Monday, September 17, 2018


Dispute at a Dinner Party

Joseph Waite, "Memoir," in Thomas Saunders Evans, Latin and Greek Verse (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1893), pp. i-lii (at xxix-xxx; the Bishop was Henry Phillpotts, Bishop of Exeter):
At one of the Bishop's frequent and delightful dinner parties, Professor Evans quoted Martial's epigram—
Callidus imposuit nuper mihi caupo Rauennae;
quum peterem mistum uendidit ille merum.

Ravenna's crafty tapster was a cheat;
I called for half-and-half; he served me neat.
'Quote correctly, Professor,' said another scholar at the table, who was somewhat of a Rupert in conversation, 'quum mistum exegi.' 'Surely that can scarcely be right,' answered Mr Evans. 'Why not?' 'Well, I think Martial would not ‘have used the word "exegi" in such a case, and, at any rate, he should have said "exigerem".' 'I do not know what he would or should have said, but I will lay you a wager of ten to one that I am right.' The Professor, unaccustomed to this brusque style of argument, looked perplexed as if wondering whether he could have fallen into some unaccountable blunder. When the party rose to go into the drawing-room, he crossed the College to his own house and brought back with him a small copy of Martial. 'Bishop,' he said, looking as if he had been the object of a nefarious assault, 'do you know I was quite right in my quotation? Here is the book.' 'Yes,' said the Bishop, 'I knew you were right, but you also made a mistake.' 'A mistake!' 'Yes, you did not know your man. You should have taken his wager and made him pay ten pounds for his positiveness and ignorance.' That is what the Bishop himself undoubtedly would have done.
The epigram is Martial 3.57, and the point is that water was more expensive than wine at Ravenna (see 3.56). There are no significant variants in D.R Shackleton Bailey's Teubner edition (p. 99).

Hat tip: Alan Crease. who says, "Nobody's ever quoted Martial at my dinner parties." I myself have more than once quoted "Non amo te, Sabidi..." (1.32) at a dinner party, by way of explaining my irrational dislike of certain people (e.g. Mark Zuckerberg, a photograph of whose face adorns my dart board).

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