Blair, Robert

, a Scotch divine and poet, was the eldest son of the rev. David Blair, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, and chaplain to the king. His grandfather was the rev. Robert Blair, sometime minister of the gospel at Bangor, in Ireland, and afterward at St. Andrew’s, in Scotland. Of this gentleman, some “Memoirs,” partly taken from his manuscript diaries, were published at Edinburgh, in 1754. He was celebrated for his piety, and by those of his persuasion, for his inflexible adherence to presbyterianism, in opposition to the endeavours made in his time to establish episcopacy in Scotland. It is recorded also that he wrote some poems. His grandson, the object | of the present article, was born in the year 1699, and after the usual preparatory studies, was ordained minister of Athelstaneford, in the county of East Lothian, where he resided until his death, Feb. 4, 1747. The late right hon. Robert Blair, president of the court of session in. Scotland, who died in 1811, was one of his sons, and the late celebrated Dr. Hugh Blair, professor of rhetoric and belles-lettres, was his cousin.

Such are the only particulars handed down to us respecting the writer of “the Grave.” It is but lately that the poem was honoured with much attention, and appears to have made its way very slowly into general notice. The pious and congenial Hervey was among the first who praised it. Mr. Pinkerton in his “Letters of Literature,” published under the name of Heron, endeavoured to raise it far above the level of common productions, and it has of late years been frequently reprinted but it may be questioned whether it will bear a critical examination. It has no regular plan, nor are the reflections on mortality embellished bj any superior graces. It is perhaps a stronger objection that they are interrupted by strokes of feeble satire at the expence of physicians and undertakers. His expressions are often mean, and his epithets ill-chosen and degrading, “supernumerary horror;” “new-made widow;” “sooty blackbird;” “strong-lunged cherub;” “lame kindness,” c. &c. “solder of society” “by stronger arm belaboured” “great gluts of people,” &c. are vulgarisms which cannot be pardoned in so short a production.

The Grave” is said to have been first printed at Edinburgh in 1747, but this is a mistake. It was printed in 1743 at London, for M. Cooper. The author had previously submitted it to Dr. Watts, who informed him that two booksellers had declined the risk of publication. He had likewise corresponded with Dr. Doddridge on the subject, and in a letter to that divine, says, that “in order to make it more generally liked, he was obliged sometimes to go cross to his own inclination, well knowing that whatever poem is written upon a serious argument, must upon that very account lie under peculiar disadvantages; and therefore proper arts must be used to make such a piece go down with a licentious age which cares for none of those things.” In what respect he crossed his inclination, and by what arts he endeavoured to make his poem more acceptable to a licentious age, we know not. In defence of | the present age, it may be said with justice that the poem owes its popularity to its subject, and that notwithstanding its defects, it will probably be a lasting favourite with persons of a serious turn. 1


English Poets, edit. 1810, 21 vols.—Letters to and from Dr. Doddriddge, 1790, p. 253.