Pliny On Finger Clicking

Pliny the Younger (61-113) complains in Book 6, letter 17 that several people in the audience did not show their appreciation to the poet.

To Claudius Restitutus

I have come away from a reading given by a friend of mine in such a sorry state of indignation that I simply must pour out the whole story to you by letter, seeing that there is no chance to do so in person. The work being read was highly finished in every way, but two or three clever persons – or so they seemed to themselves and a few others – listened to it like deaf mutes. They never opened their lips, stirred a hand, nor even rose to their feet if only as a change from sitting still. What is the point of all this dignity and learning, or rather this laziness and conceit, this want of tact and good sense, which makes you spend a whole day giving offence and leaving an enemy in the man you came to hear as your dearest friend? All the more reason not to grudge him his success, for jealousy is a sign of inferiority. In fact, whether your own performance is better or worse or on a par with his, you should show your appreciation; for if your superior does not meet with applause neither will you, and it is in your own interests that anyone you equal or surpass should be well received.
Personally I always respect and admire anyone who achieves something in literature, for she is an uncertain mistress, coy and hard to please, apt to despise those who despise her. Perhaps you think otherwise, though there is no more serious and appreciative critic of this subject than yourself. That is why I have chosen you rather than anyone else to hear about my indignation: you are most likely to share it.



One thought on “Pliny On Finger Clicking

  1. quillella

    “This is why I have chosen you to hear about my indignation: you are most likely to share it” Oh, BURN! This guy is a riot from start to finish; I can feel his saltiness in my heart, and the excessive sodium is going to give me a heart attack, but I regret nothing. Great writing!


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