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religion. Blackmore's prose is not the prose of a poet; for it is languid, sluggish, and lifeless ; his diction is neither daring nor exact, his flow neither rapid nor easy, and his periods neither smooth nor strong. His account of wit will show with how little clearness he is content to think, and how littie his thoughts are recommended by his language.

“ As to its efficient cause, wit owes its production to an extraordinary and peculiar temperament in the constitution of the possessor of it, in which is found a concurrence of regular and exalted ferments, and an affluence of animal spirits, refined and reca tified to a great degree of purity ; whence, being endowed with vivacity, brightness, and celerity, as well in their reflections as direct motions, they become proper instruments for the sprightly operations of the mind; by which means the imagination can with great facility range the wide field of nature, contemplate an infinite variety of objects, and, by observing the similitude and disagreement of their several qualities, single out and abstract, and then suit and unite those ideas which will best serve its purpose. Hence beautiful allusions, surprising metaphors, and admirable sentiments, are always ready at hand ; and while the fancy is full of images, collected from innumerable objects and their different qualities, relations, and habitudes, it can at pleasure dress a common notion in a strange but becoming garb; by which, as before observed, the same thought will appear a new one, to the great delight and wonder of the hearer. What we call genius results from this particular happy complexion in the first formation of the person that enjoys it, and is nature's gift, but diversified by various specific characters and limitations, as its active fire is blended and allayed by different proportions of phlegm, or reduced and regulated by the contrast of opposite ferments. Therefore, as there happens in the composition of a facetious genius a greater or less, though still an inferior degree of judgment and prudence, one man of wit will be varied and clistinguished from another.”

In these essays he took little care to propitiate the wits; for he scorns to avert their malice at the - expense of virtue or of truth.

“ Several, in their books, have many sarcastical and spiteful strokes at religion in general ; while others make themselves

pleasant with the principles of the christian. Of the last kind, this

age has seen a most audacious example in the book entitled A Tale of a Tub. Had this writing been published in a pagan or popish nation, who are justly impatient of all indignity offered to the established religion of their country, no doubt but the author would have received the punishment he deserved. But the fate of this impious buffoon is very different; for in a protestant kingdom, zealous of their civil and religious immunities, he has not only escaped affronts and the effects of public resentment, but has been caressed and patronized by persons of great figure, and of all denominations. Violent party men, who differed in all things beside, agreed in their turn to show particular respect and friendship to this insolent derider of the worship of his country, till at last the reputed writer is not only gone off with impunity, but triumphs in his dignity and preferment. I do not know that any inquiry or search was ever made after this writing, or that

any reward was ever offered for the discovery of the author, or that the infamous book was ever condemned to be burnt in public ; whether this proceeds from the excessive esteem and love that men in power, during the late reign, had for wit, or their defect of zeal and concern for the christian religion, will be determined best by those who are best acquainted with their character."

In another place he speaks with becoming abhorrence of a godless author, who has burlesqued a psalm. This author was supposed to be Pope, who published a reward for any one that would produce the coiner of the accusation, but never denied it; and was afterward the perpetual and incessant enemy of Black


One of his essays is upon the spleen, which is treated by him so much to his own satisfaction, that he has published the same thoughts in the same words ; first in the Lay Monastery, then in the essay; and then in the preface to a medical treatise on the spleen. One passage, which I have found already twice, I will here exhibit, because I think it better imagined, and better expressed, than could be expected from the common tenor of his prose.

“ As the several combinations of splenetic madness and folly produce an infinite variety of irregular understanding, so the amicable accommodation and alliance between several virtues VOL. II.



and vices produce an equal diversity in the dispositions and manners of mankind; whence it comes to pass, that as many monstrous and absurd productions are found in the moral as in the intellectual world. How surprising is it to observe, among the least culpable men, some whose minds are attracted by heaven and earth with a seeming equal force ; some who are proud of humility; others who are censorious and uncharitable, yet self denying and devout; some who join contempt of the world with sordid avarice ; and others, who preserve a great degree of piety, with ill nature and ungoverned passions ! Nor are instances of this inconsistent mixture less frequent among bad men, where we often, with admiration, see persons at once generous and unjust, impious lovers of their country and flagitious heroes, good natured sharpers, immoral men of honour, and libertines who will sooner die than change their religion ; and though it is true that repugnant coalitions of so high a degree are found but in a part of mankind, yet none of the whole mass, either good or bad, are entirely exempted from some absurd mixture.”

He about this time, Aug. 22, 1716, became one of the electa of the college of physicians; and was soon after, Oct. 1, chosen

He seems to have arrived late, whatever was the reason, at his medical honours.

Having succeeded so well in his book on Creation, by which he established the great principle of all religion, he thought his undertaking imperfect, unless he likewise enforced the truth of revelation ; and for that purpose added another poem, on redemption. He had likewise written, before his Creation, three books on the Nature of man.

The lovers of musical devotion have always wished for a more happy metrical version than they have yet obtained of the book of Psalms. This wish the piety of Blackmore led him to gratify; and he produced, 1721, A new Version of the Psalms of David, fitted to the Tunes used in Churches ; which, being recommended by the archbishops and many bishops, obtained a license for its admission into public worship ; but no admission has it yet obtained, nor has it any right to come where Brady and Tate have got possession. Blackmore's name must be added to those of many others who, by the same attempt, have obtained only the praise of meaning well.


He was not yet deterred from heroic poetry. There was another monarch of this island, for he did not fetch his heroes from foreign countries, whom he considered as worthy of the epic muse; and he dignified Alfred, 1723, with twelve books. But the opinion of the nation was now settled; a hero introduced by Blackmore was not likely to find either respect or kindness ; Alfred took his place by Eliza in silence and darkness; benevolence was ashamed to favour, and malice was weary of insulting. Of his four epic poems, the first had such reputation and popularity as enraged the critics; the second was at least known enough to be ridiculed ; the two last had neither friends nor enemies.

Contempt is a kind of gangrene, which, if it seizes one part of a character, corrupts all the rest by degrees. Blackmore, being despised as a poet, was in time neglected as a physician ; his practice, which was once invidiously great, forsook him in the latter part of his life ; but being by nature, or by principle, averse from idleness, he employed his unwelcome leisure in writing books on physic, and teaching others-to cure those whom he could himself cure no longer. I know not whether I can enumerate all the treatises by which he has endeavoured to diffuse the art of healing; for there is scarcely any distemper, of dreadful name, which he has not taught the reader how to oppose. He has written on the smallpox, with a vehement invective against inoculation ; on consumptions, the spleen, the gout, the rheumatism, the king's evil, the dropsy, the jaundice, the stone, the diabetes, and the plague.

Of those books, if I had read them, it could not be expected that I should be able to give a critical account. I have been told that there is something in them of vexation and discontent, discovered by a perpetual attempt to degrade physic from its sublimity, and to represent it as attainable without much previous or concomitant learning. By the transient glances which I have thrown upon them, I have observed an affected contempt of the ancients, and a supercilious derision of transmitted knowledge. Of this indecent arrogance the following quotation from his preface to the treatise on the smallpox will afford a specimen; in which, when the reader finds, what I fear is true, that, when he was censuring Hippocrates, he did not know the difference

between aphorism and apophthegm, he will not pay much regard to his determinations concerning ancient learning.

“ As for his book of aphorisms, it is like my lord Bacon's of the same title, a book of jests, or a grave collection of trite and trifling observations; of which though many are true and certain, yet they signify nothing, and may afford diversion, but no instruction; most of them being much inferior to the sayings of the wise men of Greece, which yet are so low and mean, that we are entertained every day with more valuable sentiments at the table conversation of ingenious and learned men.”.

I am unwilling, however, to leave him in total disgrace, and will therefore quote from another preface a passage less


“ Some gentlemen have been disingenuous and unjust to me, by wresting and forcing my meaning, in the preface to another book, as if I condemned and exposed all learning, though they knew I declared that I greatly honoured and esteemed all men of superior literature and erudition ; and that I only undervalued false or superficial learning, that signifies nothing for the service of mankind; and that, as to physic, I expressly affirmed that learning must be joined with native genius to make a physician of the first rank; but if those talents are separated, I asserted, and do still insist, that a man of native sagacity and diligence will prove a more able and useful practiser than a heavy notional scholar, encumbered with a heap of confused ideas."

He was not only a poet and a physician, but produced likewise a work of a different kind, A true and impartial history of the conspiracy against king William, of glorious memory, in the year 1695. This I have never seen, but suppose it at least compiled with integrity. He engaged likewise in theological controversy, and wrote two books against the Arians ; Just Prejudices against the Arian Hypothesis ; and Modern Arians unmasked. Another of his works is Natural Theology, or Moral duties considered apart from positive ; with some observations on the desirableness and necessity of a supernatural revelation. This was the last book that he published. He left behind him The accomplished Preacher, or an Essay upon Divine Eloquence ; which was printed after his death by Mr. White, of Nayland in Essex, the minister who attended his deathbed, and testified the fervent piety of his last hours. He died on the eighth of October, 1729.

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