1860 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Richard Blackmore

George Gilfillan, in Specimens with Memoirs of the less-known British Poets (1860) 3:21-22.



Our next name is that of one who, like the former, was a knight, a physician, and (in a manner) a poet. Blackmore was the son of Robert Blackmore of Corsham, in Wiltshire, who is styled by Wood gentleman, and is believed to have been an attorney. He took his degree of M.A. at Oxford, in June 1676. He afterwards travelled, was made Doctor of Physic at Padua, and, when he returned home, began to practise in London with great success. In 1695, he tried his hand at poetry, producing an epic entitled King Arthur, which was followed by a series on King Alfred, Queen Elizabeth, Redemption, The Creation, &c. Some of these productions were popular; one, The Creation, has been highly praised by Dr. Johnson; but most of them were heavy. Matthew Henry has preserved portions in his valuable Commentary. Blackmore, a man of excellent character and of extensive medical practice, was yet the laughingstock of the wits, perhaps as much for his piety as for his prosiness. Old, rich, and highly respected, he died on the 8th of October 1729, while some of his poetic persecutors came to a disgraceful or an early end.

We quote the satire of John Gay, as one of the cleverest and best conditioned, although one of the coarsest of the attacks made on poor Sir Richard:—

VERSES TO BE PLACED UNDER THE PICTURE OF SIR R. BLACKMORE, CONTAINING A COMPLETE CATALOGUE OF HIS WORKS.
See who ne'er was, nor will be half read,
Who first sang Arthur, then sang Alfred;
Praised great Eliza in God's anger,
Till all true Englishmen cried, Hang her;
Mauled human wit in one thick satire,
Next in three books spoiled human nature;
Undid Creation at a jerk,
And of Redemption made — work;
Then took his Muse at once, and dipt her
Full in the middle of the Scripture;
What wonders there the man grown old did,
Sternhold himself he out Sternholded;
Made David seem so mad and freakish,
All thought him just what thought King Achish;
No mortal read his Solomon
But judged Reboam his own son;
Moses he served as Moses Pharaoh,
And Deborah as she Sisera;
Made Jeremy full sore to cry,
And Job himself curse God and die.

What punishment all this must follow?
Shall Arthur use him like King Tollo?
Shall David as Uriah slay him?
Or dext'rous Deborah Sisera him?
Or shall Eliza lay a plot
To treat him like her sister Scot?
No, none of these; Heaven save his life,
But send him, honest Job, thy wife!