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Marcus Tullius Cicero to J. W. Worthy,
Greetings and Good Health!
I could not but note the bitterness in your letter to Aurelius when you spoke of writing. I believe the cause for your despondency to lie in the extreme democratic presumptions so pronounced in your egalitarian epoch. I suppose you leave the nurture of the plebeian mind to us patricians. It is true that I daily exert myself to cleanse Greek studies for the comfort of my fellow Romans, and perhaps also for their erudition.
If it is said that numerous such efforts exist in Latin already, then they only cause us to regard our work as the more important, for they have been lightly tossed off by authors with insufficient cultivation, however highly regarded they may be. Even when their opinions are sound, they are not framed felicitously. And to commit one's thoughts to letters without due attention to form, ornament, or delight for the reader constitutes an intemperate abuse of both time and letters. That is why their works are read only by themselves and their ilk, reaching none but those who take similar freedoms when they write.
Once my work is done, we shall have no further need for the Greek libraries, whose infinite multitude of books reflects the multitudes writing them, all saying the same thing, and stuffing books everywhere. The same may happen here in Rome, if the enthusiastic crowd keeps swelling. Nevertheless, in so far as it is possible, we must encourage those who are well read and well spoken to formulate their thoughts coherently and methodically. For there is a tribe who want to be known as scholars, said to be authors of quite a few books--which I by no means disparage, having read none of them. They boast that they eschew precision, organization and elegance; so I ignore readings that offer me no pleasure. Besides, what they have to say is already familiar to the moderately educated.
Since these would-be scholars make no claims to any special effort, I do not know why anybody would read them who is not of their opinion already. --Is this the tribe whom you call "sows who would educate Minerva?"
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