Richard Blackmore

Richard Blackmore

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Sir Richard Blackmore (22 January 1654 – 9 October 1729), English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

 and physician
Physician
A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

, is remembered primarily as the object of satire
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 and as an example of a dull poet. He was, however, a respected physician and religious writer.

He was born at Corsham, in Wiltshire
Wiltshire
Wiltshire is a ceremonial county in South West England. It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. It contains the unitary authority of Swindon and covers...

, the son of a wealthy attorney
Lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

. He was educated at Westminster School
Westminster School
The Royal College of St. Peter in Westminster, almost always known as Westminster School, is one of Britain's leading independent schools, with the highest Oxford and Cambridge acceptance rate of any secondary school or college in Britain...

 very briefly, and he entered St Edmund Hall, Oxford
St Edmund Hall, Oxford
St Edmund Hall is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. Better known within the University by its nickname, "Teddy Hall", the college has a claim to being "the oldest academical society for the education of undergraduates in any university"...

 in 1669. He received his Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 in 1674 and his MA
Master's degree
A master's is an academic degree granted to individuals who have undergone study demonstrating a mastery or high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice...

 in 1676. He was a tutor at the college for a time, but in 1682 he received his inheritance from his father. He used the money to travel. He went to France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

, and various places in Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. He stayed for a while in Padua
Padua
Padua is a city and comune in the Veneto, northern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Padua and the economic and communications hub of the area. Padua's population is 212,500 . The city is sometimes included, with Venice and Treviso, in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area, having...

 and graduated in medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

 at Padua
University of Padua
The University of Padua is a premier Italian university located in the city of Padua, Italy. The University of Padua was founded in 1222 as a school of law and was one of the most prominent universities in early modern Europe. It is among the earliest universities of the world and the second...

. Blackmore returned to England via Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 and Holland, and then he set up as a physician. In 1685 he married Mary Adams, whose family connections aiding him in winning a place in the Royal College of Physicians
Royal College of Physicians
The Royal College of Physicians of London was founded in 1518 as the College of Physicians by royal charter of King Henry VIII in 1518 - the first medical institution in England to receive a royal charter...

 in 1687. He had trouble with the College, being censured for taking leave without permission, and he strongly opposed the project for setting up a free dispensary
Dispensary
A dispensary is an office in a school, hospital or other organization that dispenses medications and medical supplies. In a traditional dispensary set-up a pharmacist dispenses medication as per prescription or order form....

 for the poor in London. This opposition would be satirised by Sir Samuel Garth
Samuel Garth
Sir Samuel Garth FRS was an English physician and poet.Garth was born in Bolam in County Durham and matriculated at Peterhouse, Cambridge in 1676, graduating B.A. in 1679 and...

 in The Dispensary in 1699.

Blackmore the epic poet


Blackmore had a passion for writing epics
Epic poetry
An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Oral poetry may qualify as an epic, and Albert Lord and Milman Parry have argued that classical epics were fundamentally an oral poetic form...

. Prince Arthur, an Heroick Poem in X Books appeared in 1695. He supported the Glorious Revolution
Glorious Revolution
The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, is the overthrow of King James II of England by a union of English Parliamentarians with the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau...

, and Prince Arthur was a celebration of William III
William III of England
William III & II was a sovereign Prince of Orange of the House of Orange-Nassau by birth. From 1672 he governed as Stadtholder William III of Orange over Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel of the Dutch Republic. From 1689 he reigned as William III over England and Ireland...

. The poem was based on the form of Virgil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

's The Aeneid and the subject matter of Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth was a cleric and one of the major figures in the development of British historiography and the popularity of tales of King Arthur...

's Historia Regum Britanniae
Historia Regum Britanniae
The Historia Regum Britanniae is a pseudohistorical account of British history, written c. 1136 by Geoffrey of Monmouth. It chronicles the lives of the kings of the Britons in a chronological narrative spanning a time of two thousand years, beginning with the Trojans founding the British nation...

. It told of the Celtic King Arthur
King Arthur
King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

 opposing the invading Saxons and taking London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, which was a transparent encoding of William III opposing the "Saxon" James II
James II of England
James II & VII was King of England and King of Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685. He was the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland...

 and taking London. John Dennis derided the poem as being "servile" in its treatment of Geoffrey of Monmouth and having an inconsequential and fearful hero. Nevertheless, it went through three editions and William made Blackmore physician-in-ordinary (a position he would hold with Queen Anne
Anne of Great Britain
Anne ascended the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland on 8 March 1702. On 1 May 1707, under the Act of Union, two of her realms, England and Scotland, were united as a single sovereign state, the Kingdom of Great Britain.Anne's Catholic father, James II and VII, was deposed during the...

 as well), gave him a gold medal, and knighted him in 1697. William also assigned Blackmore the task of writing the official treatment of the plot of Sir George Barclay, who sought to kill William (not appearing until 1723, as A true and impartial history of the conspiracy against the person and government of King William III, of glorious memory, in the year 1695). In 1697, Blackmore followed that with King Arthur: an Heroic Poem in Twelve Books. Like its predecessor, it was a treatment of current events in ancient garb, but, this time, the public and court were less interested and the matter less interesting. Additionally, Blackmore took John Milton
John Milton
John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell...

 as his model, rather than Virgil, and he admitted in his preface that his previous book had been too adherent to the Classical unities
Classical unities
The classical unities, Aristotelian unities or three unities are rules for drama derived from a passage in Aristotle's Poetics. In their neoclassical form they are as follows:...

.

Having used his epics to fight political battles, albeit safe ones at first, Blackmore was opposed by wits of the other camp, especially as time went on. William Garth attacked Blackmore's stance on the dispensary, only to be answered by Blackmore with A Satyr against Wit (1700). Tom Brown
Tom Brown (satirist)
Tom Brown was an English translator and writer of satire, largely forgotten today save for a four-line gibe he wrote concerning Dr John Fell....

 led a consortium of wits in Commendatory Verses, on the Author of the Two Arthurs, and a Satyr against Wit (1700). Blackmore had not only been explicitly partisan in his epics, but he had announced that epic was necessary to counter the degeneracy of poetry written by wits. Having answered Garth in 1700, he did not answer Brown. However, John Dryden
John Dryden
John Dryden was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden.Walter Scott called him "Glorious John." He was made Poet...

 accused Blackmore of plagiarizing the idea of an epic on Arthur from him and called him a "Pedant, Canting Preacher, and a Quack" whose poetry had the rhythm of wagon wheels because Blackmore wrote in hackney cabs on his way between patients (prologue to The Pilgrim (1700)).

In 1705, with Anne on the throne and William dead, Blackmore wrote another epic, Eliza: an Epic Poem in Ten Books, on the plot by Rodrigo Lopez
Rodrigo Lopez (physician)
Rodrigo Lopez was physician to Queen Elizabeth, and may have been an inspiration for Shakespeare's Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.He was born in Crato, Portugal and raised as a New Christian...

, the Portuguese
Portuguese people
The Portuguese are a nation and ethnic group native to the country of Portugal, in the west of the Iberian peninsula of south-west Europe. Their language is Portuguese, and Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion....

 physician, against Queen Elizabeth
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

. Once more, the "epic" was current events, as it meant to denounce John Radcliffe, a Jacobite
Jacobitism
Jacobitism was the political movement in Britain dedicated to the restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England, Scotland, later the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the Kingdom of Ireland...

 physician who was out of favor with Anne. Anne did not appear to take sufficient notice of the epic, but Sarah Churchill
Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough
Sarah Churchill , Duchess of Marlborough rose to be one of the most influential women in British history as a result of her close friendship with Queen Anne of Great Britain.Sarah's friendship and influence with Princess Anne was widely known, and leading public figures...

 did. Two occasional pieces followed: An advice to the poets: a poem occasioned by the wonderful success of her majesty's arms, under the conduct of the duke of Marlborough in Flanders (1706) and Instructions to Vander Beck (1709). These courted favor with the Duke of Marlborough
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, Prince of Mindelheim, KG, PC , was an English soldier and statesman whose career spanned the reigns of five monarchs through the late 17th and early 18th centuries...

 with some success.

In 1711, Blackmore produced The Nature of Man, a physiological/theological
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 poem on climate and character (with the English climate being the best). This was a tune up for Creation: A Philosophical Poem in 1712, which was praised by John Dennis, Joseph Addison
Joseph Addison
Joseph Addison was an English essayist, poet, playwright and politician. He was a man of letters, eldest son of Lancelot Addison...

, and, later, Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...

, for its Miltonic tone. It ran to 16 editions, and of all his epics it was best received. Its design was to refute the atheism
Atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

 of Vanini
Lucilio Vanini
Lucilio Vanini was an Italian free-thinker, who in his works styled himself Giulio Cesare Vanini.He was born at Taurisano, near Lecce, and studied philosophy and theology at Rome. After his return to Lecce he applied himself to the physical studies which had come into vogue with the Renaissance....

, Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

 and (supposedly) Spinoza
Baruch Spinoza
Baruch de Spinoza and later Benedict de Spinoza was a Dutch Jewish philosopher. Revealing considerable scientific aptitude, the breadth and importance of Spinoza's work was not fully realized until years after his death...

, and to unfold the intellectual philosophy of Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

. Johnson thought that it would be the sole memory of Blackmore, and Dennis said that it was the English De Rerum Natura
On the Nature of Things
De rerum natura is a 1st century BC didactic poem by the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius with the goal of explaining Epicurean philosophy to a Roman audience. The poem, written in some 7,400 dactylic hexameters, is divided into six untitled books, and explores Epicurean physics through richly...

,
but with infinitely better reasoning.

Blackmore ceased writing epics for a time after Creation. In 1722 he continued his religious themes with Redemption, an epic on the divinity of Jesus Christ designed to oppose and confute the Arians
Arianism
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

 (as he called the Unitarians
Unitarianism
Unitarianism is a Christian theological movement, named for its understanding of God as one person, in direct contrast to Trinitarianism which defines God as three persons coexisting consubstantially as one in being....

). The next year, he released another long epic, Alfred. The poem was ostensibly about King Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great was King of Wessex from 871 to 899.Alfred is noted for his defence of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of southern England against the Vikings, becoming the only English monarch still to be accorded the epithet "the Great". Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself...

, but like his earlier Arthurian epics, this one was political. It was dedicated to Prince Frederick
Frederick, Prince of Wales
Frederick, Prince of Wales was a member of the House of Hanover and therefore of the Hanoverian and later British Royal Family, the eldest son of George II and father of George III, as well as the great-grandfather of Queen Victoria...

, the eldest son of King George I
George I of Great Britain
George I was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1 August 1714 until his death, and ruler of the Duchy and Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg in the Holy Roman Empire from 1698....

, but the poem vanished without causing any comment from court or town.

While others approached the epic as a celebration of national origins (Dryden, for example) or sought in it the most lofty subject matter possible (as Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser
Edmund Spenser was an English poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is recognised as one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy, and one of the greatest poets in the English...

 and John Milton had done), Blackmore argued that the form of the epic would "reform" poetry, that it would cease the cavils of wits and the sexuality of rake
Rake
Rake may refer to:* Rake , a horticultural implement, a long-handled tool with tines* Rake or hay rake, a farm implement* Rake or castor angle – various fork offset angles in bicycle and motorcycle geometry...

s. Further, while proclaiming his intention of reforming poetry itself, he used his epics quite often to achieve political, and personal, goals.

Non-epic writing


Blackmore was a religious author when he was not a political author. In 1713 he and his friend John Hughes began a periodical modelled on The Spectator
The Spectator
The Spectator is a weekly British magazine first published on 6 July 1828. It is currently owned by David and Frederick Barclay, who also owns The Daily Telegraph. Its principal subject areas are politics and culture...

entitled The Lay Monk. It only ran from 13 November 1713 to 15 February 1714 and appeared once every three weeks during that period. All the same, Blackmore had its issues collected and published as The Lay Monastery in the year the journal foundered.

In 1716, he became censor as well as a director of the College of Physicians, but the Hanoverians
House of Hanover
The House of Hanover is a deposed German royal dynasty which has ruled the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg , the Kingdom of Hanover, the Kingdom of Great Britain, the Kingdom of Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

 were not as taken with Blackmore as William or Anne had been. In that year, he had two volumes of Essays upon Several Subjects published, with an attack on Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

 in the second volume. In 1718, he again went to press with A Collection of Poems on Various Subjects, which collected shorter poems that had already been published.

Blackmore was very concerned with Protestantism
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

. He joined the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in America in 1704. He wrote Just Prejudices against the Arian Hypothesis, putatively against Deism
Deism
Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

 and Unitarianism in 1721 and then, to help matters, wrote Modern Arians Unmasked in the same year. He also produced A New Version of the Psalms of David in 1721 and tried to get the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 to accept them as canonical translations. The next year, he resigned his governing position in the College of Physicians, and he also continued his campaign against supposed Arians with Redemption. In 1724, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel was set to publish Blackmore's Psalms as official for America, but the Bishop of London
Bishop of London
The Bishop of London is the ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of London in the Province of Canterbury.The diocese covers 458 km² of 17 boroughs of Greater London north of the River Thames and a small part of the County of Surrey...

, Edmund Gibson
Edmund Gibson
Edmund Gibson was a British divine and jurist.-Early life and career:He was born in Bampton, Westmorland. In 1686 he was entered a scholar at Queen's College, Oxford...

 (a conservative, but a Whig
British Whig Party
The Whigs were a party in the Parliament of England, Parliament of Great Britain, and Parliament of the United Kingdom, who contested power with the rival Tories from the 1680s to the 1850s. The Whigs' origin lay in constitutional monarchism and opposition to absolute rule...

), opposed the project and kept it from coming to fruition.

Finally, Blackmore attempted to answer Deism again with Natural Theology, or, Moral Duties Consider'd apart from Positive in 1728. In 1731, his last work, The Accomplished Preacher, was published posthumously.

As a physician


Blackmore has come down, largely through the verse of Alexander Pope, as one avatar of Dulness
Dulness
Dulness is the goddess who presides over Alexander Pope's The Dunciad. She is the daughter of Nox and Chaos, and her mission is to convert all the world to stupidity. Her triumph is part of the translatio stultitia . As "enlightenment" moves ever westward, darkness follows behind...

, but, as a physician, he was quite forward thinking. He agreed with Sir Thomas Sydenham
Thomas Sydenham
Thomas Sydenham was an English physician. He was born at Wynford Eagle in Dorset, where his father was a gentleman of property. His brother was Colonel William Sydenham. Thomas fought for the Parliament throughout the English Civil War, and, at its end, resumed his medical studies at Oxford...

 that observation and the physician's experience should take precedence over any Aristotelian
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 ideals or hypothetical laws. He rejected Galen
Galen
Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus , better known as Galen of Pergamon , was a prominent Roman physician, surgeon and philosopher...

's humour theory as well. He wrote on plague
Bubonic plague
Plague is a deadly infectious disease that is caused by the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis, named after the French-Swiss bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin. Primarily carried by rodents and spread to humans via fleas, the disease is notorious throughout history, due to the unrivaled scale of death...

 in 1720, smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

 in 1722, and consumption
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 in 1727.

He died in Boxted
Boxted, Essex
Boxted is a village and civil parish in Essex, England. It is located approximately north of Colchester and northeast of the county town of Chelmsford. The village is in the borough of Colchester and in the parliamentary constituency of North Essex. There is a Parish council...

, Essex
Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

 and was buried in his local parish church, where a monument was constructed.

As a dunce


Blackmore's fame today rests with his enemies. Garth's The Dispensary made him out to be a greedy fool with delusions, but Pope's criticisms would be the most lasting, and Pope hits Blackmore over and over again on his stupidity and delusions of grandeur. The Scriblerus Club
Scriblerus Club
The Scriblerus Club was an informal group of friends that included Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Gay, John Arbuthnot, Henry St. John and Thomas Parnell. The group was founded in 1712 and lasted until the death of the founders, starting in 1732 and ending in 1745, with Pope and Swift being...

 (Pope, John Gay
John Gay
John Gay was an English poet and dramatist and member of the Scriblerus Club. He is best remembered for The Beggar's Opera , set to music by Johann Christoph Pepusch...

, John Arbuthnot
John Arbuthnot
John Arbuthnot, often known simply as Dr. Arbuthnot, , was a physician, satirist and polymath in London...

, Robert Harley
Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Mortimer
Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer KG was a British politician and statesman of the late Stuart and early Georgian periods. He began his career as a Whig, before defecting to a new Tory Ministry. Between 1711 and 1714 he served as First Lord of the Treasury, effectively Queen...

, Henry St. John
Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke
Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke was an English politician, government official and political philosopher. He was a leader of the Tories, and supported the Church of England politically despite his atheism. In 1715 he supported the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 which sought to overthrow the...

, Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet and cleric who became Dean of St...

, and Thomas Parnell
Thomas Parnell
Thomas Parnell was a poet and clergyman, born in Dublin and educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He was a friend of both Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift. He participated in the Scriblerus Club, contributing to The Spectator, and he also aided Pope in his translation of The Iliad...

) attacked Blackmore in 1717's Three Hours after Marriage
Three Hours After Marriage
Three Hours After Marriage was a restoration comedy, written in 1717 as a collaboration between John Gay, Alexander Pope and John Arbuthnot. It premiered in 1717 and among its satirical targets were Richard Blackmore....

.
Pope further picked out Blackmore's foolish lines in Peri Bathos (1727) and gives a devastating characterization of "Neverending Blackmore" in The Dunciad
The Dunciad
The Dunciad is a landmark literary satire by Alexander Pope published in three different versions at different times. The first version was published in 1728 anonymously. The second version, the Dunciad Variorum was published anonymously in 1729. The New Dunciad, in four books and with a...

(1728), where Blackmore's poetry is so awful that it can even put lawyers to sleep. These attacks were on top of Tom Brown's previous attacks, as well as Dryden's.

Blackmore's poetry is leaden. However, his special marks as a "dunce" come from his willingness to use poetry, and particularly the epic, for contemporary political purposes. The self-interest involved in King Arthur was apparent to contemporaries, and the desperation of Alfred was similarly offensive to other poets. However, Blackmore used his poetry to satirise and destroy persons of the other political factions, and that made him (except for when his subject matter was religion) fair game for a counter-attack that he could not survive.

External links



  • Sir Richard Blackmore from Lives of the Poets by Samuel Johnson
    Samuel Johnson
    Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...