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me: but if the last struggle be over ; if the poor object of your long anxieties be no longer sensible to your kindness, or to her own sufferings, allow me (at least in idea, for what could I do, were I present, more than this ?) to sit by you in silence, and pity from my heart not her, who is at rest, but you, who lose her. May He, 'who made us, the Master of our pleasures and of our pains, preserve and support you! Adieu !
I have long understood how little you had to hope.
MR. GRAY TO MR. BEATTIE.
Old Park, near Darlington, Durham,
Aug. 12, 1767. I RECEIVED from Mr. Williamson, that very obliging mark you were pleased to give me of your remembrance: had I not entertained some slight hopes of revisiting Scotland this summer, and consequently of seeing you at Aberdeen, I had sooner acknowledged, by letter, the favour
have done me. Those hopes are now at an end; but I do not therefore despair of seeing again a country that has given me so much pleasure; nor of telling you, in person, how much I esteem you and (as you choose to call them) your amusements : the specimen of them, which you were so good to send me, I think excellent; the sentiments are such as a melancholy imagination naturally suggests in solitude and silence, and that (though light and business may suspend or banish them at times) return with but so much the greater force upon a feeling heart: the diction is elegant and unconstrained; not loaded with epithets and figures, nor flagging into prose; the versification is easy and harmonious. My only objection is ***** t
+ A paragraph is here omitted, as it contained merely a few particular criticisms; a liberty of the same kind I have before taken in some of the preceding letters. The poem in question contained many touching reflections on mortality : it is to be hoped Dr. Beattie will one day give it to the public.
You see, Sir, I take the liberty you indulged me in, when I first saw you ; and therefore I make no excuses for it, but desire you would take your revenge on me in kind.
I have read over (but too hastily) Mr. Ferguson's book. There are uncommon strains of eloquence in it: and I was surprised to find not one single idiom of his country (I think) in the whole work. He has not the fault you mention :* his application to the heart is frequent, and often successful. His love of Montesquieu and Tacitus has led him into a manner of writing too short-winded and sententious; which those great men, had they lived in better times and under a better government, would have avoided.
I know no pretence that I have to the honour Lord Gray is pleased to do me:f but if his lordship chooses to own me, it certainly is not my business to deny it. I say not this merely on account of his quality, but because he is a very worthy and accomplished person. I am truly sorry for the great loss he has had since I left Scotland. If you should chance
should chance to see him, I will beg you to present my respectful humble service to his lordship
I gave Mr. Williamson all the information I was able in the short time he staid with me. He seemed to answer well the character you gave me of him: but what I chiefly envied in him, was his ability of walking all the way from Aberdeen to Cambridge, and back again ; which if I possessed, you would soon see your obliged, &c.
• To explain this, I must take the liberty to transcribe a paragraph from Mr. Beattie's letter, dated March 30, to which the above is an answer : “A professor at Edinburgh has published an Essay on the History of Civil Society, but I have not seen it. It is a fault common to almost all our Scotch authors, that they are too metaphysical : I wish they would learn to speak more to the beart, and less to the understanding ; but, alas ! this is a talent which Heaven only can bestow: whereas the philosophic spirit (as we call it) is merely artificial and level to the capacity of every man, who has much patience, a little learning, and no taste.” He has since dilated on this just sentiment in his admirable Essay on the Immutability of Truth.
† Lord Gray had said that our Author was related to his family.
MR. GRAY TO MR. BEATTIE.
Pembroke-hall, Dec. 24, 1767.
SINCE I had the pleasure of receiving your last letter, which did not reach me till I had left the north, and was come to London, I have been confined to my room with a fit of the gout: now I am recovered and in quiet at Cambridge, I take up my pen to thank you for your very friendly offers, which have so much the air of frankness and real good meaning, that were my body as tractable and easy of conveyance as my mind, you would see me to-morrow in the chamber you have so hospitably laid out for me at Aberdeen. But, alas ! I am a summer-bird, and can only sit drooping till the sun returns : even then too my wings may chance to be clipped, and little in plight for so distant an excursion.
The proposal you make me, about printing at Glasgow what little I ever have written, does me honour. I leave my reputation in that part of the kingdom to your care; and only desire you would not let your partiality to me and mine mislead you. If you persist in your design, Mr. Foulis certainly ought to be acquainted with what I am now going to tell you. When I was in London the last spring, Dodsley, the bookseller, asked my leave to reprint, in a smaller form, all I ever published; to which I consented: and added, that I 'would send him a few explanatory notes; and if he would omit entirely the Long Story (which was never meant for the public, and only suffered to appear in that pompous edition because of Mr. Bentley's designs, which were not intelligible without it), I promised to send him something else to print instead of it, lest the bulk of so small a volume should be reduced to nothing at all. Now it is very certain that I had rather see them printed at Glasgow (especially as you will condescend to revise the press) than at London; but I
know not how to retract my promise to Dodsley. By the way, you perhaps may imagine that I have some kind of interest in this publication ; but the truth is, I have none whatever. The expense is his, and so is the profit, if there be any. I therefore told him the other day, in general terms, that I heard there would be an edition put out in Scotland by a friend of mine, whom I could not refuse; and that, if so, I would send thither a copy of the same notes and additions that I had promised to send to him. This did not seem at all to cool his courage ; Mr. Foulis must therefore judge for himself, whether he thinks it worth while to print what is going to be printed also at London. If he does, I will send him (in a packet to you) the same things I shall send to Dodsley. They are imitations of two pieces of old Norwegian poetry, in which there was a wild spirit that struck me: but for my paraphrases I cannot say much; you will judge. The rest are nothing but a few parallel passages, and small notes just to explain what people said at the time was wrapped in total darkness. You will please to tell me, as soon as you can conveniently, what Mr. Foulis says on this head ; that (if he drops the design) I may save myself and you the trouble of this packet. I ask
I ask your pardon for talking so long about it; a little more and my
letter would be as big as all my works.
I have read, with much pleasure, an ode of yours (in which
have done me the honour to adopt a measure that I have used) on Lord Hay's birth-day. Though I do not love panegyric, I cannot but applaud this, for there is nothing mean in it. The diction is easy and noble, the texture of the thoughts lyric, and the versification harmonious. The few expressions I object to are ****.1 These, indeed, are minutia; but they weigh for something, as half a grain makes a difference in the value of a diamond.
† Another paragraph of particular criticism is here omitted.
MR. GRAY TO MR. BEATTIE.
Pembroke-ball, Feb. 1, 1768. I am almost sorry to have raised any degree of impatience in you, because I can by no means satisfy it. The sole reason I have to publish these few additions now, is to make up (in both) for the omission of that Long Story; and as to the notes, I do it out of spite, because the public did not understand the two odes (which I have called Pindaric); though the first was not very dark, and the second alluded to a few common facts to be found in any sixpenny history of England, by way of question and answer, for the use of children. The parellel passages I insert out of justice to those writers from whom I happened to take the hint of any line, as far as I can recollect.
I rejoice to be in the hands of Mr. Foulis, who has the laudable ambition of surpassing his predecessors, the Etiennes and the Elzevirs, as well in literature, as in the proper art of his profession: he surprises me in mentioning a lady, after whom I have been inquiring these fourteen years in vain. When the two odes were first published, I sent them to her; but as I was forced to direct them very much at random, probably they never came to her hands. When the present edition comes out, I beg of Mr. Foulis to offer her a copy, in my name, with my respects and grateful remembrances; he will send another to you, Sir, and a third to Lord Gray, if he will do me the honour of accepting it. These are all the presents I pretend to make (for I would have it considered only as a new edition of an old book); after this, if he pleases to send me one or two, I shall think myself obliged to him. I cannot advise him to print a great number; especially as Dodsley has it in his power to print as many as he pleases, though I desire him not to do so.