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John Blair


BLAIR, JOHN, LL.D. an eminent chronologist, was, as already mentioned in the memoir of Dr Hugh Blair, a relative of that distinguished personage. He received a clerical education at Edinburgh, and afterwards went in search of employment to London, along with Mr Andrew Henderson, author of a "History of the Rebellion of 1745;" and many other works, and who, for some years, kept a bookseller’s shop in Westminster Hall. As Henderson describes himself as residing in Edinburgh at the time of the battle of Prestonpans, it is probable that Blair’s removal to London took place after that event. Henderson’s first employment was that of an usher at a school in Hedge Lane, in which he was succeeded by Blair. The attention of the latter had probably been directed to chronology by the example of Dr Hugh Blair, who, as already mentioned, commenced a series of tables of events, for his own private use, which ultimately formed the groundwork of the work given to the world, in 1754, under the title of "The Chronology and History of the World, from the Creation to the year of Christ, 1753; illustrated in fifty-six tables, of which four are introductory, and contain the centuries prior to the first Olympiad, and each of the remaining fifty-two contain, in one expanded view, fifty years, or half a century. By the Rev. John Blair, LL.D." This large and valuable work was published by subscription, and was dedicated to Lord Chancellor Hardwicke. In January, 1755, Dr John Blair was elected F.R.S. and in 1761, F.A.S. In 1755, he published a new edition of his "Chronology." In September, 1757, he was appointed chaplain to the Dowager Princess of Wales, and mathematical tutor to the Duke of York, (brother to George III.); and on Dr Townshend’s promotion to the deanery of Norwich, the services of Dr Blair were rewarded, March, 1761, with a prebendal stall in Westminster abbey. Such a series of rapidly accumulating honours has fallen to the lot of very few Scottish adventurers. But this was not destined to be the end of his good fortune. He had only been prebend of Westminster six days, when the death of the vicar of Hinckley, in Leicestershire, enabled the Dean and Chapter to present him to that valuable living, to which was soon after added, the rectory of Burtoncoggles in Lincolnshire. In 1763-4, he made the tour of the continent, in company with his royal pupil. A new and enlarged edition of his "Chronology" appeared in 1768, and in 1771 he was presented, by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, to the vicarage of St Bride’s in the city of London, which made it necessary for him to resign Hinckley. In 1776, he resigned St Bride’s, in order to succeed to the rectory of St John the Evangelist in Westminster; and in June that year, he obtained a dispensation to hold this benefice along with that of Horton, near Colebrooke, in Buckinghamshire. In the memorable sea-fight of the 12th of August, 1782, his brother, Captain Blair, in the command of the Anson, was one of three distinguished officers who fell, and to whom the country afterwards voted a monument. This event gave such a shock to the venerable doctor, who at that time suffered under influenza, that he died, at his home in Dean’s Yard, Westminster, on the 24th of June following. A work entitled, "Lectures on the Canons of the Old Testament," appeared after his death; but his best monument unquestionably will be his Chronology, the value of which has been so amply acknowledged by the world.

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