1844 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Richard Blackmore

Robert Chambers, in Cyclopaedia of English Literature (1844; 1850) 1:568.



SIR RICHARD BLACKMORE was one of the most fortunate physicians, and the most persecuted poets, of this period. He was horn of a good family in Wiltshire, and took the degree of M.A. at Oxford in 1676. He was in extensive medical practice, was knighted by King William III., and afterwards made censor of the college of physicians. In 1695, he published Prince Arthur, an epic poem, which he says he wrote amidst the duties of his profession, in coffeehouses, or in passing up and down the streets! Dryden, whom he had attacked for licentiousness, satirised him for writing "to the rumbling of his chariot-wheels." Blackmore continued writing, and published a series of epic poems on King Alfred, Queen Elizabeth, the Redeemer, the Creation, &c. All have sunk into oblivion; but Pope has preserved his memory in various satirical allusions. Addison extended his friendship to the Whig poet, whose private character was exemplary and irreproachable. Dr Johnson included Blackmore in his edition of the poets, but restricted his publication of his works to the poem of "Creation," which, he said, "wants neither harmony of numbers, accuracy of thought, nor elegance of diction." Blackmore died in 1729. The design of "Creation" was to demonstrate the existence of a Divine Eternal Mind. He recites the proofs of a Deity from natural and physical phenomena, and afterwards reviews the systems of the Epicureans and the Fatalists, concluding with a hymn to the Creator of the world. The piety of Blackmore is everywhere apparent in his writings; but the genius of poetry too often evaporates amidst his commonplace illustrations and prosing declamation.