The son of a merchant, Hugh Blair attended Edinburgh University (M.A. 1739). Already a noted preacher, he delivered his lectures on composition under the patronage of Lord Kames, leading to his appointment as the first occupant of the chair of rhetoric and belles lettres at Edinburgh in 1762. Blair was a friend of David Hume, Alexander Carlyle, Adam Ferguson, Adam Smith, William Robertson — and James Macpherson, for whom he published A Dissertation on Ossian in 1763. His sermons were praised by Samuel Johnson and won the author a royal pension in 1780.
A poem sacred to the memory of James Smith. 1736.
Dissertatio philosophica inauguralis, de fundamentis & obligatione legis naturae. 1739.
The works of Shakespear, in which the beauties observed by Pope, Warburton, and Dodd are pointed out. 8 vols, 1761.
A critical dissertation on the poems of Ossian. 1763.
Sermons. 5 vols, 1777-1801.
Lectures on rhetoric and belles lettres. 2 vols, 1783.
Sermons, with a life by James Finlayson. 1803.