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Essays

31. It was stated, and I trust partly with your acceptance, in my opening lecture, that the study on which we are about to enter cannot be rightly undertaken except in furtherance of the grave purposes of life with respect to which the rest of the scheme of your education here is designed. But you can scarcely have at once felt all that I intended in saying so;—you cannot but be still partly under the impression that the so-called fine arts are merely modes of graceful recreation, and a new resource for your times of rest.

66. You probably recollect that, in the beginning of my last lecture, it was stated that fine art had, and could have, but three functions: the enforcing of the religious sentiments of men, the perfecting their ethical state, and the doing them material service. We have to-day to examine, the mode of its action in the second power—that of perfecting the morality, or ethical state, of men.

Perfecting, observe—not producing.

97. Our subject of enquiry to-day, you will remember, is the mode in which fine art is founded upon, or may contribute to, the practical requirements of human life.

It is a happy memory that associates the foundation of our Royal Academy with the delivery of these inaugural discourses by Sir Joshua Reynolds, on the opening of the schools, and at the first annual meetings for the distribution of its prizes.  They laid down principles of art from the point of view of a man of genius who had made his power felt, and with the clear good sense which is the foundation of all work that looks upward and may hope to live.  The truths here expressed concerning Art may, with slight adjustment of the way

The regular progress of cultivated life is from necessaries to accommodations, from accommodations to ornaments.  By your illustrious predecessors were established marts for manufactures, and colleges for science; but for the arts of elegance, those arts by which manufactures are embellished and science is refined, to found an academy was reserved for your Majesty.

Gentlemen,—That you have ordered the publication of this Discourse is not only very flattering to me, as it implies your approbation of the method of study which I have recommended; but likewise, as this method receives from that act such an additional weight and authority as demands from the students that deference and respect, which can be due only to the united sense of so considerable a body of artists.

Gentlemen,—An academy in which the polite arts may be regularly cultivated is at last opened among us by royal munificence.  This must appear an event in the highest degree interesting, not only to the artists, but to the whole nation.

Gentlemen,—I congratulate you on the honour which you have just received.  I have the highest opinion of your merits, and could wish to show my sense of them in something which possibly may be more useful to you than barren praise.  I could wish to lead you into such a course of study as may render your future progress answerable to your past improvement; and, whilst I applaud you for what has been done, remind you of how much yet remains to attain perfection.

Gentlemen,—It is not easy to speak with propriety to so many students of different ages and different degrees of advancement.  The mind requires nourishment adapted to its growth; and what may have promoted our earlier efforts, might, retard us in our nearer approaches to perfection.

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