1771 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Beattie

William Mason to James Beattie, 27 October 1771; Forbes, Life and Writings of James Beattie (1806) 1:214-15.



You must suffer me to thank you for the very high degree of poetical pleasure which the first book of your Minstrel gave my imagination, and that equal degree of rational conviction which your Essay on Truth impressed on my understanding. I will freely own to you, that the very idea of a Scotsman's attacking Mr. Hume prejudiced me so much in favour of the latter piece, that I should have approved it, instead of a masterly, it had been only a moderate performance. I shall be happy to know, that the remaining books of your Minstrel are likewise to be published soon. The next best thing, after instructing the world profitably, is to amuse it innocently. England has lost that man [Thomas Gray] who, of all others in it, was best qualified for both these purposes; but who, from early chagrin and disappointment, had imbibed a disinclination to employ his talents beyond the sphere of self-satisfaction and improvement. May Scotland long possess, in you, a person both qualified and willing to exert his, for the pleasure and benefit of society.