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changed for preferment near Lymington, Hants. He was author of some ingenious tracts on Agriculture.
May 8. At Melkham, Wilts, Mrs Ann Yearsely, well known in the poetic world, as the Milkwoman of Bristol. She possessed an extraordinary degree of gevius, and for a person in her situation, most valuable information.
The Editor returns thanks to Mr. Mears for the account of “ The Countess of Southampton's MS. Manual of Prayers," from which extracts will be acceptable.
The Table of Errata, furnished by a Correspondent, shall be attended to..
Extracts from Taylor, the Water Poet, offered by Horatio, will receive attention.
The last curious article of O. G. will appear in No. X. with several others of W.H. &c. &c.
[Being the Second Number of Vol. III.)
Art. I. A sketch of the genius and writings of Di.
Beattie, with extracts from his Life and Letters, lately published by Sir William Forbes.
Sir William Forbes's long-expected Life of Dr. Beattie has at length appeared in two quarto volumes : and I cannot refrain from indulging myself with a few cursory remarks, and a few extracts, while my heart and my head are warm with the subject. Has it added to our admiration of him as an author and a man? It has done both. There are many circumstances which combine to qualify Sir William, in a very uncommon degree, for the biographer of this great poet and philosopher : their long, intimate, and uninterrupted friendship, their habits of constant correspondence, and their congenial turns of mind, in particular; while the talents, and the character of the survivor, and his very extensive and near acquaintance with the most eminent men in the literary world, give a force and authority to his narration, which few eulogists can confer.
But with due respect to the examples of Mr. Mason, and Mr. Hayley, I confess I am not entirely satisfied with the plan of leaving a man to be principally his own biographer, by means of a series of letters, connected by a few short and occasional narratives. I do not mean indeed to depreciate those of Mr. Hayley, by comparing them with his predecessor's, which always from a boy disgusted me with their stiff and barren frigidity; while those of the former glow with all the warmth of friendship, and congenial poetic feeling: but I allude only to the plan.
There are many points on which there is no doubt that an author can best delineate his own character: but there are others, of which he is totally disqualified to give a fair portrait, and of which, even if he were qualified, it is highly improbable that his Letters should furnish an adequate account.
I trust therefore I may be excused for venturing the opinion which I have long formed, that, though Letters are an excellent, and almost necessary, accompaniment of a Life; and though appropriate extracts from them, and continued references to them may well be introduced in the narrative, yet they should not form the principal part of that narrative, which, as it seems to me, should exhibit one unbroken composition. To leave the generality of readers to collect and combine an entire portrait, or a regular series of events, from the scattered notices of a variety of desultory letters, is to give them credit for a degree of attention, and a power of drawing results, which few will be found to possess, and fewer still have leisure to exercise.
Having thus frankly declared my sentiments, it is almost unnecessary to add, that I prefer the plan
adopted by Dr. Currie, in his Life of Burns, to that, which has been chosen by Sir William Forbes for the life of his illustrious friend. In the execution of the mode he has followed, Sir William has discovered a soundness of judgment and taste in his selection, an elegance of language, a purity of sentiment, and an ardour of friendship, which will do him immortal honour. But, as my purpose is not to criticise the biographer, but to make some slight remarks on the poet, I must proceed.
Beattie was born a poet; that is, he was born with those talents and sensibilities, which, with the assistance of the slightest education, are almost certain in due time to vent themselves in poetry. In the first occupation of his manhood, the care of an obscure country school, Sir Wm. Forbes says, “ he had a never failing resource in bis own mind; in those meditations which he loved to indulge, amidst the beautiful and sublime scenery of that neighbourhood, which furnished him with endless amusement. At a small distance from the place of his residence, a deep and extensive glen, finely cloathed with wood, runs up into the mountains. Thither he frequently repaired; and there several of his earliest pieces were written. From that wild and romantic spot be drew, as from the life, some of his finest descriptions, and most beautiful pictures of nature, in his poetical compositions. He has been heard to say, for instance, that the description of the owl, in his charning poem “ On Retirement,”
" Whence the scar'd owl on pinions grey
Breaks from the rustling boughs;
• was drawn after real nature. And the seventeenth stanza of the second Book of The Minstrel, in which he so feelingly describes the spot, of which he most approved, for his place of sepulture, is so very exact a picture of the situation of the churchyard of Lawrencekirk, which stands near to his mother's house, and in which is the school-house where he was daily taught, that he must certainly have had it in his view, at the time he wrote the following beautiful lines.
· Let Vanity adorn the marble tomb
deep dungeon of some Gothic dome,
Where a green grassy turf is all I crave,
Fast by a brook, or fountain's murmuring wave;
" It was his supreme delight to saunter in the fields the livelong night, contemplating the sky, and marking the approach of day; and he used to describe with peculiar animation the soaring of the lark in a summer morning. A beautiful landscape, which he has magnificently described in the twentieth stanza of the first book of The Minstrel, corresponds exactly with what must have presented itself to his poetical imagination, at those occasions, on the approach of the rising sun, as he would view the grandeur of that scene from the hill in the neighbourhood of his native village. The high hill, which rises to the west of Fordoune would, in a misty morning, supply him with one of the images so beautifully described in the twenty-first