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P. That last remark suggests a question, which you will allow me to propose. You have said, What caloric really is, we do not know.
T. Yes; we perceive certain phenomena presenting themselves so uniformly and regularly, according to ascertained laws, that all the rules of just reasoning require us to refer them to the presence of an operating, and therefore existing cause. That cause we cannot suppose to be spirit,- mind; we, therefore, assuming that there are only two kinds of created subsistences, matter and spirit, and knowing that this is not the latter, according to all we know of it, assume it to be the former. We give a name to it, and with that, in point of fact, we philosophize. But we can only define it from its operations and effects. Caloric is, that which does so and so.
P. Yes; and in this total ignorance of its precise nature, and recollecting that we are in precisely the same condition in respect of the other imponderables, may there not be some connexion between them ? may they not be modifications of the same principle ?
T. Our ignorance, of course, would not be a sufficient ground for such a conclusion. In true philosophy, no mere conjecture is allowable. “It may be,” is worth nothing, if, with equal correctness, we can say, “ It may not be.” It is a capital canon of the old scholastic logic, though quaintly expressed, De non apparentibus, et de non existentibus, eadem est ratio.* Now, of the essence of these imponderables, nothing appears. But curiosity is awakened by the fact, that, between the phenomena, we perceive some instances of connexion. · Combustion,-an operation of caloric,--if certain gases be present, produces light; and the child knows that flame will burn the finger. Rubbing certain stones together, as all boys know, both warms and gives light. Electricity and galvanism have many facts in common, and are, in certain points, coincident with magnetism. And numerous experiments show, that both light and heat are developed by electricity and galvanism. Some sort of connexion among the effects is evident: but as to the causes, we know too little to be justified in referring them to any unity. Heat, light, magnetism, electricity, galvanism,-each has its own resulting phenomena; and, in the present state of science, here, as to argument, we ought to rest; here, as to fact, we must rest, and continue to speak of them as being different causes, because giving rise each to a distinct series of different effects.
*“Of things that do not appear, the reason is the same as of things which do not exist;"-that is, they are to be reasoned with, dealt about, in the same manner.
P. In our next conversation, then, we may go further into these imponderables ?
T. Yes; beginning with light; so full of usefulness, beauty, and wonder; and which has this attraction to the Christian, that it supplies an image for the better knowledge of the Creator himself, of whom it is said, “GOD IS LIGHT, AND IN HIM IS NO DARKNESS AT ALL.”
OCCASIONAL PAPERS ON ENGLISH POETS
BEATTIE. Beattie, though a Scotchman, and though he wrote in Scotland, yet was not like Burns, who tuned his Doric reed, and gave forth from it his natural “wood-notes wild," sweet and touching as those of “the feathered choristers of the grove.” Beattie wrote in English; and though he wrote but little, that little won for him high rank among the classical poets of the island. His “ Minstrel ” will always be valued-we were going to say, and admired, but the more suitable expression will be and loved-by all who know how to sympathize with sentiments calm, correct, and deep; uttered in language at once simple and elegant, and in exquisitely melodious verse. According to our plan in these papers, we shall give a brief statement of the author's personal history and character, and add to them a few remarks on his compositions, illustrated by one or two short extracts.
James Beattie was born at Laurencekirk, in the county of Kincardine, Scotland, October 25th, 1735. His father was a small farmer, and, like the Scottish peasantry in general,
thoughtful and given to reading. He died when his son was only seven years of age. Young James was sent to the established parochial school, and being fond of learning, made considerable proficiency in at least the elementary knowledge of the classics. Even in these days poets were his favourite authors, and making verses one of his favourite occupations. In Scotland, a university education, partly through those habits of severe economy to which they who desire literary advancement are willing to submit, is more easily secured than in England. In 1749 young Beattie entered the Marischal College, Aberdeen, and his acquirements soon obtained for him one of the bursaries left for students who are unable to meet all the requisite expenses. Here his application was great, and his success answerable, particularly in general literature. For mathematical pursuits he seems to have had no fondness. In 1753 he became M.A., and accepted the humble office of schoolmaster and parish-clerk in a parish adjoining his own. He did this to relieve an older brother even from the small charge which his continuance at Aberdeen might have occasioned. Scotch students in the situation of young Beattie mostly look forward to the Church; but, whatever might be the reason, to this he had an objection. However, in a few years, he was honourably appointed, by the Aberdeen Magistrates, to be one of the Masters of the grammar-school there. He entered on this office, one of considerable importance, in June, 1758.
His attachment to poetry increased with his years, and much of his leisure time was employed in poetic compositions. Many of them appeared in a periodical, “ The Scot's Magazine,” and were collected and published in one volume, in 1761. He was appointed Professor of Philosophy in Marischal College, Aberdeen; a position for which both his disposition and his attainments eminently fitted him. At different times he published “Essays,” on subjects chiefly connected with elegant literature: “ Elements of Moral Science," an abstract of the lectures he had delivered from the Professor's chair ; and a treatise on the “Evidences of the Christian Religion,” which, if not profound, is elegant, perspicuous, and conclusive. His “ Essay on Truth” appeared in 1770, and procured him high reputation. Its design was to expose the sophisms of his countryman, David Hume. Later inquirers have said that in many respects he misunderstood the principles of the sceptical author against whom he wrote ; but if so, he only followed the track which that author himself had marked out. So far as Hume's principles were correct, so far did even he misapprehend their character. All his conclusions from them imply precisely that sort of application the incorrectness of which Beattie established. It was against the entire system that Beattie wrote; and the friends of Hume have no right to shelter his mistaken developments under the correctness of one or two of his leading principles. At the time when he wrote, evangelical truth was little valued in the Scotch Church, and was only preserved in some quarters by means which he would have scornfully condemned, as belonging to the enthusiasm and fanaticism of a former age; and while too many of the Clergy were only the humble followers of men like Robertson and Blair, the literati were becoming increasingly sceptical, and, while rejecting religious Calvinism, advocated the doctrines of a rigid philosophical necessity. Unhappily, Beattie did not embrace the purer views of the Scottish Establishment; but neither would he undertake to teach them. His opposition to scepticism, and his defence of revealed religion, as earnest and eloquent as it was undoubtedly sincere, produced, in that day of jealousy of service merely professional, a more decided impression, as proceeding from a writer who was not a Clergyman, and not, therefore, supposed to be bound to advocacy by his stipend, as though it were the retaining-fee of the Barrister.
In 1771 he first visited London, where his name had already been enrolled among the citizens of the republic of letters. Not long after the University of Oxford, in acknowledgment of the value of his writings, conferred on him the honorary degree of (LL.D.) Doctor of Civil Law. The King, (George III.,) always impressed with the sacredness and importance of religious truth, and the dangerous tendencies of infidelity, socially as well as individually, admitted him to a private interview; and subsequently a pension was bestowed on him.
Some years afterwards, on again visiting London, another interview was accorded, in which he was received with great kindness. No one ever saw more clearly what must be the harvest of infidelity, or felt more deeply the necessity of the diffusion of truth and piety, for the well-being of a country, than did “the good old King.”
The later portion of the Doctor's life was shadowed by heavy trials. His wife became insane, and was obliged to be placed under restraint. James Hay Beattie, his eldest son, a youth of the highest promise, both from natural and acquired endowments, whom he had himself trained, and who had become his companion and friend, whose talents were such that, when only nineteen, he had been admitted to be his father's assistant as Professor,—died of consumption, in his twenty-second year. Six years afterwards (1796) his younger son died, in his eighteenth year. After this he seemed capable of scarcely any exertion; and after lingering a few years in inactivity, he died at Aberdeen, in 1803, aged sixtyeight.
The poetry of Dr. Beattie evidently belongs to what we have ventured to call the transition school. Possessing little of that inspiration of passion which characterizes the poetry of our own day, and which in mere imitators becomes a repulsive rant and bombast, there is in it, at the same time, a true and powerful natural feeling, in which the classical school of the last age was chiefly deficient, and the absence of which is felt even amidst the often splendid imagery, and the fluent ease, melody, and harmony, of the diction and verse of Pope himself. Beattie's poetry is decidedly classical, his versification is always regular, and the subjects on which he writes, though truly poetical, may more fitly be said to belong to an imaginative intellect then to the imagination itself, in energetic exercise, upon bold and aspiring wing, exciting itself to heat and passion by its own expatiations. Beattie is always calm and recollected. Usually pensive and serious, his pictures, while correctly delineated, have the colouring of the medium through which they are seen. He brings feeling to the object, and describes it, as in such a state of feeling it appears to him : the object evidently does not itself produce