James (1735-1803)

Born at Laurencekirk, Kincardinshire, Beattie was educated at the parish school, and at Marischal College, Aberdeen, where he was the best scholar in the Greek class. For five years he was a schoolmaster in Aberdeen Grammar School. In 1760, the year he published his Original Poems and Translations, he became Professor of Moral Philosophy in Marischal College. He achieved his literary reputation with his poem 'The Minstrel', published in two parts in 1771 and 1774 and much admired in his day. In May 1770, Beattie published his Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth in opposition to Sophistry and Scepticism, which was an attempted efutation of Hume's doctrines. Beattie was one of a group of late 18th Century Scots who deliberately strove to rid their speech of Scotticisms.

Burns made several references to Beattie and his work. He told Dr Moor in January 1787: 'I am very willing to admit that I have some poetical abilities; and as few, if any writers, either moral or poetical are intimately acquainted with the classes of Mankind among whom I have chiefly mingled, I may have seen men and manners in a different phasis, which may assist originality of thought. Still I know very well, the novelty of my character has by far the greatest share in the learned and polite notice I have lately got; and in a language where Pope and Churchill have raised the laugh, and Shenstone and Gray drawn the tear; where Thomson and Beattie have painted the landskip, and Littleton and Collings described the heart; I am not vain enough to hope for distinguished Poetic fame.'

Telling his friends about Johnson's Museum Burns explained that 'Drs Beattie and Blacklock are lending a hand. 'Thomson also sought, on Burns's recommendation , to get Beattie to devote some time 'in extending a little and adapting for our purpose the observations on Scottish pastoral music, contained in the third section of your Essay on Music and Poetry'. By 1792, however, when Thomson wrote, Beattie's health was failing and nothing came of this suggestion.

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Complete Burns Songs

linn recordings of burns Linn Records have completed their landmark recording of all 368 Burns songs, available as individual CDs or a 12 volume presentation box set. We have full details. Click here...


Burns Music & Recordings
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Burns Chess Sets

Burns Chess SetsUnique collectors' pieces based on Burns' life and works. (The ideal gift for your Burns Supper guests!) Click here...

Scotweb Store

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