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Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113).  Letters.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
LV. To Spurinna
 
 
KNOWING, as I do, how much you admire the polite arts, and what satisfaction you take in seeing young men of quality pursue the steps of their ancestors, I seize this earliest opportunity of informing you that I went to-day to hear Calpurnius Piso read a beautiful and scholarly production of his, entitled the Sports of Love. His numbers, which were elegiac, were tender, sweet, and flowing, at the same time that they occasionally rose to all the sublimity of diction which the nature of his subject required. He varied his style from the lofty to the simple, from the close to the copious, from the grave to the florid, with equal genius and judgment. These beauties were further recommended by a most harmonious voice; which a very becoming modesty rendered still more pleasing. A confusion and concern in the countenance of a speaker imparts a grace to all he utters; for diffidence, I know not how, is infinitely more engaging than assurance and self-sufficiency. I might mention several other circumstances to his advantage, which I am the more inclined to point out, as they are exceedingly striking in one of his age, and are most uncommon in a youth of his quality: but not to enter into a farther detail of his merit, I will only add that, when he had finished his poem, I embraced him very heartily, and being persuaded that nothing is a greater encouragement than applause, I exhorted him to go on as he had begun, and to shine out to posterity with the same glorious lustre, which was reflected upon him from his ancestors. I congratulated his excellent mother, and particularly his brother, who gained as much honour by the generous affection he manifested upon this occasion as Calpurnius did by his eloquence; so remarkable a solicitude he showed for him when he began to recite his poem, and so much pleasure in his success. May the gods grant me frequent occasions of giving you accounts of this nature! for I have a partiality to the age in which I live, and should rejoice to find it not barren of merit. I ardently wish, therefore, our young men of quality would have something else to shew of honourable memorial in their houses than the images 1 of their ancestors. As for those which are placed in the mansion of these excellent youths, I now figure them to myself as silently applauding and encouraging their pursuits, and (what is a sufficient degree of honour to both brothers) as recognizing their kindred. Farewell.  1
 
Note 1. None had the right of using family pictures or statues but those whose ancestors or themselves had borne some of the highest dignities. So that the jus imaginis was much the same thing among the Romans as the right of bearing a coat of arms among us. Ken. Antiq. M. [back]
 

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