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DELIVERED TO THE STUDENTS OF
THE ROYAL ACADEMY,
DISTRIBUTION OF THE PRIZES,
DECEMBER 10, 1790.
The President takes leave of the Academy.-A Review of the Discourses.-- The study of the works of Michael Angelo recommended
The intimate connection which I have had with the ROYAL ACADEMY ever since its establishment, the social duties in which we have all mutually engaged for so many years, make any profession of attachment to this Institution, on my part, altogether superfluous; the influence of habit alone in such a connection would naturally have produced it.
Among men united in the same body, and en. gaged in the same pursuit, along with permanent friendship occasional differences will arise. In these disputes men are naturally too favourable to themselves, and think perhaps too hardly of their antagonists. But composed and constituted: as we are, those little contentions will be lost to others, and they ought certainly to be lost amongst
ourselves in mutual esteem for talents and acquirements; every controversy ought to be, and I am persuaded, will be, sunk in our zeal for the perfection of our common art.
In parting with the Academy, I shall remember with pride, affection, and gratitude, the support with which I have almost uniformly been honoured from the commencement of our intercourse. I shall leave you, Gentlemen, with unaffected cordial wishes for your future concord, and with a well-founded hope, that in that concord the auspicious and not obscure origin of our Academy may be forgotten in the splendour of your succeeding prospects.
My age, and my infirmities still more than my age, make it probable that this will be the last time I shall have the honour of addressing you from this place. Excluded as I am, spatiis iniquis, from indulging my imagination with a distant' and forward perspective of life, I may be excused if I turn my eyes back on the way which I have passed.
We may assume to ourselves, I should hope, the credit of having endeavoured, at least, to fill with propriety that middle station which we hold in the general connection of things. Our predecessors have laboured for our advantage, we labour for our successors; and though we have done no more in this mutual intercourse and reciprocation of benefits, than has been effected
by other societies formed in this nation for the advancement of useful and ornamental knowledge, yet there is one circumstance which appears to give us an higher claim than the credit of merely doing our duty. What I at present allude to, is. the honour of having been, some of us, the first contrivers, and all of us the promoters and supporters, of the annual Exhibition. This scheme could only have originated from artists already in possession of the favour of the public; as it would not have been so much in the power of others to have excited curiosity. It must be remembered, that for the sake of bringing forward into notice concealed merit, they incurred the risk of producing rivals to themselves ; they. voluntarily entered the lists, and ran the race a second time for the prize which they had already won.
When we take a review of the several departments of the Institution, I think we may safely congratulate ourselves on our good fortune, in having hitherto seen the chairs of our professors filled with men of distinguished abilities, and who have so well acquitted themselves of their duty in their several departments. I look upon it to be of importance, that none of them should be ever left unfilled : a neglect to provide for qualified persons, is to produce a neglect of qualifications.
In this honorable rank of professors, I have not presumed to class myself; though in the Dis