Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113). Letters.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.
XLV. To Asinius
YOU advise me, nay you entreat me, to undertake, in her absence, the cause of Corellia, against C. Cæcilius, consul elect. For your advice I am grateful, of your entreaty I really must complain; without the first, indeed, I should have been ignorant of this affair, but the last was unnecessary, as I need no solicitations to comply, where it would be ungenerous in me to refuse; for can I hesitate a moment to take upon myself the protection of a daughter of Corellius? It is true, indeed, though there is no particular intimacy between her adversary and myself, still we are upon good enough terms. It is also true that he is a person of rank, and one who has a high claim upon my especial regard, as destined to enter upon an office which I have had the honour to fill; and it is natural for a man to be desirous those dignities should be held in the highest esteem which he himself once possessed. Yet all these considerations appear indifferent and trifling when I reflect that it is the daughter of Corellius whom I am to defend. The memory of that excellent person, than whom this age has not produced a man of greater dignity, rectitude, and acuteness, is indelibly imprinted upon my mind. My regard for him sprang from my admiration of the man, and contrary to what is usually the case, my admiration increased upon a thorough knowledge of him, and indeed I did know him thoroughly, for he kept nothing back from me, whether gay or serious, sad or joyous. When he was but a youth, he esteemed, and (I will even venture to say) revered, me as if I had been his equal. When I solicited any post of honour, he supported me with his interest, and recommended me with his testimony; when I entered upon it, he was my introducer and my companion; when I exercised it, he was my guide and my counsellor. In a word, whenever my interest was concerned, he exerted himself, in spite of his weakness and declining years, with as much alacrity as though he were still young and lusty. In private, in public, and at court, how often has he advanced and supported my credit and interest! It happened once that the conversation, in the presence of the emperor Nerva, turned upon the promising young men of that time, and several of the company present were pleased to mention me with applause; he sat for a little while silent, which gave what he said the greater weight; and then, with that air of dignity, to which you are no stranger, “I must be reserved,” said he, “in my praises of Pliny, because he does nothing without my advice.” By which single sentence he bestowed upon me more than my most extravagant wishes could aspire to, as he represented my conduct to be always such as wisdom must approve, since it was wholly under the direction of one of the wisest of men. Even in his last moments he said to his daughter (as she often mentions), “I have in the course of a long life raised up many friends to you, but there are none in whom you may more assuredly confide than Pliny and Cornutus.” A circumstance I cannot reflect upon without being deeply sensible how incumbent it is upon me to endeavour not to disappoint the confidence so excellent a judge of human nature reposed in me. I shall therefore most readily give my assistance to Corellia in this affair, and willingly risk any displeasure I may incur by appearing in her behalf. Though I should imagine, if in the course of my pleadings I should find an opportunity to explain and enforce more fully and at large than the limits of a letter allow of, the reasons I have here mentioned, upon which I rest at once my apology and my glory; her adversary (whose suit may perhaps, as you say, be entirely without precedent, as it is against a woman) will not only excuse, but approve, my conduct. Farewell.