페이지 이미지
PDF
[ocr errors][graphic]
[ocr errors]

To
HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS,

FREDERICK,
PR IN C E OF WA L E S.

SIR,

Though a prince is born a patron, yet a benevolent expansion of his heart gives nobler title to the homage of the arts, than all the greatness of his power

to propagate them. There respect is, either way, so much your Royal Highness's unquestioned due, that he who asks your leave to offer such a duty, calls in question your prerogative, or means to sell his own

acknowledgments.

They have not marked, with penetration, the dis

tinction of your spirit, who dare look upon you as in- pon y

closed against the access of sincerity. The judgment and humanity of princes are obscured by difficulties in approaching them. Nor can the benefactors of mankind be so far inconsistent with themselves, as to interpose the obstacles of distance, or cold ceremony, between their goodness, and our gratitude.

Allow me, therefore, sir, the honour to present Alaira to your patronage : disclaiming, for myself, all expectation of your notice. It is just that I should give up my own small pretensions; but Mr. de Pooltaire brings title to your Royal Highness's regard. The merit of his work will recommend him to your judgment; and the noble justice he has done her majesty's distinguished character, in his French preface to this tragedy, (himself mean while a soreigner, and writing in a foreign nation) will, perhaps, deserve the glory of the son's partiality, in sense of reverence for the royal mother,

It were, indeed, some violation of respect and gratitude, not to devote Alzira to the hand that honoured her in public with an applause so warm and weighty, in her representation on the English theatre. —Here Mr. de Poltaire enjoyed the triumph due to genius ; while his heroic characters at the same time made evident the sorce of nature when it operates apon resembling qualities.—When tragedies are strong in sentiment, they will be touchstones to their hearers’ hearts. The narrow and inhumane will be anattentive, or unmoved; while princely spirits, like Jour Royal Highness's, (impelled by their own conscious tendency) shew us an example in their genenerous sensibility, how great thoughts should be received by those who can think greatly.

Yet, in one strange circumstance, Alzira suffered by the honour of your approbation ; for while the au

dience hung their eyes upon your Royal Highness's discerning delicacy, their joy to see you warmed by, and applauding most, those sentinents which draw their force from love of pity, and of liberty, became the only passion they would seel; and thereby lessened their attention to the very scenes they owed it to.

Can it be possible, after so important a public declaration in honour of passion and sentiment, that this best use of the poet's art should any longer continue to languish under general neglect, or indifference 2–No, surely, sir!—Your Royal Highness, but persisting to keep reason and nature in countenance at the theatres, will universally establish what you so generously and openly a vow. For, if where men love they will imitate, your erample must be copied by millions; till the influence of your attraction shall have planted

your taste, and overspread three kingdoms with lawrels.

It may at present, perhaps, be a sruitless, but it can never he an irrational, wish, that a theatre entirely new, (if not rather the old ones new-modelled) proses sing only what is serious and manly, and sacred to the interests of wisdom and virtue, might arise under some powerful and popular protection, such as that of your Royal Highness's distinguished countenance - To what probable lengths of improve

- A iij

ment would not such a spur provoke genius /–Or, should it fail to do that, it would make manisest, at least, that rather wit is wanting than encouragement ; and that these opprobrious excrescencies of our stage, which, under the disguise of entertainments, have defamed and insulted a people, had a meaner derivation, than from the hope of delighting our princes.

It has been a misfortune to poetry, in this nation, that it was too superciliously under-rated; and, to acknowledge truth on both sides, sor the most part practised too lightly.—But by those who consider it according to the demands of its character, it will be sound entitled, beyond many other arts, to the political affection of princes : being more persuasive in its nature than rhetoric; and more comprehensive and animating than history.—For while history but waits on fortune with a little too servile a restriction, poetry corrects aud commands her.—because rectiff. ing the obliquity of natural events, by a more equitable sormation of rational ones, the poet, as Lord Bacon very finely and truly observes, instead of constraining the mind to successes, adapts and calls out events to the measures of reason and virtue; maintaining Providence triumphant against the oppositions of nature and accident.

And still more to distinguish his superiority over the gay prose-fabrics of imagination, the poet, as a

« 이전계속 »