1784 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Beattie

John Pinkerton to James Beattie, 20 March 1784; Forbes, Life and Writings of James Beattie (1904) 199.



It is with the most sincere pleasure that I am informed of your intention of republishing The Minstrel, with additions. That exquisite poem I peculiarly interest myself in, because from it I first derived any little taste I may have in poetry, and never read it without the highest delight. I hope, therefore, you will pardon me for resuming a correspondence which I am so proud of to express sentiments of the most zealous friendship. Impelled by these sentiments, I must express my regret that so fine a poem should remain unfinished when another canto of sixty stanzas might do the business. If your fame as a poet does not move you, for a perfect poem must ever be allowed superior to an imperfect one, even of superior merits, let me entreat this of you, in the name of the public, as a moral philosopher. Cicero would have put it without scruple into his book De Officiis, as a duty to which you owe to your friends, to the public, and to yourself.

If I might, with the utmost respect, express my poor sentiments about your alterations in the second canto, the stanzas which regard the progress of science, and those which praise Homer and Virgil, seem somewhat independent of your design; for no minstrel was ever acquainted with these subjects, or if one real instance might occur, though it might be true, it is not probable.

I frequently heard objections to these parts by the warmest admirers of the rest of the poems, among whom I shall ever rank myself.