A critical edition of the poems of Robert Blair

Means, James Andrew, Department of English, University of Virginia
Ehrenpreis, Irvin, Department of English, University of Virginia

This dissertation, "A Critical Edition of the Poems of Robert Blair," is divided into six chapters. Chapter One, "The Continuity of Graveyard Poetry in England, 1640-1740," provides an outline of the tradition that links The Grave, Blair's most important poem, with the religious poetry of the seventeenth century. I try to show not only the continuity of the genre but also those traits which distinguish the mortuary verse of the seventeenth century from the poems of Watts, Blair, and Young. I suggest that the earlier poets emphasize the argument of the poem, subordinating the mortuary elements, while the eighteenth-century poets, such as Blair, make a direct appeal to the reader's emotions, tending to subordinate the argument to sensational effects.

In Chapter Two, "The Composition of The Grave," I trace, so far as the surviving documents allow, the story of the composition, revision, and publication of the poem. A number of extant letters and drafts, the collective significance of which has never been considered before, provide us with an unusual opportunity to observe an eighteenth-century poet at work.

In the third chapter, "The Grave: A Poem of the Evangelical Revival," I try to place the poem in its historical context, going beyond the traditional vague classification as a "graveyard poem." We should see The Grave as—among other things—a major document of the Evangelical Revival. My interpretation is based on Blair's own statements as to his purpose in writing the poem and on the implications of its immense popularity during the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Thus this chapter comprises both a history and an interpretation of the popularity of The Grave.

Chapter Four, "A Critical Introduction to The Grave" includes a brief consideration of Blair's theme, the structure of the poem, the style, and the versification.

Chapter Five provides the most authoritative text of The Grave, the second state of the first edition (London, 1743). The text is supplemented by extensive annotation, especially parallels from earlier poets, so that the reader can see how Blair adapted earlier poetry, particularly metaphors, similes, and brief descriptive passages, for the purpose of ornamenting his "serious argument."

In Chapter Six I reprint from the most authoritative texts the minor poems and pieces attributed to Blair.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Blair, Robert -- 1699-1746
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