Scottish poet Robert Blair was born on April 17, 1699 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was the eldest son of the Rev. Robert Blair, one of the king's chaplains. He was educated at the University of Edinburgh and in the Netherlands. In 1738, he married Isabella, daughter of Professor William Law, with whom he had six children. His family's wealth gave him leisure for his favorite pursuits: gardening and the study of English poets. Blair published only three poems. One was a commemoration of his father-in-law and another was a translation. His reputation rests entirely on his third work, The Grave (1743), which is a poem written in blank verse on the subject of death and the graveyard. It is much less conventional than its gloomy title might lead one to expect. Its religious subject no doubt contributed to its great popularity, especially in Scotland, where it gave rise to the so-called "graveyard school" of poetry. The poem extends to 767 lines of very various merit, in some passages rising to great sublimity, and in others sinking to commonplace. The poem is now best known for the illustrations created by William Blake that were published in 1808. Robert Blair died on February 4, 1746.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Great Britain’s Literary Legends. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:
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