Blair, Hugh, Dd
Blair, Hugh, D.D., was born at Edinburgh April 7, 1718. After highly distinguishing himself at the University of Edinburgh, he was in 1742 made minister of Collesy in Fifeshire, and soon after of Canongate in Edinburgh. In 1758 he was appointed chief minister of the High Church in that city. In 1777 he published the first volume of his Sermons, which, while in MS., met with the approval of Dr. Johnson, and when published acquired an extraordinary popularity. Soon afterward the three following volumes appeared, though at different times. The success of these sermons was prodigious, and, except that their moral tone was felt to be an improvement upon the metaphysical disquisitions which in the way of sermons had preceded them, inexplicable. For the later volumes he was paid at the rate of £600 per vol. Numerous editions have been printed at London, in 5 vols. 8vo and 12mo. They have been translated into French (Lausanne, 1791, and Paris, another translation, 1807, 5 vols. 8vo), Dutch, German (by Sack and Schleiermacher, Leipz. 1781-1802, 5 vols.), Sclavonic, and Italian. Blair's Lectures on Rhetoric and the Belles Lettres, first published in 1783, attained the like undeserved celebrity. The Sermons appeared at a time when the elegant and polished style, which is their chief characteristic, was less common than at present; and to this merit, such as it is, they chiefly owed their success. They are still read by many people with pleasure, on account of their clear and easy style, and the vein of sensible though not very profound observation which runs through them; but they have no claim to be ranked among the best specimens of sermon-writing, while they are lamentably deficient in evangelical thought and feeling. The Lectures have not been less popular than the Sermons, and were long considered as a text-book for the student. They are, however, like the Sermons, feeble productions, and show neither depth of thought nor intimate acquaintance with the best writers, ancient and modern, nor do they develop and illustrate, as a general rule, any sound practical principles. Dr. Blair died Dec. 27, 1800.-Allibone, Dict. of Authors, i, 200.