BEATTIE, JAMES Scottish poet and writer on philosophy, was born at Laurencekirk, Kincardine. He was educated at the parish school and at Marischal college, Aber deen, where, after some years spent in school teaching, he be came professor of moral philosophy. Beattie's first published work was Original Poems and Translations (176o) . In 177i and 1774 he published the first and second parts of the Minstrel, a descriptive poem written in the Spenserian stanza, which struck a new note of simplicity and made its author famous. The best known of his minor poems are "The Hermit" and "Retirement." In the meantime Beattie wrote the once famous Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth, in Opposition to Sophistry and Scepticism (1770), which was a direct attack on Hume. Beattie visited London in 1773, and was well received by George III., who gave him a pension of £200 a year. He had many friends in London literary circles, including Johnson, Burke, Gar rick and Goldsmith. His domestic life was unhappy. His wife became insane and his two sons died young. The elder, James Hay Beattie, was a poet, and his father published some of his prose and verse with a memoir in 1794.
Beattie's other poetical works include the Judgment of Paris (1765), and Verses on the death of (Charles) Churchill, a bitter attack which the poet afterwards suppressed. The best edition is the Poetical Works (1866) in the Aldine Edition of the British Poets, with an admirable memoir by Alexander Dyce. Beattie also wrote Miscellaneous Dissertations (1783), Evidences of Christianity (1786), and Elements of Moral Science (179o).
See Sir William Forbes, An Account of the Life and Writings of James Beattie (1807), Beattie and his Friends (1904) by the poet's great-grand-niece, Margaret Forbes; and James Beattie, "The Min strel." Some Unpublished Letters, ed. A. Mackie (Aberdeen, 1908) .