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repugnant coalitions of so high a degree are found but in a part of mankind
yet none of the whole mass, either good or bad, are intirely exempted " from some absurd mixture.”
He about this time (Aug. 22, 1716) became one of the Elects of the College of Physicians; and was soon after (Oct. 1.) chosen Censor. He seems to have arrived late, whatever was the reason, at his medical honours.
Having succeeded so well in his book on Creation, by which he established the great principle of all Religion, he thought his undertaking imperfect, unless he likewise enforced the truth of Revelation ; and for that purpose added another poem on Redemption. He had likewise written, before his Creation, three books on the Nature of Man.
The lovers of musical devotion have always wished for a more happy metrical version than they have yet obtained of the book of Psalms: this wish the piety of Blackmore led him to gratify ; and he produced (1721) a new Version of the Psalms of David, fitted to the Tunes used in Churches ; which, being recommended by the archbishops and many bishops, obtained a licence for its admission into publick worship; but no admission has it yet obtained, nor has it any right to come where Brady and Tate have got possession. Blackmore's name must be added to those of many others, who, by the same attempt, have obtained only the praise of meaning well.
He was not yet deterred from heroick poetry ; there was another monarch of this island, for he did not fetch his herces from foreign countries, whom he considered as worthy of the Epic muse, and he dignified Alfred (1723) with twelve books. But the opinion of the nation was now settled ; a hero introduced by Blackmore was not likely to find either respect or kindness; Alfred took his place by Elize in silence and darkness : benevolence was ashamed to favour, and malice was weary of insulting. Of his four Epic Poems, the first had such reputation and popularity as enraged the criticks; the second was at least known enough to be ridiculed ; the two laet had neither friends nor enemies.
Contempt is a kind of gangrene, which if it seizes one part of a character corrupts all the rest by degrees. Blackmore, being despised as a poet, was in time neglected as a physician ; his practice, which was once invidiously great, forsook him in the latter part of his life ; but being by nature, or by principle, averse from idleness, he employed his unwelcome leisure in writing books on physick, and teaching others to cure those whom he could himself cure no longer. I know not whether I can enumerate all the treatises by which he has endeavoured to diffuse the art of healing ; for there is scarcely any distemper, of dreadful name, which he has not taught the reader how to oppose. He has written on the small-pox, with a vehe
ment invective against inoculation ; on consumptions, the spleen, the gouts the rheumatism, the king's-evil, the dropsy, the jaundice, the stone, the diabetes, and the plague.
Of those books, if I had read them, it could not be expected that I should be able to give a critical account. I have been told that there is something in them of vexation and discontent, discovered by a perpetual attempt to degrade physick from its sublimity, and to represent it as attainable without much previous or concomitant learning. By the transient glances which I have thrown upon them, I have observed an affected contempt of the Ancients, and a supercilious derision of transmitted knowledge. Of this indecent arrogance the following quotation from his preface to the Treatise on the Small-pox will afford a specimen : in which, when the reader finds, what I fear is true, that when he was censuring Hippocrates he did not know the difference between aphorism and apophthegm, he will not pay much regard to his determinations concerning ancient learning.
“ As for this book of Aphorisms, it is like my lord Bacon's of the same " title, a book of jests, or a grave collection of trite and trifling observati“ ons; of which though many are true and certain, yet they signify no“ thing, and may afford diversion, but no instruction ; most of them being “ much inferior to the sayings of the wise men of Greece, which yet are so “ low and mean, that we are entertained every day with more valuable sen“ timents at the table conversation of ingenious and learned men.
I am unwilling, however, to leave him in total disgrace, and will thereføre quote from another Preface a passage less reprehensible.
“ Some gentlemen have been disingenuous and unjust to me, by wresting “ and forcing my meaning in the Preface to another book, as if I con“ demned and exposed all learning, though they knew I declared that I “ greatly honoured and esteemed all men of superior literature and erudi“ tion; and that I only undervalued false or superficial learning, that sig“ nifies nothing for the service of mankind; and that, as to physick, I ex
pressly affirmed that learning must be joined with native genius to make
a physician of the first rank; but if those talents are separated, I asserted, “ and do still insist, that a man of native sagacity and diligence will
prove a more able and useful practiser, than a heavy notional scholar, encumbered “ with a heap of confused ideas.”
He was not only a poet and a physician, but produced likewise a work of a different kind, A true and impartial History of the Conspiracy against King William of glorious Memory, in the year 1695. This I have never seen, but suppose it at least compiled with integrity. He engaged likewise in theological controversy, and wrote two books against the Arians; Just Prejudices against the Arian Hypothesis ; and Modern Arians unmashed. Another of his works is Natural Theology or Moral Duties considered a part from Positive;
with some Observations on the Desirableness and Necessity of a supernatural Revelution. This was the last book that he published. He left behind him The accomplished Preacher, or an Essay upon Divine Eloquence; which was printe after his death by Mr. Wliite of Nayland in Essex, the minister who attended lais death-będ, and testified the fervent piety of his fast hours. He died on the eighth of October, 1729.
BLACKMORE, by the unremitted enmity of the wits, whom he provoked more by his virtue than his dullness, has been exposed to worse treatment than he deserved; his name was so long used to point every epigram upon duil writers, that it became at last a bye-word of contempt; but ît deserves observation, that malignity takes hold only of his writings, and that his life passed without reproach, even when his boldness of reprehension naturally turned upon him many eyes desirous to espy faults, which many tongues would have made haste to publish. But those who could not blame, could at least forbear to praise, and therefore of his private life and domestici charactér there are no memorials.
As an author he may justly claim the honours of magnanimity. The incessant attacks of his enemies, whether serious or merry, are never discovered to have disturbed his quiet, or to have lessened his confidence in himselí :: they neither awaked him to silence nor to caution; they neither provoke him to petulance, nor depressed him to complaint. While the distributors of literary fame were endeavouring to depreciate and degrade him, he either despised or defied theu, wrote on as he had written before, and never turned aside to quiet them by civility, or repress them by confutation.
He depended with great security on his own powers, and perhaps was for that reason less diligent in perusing books. His literature was, I think, bit small. What he knew of antiquity, I suspect him to have gathered from modern compilers: but, though he could not boast of much critical knowledge, his mind was stored with general principles, and he left minute researches to those whom he considered as little minds.
With this disposition he wrote most of his poems. Having formed a magnificent design, he was careless of particular and subordinate elegancies; to studied no niceries of versification; he waited for no felicities of fancy ; bus caught his first thoughts in his first words in which they were presented: no: does it appear that he saw beyond his own performances, or had e.cc elevaied his ideas to that ideal perfection, which every genius born to excel is condemned always to pursue, and never overtake. In the fusi suggestions of his imagination he acquiesced; he thought them good, anc did not seck for better. His works may be icad a long time without the occurrence of a single line that stands prominent from the rest.
The poem on Creation has, however, the appearance of more circumspec tion; it wants neither harmony of numbers, accuracy of thought, nor ela gance of diction: it has either been written with great care, or, what canno
be imagined of so long a work, with such felicity as made care less necessary.
Its two constituent parts are ratiocination and description. To reason in verse, is allowed to be difficult; but Blackmore not only reasons in verse, but very often reasons poetically: and finds the art of uniting ornament with strength, and ease with closeness. This is a skill which Pope might have condescended to learn from him, when he needed it so much in his Moral Essays.
In his description both of life and nature, the poet and the philosopher happily co-operate; truth is recommended by elegance, and elegance sustained by truth.
In the structure and order of the poem, not only, the greater parts are properly consecutive, but the didactick and illustrative paragraphs are so happily mingled, that labour is relieved by pleasure, and the attention is led on through a long succession of varied excellence to the original position, the fundamental principle of wisdom and of virtue.
As the heroick poems of Blackmore are now little read, it is thought proper to insert, as a specimen from Prince Arthur, the song of Mopas mentioned by Molineux.
But that which Arthur with most pleasure heard,
How part is spun in silken threads, and clings
He sung how earth's wide ball, at Jove's command,
the genial warmth in Summer storms