William Beattie, son of James Beattie, a builder, was born at Dalton, Annandale, and went to school at Clarencefield Academy, Dumfriesshire. In 1812 he entered Edinburgh University and in 1818, having maintained himself by part-time teaching, he took his M.D. degree. He stayed in Edinburgh for a further two years, practising, teaching and writing. In 1820 he moved to Cumberland and in 1822 to London. His next five years were spent in intermittent practice, visits to Continental medical schools, and trips to Germany in the capacity of physician to the Duke of Clarence, who ultimately rewarded him with a gift of plate and a letter certifying him to be " a perfect gentleman". In 1827 he settled in Hampstead where, for eighteen years, he enjoyed a large practice, interrupted only by vacations abroad. His travels inspired him to write a number of descriptive and historical works as well as poetry. He was a firm friend of Lady Blessington and contributed poems to her Book of Beauty. His other acquaintances included Lady Byron and Samuel Rogers. His closest friend, however, was Thomas Campbell, a frequent occupant of " Campbell’s Ward " as he called Beattie’s cottage at Hampstead—who dedicated his Pilgrim of Glencoe (1842) to Beattie. Thanks to Beattie’s efforts, the poet’s last wish—to be buried in Westminster Abbey—was realised. Beattie published The Life and Letters of Thomas Campbell in 1849. He himself retired soon after his wife’s death in 1845 but continued to give free medical advice to clergymen and men of letters. The peace of his retirement was rudely shattered when he lost £7,000 by the bankruptcy of an insurance company. Beattie was a man of wide interests, painstaking, generous, and accomplished. " He had," says the writer of one obituary notice, " an exalted view of the medical profession, never looking upon it as a trade." Beattie married Elizabeth Limner in 1822; they had no children.
G H Brown
[Medical Times and Gazette, 1875; D.N.B., iv, 25]