Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Beattie, George

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BEATTIE, GEORGE (1786–1823), Scotch poet, was the eldest son of a crofter and salmon fisher at Whitehills, near St. Cyrus, Kincardineshire, where he was born in 1786. He received a good education at the parish school. During his boyhood he was notorious for his frolics and love of practical jokes. It is also related of him that on Saturday afternoons it was his delight to wander among the 'braes' of St. Cyrus, and that he used to 'visit the auld kirkyard with a kind of melancholy pleasure.' When the boy was about thirteen years of age, his father obtained a situation on the excise at Montrose, and 'young George,' it is said, walked all the way to his new home 'with a tame kae (jackdaw) on his shoulder.' After an ineffectual attempt to become a mechanic he obtained a clerkship in Aberdeen, but six weeks later his employer died, bequeathing him a legacy of 50l. Returning to Montrose, Beattie entered the office of the procurator-fiscal, and on the completion of his legal education in Edinburgh he established himself in Montrose as a writer or attorney. His remarkable conversational gifts, especially as a humourist, rendered him a general favourite among his companions, and, being combined with good business talents, contributed to his speedy success in his profession. In 1815 he contributed to the 'Montrose Review' a poem, 'John o' Arnha,' which he afterwards elaborated with much care, and published in a separate form, when its rollicking humour and vivid descriptions soon secured it a wide popularity. Its incidents bear some resemblance to those of 'Tam o' Shanter,' of which it may be called a pale reflex. In 1818 he published in the 'Review' a poem in the old Scotch dialect, written when he was a mere boy, and entitled the 'Murderit Mynstrell.' The poem, which is in a totally different vein from 'John o' Arnha,' is characterised throughout by a charming simplicity, a chastened tenderness of sentiment, and a delicacy of delineation which are sometimes regarded as the special attributes of the earlier English poets. In 1819 he published also in the 'Review' the 'Bark,' and in 1820 a wild and eerie rhapsody, entitled the 'Dream.' He also wrote several smaller lyrics. In 1821 Beattie made the acquaintance of a young lady with whom he contracted a marriage engagement. Before, however, the marriage was completed, the lady fell heir to a small fortune, and rejected Beattie for a suitor who occupied a better rank in life. Deeply wounded by the disappointment, Beattie from that time meditated self-destruction. After completing a narrative of his relations with the lady, contained in a history of his life from 1821 to 1823, he provided himself with a pistol, and, going to St. Cyrus, shot himself by the side of his sister's grave 29 Sept. 1823. Since his death his poems have gone through several editions, and a collection of them, accompanied with a memoir, has been published under the title 'George Beattie, Montrose, a poet, a humourist, and a man of genius,' by A. S. Mt Cyrus, M.A.

[Memoir mentioned above.]

T. F. H.