1761 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Blacklock

Anonymous, "Debates at Kirkcudbright concerning Mr. Blacklock, as being Blind" Edinburgh Magazine 5 (June 1761) 327-28.



The borough and parish of Kirkcudbright. A presentation was obtained from the crown to this benefice, by the recommendation of the Earl of Selkirk, in favours of Mr. Thomas Blacklock probationer, the celebrated poet, licensed to preach by the presbytery of Dumfries in 1758. This settlement was opposed by the town council, and a considerable number of the elders, heretors, &c. solely on account of being blind. With this view they wrote him a letter, June 18, 1761, expressive of all due respect to himself, and sympathy for his unfortunate situation, but intimating that they could not think him a fit person to undertake the pastoral charge of their town and parish. This letter they sent by a deputation of their number; to which they received the following letter, dated June 24.

"Gentlemen,

Your information that I am the person proposed as a successor to the late Rev. Mr. Garthshore in the parish of Kirkcudbright, is true; and permit me to add, that before the arrival of yours, a presentation from the crown to that charge had been formally accepted by me. Had the dissuasive contained in your letter, or the arguments used by the gentlemen whom you deputed, appeared solid and conclusive, they might have found a different reception, and produced different effects; but, as far as a man can be thought to judge disinterestedly where he himself is concerned, these objections neither appeared of any weight against my assuming the pastoral character in general, nor against accepting of the parish of Kirkcudbright in particular. I am extremely sensible of that sympathy and regret which you express, for an infirmity, not inflected on me for the crimes of my ancestors, not the result of any bad conduct in myself, but my misfortune, and mine alone. How far that incapacitates or leave me qualified for the pastoral office, if the considerations which common sense and humanity suggest are not heard, time and experience can alone determine; mean while, if I would be useful to mankind in general, if I would endeavour to exert my being and its advantages to the glory of that God, who gave them every principle of honour, duty, and conscience, appear to dictate the sentiments and measures which I have embraced in accepting the presentation; and, from principles like these, it may be expected, that every man of resolution will act determinately, I heartily pray the people who form this opposition, if they are to oppose, may be conducted and animated by such motives as will support them in that day when all our principles, and all our behaviour, will obtain their true character and real estimate. From the genteel and moderate deportment of the gentlemen of your deputation, it is fairly and naturally presumed, you will act a part becoming men and christians. With the most cordial wishes to your welfare in this world, and your salvation in the next, I am, &c."

This affair was brought before the presbytery of Kirkcudbright, who "referred the objection taken from Mr. Blacklock's blindness, as the thing seemed quite new and unprecedented, to the synod of Galloway;" and the synod remitted it to the general assembly.