Sir Richard Blackmore

Sir Richard Blackmore

Corsham, Wiltshire Unitary Authority, Wiltshire, England
Death 9 Oct 1729 (aged 75)
Boxted, Colchester Borough, Essex, England
Burial Boxted, Colchester Borough, Essex, England
Plot Buried inside the church
Memorial ID 68749940 · View Source
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English Poet and Physician. A respected physician and religious writer, he is probably best remembered as the object of satire and as an example of a dull poet. Born at Corsham, in Wiltshire, England he was the son of a wealthy attorney. He was educated at Westminster School very briefly, and then entered Saint Edmund Hall, Oxford, England in 1669, receiving his Bachelor of Arts in 1674 and his Master of Arts in 1676. He became a tutor at Saint Edmund Hall for a time, but in 1682 he received his inheritance from his father and travelled to France, Geneva, and various places in Italy. He stayed for a while in Padua, Italy and graduated in medicine from the University of Padua and returned to England to establish his practice as a physician. In 1687 he won a place in the Royal College of Physicians with the assistance of his wife's family connections. He developed a passion for writing epics and his first one, "Prince Arthur, an Heroick Poem in X Books" appeared in 1695. He supported the Glorious Revolution, and Prince Arthur was a celebration of King William III. The poem was based on the form of Virgil's "The Aeneid" and the subject matter of Geoffrey of Monmouth's "Historia Regum Britanniae." It told of the Celtic King Arthur opposing the invading Saxons and taking London, which was a transparent encoding of King William opposing the "Saxon" James II and taking London. While it was derided as being "servile" in its treatment of Geoffrey of Monmouth and having an inconsequential and fearful hero, it nevertheless went through three editions and King William III made him physician-in-ordinary (a position he would hold with Queen Anne as well), gave him a gold medal, and knighted him in 1697. King William also assigned him with 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 he followed that with "King Arthur: An Heroic Poem in Twelve Books." Like its predecessor, it was a treatment of current events in ancient garb; however, this time the public and court were less interested and the matter was less interesting. Additionally, he took John Milton as his model, rather than Virgil, and admitted in his preface that his previous book had been too adherent to the Classical unities. In 1705, with Queen Anne on the throne and King William dead, he wrote another epic called "Eliza: An Epic Poem in Ten Books," on the plot by Rodrigo Lopez, the Portuguese physician, against Queen Elizabeth. Again, the "epic" was focused on current events, as it meant to denounce John Radcliffe, a Jacobite physician, who was out of favor with Queen Anne. Anne did not appear to take sufficient notice of the epic, but Sarah Churchill 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), which found favor with the Duke of Marlborough with some success. In 1711 he produced "The Nature of Man," a physiological/theological 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 a number of English literary authors, including John Dennis, Joseph Addison, and, later, Samuel Johnson, 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 of philosophers Lucilio Vanini, Thomas Hobbes, and (supposedly) Baruch Spinoza, and to unfold the intellectual philosophy of John Locke. He then stopped writing epics for a time until 1722, when he continued his religious themes with "Redemption," an epic on the divinity of Jesus Christ designed to oppose and confute the Arians (as he called the Unitarians). The following year he released another long epic called "Alfred," which was about King Alfred the Great, but like his earlier Arthurian epics, this one was political. It was dedicated to Prince Frederick, the oldest son of King George I, but the poem vanished without causing any comment from court or town. When he was not a political author, he was a religious one. In 1713 he and his friend John Hughes began a periodical that was modeled on "The Spectator" entitled "The Lay Monk." It only ran from 13 November 1713 to 15 February 1714 and appeared once every three weeks during that period. In 1716, he became censor as well as a director of the College of Physicians, but the Hanoverians were not as impressed with him as King William III or Queen Anne had been. In that year, he had two volumes of "Essays upon Several Subjects" published, with an attack on English poet Alexander Pope in the second volume. The following year he again went to press with "A Collection of Poems on Various Subjects," which was compromised of shorter poems that had previously been published. Concerned with Protestantism, 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 and Unitarianism in 1721 and then 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 to accept them as canonical translations. The following 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 his "Psalms" as official for America, but the Bishop of London, Edmund Gibson, opposed the project and kept it from coming to fruition. In 1728 he attempted to answer Deism again with "Natural Theology, or, Moral Duties Considered Apart from Positive." In 1731, his last work, "The Accomplished Preacher," was published posthumously. While he was labeled a dull poet, as a physician, he was quite forward thinking. He agreed with Sir Thomas Sydenham that observation and the physician's experience should take precedence over any Aristotelian ideals or hypothetical laws. He rejected Roman physician Claudius Galen's Humour theory (a now discredited theory of the makeup and workings of the human body) as well. He wrote articles on plague in 1720, smallpox in 1722, and consumption in 1727. He died two years later in his home known as Pond House in Boxted, Essex, England at the age of 75.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Memories of You
  • Added: 22 Apr 2011
  • Find A Grave Memorial 68749940
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Sir Richard Blackmore (22 Jan 1654–9 Oct 1729), Find A Grave Memorial no. 68749940, citing Saint Peters Churchyard, Boxted, Colchester Borough, Essex, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .