Mutual Literary Flattery

Leonardo Bruni, Letter to Giovanni Marrasio:

I approve of your poems themselves and the pleasantness of your writing so much that I think that you should be placed among the Ovids and Propertiuses and Tibulluses of the world. These men, as you know, are thought to have written elegy in the most exact and polished way. But I would have you know this one thing, that I do not think that this glorious prize is to be granted so much to you as to Amor. He is the one who dictates the words to you, who shows you the thoughts, who ministers to you the variety, the abundance, the elegance of your verse. Concerning the fact that you praise me so much in your poems, I confess that the same occurs to me which occurred to Themistocles: ‘I do not believe in them.’ For, although I see that I have tried and continue to try but am still far off, I know that you have in no way flattered me, but have rather been deceived by your own benevolence for me.

Farewell, and write something worthy of Amor every day (as you already do), and don’t withdraw from the Muses. Glory is acquired from doing things and trying oneself, and crowns are given to competitors, not spectators. Farewell again.

File:Carlo Cignani (attr) Triumph of Cupid.jpg
Carlo Cignani, The Triumph of Cupid


Carmina vero ipsa tua atque hanc scribendi amoenitatem usque adeo probo, ut inter Nasones et Propertios et Tibullos te existimem collocandum; hi enim emendatissime ornatissimeque omnium elegiam scripsisse putantur. Sed unum scias volo, me non tam tibi eximiam hanc palmam esse tribuendam existimare quam Amori. Ille est enim qui verba tibi dictat, qui sententias ostendit, qui varietatem et copiam et elegantiam subministrat. Quod vero me tantopere laudas carminibus tuis, fateor idem mihi quod Themistocli evenire, “sed non ego credulus illis”. Nam conatum esse me atque conari, ceterum longe abesse, te vero nequaquam adulatum sed benivolentia mei deceptum intelligo. Vale et quotidie scribere aliquid, ut facis, dignum Amore et Musis ne cesses; gloria quippe agendo periclitandoque acquiritur, nec spectantibus coronae sed certantibus parantur. Iterum vale.

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