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

LXIV. To Romanus

YOU were not present at a very singular occurrence here lately: neither was I, but the story reached me just after it had happened. Passienus Paulus, a Roman knight, of good family, and a man of peculiar learning and culture besides, composes elegies, a talent which runs in the family, for Propertius is reckoned by him amongst his ancestors, as well as being his countryman. He was lately reciting a poem which began thus:

  • “Priscus, at thy command”—
  • Whereupon Javolenus Priscus, who happened to be present as a particular friend of the poet’s, cried out, “But he is mistaken, I did not command him.” Think what laughter and merriment this occasioned. Priscus’ wits, you must know, are reckoned rather unsound, though he takes a share in public business, is summoned to consultations, and even publicly acts as a lawyer, so that this behaviour of his was the more remarkable and ridiculous: meanwhile Paulus was a good deal disconcerted by his friend’s absurdity. You see how necessary it is for those who are anxious to recite their works in public to take care that the audience as well as the author are perfectly sane. Farewell.