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DR. BEATTIE. Among the opponents of Hume was DR. BEATTIE the poet, who, in 1770, published his “Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth, in Opposition to Sophistry and Scepticism.' Inferior to most of the metaphysicians in logical precision, equanimity of temper, or patient research, Beattie brought great zeal and fervour to his task, a respectable share of philosophical knowledge, and a better command of popular language and imaginative illustration than most of his fellow-labourers in that dry and dusty field. These qualities, joined to the pious and beneficial tendency of his work, enabled him to produce a highly popular treatise. No work of the kind was ever so successful. It has fallen into equal neglect with other metaphysical treatises of the age, and is now considered unworthy the talents of its author. It has neither the dignity nor the acumen of the original philosopher, and is unsuited to the ordinary religious reader. The best of Beattie's prose works are his 'Dissertations, Moral and Critical,' 1783, and his ` Essays on Poetry, Music,' &c. 1762. He also published a digest of his college lectures, under the title of ‘Elements of Moral Science. In these works, though not profoundly philosophical, the author's 'lively relish for the sublime and beautiful, his clear and elegant style,' and his happy quotations and critical examples, must strike every reader.
On the Love of Nature.—From Beattie's ‘Essays.' Homer's beautiful description of the heavens and earth, as they appear in a calm evening by the light of the moon and stars, concludes with this circumstance and the heart of the shepherd is glad.', Madame Dacier, from the turn she gives to the passage in her version, seems to think, and Pope, in order perhaps to make out his couplet, insinuates, that the gladness of the shepherd is owing to his sense of the utility of those luminaries. And this may in part be the case; but this is not in Homer; nor is it a necessary consideration. It is true that in contemplating the material universe, they who discern the causes and effects of things must be more rapturously entertained than those who perceive nothing but shape and size, colour and motion. Yet, in the mere outside of nature's works-if I may so express myself —there is a splendour and a magnificence to which even untutored minds cannot attend without great delight.
Not that all peasants or all philosophers are equally susceptible of these charming impressions. It is strange to observe the callousness of some men, before whom all the glories of heaven and earth pass in daily succession, without touching their hearts, elevating their fancy, or leaving any durable remembrance. Even of those who pretend to sensibility, how many are there to whom the lastre of the rising or setting sun, the sparkling concave of the midnight sky, the mountain forest tossing and roaring to the storm, or warbling with all the melodies of a summer evening; the sweet interchange of hill and dale, shade and sunshine, grove, lawn, and water, which an extensive landscape offers to the view; the scenery of the ocean, so lovely, so majestic, and so tremendous, and the many pleasing varieties of the animal and vegetable kingdom, could never afford so much real satisfaction as the steams and noise of a bal-room, the insipid fiddling and squeaking of an opera, or the vexatious and wrang lings of a card-table !
But some minds there are of a different make, who, cven in the early part of life, receive froin the contemplation of nature a species of delight which they woulí hardly exchange for any other; and who, as avarice and ambition are not the in. firmities of that period, would, with equal sincerity and rapture, csclaim :
'I care not, Fortune, what you me deny ;
The woods and lawns by living stream at eve.' Such minds have always in them the seeds of trne taste, and frequently of imitative genius. At least, though their enthusiastic or visionary turn of mind, as themau of the world would call it, should not always incline them to practise poetry or painting, we need not scruple to affirm that, without some portion of this enthusiasm, no person ever became a true poet or painter. For he who would imitate the works of nature, must first accurately observe them, and accurate observation is to be expected from those only who take great pleasure in it.
To a mind, thus disposed, no part of creation is indifferent. In the crowded city and howllng wilderness, in the cultivated province and soiltary isle, in the flowery lawn and craggy mountain, in the murmur of the rivulet and in the uproar of the ocean, in the radiance of summer and gloom of winter, in the thunder of heaven and in the whisper of the breeze, he still finds something to rouse or to soothe his imagination, to draw forth his affections, or to employ his understanding. And from every mental energy that is not attended with pain, and even from some of those that are, as moderate terror and pity, a sound mind derives satisfaction; exercise being equally necessary to the body and the soul, and to both equally productive of health and pleasure.
On Scottish Music.—From the same. There is a certain style of melody peculiar to each musical country, which the people of that country are apt to prefer to every other style. That they should prefer their own, is not surprising; and that the melody of one people should differ from that of another, is not more surprising perhaps, than that the language of one people should differ from that of another. But there is something not unworthy of notíce in the particular expression and style that characterise the music of one nation or province, and distinguish it from every other sort of music. Of this diversity Scotland supplies a striking example. The native melody of the Highlands and Western Isles is as different from that of the southern part of the kingdom as the Irish or Erse language is different from the English or Scotch. In the conclusion of a discourse on music, as it relates to the mind, it will not perhaps be impertinent to offer a conjecture on the cause of these peculiarities; which though it should notand indeed I am satisfied that it will not-fully account for any one of them, may, however, incline the reader to think that they are not unaccountable, and may also throw some faint light on this part of philosophy.
Every thought that partakes of the nature of passion has a correspondent expression in the look and gesture; and so strict is the union between the passion and its outward sign, that where the former is not in some degree felt, the latter can never be perfectly natural, but if assumed, becomes awkward mimicry, instead of that genuine iinitation of nature which draws forth the sympathy of the beholder. If, thercfore, there be, in the circumstances of particular nations or persons, anything that gives a peculiarity to their passions and thoughts, it seems reasonable to expect that they will also have something peculiar in the expression of their countenance and even in the forın of their features. Caius Marius, Jogurtha, Tamerlane, and some other grcat warriors, are celebrated for a peculiar ferocity of aspect, which they had no doubt contracted from a perpetual ::nd unrestrained exertion of fortitude, contempt, and other violent emotions. These produced in the face their correspondent expressions, which, being often repeated, became at last as habitual to the features as the sentiments they arose from were to the heart. Savages, whose thoughts are little inured to control, have more of this significancy of look than those men who, being born and bred in civilized nations, are accustomed froin their childhood to suppress every emotion that tends to interrupt the peace of society. And while the bloom of youth lasts, and the smoothness of feature peculiar to that period, the human face is less marked with any strong character than in old age. A peevish or surly stripling may clude the eye of the physiognomist; but a wicked old man, whose visage does not betray the evil temperature of his heart, must have more cunning than it, would be prudent for him to acknowledge. Even by the trade or profession, the human countenance may be ch:ıracterised. They who employ themselves in the nicer mechanic arts, that require the earnest attention of the artist. do generally contract a fixedness of featur-suited to that one uniform sentiment which er grosses them while at work. Whereas other artists, whose work requires less attention, and who may ply their trade and amuse themselves with conversation at the same time, h:ve, for the most part, smoother and more urmeaning faces: their thoughts are more miscellaneous, and iherefore their features are less fixed in one uniform configuration. A keen, penetrating look indicates thoughtfulness and spirit: a dull, torpid countenance is not often accompanied with great sagacity.
This, though there may be many an exception, is in general true of the visible signs of our passions; and it is no less true of the audible. A man habitually peevish, or passionate, or querulous, or imperious, may be known by the sound of his voice, as well as by his physiognomy. May we go a step further, and say that if a man under the influence of any passion, were to compose a discourse, or a poem or a tune, his work would in some measure exhibit an image of his mind? I could not easily be persuaded that Swift and Juvenal were men of sweet tempers; or that Thomson, Arbuthnot, and Prior were ill-natured. The airs of Felton are so uniformly mournful that I cannot suppose him to have been a merry or even a cheerful man. If a musician in deep afliction were to attempt to compose a Evely air, I believe he would not succeed: though I confess I do not well understand the nature of the connection that may take place between a mournful mind and a melencholy tune. It is easy to conceive how a poet or an orator should transfuse his passions into his work; for every passion suggests ideas corgevial to its own nature; and the composition of the poet or of the orator must necessarily consist of those ideas that occur at the time he is composing. But musical Founds are not the signs of ideas; rarely are they even the imitations of natural rounds; so that I am at a loss to conceive how it should happen that a musician, overwhelmed with sorrow, for example, should put together a series of notes whose expression is contrary to that of another series which he had put together when elevated with joy. But of the fact I am not doubtful; though I have not sagacity or knowledge of music erough to be able to explain it. And my opinion in this matter is warranted by that of a more competent judge, who says, speaking of church voluntaries, that if the organist do not feel in himself the divine energy of devotion, he will labour in vain to raise it in others. Nor can he hope to throw out those happy instantaneous thoughts which sometimes fur exceed the best concerted compositions, and which the enraptured performer would gladly secure 10 bis futu:e use and pleasure. did they not as fleetly escape as th y rise.? A man who has made music the study of his lifi. and is well acquainted with all the best examples of style and expression that are to be found in the wo:k3 of former masters, may, hy memory and much practice, attain a sort of mechu ica! dxterity in contriving music suitable to any given passion; but such music would. I presume, be vulgar and spiritless compared to what an artist of genius throws out when under the power of any ardeut or otion. It is recorded of Lili, that once, when his imagination was all on fire with some verses descriptive of terrible id aa, which he had been reading in a French tragedy, he rrn to his harpsichord, and struck off such a combination of sounds that the company felt their hair stand on end with horror.
The II°ghlands of Scotland are a picturesque, but in general a melancholy comtry.
Long tricts of mountainous desert, covered with dark heath, and often obscured by misty weather; narrow vall ys, thinly inhabited, and rounded by precipices resounding with the fall of torrents; a soil so rugged, and a climate so arcary, as in many pris to admit neither the amusements of pastur:ge nor the labours of agriculture: the mournful dashing of waves along the firths and lakes that intersect the country; the portertous noises which (very change of the wind and every increase and dininio:1 of the waters is : pt to raise in a lonely region full cf chocs, and rocks, and caverus; t'ie grotesque and ghastly appearance of such a Landscape by the lirit cf the moon Objects like these diffuse a gloom over the fancy, which may be com atil!e enoag! with occasional and social merriment, but cannot fail to tincture tiethoughts of a native in the hour of silence and solitude If these people, notwithstanding their refcrination in religion, and more frequent intercourse with strangers, do stil retain many of their old superstitions, we need not doubt but in formar times they must have been more enslaved to the horrors of iinagination, when beset with the bugbears of popery and the darkness of paganism. Most of their superstitions are of a melancholy cast. That second-sight wherewith some of them are still supposed to be haunted, is considered by themselves as a misfortune, on account of the many dreadful images it is said to obtrude upon the fancy. I have been told that the inhabitants of some of the Alpine regions do likewise lay claim to a sort of second-sight. Nor is it wonderful that persons of lively iinagination, immured in deep solitude, and surrounded with the stupendous scenery of clouds, pre- cipices, and torrents, should dream, even when they think themselves awake, of those few striking ideas with which their lonely lives are diversified; of corpses, funeral processions, and other objects of terror, or of inarriages and the arrival of strangers, and such-like matters of more agreeable curiosity. Let it be observed, also, that the ancient Highlanders of Scotland had hardiy any other way of supporting themselves than by hunting, fishing, or war, professions that are continually exposed to fatal accidents. And hence, uo doubt, additional horrors would often haunt their solitude, and a deeper gloom overshadow the imagination even of the hardiest native.
What then, would it be reasonable to expect from the fanciful tribe, from the musicians and poets, of such a region? Strains expressive of joy, tranquillity, or the softer passions? No: their style must have been better suited to their circumstances, And so we find, in fact, that their music is. The wildest irregularity appears in its composition: the expression is warlike and melancholy, and approaches even to the terrible. And that their poetry is almost uniformly mournful, and their views of nature dark and dreary, will be allowed by all who admit of the authenticity of Ossian: and not doubted by any who believe those fragments of Highland poetry to be genuine, which many old people, now alive, of that country, remember to have heard in their youth, and were then taught to refer to a pretty high antiquity.
Some of the southern provinces of Scotland present a very different prospect, Smooth and lofty hills covered with verdure; clear streams winding through long and beautiful valleys; trees produced without culture, here straggling or single, and there crowding into little groves and bowers, with other circumstances peculiar to the digtricts I allude to, render them fit for pasturage, and favourable to romantic leisure and tender passions. Several of the old Scotch songs take their names from the rivulets, villages, and hills adjoining to the Tweed near Melrose; a region distinguished by many charming varieties of rural scenery, and which, whether we consider the face of the country or the genius of the people, may properly enough be termed the Arcadia of Scotland. And all these songs are sweetly and powerfully expressive of love and tenderness, and other emotions suited to the tranquillity of pastoral life.
ABRAHAM TUCKER-DR. PRIESTLEY. ABRAHAM TUCKER (1705–1774) was an English squire, who, instead of pursuing the pleasures of the chase, studied metaphysics at his country seat, and published (1768), under the fictitious name of Edward Search, a work entitled “The Light of Nature Pursued,' which Paley said contained more original thinking and observation than any other work of the kind. Tucker, like Adam Smith, excelled in illustration, and he did not disdain the most homely subjects for examples. Mackintosh says he excels in mixed, not in pure philosophy, and that his intellectual views are of the Hartleian school. How truly, and at the same time how beautifully, has Tucker characterized in one short sentence his own favourite metaphysical studies: “The science of abstruse learning,' he says, 'when completely attained, is like Achilles's spear, that healed the wounds it had made before. It casts no additional light upon the paths of life but disperses the clouds with which it had overspread them; it advances not the traveller one step on his journey, but conducts him back again to the spot from whence he had wandered.'
In 1775, DR. JOSEPH PRIESTLEY published an examination of the
principles of Dr. Reid and others, designed as a refutation of the doctrine of common sense, said to be employed as the test of truth by the Scottish metaphysicians. The doctrines of Priestley are of the school of Hartley. In 1777 he published a series of disquisitions on
Matter and Spirit,' in which he openly supported the material system. He also wrote in support of another unpopular doctrine—that of necessity. He settled in Birmingham in 1780, and officiated as minister of a dissenting congregation. His religious opinions were originally Calvinistic, but afterwards became decidedly anti-Trinitarian. His works excited so much opposition, that he ever after found it necessary, as he states, to write a pamphlet annually in their defence! Priestley was also an active and distinguished chemist, and wrote a history of discoveries relative to light and colours, a history of electricity, &c. At the period of the French Revolution in 1791, a mob of outrageous and brutal loyalists set fire to his house in Birmingham, and destroyed his library, apparatus, and specimens. Three years afterwards he emigrated to America, where he continued his studies in science and theology, and died at Northumberland, Pennsylvania, in 1804. He was then in his seventy-first year, having been born at Birstal-Fieldhead, near Leeds, in 1733, son of a clothdresser.
As an experimental philosopher and discoverer, Priestley was of a very high class ; but as a metaphysical or ethical writer, he can only be considered subordinate. He was a man of intrepid spirit and of unceasing industry. One of his critics—in the 'Edinburgh Review,' -draws from his writings a lively picture of that indefatigablo activity, that bigoted vanity, that precipitation, cheerfulness, and sincerity, which made up the character of this restless philosopher.' Robert Hall has thus eulogised him in one of his eloquent sentences :
The religious tenets of Dr. Priestley appear to me erroneous in the extreme; but I should be sorry to suffer any difference of sentiment to diminish my sensibility to virtue, or my admiration of genius. His enlightened and active mind, his unwearied assiduity, the extent of his researches, the light he has poured into almost every department of science, will be the admiration of that period, when the greater part of those who have favoured, or those who have opposed him, will be alike forgotten. Distinguished merit will ever rise superior to oppression, and will draw lustre from reproach. The vapours which gather round the rising sun, and follow in its course, seldom fail at the close of it to form a magnificent theatre for its reception, and to invest with variegated tints, and with a softened effulgence, the luminary which they cannot hide.'*
* This simile seems to have been suggested by the lines of Pope:
Envy will inerit. as its shade, pursue :