TO SOSIUS SENECIO
This year has proved extremely fertile in poetical productions: during the whole month of April, scarce a day has passed wherein we have not been entertained with the recital of some poem. It is a pleasure to me to find, notwithstanding there seems to be so little disposition in the public to attend assemblies of this kind, that literary pursuits still flourish, and men of genius are not discouraged from producing their performances. The greater part of the audience which is collected upon these occasions seat themselves in the antechambers; spend the time of the recitation in talk and send in every now and then to enquire whether the author is come in, whether he has read the preface, or whether he has almost finished the piece. Not till then, and even then with the utmost deliberation, they just look in, and withdraw again before the end, some by stealth, and others without ceremony. It was not thus in the time of our ancestors. It is reported that Claudius Caesar, one day hearing a noise as he walked on the Palatine, inquired the occasion of it, and being informed that Nonianus was reciting a composition of his, went immediately to the place, and surprised the author with his presence. But now, were one to bespeak the company even of the most idle man living, and remind him of the appointment ever so often, or ever so long beforehand, either he would avoid it, or, if not, would complain of having lost a day; and for no other reason, but because he had not lost it. So much the rather do those authors deserve our encouragement and applause, who have resolution to persevere in their studies, and exhibit their performlances, notwithstanding this indolence or pride of their audience. For my own part, I scarce ever refuse to be present upon such occasions. Though, to say truth, the authors have generally been my friends; as indeed there are few friends of learning who are not. It is this has kept me in the town longer than I intended. I am now however at liberty to withdraw to my retirement, and write something myself: but without any intentions of reciting in my turn. I would not have it thought that I rather lent than gave my attendance; for in these, as in all other good offices, the obligation ceases the moment you seem to exact a return. Farewell.