We Could All Use Horace’s Letter of Recommendation!

Have you ever spent a day reading Jane Austen and Horace?  It is a strange conjunction.

If you are more like Emma (Emma) than the modest Fanny Price (Mansfield Park), you will enjoy Horace’s witty letter of recommendation written in the form of a poem. If Emma had known Horace, she would have pasted it in her album.  She also would have persuaded herself it was  a love letter to her friend Harriet, for whom she was shamelessly trying to find a husband.

Honestly, I’m not even sure if Horace was heterosexual.

Emma, Harriet, and Mr. Elton (or do I mean Horace?)

Fanny would have found something improper about Horace’s letter.  God knows what, but that’s the way Fanny is.

You may know Horace for his famous odes, but he also wrote two books of Epistulae (Letters).  Epistula I.lX is a charming letter of recommendation for Septimius, who shamelessly bullied him until he wrote it.  Sometimes I love Horace, sometimes he is smarmy, but here  he is very smooth and funny-I can only imagine that Septimius got the job.

 Nobody reads Horace in English, because the Latin is concise and the English, alas, requires many, many, many more words. Here is my wordy English translation.

Dear Tiberius,  Septimius is the only one who understands

how much you think of me.  When he urges me

to praise and introduce him as a man worthy

of your intellect and honorable family,

he discerns and knows what I can do better for him

by the enjoyment of the  gift of being a closer friend.

Indeed, I have said many things to excuse myself

but I feared I would be thought to have pretended

 less power than I have, hiding the favorable assistance

I could give.

And so, to flee the reproaches of a greater fault,

I have stooped to the networking of bold men.

If you approve of the modesty set aside because of a friend’s request,

enroll this man in your company and trust that he is good and brave.