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THOMAS BLACKLOCK, D. D.

So much has been said in praise of this excellent man by his numerous admirers, that a volume of the present size could not contain even their encomiums, much less a detailed account of his eventful life, together with the selections we wish to make from his writings. We purpose, therefore, to give, in this connection, only a few of the most interesting particulars of his life's history.

Rev. Dr. Blacklock was born at Annan, Dumfrieshire, Scotland, in 1721. His parents were of a highly respectable class, though in humble circumstances. His father was by trade a bricklayer. When but six months old, he was attacked by that most loathsome of all diseases, the small-pox, which entirely destroyed his sight. This misfortune, it was supposed, unfitted him for any of the mechanical pursuits, nor was it thought possible for him to attain any of the higher professions. His early education, however, was not entirely neglected. His father, to whom he so affectionately alludes in some of his poems, took great pleasure in reading for his sightless boy; at first such publications as were best calculated to amuse and in

struct him, and afterward such works as Allan Ramsay, Prior's Poems, and the Tattler, Spectator and Guardian. In this way, young Blacklock soon acquired a fondness for reading, and a love for poetry.

Quite early in life, Milton, Spenser, Pope and Addison were his favorite authors. At twelve years of age, he commenced writing verses in imitation of them. Some of these early productions, it is said, were not inferior to many of the premature compositions by schoolboys possessing the best advantages. At the early age of nineteen, his father was accidentally killed by the falling of a malt-kiln. The loss of parents, at any period of one's life, is a trying affliction; and it may well be supposed that the young poet felt his loss most deeply. The few hopes he had built upon his father's probable success in life, were suddenly destroyed. Thus deprived of the support on which his youth had leaned, and left in destitute circumstances, every bright prospect of future fame faded before him, leaving only clouds of despondency which, later in life, sometimes threw their dark shadows across his pathway. After this sad event, he lived about a year with his mother, and was considered, among his personal friends, a young man of uncommon ability.

His remarkable talents and poetical genius soon. attracted the notice of Dr. Stephenson, an eminent physician in Edinburgh, who came to Dumfries on a professional visit. In him, Blacklock found a warm friend and benefactor. This kind-hearted gentleman

placed him at a grammar school in the Scotch metropolis, and generously volunteered to defray the expenses of his education. Here he remained under the patronage of Dr. Stephenson, until 1745. He then returned to Dumfries, where he resided for some time with his brother-in-law, in whose house he was treated with kindness and affection.

In 1746, he published a small collection of his poems, at Glasgow. Shortly after, he returned to Edinburgh, and entered the University, where he pursued his studies for six years longer. He soon became master of Latin and Greek, and, it is said, could converse quite fluently in the French.

In 1754, he published at Edinburgh a second edition of his poems, greatly improved and enlarged, to which was prefixed an account of his life. This publication attracted the notice of Mr. Spence, Professor of Poetry at Oxford, who was first to call the attention of the public to the true native genius and high intellectual attainments of this blind student, and to his originality, as a poet. Through the influence of the celebrated David Hume, a warm friend and admirer of Blacklock, a third edition of his poems was published in London, in 1756, under the superintendence of Mr. Spence, together with an account of the author's life, and a very elaborate dissertation upon his character and superior merits.

About this time, he published at Edinburgh a pamphlet on Universal Etymology, or the Analysis of a Sentence.

During his course of study at the University, he acquired a knowledge of the various branches of philosophy and theology, nor was polite literature neglected by him. In 1757, he formed the design of establishing a school for the instruction of young men in oratory. But meeting with some discouragement from his friends, he abandoned the project, and commenced a thorough course of theological study, with the intention of going into the church; and was accordingly licensed, in 1759, by the presbytery of Dumfries, to preach the gospel. In 1760, he published an able sermon, on the Right Improvement of Time. "The sentiments it contains," says Mr. Wilson, "are just and solid, and the advice is calculated to be useful at all times, particularly in the the prospect of national danger or distress." In 1761, he published a lengthy discourse, on Faith, Hope, and Charity, in 8vo.

In 1762, he married Miss Sarah Johnston, of Dumfries, a lady of highly respectable parentage. Her fine talents and generous nature, (personal charms most attractive to the blind,) combined with a sweetness of temper, and true devotion to the interests of her husband, made her a companion worthy of his love and confidence, and a star in the evening of his life, whose mild face was never hid among clouds of disappointment. Shortly after this event, he was ordained minister of the church at Kirkcudbright, on the presentation of the Earl of Selkirk. But the people, on account of their prejudices toward one de

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prived of sight, refused to receive him as their spir itual guide. "Though undoubtedly blind enough themselves," says Mr. Bowen, "they did not like the idea of having a blind clergyman." After a legal dispute of nearly two years, he was at last induced to compromise the matter, by resigning his situation and receiving a small annuity instead.

A very interesting anecdote is related of him, which shows his mental anxiety at this time, and deserves a place in Dr. Abercrombie's chapter on Somnambulism. It occurred at an inn in Kirkcudbright. "Dr. Blacklock, one day, harassed by the censures of the populace, whereby not only his reputation, but his very existence was endangered, and fatigued with mental exertion, fell asleep after dinner. Some hours after, he was called upon by a friend, answered his salutation, and rose and went with him into the diningroom, where some of his companions were met. He joined with two of them in a concert, singing, as usual, with taste and elegance, without missing a note, or forgetting a word; he then went to supper, and drank a glass or two of wine. His friends, however, observed him to be a little absent and inattentive; by and by he began to speak to himself, but in so low and confused a manner as to be unintelligible. At last, being pretty forcibly roused, he awoke with a sudden start, unconscious of all that had happened, as, till then, he had continued fast asleep."

In 1764, he removed to Edinburgh, and opened a boarding-house for young men, whom he proposed to

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