1862 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Richard Blackmore

Thomas Arnold, in A Manual of English Literature (1862; 1885) 360-61.



Sir Richard Blackmore was another patriotic poet. He was the city physician, and was knighted by King William.

Blackmore has met, chiefly from his own faults, with harder measure than he deserves. The sarcasms of Pope and Dryden raise the impression that Blackmore can never have written anything hut what was lumbering, inane, and in the worst possible taste. Yet let anyone, without prejudice, take up The Creation, and read a couple of hundred lines, and he will probably own that it is a very different sort of poem from what he had expected. It is by no means dull, or heavy, or soporific; the lines spin along with great fluency and animation, though not exactly sparkling as they go. The plan is thoroughly conceived and digested, and the argument ably and lucidly, if not always cogently, sustained. But Blackmore was ruined, as a literary man, by his enormous self-confidence and utter want of measure or judgment. He attacked with indiscriminating fury the atheists, free-thinkers, wits, and critics of his day, as if these names were interchangeable; and naturally he met with no mercy from the two last. The characters of staunch Whig and somewhat narrow pietist are blended in him in the oddest manner. His lack of judgment is illustrated by his continuing to write and publish epic poems (Eliza, Alfred, Prince Arthur, &c.) long after the world had ceased to read them. Yet it would be unjust to judge by these of The Creatiom (1712), respecting which Addison's eulogy, though it gives all the lights without the shadows, is not so entirely extravagant as it seems at first reading.