Francesco Filelfo, Letter to Lorenzo Medici (Part 25)
“So Nonius Marcellus and Festus Pompeius and Caper and Diomedes and Donatus and Servius and Priscian and Phocas and Aulus Gellius and Macrobius and the other most approved authors who have taught us something about grammar are not only to be learned, but even to be learned by heart. For it is a bad sort of Latinity which does not know the meaning of words, their peculiarities, their differences, or their genders and constructions. In this matter, you must consult the ancient authors.
For indeed, I see certain people of our time who want to make a big show of themselves in the art of grammar, but have sunk into the greatest errors. Of them, Giovanni Tortelli of Arezzo seems to me to hold the chief place: when he wants to be seen to know both Greek and Latin literature, he makes it as clear as possible that he knows neither.
Therefore, you should take care that your children are full of the goods of both intellect and learning, as the riches of the greatest fortune. You’ll do perfectly well if you take care that they grow up to be just like you.
I should not of course omit what seemed correct to Quintilian, that most acute man, that one should as much as possible start with the Greek language and literature. If I might pass over the other arts and sciences, which we know have come from Greek learning, who would dare to claim themselves a professor without knowing Greek literature?
And so in turn and at the same time, in my opinion, one should study Greek and Latin literature – a practice which I have always observed in raising my own children, and which I still observe even today. I have never had cause to regret it, when I see that they have advanced so far above the common herd in the literature and speech of each language. But you will consider this in the best light according to your own wisdom.”
Quare et Nonius Marcellus et Festus Pompeius et Caper et Diomedes et Donatus et Servius et Priscianus et Phocas et Au. Gellius et Macrobius et caeteri probatissimi auctores qui aliquid de arte grammatica tradiderunt, non solum discendi sunt, verum etiam ediscendi. Nam male ea latinitas habeat, quae aut significata verborum, aut proprietates, aut differentias aut genera constructionesve ignorarit. Qua in re prisci auctores consulendi sunt.
Video enim quosdam nostrae tempestatis homines, qui cum magnum de se quiddam voluerunt in arte grammatica profiteri, in maximos errores devenerunt. E quorum numero principatum mihi tenere visus est Ioannes Tortelius arretinus, qui, cum et graecam et latinam litteraturam novisse videri vult, utranque ignoravisse apertissime declarat.
Curandum igitur tibi est, ut liberi tui aeque abundent ingenii atque doctrinae bonis ut amplissimae fortunae divitiis; quod tum cumulate feceris, si operam dabis ut tibi sint quam simillimi.
Nec illud certe praetermiserim, quod Quintiliano etiam viro acutissimo videtur, a graeco sermone, quo ad eius fieri possit, atque litteratura esse incipiendum. Ut enim caeteras artis disciplinasque praeteream, quas omnis inde fluxisse novimus, quis audeat se profiteri grammaticum graecis litteris ignoratis?
Et vicissim quidem ac simul, mea sententia, studendum est graecis atque latinis litteris, id quod ego in omnibus meis liberis et observavi antehac semper, et hoc etiam tempore observo, idque me fecisse nunquam poenituit, cum eos viderim in utraque et litteratura et oratione egregie profecisse. Sed haec tu, pro tua prudentia, perpulchre considerabis.