Blount, Charles

, younger son of sir Henry Blount, and brother to sir Thomas Pope Blount hereafter mentioned, an eminent writer in the last century, was born at his grandfather’s seat at Upper Holloway, in the county of Middlesex, April 27, 1654. He was endowed by nature with a great capacity, and with a strong propensity to learning; which excellent qualities were properly cultivated by the assiduous care of his father, and under so able an instructor, he quickly acquired an extraordinary skill in | the arts and sciences, without any thing of that pedantry, which is too frequently the consequence of young men’s application to study in the common course. His pregnant parts and polite behaviour brought him early into the world, so that his father, who was a true judge of men, thought fit, when he was about eighteen, to marry him to Eleanora, daughter of sir Timothy Tyrrel, of Shotover in the county of Oxford, and gave him a very handsome estate, having always respected him as a friend, as well as loved him with the affection of a father. The year after his marriage, he wrote a little treatise, which he published without his name, in defence of Dryden, whose “Conquest of Granada” was attacked by Richard Leigh, a player. In 1678, or perhaps in 1679, he published his “Anima Mnndi,” in which it is said, and with great probability, that he had the assistance of his father. It had been long before handed about in manuscript among the acquaintance of its author, with several passages in it much stronger than in that which was transmitted to the press, and licensed by sir Roger L’Estrange. This, however, did not hinder its giving great offence, insomuch that complaint was made to Dr. Compton, then Lord Bishop of London, who, upon perusal, signified that he expected it should be suppressed, and intimating, that he would thereupon rest satisfied. But afterwards, when the Bishop was out of town, an opportunity was taken by some zealous person to burn the book, which however has been reprinted since. The same year he published a broad sheet under the title of “Mr. Hobbes’s last Words and dying Legacy.” It was extracted from the “Leviathan,” and was intended to weaken and expose his doctrine yet he could be no very warm antagonist, since there is still extant a letter of his to Mr. Hobbes, wherein he professes himself a great admirer of his parts, and one who would readily receive his instructions. He afterwards gave a strong testimony in favour of liberty, in a pamphlet on the Popish Plot, and the fearof a Popish successor, entitled, “An Appeal from the country to the city for the preservation of his majesty’s person, liberty, property, and the Protestant religion.” This treatise is subscribed Junius Brutus, and is the strongest invective against Popery and Papists that was published even in that age, when almost all the wit of the nation was pointed that way. There are in it likewise such express recommendations of the Duke of Monmouth, as might well hinder the | author from owning it, and give it, in the eyes of the lawyers of those times, an air of sedition at least, if not of treason. In 1680, he printed that work which made him most known to the world, “The Life of Apollonius Tyaneus,” which was soon after suppressed, and only a few copies sent abroad. It was held to be the most dangerous attempt, that had been ever made against revealed religion in this country, and was justly thought so, as bringing to the eye of every English reader a multitude of facts and reasonings, plausible in themselves, and of the fallacy of which, none but men of parts and learning can be proper judges. For this reason it is still much in esteem with the Deists, and the few copies that came abroad contributed to raise its reputation, by placing it in the lists of those that are extremely rare. In the same year he published his “Diana of the Ephesians,” which, as the author foresaw, raised a new clamour, many suggesting that, under colour of exposing superstition, he struck at all Revelation, and while he avowed only a contempt of the Heathen, seemed to intimate no great affection for the Christian priesthood. The wit, learning, and zeal of our author, had, by this time, raised him to be the chief of his sect; and he took a great deal of pains to propagate and defend his opinions in his discourses and familiar letters, as well as by his books, but he had the usual inconsistency of the infidel, and we find him owning, in a letter to Dr. Sydenham, that in point of practice, Deism was less satisfactory than the Christian scheme. The noise his former pieces had made, induced him to conceal, industriously, his being the author of a book, entitled, “Religio Laici,” published in 1683, but which is little more than a translation of Lord Herbert’s treatise under the same title and one may reasonably suppose, that the same motives prevailed on him to drop a design, in which it appears he was once engaged, of writing the Life of Mahomet, the Turkish prophet, which however has been since executed, in his manner, by a French author, Boulanvilliers. That the world might perceive Mr. Blount was capable of turning his thoughts to subjects very different from those he had hitherto handled, he, in 16S4, published a kind of introduction to polite literature, which shewed the extent of his knowledge, and the acquaintance he had in the several branches of philosophy and science. This was entitled “Janus Scientiarum or an Introduction to Geography, | Chronology, Government, History, philosophy, and all genteel sorts of Learning,London, 8vo. He concurred heartily in the Revolution, and seems to have had very honest intentions of punishing those who were king James’s evil counsellors, after the government was re-settled, by declaring the prince and princess of Orange king and queen. He gave another strong testimony of his sincere attachment to his principles, and inviolable love to freedom, by a nervous defence of the liberty of the press wherein he shews that all restraints on it can have no other tendency than to establish superstition and tyranny, by abasing the spirits of mankind, and injuring the human understanding. This little piece, therefore, has been always esteemed one of the best he ever wrote; and has furnished their strongest arguments to many succeeding writers. The warmth of Mr. Blount’s temper, his great affection for king William, and his earnest desire to see certain favourite projects brought about, led him to write a pamphlet, in which, he asserted king William and queen Mary to be conquerors, which was not well relished by the house of commons. The title of this very singular and remarkable piece at large, runs thus: “King William and queen Mary conquerors; or, a discourse endeavouring to prove that their majesties have on their side, against the late king, the principal reasons that make conquest a good title; shewing also how this is consistent with that declaration of parliament, king James abdicated the government, &c. Written with an especial regard to such as have hitherto refused the oath, and yet allow of the title of conquest, when consequent to a just war,1693, 4to.

We now draw near to his death, which corresponded more closely with his principles than his friends and admirers will probably allow. After the death of his wife, he became enamoured of her sister, who, we are told, was a lady of great beauty, wit, good humour, virtue, and discretion, and who is said not to have been insensible on her side, but scrupulous only as to the lawfulness of the thing he proposed, viz. marrying her after her sister. Our author wrote a letter on this subject, in which he states the case as of a third person, and treats it with some ingenuity. It is also said that he applied himself to the archbishop of Canterbury, and other divines, who having decided against his opinion, and the lady consequently becoming inflexible, it threw him into a fit of despair, which ended in a frenzy, | so that he shot himself in the head. The wound, however, did not prove inured lately mortal he lived after it some clays and retaining still his passion for that lady, he would receive nothing hut from her hands during that period. He died in the month of August, 1693, and was interred with his family in the church of Ridge, in Hertfordshire. After Mr. Blount’s decease, abundance of his private letters were published in a work called “The Oracles of Reason,” compiled by Mr. Gildon, who in his preface gives seme account of our author, in a letter addressed to a ladv, in which he defends Mr. Blount’s manner of dying, and threatens to follow his example but he lived to change his opinions afterwards. These “Oracles of Reason” were afterwards printed with several of our author’s pieces, under the title of “The miscellaneous works of Charles Blount, esq.1695, including all we have mentioned, except the pamphlet respecting king William and queen Mary, which is now extremely scarce. As to his character, he was certainly a man of sense and learning, and could write with much seeming strength, where his arguments were not very cogent. His early dislike to superstition hurried him into dangerous mistakes, and inclined him to believe all revealed religion priestcraft, because some priests made a trade of religion. However, if any credit be due to his writings (and sincerity seems to have been rooted in his temper) he was certainly a Deist; foreigners have classed him among Atheists, which Dr. Campbell, in his life in the Biog. Brit, has taken more pains than necessary to contradict. 1


Biog. Brit. —Leland’s Deistical Writers.