Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113). Letters.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.
XC. To Paternus
THE SICKNESS lately in my family, which has carried off several of my servants, some of them, too, in the prime of their years, has been a great affliction to me. I have two consolations, however, which, though by no means equivalent to such a grief, still are consolations. One is, that as I have always readily manumitted my slaves, their death does not seem altogether immature, if they lived long enough to receive their freedom: the other, that I have allowed them to make a kind of will, which I observe as religiously as if they were legally entitled to that privilege. I receive and obey their last requests and injunctions as so many authoritative commands, suffering them to dispose of their effects to whom they please; with this single restriction, that they leave them to someone in my household, for to slaves the house they are in is a kind of state and commonwealth, so to speak. But though I endeavour to acquiesce under these reflections, yet the same tenderness which led me to shew them these indulgences weakens and gets the better of me. However, I would not wish on that account to become harder: though the generality of the world, I know, look upon losses of this kind in no other view than as a diminution of their property, and fancy, by cherishing such an unfeeling temper, they shew a superior fortitude and philosophy. Their fortitude and philosophy I will not dispute. But humane, I am sure, they are not; for it is the very criterion of true manhood to feel those impressions of sorrow which it endeavours to resist, and to admit not to be above the want of consolation. But perhaps I have detained you too long upon this subject, though not so long as I would. There is a certain pleasure even in giving vent to one’s grief; especially when we weep on the bosom of a friend who will approve, or, at least, pardon, our tears. Farewell.