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Blair, Hugh, 1718-1800 (Church of Scotland Minister, Professor of Rhetoric)



Hugh Blair (1718-1800) was created Regius Professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres in 1762, holding the post until 1784. His appointment marked the beginning of the teaching of English Literature at Edinburgh University and the birth of the oldest English department in the world.

Blair was born in Edinburgh on 7 April 1718. He entered Edinburgh University in 1730, graduating in 1738 or 1739 with the degree of M.A. and writing a thesis entitled "De fundamentis et obligatione legis naturae". In 1741, Blair became licensed to preach and held successively a parish in Fife, Lady Yester's Church in Edinburgh, Canongate Parish in the city, and Edinburgh's St. Giles'. The latter charge was given in June 1758 and he held it until his death in 1800.

In 1759 Blair started giving lectures on composition at Edinburgh University and in 1760 he was made Professor of Rhetoric, an appointment which was transferred to the Professorship of Rhetoric and Belles-Lettres in June 1762.

Blair was part of Edinburgh's distinguished literary circle of the day, and was a contemporary of David Hume (1711-1776), Adam Ferguson (1723-1816), and Adam Smith (1723-1790). Blair championed the publishing of the Ossian fragments by James Macpherson (1736-1796). His own lectures and sermons were translated and read widely abroad.

Source: Hugh Blair (1718-1800) (2015), [accessed 30/03/2023]

Found in 7 Collections and/or Records:

Autograph letter signed from William Dickinson to his mother, reporting on his experiences of student life at Edinburgh, 28 November 1765

 Item — Box CLX-A-1591
Identifier: Coll-1848/20-0043
Scope and Contents Autograph letter signed from William Dickinson (1745-1806) to his mother, reporting on his experiences of student life at Edinburgh, dated 28 November 1765, Edinburgh. Dickinson starts his letter by stating he is happy to hear about the recovery of his father; he then mentions "the two Gentlemen from Oxford" that came to his house. He is "very well pleased" with being at the University, "for Mr Ferguson (the Moral Philosophy Professor) is very clever and refin'd". He adds that he has had...
Dates: 28 November 1765

Laureation Degrees (First Laureation Album), 1587-1809

 Item — Box EUA IN1/ADS/STA/1/1
Identifier: EUA IN1/ADS/STA/1/1
Scope and Contents This album begins with the text of the 'sponsio' or confession of Faith (sometimes referred to as the National Covenant) of 1580, to which the graduates subscribed, and which continued to be subscribed to by Professors and Students for many years. The entries for laureations (or graduations) begin in August 1587, when Robert Rollock, the first Principal 'did laureat the first classe which had passed under his charge in the Colledge of Edinburgh, after every one of them had subscrybed the...
Dates: 1587-1809

Letter from Doctor Ignace Luzuriaga to Joseph Black and draft letter from Joseph Black to Doctor Ignace Luzuriaga , 15 June 1787

Identifier: Coll-16/III/29-30
Scope and Contents

Letter from Doctor Ignace Luzuriaga, London to Joseph Black, dated 15 June 1787. The letter is about platina and sending the diploma of membership of the Royal Academy of Madrid. The item contains two draft letters from Joseph Black to Doctor Ignace Luzuriaga, undated in reply. One of the draft replies is written on verso of a note from Professor Hugh Blair to Joseph Black.

Dates: 15 June 1787

Letter from George Buxton to Joseph Black, 17 November 1788

Identifier: Coll-16/III/114-115
Scope and Contents

Letter from George Buxton, Greenwich to Joseph Black, dated 17 November 1788. The letter is about Buxton urging Black to publish, the King's health, etc. It also mentions Professor Blair.

Dates: 17 November 1788

Letter signed by Hugh Blair, March 1763, referring to Macpherson

Identifier: Coll-1405
Scope and Contents The letter signed by Hugh Blair to 'Dear Sir' (which may be his publisher, Becket, or De Hondt) expresses delight at the newly-published Temora which he thinks should boost sales of his own dissertation on Ossian. He writes that he has 'now Read Temora, from which I expect Ossian will reap additional Honour and You some profit. It is in Several respects Superior to Fingal; it is more full and particular, it is a more Complete Story'. he has learned too that 'the...
Dates: 1763

Manuscript volume containing notes of lectures by Hugh Blair

 Fonds — Box CLX-A-389
Identifier: Coll-2064
Content Description This is a manuscript volume containing notes of lectures by Hugh Blair, Professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres in the University of Edinburgh, taken down by an unknown student. It is dated 1770, and comprises 39 complete lectures.Hugh Blair published his lectures in 1783, but very few manuscripts of his teachings survive nowadays. He did not want any "bastardised" versions to survive, as he called them in his publications, and insisted in his will that all his personal papers...
Dates: 1770

Papers of Professor John Bruce

Identifier: Coll-161
Scope and Contents

The collection consists of volumes of lectures on moral philosophy, 1770, and a copy ofFirst principles of philosophy, for the use of students, 1781.

Dates: 1770-1781

Additional filters:

Archival Object 4
Collection 3
Lectures and Lecturing 2
Ethics 1
Graduation Ceremonies 1
Historians 1
Logic 1