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Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113). Letters.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

LXI. To Priscus

YOU know Attilius Crescens, and you love him; who is there, indeed, of any rank or worth, that does not? For myself, I profess to have a friendship for him far exceeding ordinary attachments of the world. Our native towns are separated only by a day’s journey; and we got to care for each other when we were very young; the season for passionate friendships. Ours improved by years; and so far from being chilled, it was confirmed by our riper judgments, as those who know us best can witness. He takes pleasure in boasting everywhere of my friendship; as I do to let the world know that his reputation, his ease, and his interest are my peculiar concern. Insomuch that upon his expressing to me some apprehension of insolent treatment from a certain person who was entering upon the tribuneship of the people, I could not forbear answering,

  • “Long as Achilles breathes this vital air,
  • To touch thy head no impious hand shall dare.”
  • What is my object in telling you these things? Why, to shew you that I look upon every injury offered to Attilius as done to myself. “But what is the object of all this?” you repeat. You must know then, Valerius Varus, at his death, owed Attilius a sum of money. Though I am on friendly terms with Maximus, his heir, yet there is a closer friendship between him and you. I beg therefore, and entreat you by the affection you have for me, to take care that Attilius is not only paid the capital which is due to him, but all the long arrears of interest too. He neither covets the property of others nor neglects the care of his own; and as he is not engaged in any lucrative profession, he has nothing to depend upon but his own frugality: for as to literature, in which he greatly distinguishes himself, he pursues this merely from motives of pleasure and ambition. In such a situation, the slightest loss presses hard upon a man, and the more so because he has no opportunities of repairing any injury done to his fortune. Remove then, I entreat you, our uneasiness, and suffer me still to enjoy the pleasure of his wit and bonhommie; for I cannot bear to see the cheerfulness of my friend over-clouded, whose mirth and good humour dissipates every gloom of melancholy in myself. In short, you know what a pleasant, entertaining fellow he is, and I hope you will not suffer any injury to engloom and embitter his disposition. You may judge by the warmth of his affection how severe his resentments would prove; for a generous and great mind can ill brook an injury when coupled with contempt. But though he could pass it over, yet cannot I: on the contrary, I shall regard it as a wrong and indignity done to myself, and resent it as one offered to my friend; that is, with double warmth. But, after all, why this air of threatening? rather let me end in the same style in which I began, namely, by begging, entreating you so to act in this affair that neither Attilius may have reason to imagine (which I am exceedingly anxious he should not) that I neglect his interest, nor that I may have occasion to charge you with carelessness of mine: as undoubtedly I shall not if you have the same regard for the latter as I have for the former. Farewell.