Pliny On Heckling

In Book 6, letter 15 Pliny the Younger (61-113AD) writes to Voconius Romanus about a heckle at a poetry reading.

To Romanus

You have missed an extraordinary scene, and so did I, but the story reached me just after it had happened. Passienus Paulus, a Roman knight, of good family, and a man of peculiar learning and culture besides, composes elegies, a talent which runs in the family, for Propertius is reckoned by him amongst his ancestors, as well as being his countryman. He was lately reciting a poem which began thus:
“You bid me, Priscus – ” whereupon Javolenus Priscus, who happened to be present as a particular friend of the poet’s, cried out, “But he is mistaken, I did not command him.” Think what laughter and merriment this occasioned. It is true that Priscus is somewhat eccentric, though he takes a share in public business, is summoned to consultations, and even publicly acts as a lawyer, so that this behaviour of his was the more remarkable and absurd. Meanwhile Paulus someone else’s folly to blame for his chilly reception. You see how necessary it is for those who are anxious to recite their works in public to beware of eccentricity either in himself or in the audience he invites. Farewell.

pliny

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