Pliny the Elder as a Blogger; Schopenhauer as Jonathan Franzen

Pliny Younger’s description of the reading habits of his uncle, Pliny the elder, makes the later sound a bit like a blogger constantly reading an RSS feed or listening to a podcast:

On his return home he would again give to study any time that he had free. Often in summer after taking a meal, which with him, as in the old days, was always a simple and light one, he would lie in the sun if he had any time to spare, and a book would be read aloud, from which he would take notes and extracts. For he never read without taking extracts, and used to say that there never was a book so bad that it was not good in some passage or another. After his sun bath he usually bathed in cold water, then he took a snack and a brief nap, and subsequently, as though another day had begun, he would study till dinner-time. After dinner a book would be read aloud, and he would take notes in a cursory way. I remember that one of his friends, when the reader pronounced a word wrongly, checked him and made him read it again, and my uncle said to him, “Did you not catch the meaning?” When his friend said “yes,” he remarked, “Why then did you make him turn back? We have lost more than ten lines through your interruption.” So jealous was he of every moment lost.

Arthur Schopenhauer’s thoughts on the said description sound a bit like Jonathan Franzen ranting about the superficiality of twitter:

Even when it is reported of the elder Pliny that he was always reading or being read to, at table, when travelling, or in his bath, the question suggests itself to me whether the man was so lacking in ideas of his own that those of others had to be incessantly imparted to him, just as a consommé is given to a man suffering from consumption in order to keep him alive. Neither his undiscerning gullibility, nor his inexpressibly repulsive, almost unintelligible, paper-saving, notebook style is calculated to give me a high opinion of his ability to think for himself.

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