Blackwall, Anthony (DNB00)
BLACKWALL, ANTHONY (1674–1730), classical scholar, was born at Blackwall, a hamlet for many generations the seat of his family in the parish of Kirk Ireton, and the hundred of Wirksworth, Derbyshire, in 1674, educated at Derby grammar school, admitted sizar at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, on 30 Sept. 1690, took the degree of B.A. in 1694, and that of M.A. in 1698, and was shortly afterwards appointed headmaster of the Derby School, and lecturer of All Saints' Church, Derby.
In 1706 he distinguished himself in his first literary venture by the publication of (Θεόγνιδοσ Γνώμυ: Theognidis Megarensis Sententiæ Morales'—the original Greek, with a Latin translation, notes, &c., 8vo, to which was prefixed an address in Greek to Joshua Barnes [q.v.], the well-known Greek professor. In 1718 he published 'An Introduction to the Classics, containing a short discourse on their Excellencies, and Directions how to study them to advantage; with an Essay on the Nature and use of those Emphatical and beautiful figures which give strength and ornament to Writing,' London, 12mo. This work gives the beauties of the ancient writers in a clear and concise manner, illustrated from the author's rich stores of knowledge, and with sound criticism. In 1719 appeared the second edition, with additions and an index, London, 12mo, and there were other London editions in 12mo (3rd ed. 1725, 4th ed., 5th ed. 1737, 6th ed. 1746), issued both before and after the author's death in 1730; and Dr. William Mayor, while at Woodstock in 1809, reissued the work as 'Blackwall's Introduction to the Classics,' London, 12mo, with an 'Essay on Rhetoric,' and a 'Bibliography of the best English Translations of Greek and Roman Classics,' and describes it as a work most invaluable to those who have not received a sound education.
In 1722 Blackwall was appointed head master of the grammar school at Market Bosworth, Leicestershire, a school founded in the time of Henry VIII, but much increased in revenue by endowments of the Dixie family. Here, in the quiet of a thoroughly pastoral district, he produced his most celebrated work, 'The Sacred Classics defended and illustrated, or an Essay humbly offered towards proving the Purity, Propriety, and True Eloquence of the Writers of the New Testament;' in two parts, 4to, London, 1725; 2nd ed. 8vo, London, 1727. 'Not without very great labour and pains, though accompanied with pleasures, as he says, he completed the second and last volume of this work a few weeks before his death in 1730, and it was published under the same title in 1731, London, 8vo, with his portrait by Vertue. The two volumes were reprinted at Leipsic by Christopher Wollius, 4to, 1736, with Bernigeroth's copy of the portrait. The third London edition appeared in 2vols. 8vo, 1737. This work is chiefly on the plan of Raphelius, and is of very fair merit in its fund of general learning and its useful observations. Words and phrases in the New Testament long considered to be barbarisms or solecisms are shown to have been used by the old Greek writers of the best reputation, but the critics thought he had failed to prove the general purity and elegance of the language of the Testament. Orme, Bickersteth, Dr. Williams, and especially his great opponent, Dr. Clarke, made light of his work; while, on the other hand. Dr. Doddridge and T.H. Horne speak highly of its value. In any case, his work can claim the merit of leading the way to sounder biblical criticism.
At both Derby and Bosworth he had the happiness to bring up a number of excellent scholars, among whom were the well-known Richard Dawes, author of 'Miscellanea Critica,' and Budworth, the master of Bishop Hurd. One of his pupils, Sir Henry Atkins, presented him to the rectory of Clapham, Surrey, on 12 Oct. 1726. About this time of he went up for ordination and waited upon Dr. Gibson, then bishop of London, when a young chaplain of the bishop began to examine Blackwall in the Greek Testament. The bishop, whom Blackwall had known well in the see of Lincoln, on entering the room, good-naturedly asked what the chaplain was about. 'Mr. B. knows more of the Greek Testament than you do, or I to help you.' The Latin grammar which Blackwall made use of in the Derby and Market Bosworth schools was of his own composition, and he was prevailed upon to publish it, but anonymously, as he diet not wish to appear to prescribe rules to other instructors of youth. It was entitled ' A new Latin Grammar, being a short, clear, and easy introduction of young Scholars to the Knowledge of the Latin Tongue, &c.,' London, 12mo, 1728.
Although the Clapham living was the only preferment received by 'the good old school-master,' as Gilbert Cooper calls him in his 'Letters on Taste,' he relinquished it by 1729, when he was again master of Bosworth grammar school, with an income of less than a third of that yielded by the clerical living. About this time Samuel Johnson became his 'usher,' but the dates of the association are very difficult to unravel. Blackwall returned to Bosworth early in 1729; Johnson left college about December 1729, and even if he went direct to assist Blackwall it could only have been for a few months, as the latter died at the school house on 8 April 1730. After the master's death, the usher may have continued to teach, and when we study Johnson's history, and read of his going on foot to the school in a forlorn state of circumstances on 16 July 1732, that can only refer to his last attendance at Bosworth, probably at the close of the summer holidays. He left the house of Sir Wolstan Dixie, a patron of the school, eleven days after, and thus we may conclude he taught in the school for two and a half years, of which only a few months were under Blackwall. The distressing experiences of which we read so much in Boswell's memoir and elsewhere must therefore be referred to the time subsequent to Blackwall's death, and when the control of the Dixies as 'patrons of the school' seems to have weighed very heavily upon Johnson. The present writer, when under-master of this school, 1854-1863, was unable to find any records of the association of Johnson with Blackwall.
Blackwall was twice married. The only child by the first wife, named Toplis, was Anthony, who was B.A. of Emmanuel College in 1721 ; by the second wife, who was widow of—Cantrell, his predecessor in the Derby school, and mother of Henry Cantrell [q. v.], he had four sons: Henry, B.A. Emmanuel College 1721; Robert, a dragoon; John, attorney at Stoke Gliding, near Bosworth, who died in 1762; and William, who died young. He had also one daughter, who married Mr. Pickering. The daughter of John Blackwall married William Cantrell, bookseller, Derby.
[Nichols's Leic. iv. 2, 509; Glover's Derbyshire, i. 106; Boswell's Johnson (Croker's). pp. 18, 20; Cooper's Letters on Taste, p. 119; Horne's Introd. 10th ed. iv. 22; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. i. 130, ii. 551, iii. 332, ix. 809; and Blackwall's works.]