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course of languages and philosophy. Besides, it appears by the following letter from the Rev. Richard Batty of Kirk Andrews, (whose wife was Blacklock's cousin,) to Sir James Johnson, Bart. of Westerhall, dated January 21, 1794, and printed in the Scottish Register, that he continued at the grammar school in Edinburgh, till the beginning of 1745.
“I had a letter some time ago from Mr. Hogan, at Comlongan, signifying that Lady Annandale had spoke to you about a bursary for one Thomas Blacklock, a blind boy, who is now at the grammar school in Edinburgh. He is endowed with the most surprising genius, and has been the author of a great many excellent poems. He has been hitherto supported by the bounty of Dr. Stephenson, a gentleman in Edinburgh. I understand that there will be a bursary vacant against Candlemas; if, therefore, you would please to favour him with your interest, it will be a great charity done to a poor lad, who may do a great deal of good in his generation."
The effect of this application is not known; but he seems to have continued his studies under the patronage of Dr. Stephenson, till the year 1745.
Of the kindness of Dr. Stephenson, he always spoke with the greatest warmth of gratitude and affection; and addressed to him his “Imitation of the first Ode of Horace.”
After he had followed his studies at Edinburgh for four years, on the breaking out of the Rebellion in 1745, he returned to Dumfries, where he resided with Mr. McMurdo, his brother-in-law, in whose house he was treated with kindness and affection; and had
an opportunity, from the society which it afforded, of considerably increasing the store of his ideas. In 1746, he published a small collection of his poems, at Glasgow.
After the close of the Rebellion, and the complete restoration of the peace of the country, he returned to Edinburgh, and pursued his studies there for six years longer.
In 1754, he published at Edinburgh a second edition of his poems, very much improved and enlarged, in 8vo, to which was prefixed, an Account of his Life, in a letter to the publisher," from Mr. Gordon of Dumfries. On the title page he is designated "student of philosophy in the university of Edinburgh;" so that he was not then, as Mr. Mackenzie supposes, "enrolled a student of Divinity."
This publication attracted the attention of Mr. Spence, the patron of Dodsley, Duck, and Richardson, and of other persons of indigent and uncultivated genius, who conceived a great regard for Blacklock, and formed the benevolent design of recommending him to the patronage of persons in affluence or power, by writing a very elaborate and ingenious “ Account of his Life, Character, and Poems,” which he published in London, in 8vo. 1754.
During his last residence in Edinburgh, among other literary acquaintance, he obtained that of the celebrated David Hume, who, with that humanity and benevolence for wbich he was distinguished, attached himself warmly to Blacklock's interests. He wrote a letter to Dodsley, March 12, 1754, containing a very favourable representation of the "goodness of his disposition, and the beauty of his genius," which contributed to promote the subscription for an edition of his poems, in 4to, which was published in London in 1756, under the superintendance of Mr. Spence, together with his “ Account of the life, Character, and Poems of Mr. Blacklock," which had been printed separately in 1754. He testified his obligations to Mr. Spence, to whom he was personally unknown, in an epistle written at Dumfries in 1759.
In the course of his education at Edinburgh, he acquired a proficiency in the learned languages, and became more a master of the French tongue than was common there, from the social intercourse to which he had the good fortune to be admitted in the house of Provost Alexander, who had married a native of France.
At the university he obtained a knowledge of the various branches of philosophy and theology, to which his course of study naturally led; and acquired at the same time a considerable fund of learning and information in those departments of science and belles lettres, from which his loss of sight did not absolutely preclude him. In 1756, he published at Edinburgh, "an Essay towards Universal Etymology, or the Analysis of a Sentence,” in 8vo.
In this pamphlet, the general principles of grammar, and the definitions of the several parts of speech are given in verse; and illustrations in the form of notes constituting the greatest part of it, are added in prose. The notes and illustrations are concise, but judicious; the verses are not remarkable for learning or poetical embellishment; the subject did not allow it; the concluding lines, however, on the advantages
grammar, are in a style more worthy of Blacklock.
In 1757, he began a course of study, with a view to give lectures on Oratory to young gentlemen intended for the bar or the pulpit. On this occasion, he wrote to Mr. Hume, informed him of his plan, and requested his assistance in the prosecution of it. But Mr. Hume doubting the probability of its success, he abandoned the project; and then adopted the decided intention of going into the church.
After applying closely for a considerable time to the study of theology, he passed the usual trials in the presbytery of Dumfries; and was, by that presbytery, licensed a preacher of the gospel in 1759.
As a preacher, he obtained high reputation, and was fond of composing sermons. In 1760, when the nation was alarmed by a threatened invasion from the French, he published “The Right Improvement of Time," a sermon, 8vo. He seems to have imbibed pretty deeply the apprehensions of his countrymen. The sentiments it contains are just and solid; and the advice is calculated to be useful at all times, particularly in the prospect of national danger or distress.
The same year he contributed several poetical pieces to the first volume of Donaldson's "Collection of Original Poems, by Scotch gentlemen," 12mo.
Mrs. Blacklock ascribes the “Epistle on Taste," printed in this volume as Mr. Gordon's, to Blacklock, excepting the lines relating to himself.
In 1761, he published “Faith, Hope, and Charity compared," a sermon, 8vo. Though this cannot be called a first rate performance, it abounds with just and elegant remarks, and his favourite topic of charity, is agreeably and forcibly illustrated.
In 1762, he married Miss Sarah Johnston, daughter of Mr. Joseph Johnston, surgeon, in Dumfries, a man of eminence in his profession, and of a character highly respected; a connection which formed the great solace and blessing of his future life, and gave him, with all the tenderness of a wife, all the zealous care of a guide and friend. This event took place a few days before his being ordained minister of Kirkcudbright, in consequence of a presentation from the crown, obtained for him by the Earl of Selkirk, a benevolent nobleman, whom Blacklock's situation and genius had interested in his behalf. But the inhabitants of the parish, whether from an aversion to patronage, so prevalent among the lower ranks in North Britain; or from some political disputes which at that time subsisted between them and Lord Selkirk; or from those prejudices which some of them might naturally entertain against a person deprived of sight; or perhaps from all those causes united, were so extremely disinclined to receive him as their minister, that, after a legal dispute of nearly two years, it was thought expedient by his friends, as it had always been wished by himself, to compromise the matter, by resigning his right to the living, and accepting a moderate annuity in its stead.
The following anecdote of Blacklock is mentioned in Dr. Cleghorn's “Thesis de Somno.” It happened at the inn in Kirkcudbright, on the day of his ordination, and is authenticated by the testimony of Mrs. Black