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Hugh Blair

Hugh Blair (April 7, 1718 - December 27, 1800) was a Scottish Presbyterian preacher.

He was born at Edinburgh, where his father was a merchant. Entering the university of Edinburgh in 1730, he graduated M.A. in 1739; his thesis, De Fundamentis et Obligehone Legis Naturae, contains an outline of the moral principles afterwards unfolded in his sermons. He was licensed to preach in 1741, and a few months later the Earl of Leven, hearing of his eloquence, presented him to the parish of Collessie in Fife. In 1743 Blair was elected to the second charge of the Canongate church, Edinburgh, where he ministered until moved to Lady Yester's, one of the city churches, in 1754. In 1757 the University of St Andrews conferred on him the degree of D.D., and in the following year he was promoted to the High Church, Edinburgh, the most important charge in Scotland.

In 1759 he began, under the patronage of Lord Kames, to deliver a course of lectures on composition, the success of which led to the foundation of a chair of rhetoric and belles lettres at Edinburgh University. To this chair he was appointed in 1762, with a salary of 70 a year. Having long taken interest in the Celtic poetry of the Scottish Highlands, he published in 1763 a laudatory Dissertation on James Macpherson's Ossian, the authenticity of which he maintained. In 1777 the first volume of his Sermons appeared. It was succeeded by four other volumes, all of which met with the greatest success. Samuel Johnson praised them warmly, and they were translated into almost every language of Europe. In 1780 George III gave Blair a pension of 200 a year. In 1783 he retired from his professorship and published his Lectures on Rhetoric, which have been frequently reprinted.

Blair belonged to the "moderate" or latitudinarian party, and his Sermons have been criticized as lacking doctrinal definiteness. His works display little originality, but are written in a flowing and elaborate style. He is remembered chiefly by the place he fills in the literature of his time. Blair's Sermons is a typical religious book of the period that preceded the Anglican revival.