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1732, “ Elementa chemiæ."
1734, “ Observata de argento vivo, ad reg. soc. et acad. scient.”
These are the writings of the great Boerhaave, which have made all encomiums useless and vain, since no man can attentively peruse them without admiring the abilities, and reverencing the virtue of the author*.
. Gent. Mag. 1739. p. 176
At a time when a nation is engaged in a war with an enemy, whose insults, ravages, and barbarities, have long called for vengeance, an account of such English commanders as have me. rited the acknowledgments of posterity, by extending the power, and raising the honour of their country, seems to be no improper entertainment for our readers*. We shall therefore attempt a succinct narration of the life and actions of admiral Blake, in which we have nothing farther in view than to do justice to his bravery and conduct, without intending any parallel between his achievements and those of our present admirals.
ROBERT BLAKE was born at Bridgewater, in Somersetshire, in August, 1598, his father being a merchant of that place, who had acquired a considerable fortune by the Spanish trade. Of his earliest years we have no account, and therefore can amuse the reader with none of those prognosticks of his future actions, so often met with in memoirs.
In 1615 he entered into the university of Oxford, where he continued till 1623, though with
* This Life was first printed in the Gentleman's Magazine for the year 1740.
out being much countenanced or caressed by his superiors, for he was more than once disappointed in his endeavours after academical preferments. It is observable that Mr. Wood in his Athena Oxonienses) ascribes the repulse he met with at Wadham College, where he was competitor for a fellowship, either to want of learning, or of stature. With regard to the first objection, the same writer had before informed us, that he was an early riser and studious though he sometimes relieved his attention by the amusements of fowling and fishing, As it is highly probable that he did not want capacity, we may therefore conclude, upon this confession of his diligence, that he could not fail of being learned, at least in the degree requisite to the enjoyment of a fellowship; and may safely ascribe his disappointment to his want of stature, it being the custom of Sir Henry Savil, then war. den of that College, to pay much regard to the outward appearance of those who solicited preferment in that society. So much do the greatest events owe sometimes to accident or folly!
He afterwards retired to his native place where “ he lived,” says Clarendon, “ without any appearance of ambition to be a greater man than he was, but inveighed with great freedom against the licence of the times, and power of the court."
In 1640 he was chosen burgess for Bridgewater by the Puritan party, to whom he had recommended himself by the disapprobation of Bishop Laud's violence and severity, and his non-compliance with those new ceremonies which he was then endeavouring to introduce.
When the civil war broke out, Blake, in conformity with his avowed principles, declared for
the parliament; and, thinking a bare declaration for right not all the duty of a good man, raised a troop of dragoons for his party, and appeared in the field with so much bravery, that he was in a short time advanced, without meeting any of those obstructions which he had encountered in the university
In 1645 he was governor of Taunton, when the Lord Goring came before it with an army of 10,000
The town was ill fortified, and unsupplied with almost every thing necessary for supporting a siege. The state of this garrison encouraged Colonel Windham, who was acquainted with Blake, to propose a capitulation; which was rejected by Blake with indignation and contempt: nor were either menaces or persuasions of any effect, for he maintained the place under all its disadvantages, till the siege was raised by the par
He continued, on many other occasions, to give proofs of an insuperable courage, and a steadiness of resolution not to be shaken; and, as a proof of his firm adherence to the parliament, joined with the borough of Taunton in returning thanks for their resolution to make no more addresses to the king. Yet was he so far from approving the death of Charles I. that he made no scruple of declaring, that he would venture his life to save him, as willingly as he had done to serve the parliament.
In February, 1648-9, he was made a commissioner of the navy, and appointed to serve on that element, for which he seems by nature to have been designed. He was soon afterwards sent in pursuit of prince Rupert, whom he shut up in the harbour of Kingsale, in Ireland, for several months, till want of provisions and despair of relief excited the prince to make a daring effort for his escape, by forcing through the parliament's fleet: this design he executed with his usual intrepidity, and succeeded in it, though with the loss of three ships. He was pursued by Blake to the coast of Portugal, where he was received into the Tagus, and treated with great distinction by the Portuguese.
Blake, coming to the mouth of that river, sent to the king a messenger, to inform him, that the fleet in his port belonging to the publick enemies of the commonwealth of England, he demanded leave to fall upon it. This being refused, though the refusal was in very soft terms, and accom- , panied with declarations of esteem, and a present of provisions, so exasperated the admiral, that,
hesitation, he fell upon the Portugueze fleet, then returning from Brasil, of which he took seventeen ships, and burnt three. It was to no purpose that the king of Portugal, alarmed at so unexpected a destruction, ordered Prince Rupert to attack him, and retake the Brasil ships. Blake carried home his prizes without molestation, the prince not having force enough to pursue him, and well pleased with the opportunity of quitting a port where he could no longer be protected.
Blake soon supplied his fleet with provision, and received orders to make reprisals upon the French, who had suffered their privateers to molest the English trade; an injury which, in those days, was always immediately resented, and if not repaired, certainly punished. Sailing with this commission, he took in his way a French man of war valued at a million. How this ship happened