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The provision of financial or other material assistance to a writer by a wealthy person or public institution, in return for entertainment, prestige, or homage. Dr Johnson defined a patron as ‘a wretch who supports with insolence, and is paid with flattery’. The system of patronage has had several varieties, from the accommodation of a poet in a royal household to the payment of a single fee for a flattering dedication. Its importance declined sharply in the 18th century with the appearance of a publishing market, but patronage continues in some modern forms such as business sponsorship of dramatic performances, or government subsidies to the arts.

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