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In dedications, especially those which poets write, mankind expect to find little sentiment, and less truth. A grateful imagination adorns its benefactor with every virtue, and even flatters with sincerity. Hence the portrait of each patron of the Muses is drawn with the same outline, and finished as a model of perfection. Instructed by the errors of others, I presume not to make the panegyric of the Prince of Wales, nor to extol the patronage of literature as the most shining quality of a prince. Your Royal Highness will permit me to mention one sort of patronage which can never be praised too much; that, I mean, which, extending its influence to the whole society, forms and excites the genius of individuals, by exalting the spirit of the state.
Institutions, that revive, in a great and highly civilized people, those virtues of courage, manhood, and love of their country, which are most apt, in the progress of refinement, to decay, produce at the same time that pleasing and ornamental genius, which cannot subsist in a mind that does not partake of those qualities which it describes. This is an observation which has escaped the notice of the greater part of writers, who have inquired into the causes of the growth and decay of poetry and eloquence; but it has not escaped the penetration of Longinus, who, writing in the decline of the Roman Empire, and lamenting that the true sublime was not to be found in the works of his time, boldly imputes that defect to the change of policy; and enumerates, with indignation, the vices of avarice, effeminacy, and pusillanimity, which, arising from the loss of liberty, had so enthralled and debased the minds of men, that they could not look up, as he calls it, to any thing elevated and sublime: And here, as in other questions, the great critic quotes the authority of his master Homer.—" The day of slavery bereaves a man of half his virtue." The experience of succeeding times has shewn that genius is affected by changes less violent than the loss of liberty; that it ever flourishes in times of vigour and enterprize, and languishes amidst the sure corruption of an inactive age.
Your Royal Highness, as heir-apparent of the British empire, hath in view the noblest field that ever a laudable ambition entered. The envied state of this nation cannot remain precisely as it is; the tide must flow, or ebb faster than it has ever flowed. A Prince destined in such a period to reign, begins a memorable aera of perfection or degeneracy. The serious cares and princely studies of your youth, the visible tenor of your generous and constant mind, have filled the breasts of all good men with hopes of you, equal to their wishes. That these hopes may be fulfilled in their utmost extent, is the sincere and ardent prayer of
Your Royal Highness's
Most humble, most obedient,