« НазадПродовжити »
In order to render his work of greater service, he has generally referred to the books which he consulted, as far as he remembers them ; that the readers might be directed to any farther illustration which they afford. But as such a length of time has elapsed since the first composition of these Lectures, he may, perhaps, have adopted the sentiments of some author into whose writings he had then looked, without now remembering whence he derived them.
In the opinions which he has delivered concerning such a variety of authors, and of literary matters, as come under his consideration, he cannot expect that all his readers will concur with him. The subjects are of such a nature, as allow room for much diversity of taste and sentiment : and the author will respectfully submit to the judgment of the public.
Retaining the simplicity of the lecturing style, as best fitted for conveying instruction, he has aimed, in his language, at no more than perspicuity. If, after the liberties which it was necessary for him to take, in criticising the style of the most eminent writers in our language, his own style shall be thought open to reprehension, all that he can say is, that his book will add one to the many proofs already afforded to the world, of its being much easier to give instruction, than to set example.
LIFE OF DR. HUGH BLAIR.
DR. HUGH BLAIR was born in Edinburgh on the 7th of April, 1718. He was descended from the ancient and respectable family of Blair, in Ayrshire. His great
grandfather, Mr. Robert Blair, minister of St. Andrews, and chaplain to Charles I. , was distinguished by his firm attachment to the cause of freedom, and his zealous support of the Presbyterian form of church government, in the time of the civil wars. The talents of this worthy man seem to have descended as an inheritance to his posterity. Of the two sons who survived him, David the eldest, was one of the Ministers of the Old Church in Edinburgh, and father of Mr. Robert Blair, minister of Athelstaneford, the celebrated author of the poem, entitled * The GRAVE," and grandfather of Lord President Blair, distinguished by his masculine eloquence, profound knowledge of law, and hereditary love of literature. From his youngest son Hugh, sprung Mr. John Blair, who was a respectable merchant, and one of the Magistrates of Edinburgh. He married Martha Ogston ; and the first child of this marriage was the excellent person who is the subject of this narrative.
In consequence of some misfortunes in trade, his father retired from mercantile business, and obtained an office in the excise; yet his fortune was not so much impaired as to prevent him from giving his son a liberal education.
From his earliest youth his views were turned towards the clerical profession, and his education received a suitable direction. After going through the usual grammatical course at the High-school, he entered the Humanity class, in the University of Edinburgh, in October, 1730, and spent eleven years in that celebrated seminary in the study of literature, philosophy, and divinity. In all the classes he was distinguished among his companions, both for diligence and proficiency; but in the Logic class he attained particular distinction, by an Essay On the Beautiful; which had the good fortune to attract the notice of Professor Stevenson, and was appointed to be read publicly at the end of the session, with the most flattering marks of the Professor's approbation. This mark of distinction made a deep impression on his mind, and determined the bent of his genius towards polite literature.
At this time he formed a plan of study which contributed much to the accuracy and extent of his knowledge. It consisted in making abstracts of the most important works which he read, and in digesting them according to the train of his own thoughts. History, in particular, he resolved to study in this manner, and constructed a very comprehensive scheme of chronological tables for receiving into its proper place every important fact that should occur. This scheme has been given to the world in a more extensive and correct form by his learned friend Dr. John Blair, Prebendary of Westminster, in his “ Chronology and History of the World.”
In 1739, he took the degree of Master of Arts ; and on that occasion, printed and defended a thesis, De fundamentis et obligatione Legis Natura, which exhibits an outline of the moral principles by which the world was afterward to profit in his Sermons.
At this period he was engaged as a tutor in the family of Lord Lovat, and spent one summer in the north country, attending his Lordship's eldest son, afterward Geaeral Fraser. When his pupil was appointed to the command of the 71st Regiment, he testified his respect for his old tutor, by making him chaplain to one of its battalions.
On the completion of his academical course, he was licensed to preach the Gospel by the Presbytery of Edinburgh, on the 21st of October, 1741. His first appearances in the pulpit fully justified the expectations of his friends, and, in a few months, the fame of his eloquence procured for him a presentation to the church of Colessie, in Fifeshire, where he was ordained minister on the 230 September, 1742.
He was not permitted to remain long in the obscurity of a country parish. In consequence of a vacancy in the second charge of the Cannongate of Edinburgh, which was to be supplied by popular election, his friends were enabled to recall him to a station more suited to his talents. Though Mr. Robert Walker, a popular and eloquent preacher, was his competitor, he obtained a majority of votes, and was admitted on the 14th of July, 1743. In this station he continued eleven years, assiduously devoted to the attainment of professional excellence, and the regular discharge of his parochial duties.
In 1748, he married his cousin, Catharine Bannatyne, daughter of the Rev. James Bannatyne, one of the ministers of Edinburgh ; a woman distinguished for the strength of her understanding, and the prudence of her conduct. In consequence of a call from the Toirn Council of Edinburgh, he was translated from the Cannongate to Lady Yester's church, in the city, on the 11th of October, 1754; and from thence to the first charge in the High Church, on the 15th of June, 1758, the most respectable clerical situation in the kingdom. The uniform prudence, ability, and success, which for a period of more than fifty years, accompanied ali his ministerial labours in that conspicuous and difficult charge, sufficiently evince the wisdom of their choice. His discourses from the pulpit were composed with uncommon care, and attracted universal admiration,
In June, 1757, the University of St. Andrews showed its discernment by conferring on him the degree of Doctor in Divinity; an academical honour which at that time was very rare in Scotland.
His fame as a preacher was by this time established, but no production of his pen had yet been given to the world except two Sermons, preached on particular occasions, some translations, in verse, of passages of Scripture for the Psalmody of the church, and the article on Dr. Hutcheson's “System of Moral Philosophy," in the
Edinburgh Review;" a periodical work begun in 1755. Of this paper two numbers only appeared, in which his learned friends Dr. Adam Smith, Dr. Robertson, and Mr. Wedderburn, afterward Earl of Roslin, had a principal share.
At an early period of his life, while he, and his cousin Mr. George Bannatyne, were students in Divinity, they wrote a poem entitled The Resurrection, copies of which were handed about in manuscript. No one appearing to claim the performance, an edition of it was published in 1749, in folio, to which the name William Douglas, M.D. was appended as the author.
Besides the compositions above mentioned, he was supposed to have repelled an attack on his friend Lord Kaimes, by Mr. George Anderson, in his “ Analysis of the Essays on Morality,” &c. in a pamphlet entitled Observations on the Analysis, &c. Svo. 1755, and was believed likewise to have lent his aid in a formal reply made by Lord Kaimes himself, under the title of Observations against the Essays on Morality and Natural Religion, eramined, 8vo. 1756.*
Having now found sufficient leisure, from the laborious duties of his profession, to turn his attention to general literature, he began seriously to think on a plan for teaching to others that art which had contributed so much to the establishment of his own fame. Encouraged by the success of his predecessors, Dr. Smith, and Dr Wat. son, and the advice of his friend Lord Kaimes, he prepared with this view, a course of Lectures on Composition, and having obtained the approbation of the University, he began to read them in the College on the 11th of December, 1759. To this undertaking he brought all the qualifications requisite for executing it well; and along with them a weight of reputation which could not fail to give effect to the lessons he should teach. Accordingly, his first course of Lectures was well attended, and received with great applause.
In August, 1760, the Town Council of Edinburgh instituted a Rhetorical class in the University under his direction, as an addition to the system of academical education. And, in April, 1762, on a representation to his Majesty, setting forth the advantages of the institution, as a branch of academical education, the King, “ in consideration of his approved qualifications,” erected and endowed his establishment in the
* Lord Woodhouselee's Life of Lord Kaimes, Vol. I. p. 142