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So far of this matter; at another opportunity [I may investigate] whether [a comedy] be a true poem or not: now I shall only consider this point, whether this [satiric] kind of writing be deservedly an object of your suspicion. Sulcius the virulent, and Caprius hoarse with their malignancy, walk [openly], and with their libels too [in their hands]; each of them a singular terror to robbers: but if a man lives honestly and with clean hands, he may despise them both. Though you be like highwaymen, Coelus and Byrrhus, I am not [a common accuser], like Caprius and Sulcius; why should you be afraid of me? No shop nor stall holds my books, which the sweaty hands of the vulgar and of Hermogenes Tigellius may soil. I repeat to nobody, except my intimates, and that when I am pressed; nor any where, and before any body. There are many who recite their writings in the middle of the forum; and who [do it] while bathing: the closeness of the place, [it seems,] gives melody to the voice. This pleases coxcombs, who never consider whether they do this to no purpose, or at an unseasonable time. But you, says he, delight to hurt people, and this you do out of a mischievous disposition. From what source do you throw this calumny upon me? Is any one then your voucher, with whom I have lived? lie who backbites his absent friend; [nay more,] who does not defend, at another's accusing him; who affects to raise loud laughs in company, and the reputation of a funny fellow who can feign things he never saw; who can not keep secrets; he is a dangerous man: be you, Roman, aware of him. You may often see it [even in crowded companies], where twelve sup together on three couches; one of which shall delight at any rate to asperse the rest, except him who furnishes the bath;1 and him too afterward in his liquor, when truth-telling Bacchus opens the secrets of his heart. Yet this man seems entertaining, and well-bred, and frank to you, who are an enemy to the malignant: but do I, if I have laughed bccause the fop Rufillus smells all perfumes, and Gorgonius, like a he-goat, appear invidious and a snarler to you? If by any means mention happen to be made of the thefts of Petillius Capitolinus2 in your company, you defend him after your manner: [as thus,] Capitolinus has had.me for a companion and a friend from childhood, and being applied to, has done many things on my account: and I am glad that he lives secure in the city; but I wonder, notwithstanding, how he evaded that sentence. This is the very essence of black malignity,3 this is mere malice itself: which crime, that it shall be far remote from my writings, and prior to them from my mind, I promise, if I can take upon me to promise any thing sincerely of myself. If I shall say any thing too freely, if perhaps too ludicrously, you must favor me by your indulgence with this allowance. For my excellent father inured me to this custom, that by noting each particular vice I might avoid it by the example [of others]. When he exhorted me that I should live thriftily, frugally, and content with what he had provided for me; don't you see, [would he say,] how wretchedly the son of Albius lives? and how miserably Barrus? A strong lesson to hinder any one from squandering away his patrimony. When he would deter me from filthy fondness for a light woman: [take care, said he,] that you do not resemble Sectanus.
2 The ancient commentator tells us, that Petillius was governor of the Capitol, from whence he was called Capitolinus; that he was accused of stealing a golden crown of Jupiter, and acquitted by the favor of Augustus. If there be any truth in this story, for we know not where the commentator found it, he was more probably surnamed from his theft, than for his government of the Capitol.
3 Properly, "the juice of the cuttle-fish."
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