Leonardo Bruni Mansplains Ancient Literature

Leonardo Bruni, de Studiis et Litteris 28-29:

“I would not want to press the point too much, yet I would yield some of my right since I am writing to a lady. I confess, then: just as the people are divided into nobility and plebeians, so among poets there are certain grades of dignity. If, therefore, something is published by a comic poet and not glossed over with a sufficiently decent argument, or if a satirist rails on a little too openly about vice, a lady should not read or even look at their books! They are, as it were, the rabble of the poets. But, if she doesn’t read those aristocrats of literature – I mean Vergil, and Seneca, and Statius, and the rest of that sort – she should know that she is missing the greatest ornament of literary study. Nor can she hope to attain the best if she is lacking it.

On the whole, that superlative excellence about which I write does not come to anyone except through a knowledge of many different things. Therefore, one should have seen and read many subjects, and applied considerable labor to the study of philosophers, poets, orators, historians, and all other writers.”

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Sed ne pertinax ipse sim, placet aliquid de iure meo remittere, praesertim cum ad mulierem scribam. Fateor ergo: ut populus in nobilitatem plebemque dividitur, ita inter poetas gradus quosdam dignitatis. Si quid igitur vel a comico non satis pudico argumento protexitur aut a satyro vitium aliquod apertius exprobatur, ne legat haec mulier neve inspiciat! Sunt enim veluti vulgus poetarum. At enim proceres illos, Vergilium dico et Senecam et Statium ceterosque eiusmodi, nisi legerit, maximum sibi ornamentum sciat deesse litterarum; nec summum speret, cui haec pars desit.

Omnino enim praestantia illa, de qua loquor, non nisi ex multarum variarumque rerum fit cognitione. Itaque multa vidisse legisseque oportet et philosophis et poetis et oratoribus et historicis et aliis omnibus scriptoribus operam impertisse.

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