BOOK TWO

LETTER 6

TO AVITUS

     
It would be a long story, and of no importance, were I to recount too particularly by what accident I (who am not at all fond of society) supped lately with a person, who in his own opinion lives in splendour combined with economy; but according to mine, in a sordid but expensive manner. Some very elegant dishes were served up to himself and a few more of the company; while those which were placed before the rest were cheap and paltry. He had apportioned in small flagons three different sorts ot wine; but you are not to suppose it was that the guests might take their choice: on the contrary, that they might not choose at all. One was for himself and me; the next for his friends of a lower order (for, you must know, he measures out his friendship according to the degrees of quality); and the third for his own freedmen and mine. One who sat next me took notice of this, and asked me if I approved of it. "Not at all," I told him. "Pray, then," said he, " what is your method on such occasions?" "Mine," I returned, "is, to give all my company the same fare; for when I make an invitation, it is to sup, not to be censored. Every man whom I have placed on an equality with myself by admitting him to my table, I treat as an equal in all particulars." "Even freedmen?" he asked. "Even them," I said; "for on these occasions I regard them not as freedmen, but boon companions." "`This must put you to great expense," says he. I assured him not at all; and on his asking how that could be, I said "Why you must know my freedmen don't drink the same wine I dočbut I drink what they do."

     
And certainly if a man is wise enough to moderate his own gluttony, he will not find it so very chargeable a thing to entertain all his visitors in general as he does himself. Restrain and, so to speak, humble that failing, if you would be an economist in good earnest. You will find your own temperance a much better method of saving expenses, than affronts to other people.

     
What is my drift in all this, do you ask ? Why to hinder a young man of your excellent disposition from being imposed upon by the selfindulgence which prevails at some men's tables, under the guise of frugality. And whenever any folly of this nature falls within my observation, I shall, in consequence of that affection I bear you, point it out to you as an example which you ought to shun. Remember therefore, nothing is more to be avoided than this modern conjunction of selfindulgence and meanness; qualities superlatively odious when existing in distinct characters, but still more odious where they meet together in the same person. Farewell.