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LIFE OF THE

OF THE AUTHOR.

SIR WILLIAM BLACKSTONE was born on the 10th July, 1723, in Cheapside, in the parish of St. Michael le Querne, at the house of his father, Mr. Charles Blackstone, a silkman, and citizen and bowyer of London; who was the third son of Mr. John Blackstone, an eminent apothecary in Newgate Street, de-scended from a family of that name in the West of England, at or near Salisbury, and who died some months previous to the birth of William, the author of these justly esteemed Commentaries. His mother was Mary, eldest daughter of Lovelace Bigg, Esquire, of Chilton Foliot, in Wiltshire; she died before the learned commentator attained his twelfth year.

Sir William had three brothers, Charles, John, and Henry. John died an infant, Charles and Henry were educated at Winchester, under the care of their uncle Dr. Bigg, who was warden of that society, and were afterwards both fellows of New College, Oxford; Charles became a fellow of Winchester, and vicar of Wimering in Hampshire: Henry, after having practised physic some years, went into holy orders, and died in 1778, vicar of Adderbury in Oxfordshire, a living in the gift of New College.

The being early in life deprived of both parents proved, in its consequences, the reverse of misfortune to our author: to that circumstance probably he was indebted for his future advancement, and that high literary character and reputation in his profession, which he has left behind him; to that circumstance the public too is probably indebted for the benefit it has received, and will receive, as long as the law of England remains, from the labours of his pen. For, had his father lived, it is most likely, that the third son of a London tradesman, not of great affluence, would have been bred in the same line of life, and those parts, which have so much signalized the possessor of them, would have been lost in a warehouse or behind a counter.

But, even from his birth, the care both of his education and fortune was kindly undertaken by his maternal uncle, Mr. Thomas Bigg, an eminent surgeon in London, and afterwards, on the death of his elder brothers, owner of the Chilton estate, which is still enjoyed by that family.

The affectionate, it may be said the parental, care this gentleman took of all his nephews, particularly in giving them liberal educations, supplied the great loss they had so early sustained, and compensated in a great degree for their want of more ample fortunes. And it was always remembered, and often mentioned by them all, with the sincerest gratitude.

In 1730, William, then about seven years old, was put to school at the Charter-House; and in 1735 was, by the nomination of Sir Robert Walpole, on the recommendation of Charles Wither, of Hall, in Hampshire, Esquire, his cousin by the mother's side, admitted upon the foundation there.

In this excellent seminary he applied himself to every branch of youthful education, with the same assiduity which accompanied his studies through life. His talents and industry rendered him the favourite of his masters, who encouraged and assisted him with the utmost attention. At the age of fifteen he was at the head of the school, and, although so young, was thought well qualified to be removed to the University; and he was accordingly entered a commoner at Pembroke College in Oxford, on the 30th of November, 1736, and was the next day matriculated.

At this time he was elected to one of the Charter-House exhibitions by the Governors of that foundation, to commence from the Michaelmas preceding, but was permitted to continue a scholar there till after the 12th of December, being the anniversary commemoration of the founder, to give him an opportunity of speaking the customary oration, which he had prepared, and which did him much credit.

About this time he obtained Mr. Benson's gold prize medal of Milton, for verses on that poet.

Thus, before he quitted school, did his genius begin to appear, and receive public marks of approbation and reward. And so well pleased was the Society of Pembroke College with their young pupil, that, in the February following, they unanimously elected him to one of Lady Holford's exhibitions for Charter-House scholars in that house.

Here he prosecuted his studies with unremitting ardour; and although the classics, and particularly the Greek and Roman poets, were his favourites, they did not entirely engross his attention: logic, mathematics, and the other sciences were not neglected; from the first of these, he laid the foundation of that close method of reasoning he was so remarkable for: and from the mathematics, he not only reaped the benefit of using his mind to a close investigation of every subject that occurred to him, till he arrived at the degree of demonstration the nature of it would admit, but he converted that dry study, as it is usually thought, into an amusement, by pursuing the branch of it which relates to architecture.

This science he was particularly fond of, and made himself so far master of it, that, at the early age of twenty, he compiled a treatise intituled Elements of Architecture, intended for his own use only, and not for publication; but esteemed by those judges who have perused it, in no respect unworthy his maturer judgment, and more exercised

pen. Having determined on his future plan of life, and made choice of the law for his profession, he was entered of the Middle Temple on the 20th of November, 1741. He now found it necessary to quit the more amusing pursuits of his youth for severer studies, and began seriously reading law.

How disagreeable a change this must have been to a young man of brilliant parts, and a fine imagination, glowing with all the classical and poetical beauties he had stored his mind with, is easier conceived than expressed: he alone, who felt, could describe his sensations on that occasion; which he did in the following lines, some time afterwards published by Dodsley, in the 4th volume of his Miscellanies, under the title of The Lawyer's Farewell to his Muse.

“As by some tyrant's stern command,
A wretch forsakes his native land,
In foreign climes condemn’d to roam,
An endless exile from his home;
Pensive he treads the destined way,
And dreads to go, nor dares to stay;
Till on some neighbouring mountain's brow
He stops, and turns his eyes below;

There, melting at the well-known view,
Drops a last tear, and bids adieu:
So I, thus doom'd from thee to part,
Gay queen of fancy and of art,
Reluctant move with doubtful mind,
Oft stop, and often look behind.

“Companion of my tender age, Serenely gay, and sweetly sage, How blithsome were we wont to rove By verdant hill, or shady grove, Where fervent bees with humming voice Around the honey'd oak rejoice, And aged elms, with awful bend, In long cathedral walks extend. Lull’d by the lapse of gliding floods, Cheer'd by the warbling of the woods, How blest my days, my thoughts how free, In sweet society with thee! Then all was joyous, all was young, And years unheeded roll'd along: But now the pleasing dream is o'er,These scenes must charm me now no more; Lost to the field, and torn from you, Farewell!-a long, and last adieu !

The wrang'ing courts, and stubborn law, To smoke, and crowds, and cities draw; There selfish Faction rules the day, And Pride and Avarice throng the way; Diseases taint the murky air, And midnight conflagrations glare; Loose Revelry and Riot bold, In frighted streets their orgies hold; Or when in silence all is drown'd, Fell murder walks her lonely round; No room for peace, no room for youAdieu, celestial Nymph, adieu !

“ Shakespeare no more, thy sylvan son, Nor all the art of Addison, Pope's heaven-strung lyre, nor Waller's ease, Nor Milton's mighty self must please : Instead of these, a formal band In furs and coifs around me stand, With sounds uncouth, and accents dry, That grate the soul of harmony. Each pedant sage unlocks his store Of mystic, dark, discordant lore; And points with tottering hand the ways That lead me to the thorny maze.

“ There, in a winding, close retreat,
Is Justice doom'd to fix her seat;
There, fenced by bulwarks of the law,
She keeps the wondering world in awe;
And there, from vulgar sight retired,
Like eastern qneens, is much admired.

“Oh! let me pierce the secret shade,
Where dwells the venerable maid !
There humbly mark, with reverent awe,
The guardian of Britannia's law;
Unfold with joy her sacred page
(The united boast of many an age,
Where mix'd though uniform appears
The wisdom of a thousand years),
In that pure spring the bottom view,
Clear, deep, and regularly true,
And other doctrines thence imbibe,
Than lurk within the sordid scribe;
Observe how parts with parts unite
In one harmonious rule of right;
See countless wheels distinctly tend,
By various laws, to one great end;
While mighty Alfred's piercing soul
Pervades and regulates the whole.

“ Then welcome business, welcome strife,
Welcome the cares, the thorns of life,
The visage wan, the pore-blind sight,
The toil by day, the lamp by night,
The tedious forms, the solemn prate,
The pert dispute, the dull debate,
The drowsy bench, the babbling hall,
For thee, fair Justice, welcome all !

“ Thus, though my noon of life be past,
Yet let my setting sun at last
Find out the still, the rural cell
Where sage Retirement loves to dwell!
There let me taste the home-felt bliss
Of innocence and inward peace;
Untainted by the guilty bribe,
Uncursed amid the harpy tribe;
No orphan's cry to wound my ear,
My honour and my conscience clear;
Thus may I calmly meet my end,
Thus to the grave in peace descend!"

The struggle of his mind is expressed so strongly, so naturally, with such elegance of sense and language, and harmony of versi

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