Macaulay On Martial

I have now gone through the first seven books of Martial, and have learned about 360 of the best lines. His merit seems to me to lie, not in wit, but in the rapid succession of vivid images. I wish he were less nauseous. He is as great a beast as Aristophanes. He certainly is a very clever, pleasant writer. Sometimes he runs Catullus himself hard. But besides his indecency, his servility and his mendicancy disgust me. In his position,—for he was a Roman Knight,—something more like self-respect would have been becoming. I make large allowance for the difference of manners; but it never can have been comme il faut in any age or nation for a man of note,—an accomplished man,—a man living with the great,—to be constantly asking for money, clothes, and dainties, and to pursue with volleys of abuse those who would give him nothing.

From Macaulay’s diary for 1857, quoted in Life and Letters, ii.372.

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