1803 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Hugh Blair

Alexander Carlyle, 1803 ca.; in Autobiography of Dr. Alexander Carlyle (1910) 305-06.



Dr. Blair was a different kind of man from Robertson, and his character is very justly delineated b Dr. Finlayson, so far as he goes. Robertson was most sagacious, Blair was most naif. Neither of them could be said to have either wit or humour. Of the latter Robertson had a small tincture — Blair had hardly a relish for it. Robertson had a bold and ambitious mind, and a strong desire to make himself considerable; Blair was timid and unambitious, and withheld himself from public business of every kind, and seemed to have no wish but to be admired as a preacher, particularly by the ladies. His conversation was so infantine that many people thought it impossible, at first sight, that he could be a man of sense or genius. He was as eager about a new paper to his wife's drawing-rooming, or his new wig, as about a new tragedy or a new epic poem. Not long before his death I called upon him, when I found him restless and fidgety. "What is the matter with you to-day," says I, "my good friend — are you well?" "Oh yes, says he, "but I must dress myself, for the Duchess of Leinster has ordered her granddaughters not to leave Scotland without seeing me." "Go and dress yourself, Doctor, and I shall read this novel; for I am resolved to see the Duchess of Leinster's granddaughters, for I knew their father and grandfather." This being settled, the young ladies, with their governess, arrived at one, and turned out poor little girls of twelve and thirteen, who could hardly be supposed to carry a well-turned compliment which the Doctor gave them in charge to their grandmother.