31 – Simon Garfield over antieke brieven

‘Individuality and authenticity – a letter that was both personal and informative – begin properly with the Romans, the first true letter-writers, and the first to establish the tradition of letters both as biographical source material and a literature to be gathered and enjoyed in its own right. The classical scholar Betty Radice has compared the ancient history of letters to a trip round a marble-floored museum, “the Greek statue stands aloof with his stylized enigmatic smile, while the Roman portrait bust is recognisably someone like ourselves, and its regular features speak for a single individual at a point of time.” To the modern reader, Latin letters tend to have another beneficial attribute over their Greek counterparts – their straightforwardness. They are intelligent without being flashy, direct rather than imaginative, unpretentious rather than conceited. If Greek letters are rooted in the theatre, Roman ones are rooted in the tavern.’ – Simon Garfield, To the Letter. A Curious History of Correspondence, Edinburgh, 2013, p. 49-50.