James Beattie (1735-1803)
James Beattie was a poet and philosopher from Kincardineshire in the north east of Scotland. He studied at Marischal College, Aberdeen, and became a village schoolmaster and parish clerk.
In 1760, he became Professor of Moral Philosophy and Logic, again at Marischal College. He later joined the Aberdeen Philosophical Society. Beattie lectured for students each year on topics including psychology, ethics, literary criticism and natural religion. In 1778, Beattie compiled a list of Scotticisms which was privately printed for his students as a guide to avoiding improper speech and writing. The list was published in 1787.
His most influential poem, ‘The minstrel’ (1771, 1774) started as a satirical work, but was later conceived as an autobiographical work in three books. Only two were published, however. Beattie also influenced the Romantic poets of the early 19th century.
Beattie felt strongly that sceptics such as David Hume and others were undermining religion and morality. He published a book responding to their philosophy called ‘The essay on truth’, in 1769.