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His Majesty's Solicitor-General for Scotland, whose masculine eloquence, and profound knowledge of law, have, in the public estimation, placed him indisputably at the head of the Scottish bar. From his youngest son Hugh, who engaged in business as a merchant, and had the honour to fill a high station in the magistracy of Edinburgh, sprung the learned clergyman, who is the subject of this narrative.

The views of Dr. Blair, from his earliest youth, were turned towards the Church, and his education received a suitable direction. After the usual grammatical course at school, he entered the Humanity Class in the University of Edinburgh, in October 1730, and spent eleven years at that celebrated seminary, assiduously employed in the literary and scientific studies prescribed by the Church of Scotland to all who are to become candidates for her licence to preach the Gospel. During this important period, he was distinguished among his companions both for diligence and proficiency; and obtained from the Professors under whom he studied, repeated testimonies of approbation. One of them deserves to be mentioned particularly, because in his own opinion, it determined the bent of his genius towards polite literature. An essay, Ilegi xatē, or, On the Beautiful, written by him when a student of logic in the usual course of academical exercises, had the good fortune to attract the notice of Professor Stevenson, and, with circumstances honourable to the author, was appointed to be read in public at the conclusion of the Session. This mark of distinction made a deep impression on his mind; and the

essay which merited it, he ever after recollected with partial affection, and preserved to the day of his death as the first earnest of his fame.

At this time Dr. Blair commenced a method of study which contributed much to the accuracy and extent of his knowledge, and which he continued to practise occasionally even after his reputation was fully established. 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, in concert with some of his youthful associates,

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he constructed a very comprehensive scheme of chronological tables, for receiving into its proper place every important fact that should occur. The scheme devised by this young student for his own private use was afterwards improved, filled up, and given to the Public by his learned friend Dr. John Blair, Prebendary of Westminster, in his valuable work, “ The “ Chronology and History of the World.”

In the year 1739, Dr. Blair took his degree of A.M. On that occasion he printed and defended a thesis, De Fundamentis et Obligatione Legis Naturæ, which contains a short, but masterly discussion of this important subject, and exhibits, in elegant Latin, an outline of the moral principles, which have been since more fully unfolded and illustrated in his Sermons.

The University of Edinburgh, about this period, numbered among her pupils many young men who were soon to make a distinguished figure in the civil, the ecclesiastical, and the literary history of their country. With most of them Dr. Blair entered into habits of intimate connection, which no future competition or jealousy occurred to interrupt, which held them united through life in their views of public good, and which had the most beneficial influence on their own improvement, on the progress of elegance and taste among their contemporaries, and on the general interests of the community to which they belonged.

On the completion of this academical course, he underwent the customary trials before the Presbytery of Edinburgh, and received from that venerable body a licence to preach the Gospel, on the 21st of October 1741. His public life now commenced with very favourable prospects. The reputation which he brought from the University was fully justified by his first appearances in the pulpit;, and, in a few months, the fame of his eloquence procured for him a presentation to the parish of Colessie in Fife, where he was ordained to the office of the holy ministry, on the 23d of September 1742. But he was not permitted to remain long in this rural retreat. Α. vacancy in the second charge of the Canongate of Edinburgh furnished to his friends an opportunity of recalling him to a

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station more suited to his talents. And though one of the most popular and eloquent clergymen in the church was placed in competition with him, a great majority of the electors decided in favour of this young orator, and restored him in July 1743 to the bounds of his native city.

In this station Dr. Blair continued eleven years, discharging with great fidelity and success the various duties of the pastoral office. His discourses from the pulpit in particular attracted universal admiration. They were composed with uncommon care; and, occupying a middle place between the dry metaphysical discussion of one class of preachers, and the loose incoherent declamation of another, they blended together, in the happiest manner, the light of argument with the warmth of exhortation, and exhibited captivating specimens of what had hitherto been rarely heard in Scotland, the polished, well compacted, and regular didactic oration.

In consequence of a call from the Town Council and General Session of Edinburgh, he was translated from the Canongate to Lady Yester's, one of the city churches, on the 11th of October 1754: and on the 15th day of June 1758, he was promoted to the High Church of Edinburgh, the most important ecclesiastical charge in the kingdom. To this charge he was raised at the request of the Lords of Council and Session, and of the other distinguished official characters who have their seats in that church. And the uniform prudence, ability, and success, which, for a period of more than forty years, accompanied all his ministerial labours in that conspicuous and difficult station, sufficiently evince the wisdom of their choice.

Hitherto his attention seems to have been devoted almost exclusively to the attainment of professional excellence, and to the regular discharge of his parochial duties. No production of his pen had yet been given to the world by himself, except two sermons preached on particular occasions, some translations, in verse, of passages of Scripture for the Psalmody of the Church, and a few articles in the Edinburgh Review; a publication begun in 1755, and conducted for a short time by some of the ablesť men in the kingdom. But

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standing as he now did at the head of his profession, and released by the labour of former years from the drudgery of weekly preparation for the pulpit, he began to think seriously on a plan for teaching to others that art, which had contributed so much to the establishment of his own fame. With this view, he communicated to his friends a scheme 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 deliver. For, besides the testimony given to his talents by his successive promotions in the Church, the University of St. Andrew's, moved chiefly by the merit of his eloquence, had in June 1757 conferred on him the degree of D.D., a literary honour which, at that time, was very rare in Scotland. Accordingly his first Course of Lectures was well attended, and received with great applause. The patrons of the University, convinced that they would form a valuable addition to the system of education, agreed in the following summer to institute a rhetorical class, under his direction, as a permanent part of their academical establishment; and on the 7th of April 1762, His Majesty was graciously pleased “ To erect and endow a Professorship of Rhe6 toric and Belles Lettres in the University of Edinburgh, 6 and to appoint Dr. Blair, in consideration of his approved “ qualifications, Regius Professor thereof, with a Salary of 70l.” These Lectures he published in 1783, when he retired from the labours of the office; and the general voice of the Public has pronounced them to be a most judicious, elegant, and comprehensive system of rules for forming the style and cultivating the taste of youth.

About the time in which he was occupied in laying the foundations of this useful institution, he had an opportunity of conferring another important obligation on the literary world, by the part which he acted in rescuing from oblivion the poems of Ossian. It was by the solicitation of Dr. Blair and Mr. John Home that Mr. Macpherson was induced to



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publish his Fragments of Ancient Poetry; and their patronage was of essential service in procuring the subscription which enabled him to undertake his tour through the Highlands for collecting the materials of Fingal, and of those other delightful productions which bear the name of Ossian. To these productions Dr. Blair applied the test of genuine criticism, and soon after their publication gave an estimate of their merits in a Dissertation which, for beauty of language, delicacy of taste, and acuteness of critical investigation, has few parallels. It was printed in 1763, and spread the reputation of its author throughout Europe.

The great objects of his literary ambition being now attained, his talents were for many years consecrated solely to the important and peculiar employments of his station. It was not till the year 1777 that he could be induced to favour the world with a volume * of the Sermons which had so long furnished instruction and delight to his own congregation. But this volume being well received, the public approbation encouraged him to proceed: three other volumest followed at different intervals; and all of them experienced a degree of success of which few publications can boast. They circulated rapidly and widely wherever the English tongue extends; they were soon translated into almost all the languages of Europe; and His present Majesty, with that wise attention to the interests of religion and literature which distinguishes his reign, was graciously pleased to judge them worthy of a public reward. By a royal mandate to the Exchequer of Scotland, dated July 25th, 1780, a pension of 2001. a year was conferred on their author, which continued unaltered till his death. The motives which gave rise to the present volume are

$ sufficiently explained by himself in his Address to the Reader.


* Vol. I.

containing Sermons l_XV.
+ Vol. II.

Vol. III.

Vol. IV.

LI-LXXI. # This account was originally subjoined to the fifth volume, containing Sermons LXXII-XCI.

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