In Blair's Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres -- delivered, says Henry Meikle, `apparently without change every session for twenty-four years'(13) -- we can read two sets of tensions in relation to the status of rhetoric.
Smith's Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, which were delivered extramurally in Edinburgh in 1748-51 and then as a `private' course of lectures at Glasgow University from 1751 to 1763, and which were later reconstituted from student notes (even then they were copious note-takers),(17) were perhaps the `first significant university programme devoted to the analysis of English literary discourse'.(18) Blair's lectures were directly influenced by Smith's, and in turn became the most influential work of literary criticism of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, directly formative of a `new regime of taste and sensibility'.
(14) Hugh Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, 14th edn (1783; repr.
Austen's indebtedness to the eighteenth-century rhetorician Hugh Blair has been well documented, (2) and a discussion of the sublime is a major theme in his Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres. The sublime, he explains, "produces a sort of internal elevation and expansion; it raises the mind much above its ordinary state, and fills it with a degree of wonder and astonishment, which it cannot well express.
Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres. New York: Garland Publishing, 1970.