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Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113).  Letters.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
LXIX. To Severus
 
 
YOU desire me to consider what turn you should give to your speech in honour of the emperor, 1 upon your being appointed consul elect. 2 It is easy to find copies, not so easy to choose out of them; for his virtues afford such abundant material. However, I will write and give you my opinion, or (what I should prefer) I will let you have it in person, after having laid before you the difficulties which occur to me. I am doubtful, then, whether I should advise you to pursue the method which I observed myself on the same occasion. When I was consul elect, I avoided running into the usual strain of compliment, which, however far from adulation, might yet look like it. Not that I affected firmness and independence, but as well knowing the sentiments of our amiable prince, and being thoroughly persuaded that the highest praise I could offer to him would be to shew the world I was under no necessity of paying him any. When I reflected what profusion of honours had been heaped upon the very worst of his predecessors, nothing, I imagined, could more distinguish a prince of his real virtues from those infamous emperors than to address him in a different manner. And this I thought proper to observe in my speech, lest it might be suspected I passed over his glorious acts, not out of judgment, but inattention. Such was the method I then observed; but I am sensible the same measures are neither agreeable nor indeed suitable to all alike. Besides, the propriety of doing or omitting a thing depends not only upon persons, but time and circumstances; and as the late actions of our illustrious prince afford materials for panegyric, no less just than recent and glorious, I doubt (as I said before) whether I should persuade you in the present instance to adopt the same plan as I did myself. In this, however, I am clear, that it was proper to offer you by way of advice the method I pursued. Farewell.  1
 
Note 1. Trajan.  [back]
Note 2. The consuls, though they were chosen in August, did not enter upon their office till the first of January, during which interval they were styled consules designati, consuls elect. It was usual for them upon that occasion to compliment the emperor, by whose appointment, after the dissolution of the republican government, they were chosen. M. [back]
 

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