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Collection GB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Level Fonds
Ref No MS 30
Title James Beattie, Professor of Moral Philosophy and Logic, poet, essayist and moral philosopher: papers
Date c 1758 - c 1799
Extent 13 boxes and 1 volume: 5 linear metres
Creator Name Beattie, James (1735 - 1803) Professor of Moral Philosophy and Logic, poet, essayist and moral philosopher
Administrative History James Beattie, MA Marischal College, 1753, LLD King's College, 1770, DCL Oxford, 1773, was Professor of Moral Philosophy and Logic at Marischal College from 1760 until his death on 18 Aug 1803. He was a contemporary and friend of notable Aberdeen philosophers, Thomas Reid, George Campbell, John Gregory and Alexander Gerard, and an elected member of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society from 1761 until its demise in 1773. His 'Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth' (1770), written in response to David Hume's 'Treatise on Human Nature', is the best known of his philosophical works. Other well-known pieces include 'Scoticisms' (Aberdeen, 1778), 'Dissertations - Moral and Critical' (1783), 'Evidences of the Christian Religion briefly and plainly stated' (1786), and 'Elements of Moral Science' (1790 - 1793). He also enjoyed critical and popular acclaim for literary works such as 'The Minstrel' (vol 1 1771, vol 2 1774) and 'The Hermit'.

Beattie was born on 25 Oct 1735, in Laurencekirk, Kincardineshire, the son of James Beattie, farmer, and studied at Marischal College, under Thomas Blackwell, author of 'An Inquiry into the Life and Writings of Homer'. After graduating from Marischal College in 1753, he took the post of clerk and schoolmaster in the parish of Fordoun, Laurencekirk, and in 1758 was appointed schoolmaster at Aberdeen Grammar School. He married Mary Dun on 28 Jun 1767, and had two children, James Hay Beattie (appointed assistant and later successor to his father at Marischal, 1787) and Montagu Beattie.

See DNB; 'Fasti Academiae Mariscallanae Aberdonensis: Selections from the Records of the Marischal College and University, 1593 - 1860', ed. by Peter John Anderson, 3 vols (Aberdeen: Spalding Club, 1889-1898); Alexander Bower, 'An Account of the Life of James Beattie' (London: Baldwin, 1804); Margaret Forbes, 'Beattie and his friends' (London: Constable, 1904), William Forbes, 'An Account of the Life and Writings of James Beattie, LLD, Including Many of His Original Letters' (Edinburgh: Constable, 1806); William Geddes, 'Poetic Ideals of Education: The Minstrel and George MacDonald' (Aberdeen: J.R. Smith, 1896); 'The Minutes of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society, 1758 - 1773', ed. by H. Lewis Ulman (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1990), pp. 37-40. Also James Beattie's Day Book 1773 - 1798 (Aberdeen, Third Spalding Club, 1948).
Custodial History The papers passed from Beattie to his niece Margaret Valentine (Mrs Glennie), then to her two daughters (the Misses Glennie), then to their three nieces, Margaret Knight, Mary Forbes and Margaret Forbes.
Source Deposited in the University in 1912 by Miss Forbes of Cults, Aberdeen.
Description The correspondence contains details of both family and professional life, with correspondents represented including David Garrick, Joshua Reynolds, James Boswell, Samuel Johnson, H. More, Sir William Forbes, Professor George Glennie, Lord Monboddo, Thomas Percy, Cowper, Joshua Steele, Beattie's father-in-law, Dr James Dun, his wife, Mary Beattie, and sons, Montague Beattie and James Hay Beattie. Personal papers include day books, 1768 - 1798; diary of a visit to London in 1773; journal for the academic sessions 1761 - 1793; copies of poems by Gray; and manuscript copies of The Hermit , On Laughter , Remarks on the Evidence of the Christian Religion and others. In addition to Beattie's own papers, there is a small collection of papers (journals, verses and essays) belonging to his sons, James Hay Beattie and Montague Beattie.
Arrangement The collection is presently listed as it was arranged upon its deposit in the University in the early twentieth century - with some minor modifications:

1. the assimilation of MS 30/2 - 10, into the correspondence series. This decision simplified the arrangement of the principal correspondence in the collection. However, it has left a 'gap' in the collection reference system (there are now no items with the reference MS 30/3 - 10), which was not filled at the time by re-numbering of the remaining items in the collection.

2. the insertion of transcriptions of certain records, deposited by researchers working on the collection.

There is no apparent order or system of arrangement to the present list, which appears only to reflect the box and folder order that it was received into the University. It is, therefore, anticipated that the catalogue will be revised in the future to reflect the provenance and content of the papers more accurately.
Access Status Open
Finding Aids Please note that this collection contains additional finding aids including later transcriptions of certain records deposited by researchers working on the collection. Also an 'Index to the names contained within the day books MS 30/14 & 15'.

Robinson, Roger 'The Correspondence of James Beattie' 4 volumes (Bristol, England: Thoemmes Continuum, 2004). This work contains a calendar of the correspondence (not just from Aberdeen University) alongwith a selection of transcripts. This work was used to compile the Admininstrative Histories and also the Descriptions within the catalogue.
Publication Note James Beattie's Day Book 1773 - 1798 (Aberdeen, Third Spalding Club, 1948).

Robinson, Roger 'The Correspondence of James Beattie' 4 volumes (Bristol, England: Thoemmes Continuum, 2004). This work contains a calendar of the correspondence (not just from Aberdeen University) alongwith a selection of full transcripts.

Robinson, Roger 'The Works of James Beattie' 10 volumes (London: Routledge/Thoemmes, 1996).

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