Home  »  Letters Pliny the Younger  »  XCIV. To Arrianus

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

XCIV. To Arrianus

NOTHING, in my opinion, gives a more amiable and becoming grace to our studies, as well as manners, than to temper the serious with the gay, lest the former should degenerate into melancholy, and the latter run up into levity. Upon this plan it is that I diversify my graver works with compositions of a lighter nature. I had chosen a convenient place and season for some productions of that sort to make their appearance in; and designing to accustom them early to the tables of the idle, I fixed upon the month of July, which is usually a time of vacation to the courts of justice, in order to read them to some of my friends I had collected together; and accordingly I placed a desk before each couch. But as I happened that morning to be unexpectedly called away to attend a cause, I took occasion to preface my recital with an apology. I entreated my audience not to impute it to me as any want of due regard for the business to which I had invited them that on the very day I had appointed for reading my performances to a small circle of my friends I did not refuse my services to others in their law affairs. I assured them I would observe the same rule in my writings, and should always give the preference to business before pleasure; to serious engagements before amusing ones; and to my friends before myself. The poems I recited consisted of a variety of subjects in different metres. It is thus that we who dare not rely for much upon our abilities endeavour to avoid satiating our readers. In compliance with the earnest solicitation of my audience, I recited for two days successively; but not in the manner that several practise, by passing over the feebler passages, and making a merit of so doing: on the contrary, I omitted nothing, and freely confessed it. I read the whole, that I might correct the whole; which it is impossible those who only select particular passages can do. The latter method, indeed, may have more the appearance of modesty, and perhaps respect; but the former shows greater simplicity, as well as a more affectionate disposition towards the audience. For the belief that a man’s friends have so much regard for him as not to be weary on these occasions, is a sure indication of the love he bears them. Otherwise, what good do friends do you who assemble merely for their own amusement? He who had rather find his friend’s performance correct, than make it so, is to be regarded as a stranger, or one who is too lackadaisical to give himself any trouble. Your affection for me leaves me no room to doubt that you are impatient to read my book, even in its present very imperfect condition. And so you shall, but not until I have made those corrections which were the principal inducement of my recital. You are already acquainted with some parts of it; but even those, after they have been improved (or perhaps spoiled, as is sometimes the case by the delay of excessive revision), will seem quite new to you. For when a piece has undergone various changes, it gets to look new, even in those very parts which remain unaltered. Farewell.