Passion and Genius: A Reader’s Report from Pliny

Pliny, Letters 4.20

To My friend Novius Maximus

What I thought about each part of your book I sent you once I finished reading it. Now you can have my general judgment about the whole. It is a beautiful work, strong, sharp, deep; it is full of varied language with clear figures.

Its capacious nature will be equaled by the greatness of the praise you receive for it. In this work, you were driven as widely by your intelligence as your passion and each of these in turn has given the other strength: for your intelligence has added depth and magnitude to your passion while your passion has given your genius force and focus.

Plinius Novio Maximo Suo S.

Quid senserim de singulis tuis libris, notum tibi ut quemque perlegeram feci; accipe nunc quid de universis generaliter iudicem. Est opus pulchrum validum acre sublime, varium elegans purum figura­tum, spatiosum etiam et cum magna tua laude diffusum, in quo tu ingenii simul dolorisque velis latissime vectus es; et horum utrumque invicem adiumento fuit. Nam dolori sublimitatem et magnificentiam ingenium, ingenio vim et amaritudinem dolor addidit. Vale

Roman fresco of a blond maiden reading a text, Pompeian Fourth Style (60-79 AD), Pompeii, Italy

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