1787 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Hugh Blair

Robert Burns, Edinburgh Common-Place Book, 9 April 1787; Works, ed. Douglas (1877-79) 4:216-17.



With Dr. Blair I am more at my ease. I never respect him with humble veneration; but when he kindly interests himself in my welfare, or still more, when he descends from his pinnacle, and meets me on equal ground in conversation, my heart overflows with what is called "liking." — When he neglects me for the mere carcase of greatness, or when his eye measures the difference of our points of elevation, I say to myself, with scarcely any emotion, What do I care for him or his pomp either?

It is not easy forming an exact judgment of any one; but in my opinion Dr. Blair is merely an astonishing proof what industry and application can do. Natural parts like his are frequently to be met with; his vanity is proverbially known among his acquaintance, but he is justly at the head of what may be called fine writing; and a critic of the first, the very first, rank in prose; even in poetry, a bard of Nature's making can only take the "pas" of him. He has a heart, not of the very finest water, but far from being an ordinary one. In short, he is a truly worthy, and most respectable character