Anonymous of Bologna
The Principles of
(Rationes dictandi)

Translated by James J. Murphy

The Principles of Letter-Writing


We are urged by the persistent requests of teachers to draw together in a brief space some certain points about the principles of letter writing. But we ask that the expert should not laugh, that the spiteful tooth of the envious should not bite, and that the unskilled in the art should not back away--for after all, even if the fullness of the moon is wanting, this undertaking is not on that account useless in every part. Therefore let honest men hear honestly what is here honestly set forth, and by hearing understand, and lock what they understand securely in the treasure box of the heart. And even let those who are advanced in this art add in some other points, just as grain is thrown by the handful on the threshing floor for the sake of separating it out.




A written composition is a setting-forth of some matter in writing, proceeding in a suitable order. Or, a written composition is a suitable and fitting treatment of some matter, adapted to the matter itself. Or a written composition is a suitable and fitting written statement about something, either memorized or declared by speech or in writing.

Now, some written compositions are metrical, others rhythmic, others prosaic.

A metrical composition is a written presentation which is properly distinguished by prescribed measures of feet and duration.

A rhythmic composition is one which is bound together syllabically according to a fixed numerical rule.

But since it is our intention to treat only prose composition, let us describe more carefully what it is and how it should be written.

A prose composition is a written presentation ignoring the measures of meter, and proceeding in a continuous and suitable order. Now, here let us describe the proper meaning of this first term, for, in Greek, proson is said to be "continuous." Then, we say that a written statement is "suitable" in which we treat the subject under discussion in words ordered according to the grammatical rules for prose or poetry.

Let us now examine particularly how to fashion this kind of composition, either in an approved and basic format or in accordance with circumstances.

The terms "approved and basic" (recta et simplici) are used at this point because the words of the writer might reach even the least educated or the most ignorant persons; for example, for this purpose I might say: "O loyal one and most beloved, I well believe that it is known to you what great trust I have in you concerning all my affairs."

By the term "accordance with circumstances" we mean a method for the more experienced writers. It is an apt accordance, a set of words ordered in a way different from ordinary syntax; it must by all means be made harmonious and clear, that is, like a flowing current.

Although we could discuss a correct arrangement of words at this point, even though that will be decided more by the ear than anyone's teaching could explain, nevertheless we have enough to do here simply to provide some form of introduction to those untrained in this art.




An epistle or letter, then, is a suitable arrangement of words set forth to express the intended meaning of its sender. Or in other words, a letter is a discourse composed of coherent yet distinct parts signifying fully the sentiments of its sender.




There are, in fact, five parts of a letter: the Salutation, the Securing of Good-will, the Narration, the Petition, and the Conclusion.



The Salutation is an expression of greeting conveying a friendly sentiment not inconsistent with the social rank of the persons involved.

Now, every salutation is said to be either "prescribed," "subscribed," or "circumscribed."

It is said to be "prescribed" if the name of the recipient is written first, followed by those things which are joined with that person's name, in this manner: "To G_, the most intimate of friends and the most eminent in the glory of all worthiness, F_, the student of letters who is ever so slow yet is also persistent, expresses greetings and the feeling of warm affection."

Next, a salutation is called "subscribed" if the name of the recipient is placed at the end, with those things which are joined with it coming before in such a way that the name is as clearly revealed in the preceding salutation as it would be if the whole were written in the opposite order.

A salutation is said to be "circumscribed" if the name of the recipient is written in several places in this way: "To Innocentius, revered in Christ our Lord, by the grace of God the highest Pontiff and universal Pope of all the holy church, R_, the bishop of Verona conveys due reverence in Christ."

What Should be Included in a Salutation

Next, we must consider carefully how somewhere in the Salutation we want some additions to be made to the names of the recipients; above all, these additions should be selected so that they point to some aspect of the recipient's renown and good character.

Now, if we want to add something to the names of the senders, let it at least be made suitable, since it should be chosen to indicate humility and certainly not pride. It is therefore necessary for us to be guided by the ranks of the persons involved in such a way that, as often as names of ecclesiastical ranks or professional status are joined with the names of the senders, they will be qualified by added phrases so that through them no pride whatsoever is displayed; for example, if it is a clerk or someone of ecclesiastical status, he should always be titled thus: "Johannes, clerk" or "deacon" or "bishop" or "abbot," . . . "although unworthy" or "undeserving" or "sinful." In secular positions or offices, of course, it is not necessary for it to be done in this way, if we say for instance: "N_, friend of the Tuscans," or "N_, Duke of Venice," or "Marshall of Tusca" and the like.''

Next, it should be noted in regard to salutations that the names of the recipients should always be placed before the names of the senders, whether with all their adjectives in the dative case or, likewise with all their adjectives in the accusative, unless--and only when--a more important man is writing to a less important man. For then the name of the sender should be placed first, so that his distinction is demonstrated by the very position of the names.

Now, when the name of the recipient is written with its adjectives in the dative case, then without fail we should end the salutation with declined words; that is, they should be added in the accusative or genitive or in a strong ablative, according to the discretion of the writer. A salutation is concluded in the accusative when we say: salutem et intime dilectionis affectum ("greeting, and of profound pleasure the feeling"). If, on the other hand, we should change the order, the salutation is concluded in the genitive, as we would say: affectum ultime dilectionis ("feeling of profound pleasure"). It will conclude in the ablative if we add: cum salute perenni ("with continuing greeting") or something similar.

But if we write the names of the recipients with all their adjectives in the accusative case, it is absolutely necessary that we close the salutation itself with infinitives or in some way in which its words are related to the infinitive construction; for instance: "Gregorius, by divine grace, resplendent in the splendors of universal wisdom, N_ wishes to live in happy prosperity and to abound always in success in the future," or "to carry on with continued success"_implying in this salutation, of course, the word "hopes" or "wishes" or "desires," just as in another salutation the word "sends" or directs" or "entrusts" would be implied.

Next, let us show briefly what is proper in salutations sent to all sorts of persons.

Of course, among all people some are outstanding; others are inferior, and still others just in between. Now, people are said to be "outstanding' to whom no superiors are found, like the Pope or the Emperor.

Therefore, when a letter-writer (dictator) undertakes to write, and the difference between the ranks of the persons involved is known, he must take into consideration from the first whether the purpose is for one man to write to one other man, or for one to write to several, or several to one, or several to several; and whether equal is writing to equal, inferior to superior, or superior to inferior.

Next, the kind of subject must be considered, so that the writer may fashion the salutation with words suitable and prescribed according to it.

Next, the writer should know what is fitting to be attached to the names of the persons involved, as for instance the proper ending of any salutation.

If one man is writing to one or several or several to one or several, and the writing happens to be among equals, or from inferiors to superiors, the names of the recipients should be placed first, in the order of the salutation, in the dative or accusative case with their adjectives. The names of the senders, on the other hand, with their corresponding adjectives, should be placed last, in the nominative case. But if superiors are writing to inferiors, the names of the senders should be placed first so that their rank may be indicated by the sequence of the writing itself.

The Salutations of a Ruler to the Pope, and of

every Subject to the Prelates.

Furthermore, if the salutation is ever directed to the Pope from the Emperor himself, or from some man of ecclesiastical rank, it is best for it to be sent in the following form or one like it: "To the venerable in the Lord and Christ N_, by the grace of God highest and universal Bishop of all the Holy Church, N_by the grace of God august ruler of the Romans," or "N_, priest of the Ravenna church, although unworthy, expresses due reverence in Christ," or "steadfastness of due obedience," "stewardship of due reverence," "allegiance of due servitude" or "obedience of due allegiance."

Now, these salutations or ones similar to them are fittingly sent among ecclesiastics, at least from subordinates to prelates, and "in Christ" or "in the Lord Jesus Christ" must always be added.

In fact, there are particular terms which we are accustomed to put in salutations of this kind: "reverence," "allegiance," "devotion," "obedience," "servitude," and "servanthood."

And from these nouns adjectives should be developed which are similar to the nouns, and should be included in the salutation in the manner written above.

The Pope's Universal Salutation

"Bishop Innocentius, servant of the servants of God in His beloved son Christ, to N_, august emperor of the Romans, sends greetings and papal blessings."

The Emperor's Salutations to All Men

"N_, august emperor of the Romans by the grace of God, expresses friendship and good wishes to the Bishop of Faventia," or "to the Earl of Pictava," or "to the people of Pisa."

But when any bishop or duke or people of any city writes to the emperor, the following things or ones like them should be added in conjunction with the name of the ruler: "To the renowned, most excellent, most invincible, most eminent conqueror and always august emperor of the Romans, C_, N_, archbishop of Pisa, though unworthy, expresses his due obedience in Christ," or something similar to the forms above.

Salutations of Ecclesiastical Among


"N_, by the grace of God bishop of the holy church of Bologna, although unworthy, sends unceasing good wishes in Christ," or "greeting in Christ eternal," "fraternal greetings and prayers in the Lord," "desires an increase of fraternal good-will and love," "expresses a feeling of brotherly affection," or "sends greetings and heartfelt prayers in the Lord."

Now, it may happen that prelates have reverend persons under their authority to whom not "blessings" but "greetings and an increase of true" or "sincere" or "pure piety" should be written.

Principally to Monks

". . . An increase of true piety in Christ," "the reward of holy conversation," "the reward of eternal bliss."

For truly, in writing to monks we are accustomed to make mention always of "piety" or "holy conversation."

Salutations of Prelates to their Subordinates

"N_, by the grace of God bishop of the holy church of Bologna, although unworthy, sends to P_, servant of the church of Holy Mary, greetings and blessings," "greetings and an increase of blessings," or "blessings in the Lord with good-wishes."

For, indeed, it is always customary for ecclesiastical prelates in their salutations to their subordinates to pronounce a blessing.

And it should also be noted that the same prelates of churches, even if they are writing to subordinates who are under their own authority, do not send "blessings" to them unless they are priests; "greetings with a feeling of friendship" or whatever is appropriate are sent between friends. If, on the other hand, they are not priests, they should be sent "greetings with a feeling of esteem."

In a letter of suspension, excommunication, or harsh reproof, they should write simply as follows: "N_, by the grace of God bishop of Faventia, to N_, an elder"--and nothing else, as "writes this letter" will be understood. If, however, it is necessary to convey a warning, the salutation should say "greetings according to merit," or "favor where it is considered deserved," or "friendship which is deserved by worthiness," or "greetings as they can be deservedly bestowed."

Whoever would wish to know the salutations suitable from subordinates to prelates, would learn that there are six words appropriate to the composition of these: "allegiance," "reverence," "obedience," "devotion," "servitude," and "servanthood." And to whichever of these we could use, we would add an adjective which suits it: adding "due allegiance," or "veneration," or inserting "in Christ," or "in the Lord," or "in Jesus Christ," or "in the Lord Jesus Christ" in this way: "due veneration in Christ," or "due allegiance in Christ Jesus."

Now if we should want to vary the form, the accusatives should be changed to genitives, and whichever of the things mentioned above that would be suitable should be added on, so that we would say: "the servitude," or "allegiance of due veneration in Christ," or "the veneration of due servitude in the Lord."

We may make these as humble as we might suitably wish, as in "the most devoted veneration in Christ," or "the servitude of the most devoted veneration"; moreover, "in Christ Jesus," or "in those who are of Christ" might also be added.

Salutations among Noblemen, Princes, and Secular Clergy

"To the vigorous soldier and noble friend, Earl N_, P_, the Duke of Venice, sends greetings and wishes for every good fortune," "greetings and warm affection," or "uninterrupted affection with unceasing good-wishes," if perhaps one of these forms is suitable to be sent between these men. The following passage will show which forms are clearly appropriate to be sent between comrades and friends.

Salutations of Close Friends or Associates

"To N_, the closest of friends," or "the most beloved of comrades," or "the dearest of favorites," or "bound to one another by a mutual union of affection," or "linked together by an indissoluble chain of affection," or "N_, devoted to the study of letters, sends greetings and a feeling of warm affection," "the affection of warm feeling with unceasing good-wishes," "steadfastness of personal fellowship," "the sweetness of the dearest friendship," "the constancy of sincere good-will," or "the sweetness of imperishable love."

Another example of uniting in friendship: "Guido, already bound by a sincere bond of affection, N_, follower of the profession of logician, wishes to be bound further to him by a mutual chain of affection and to be disturbed by no hostility, wishes him to live forever and to abound in all good things, to live always honorably and never to cease in his affection, to possess always wisely a happy life, and to hold always more firmly to the rightful ways."

These salutations are also sent appropriately to comrades or close friends, since the different ranks of these persons can be indicated by a rather easy variation. For where "Guido, already bound by a sincere bond of affection" is written, "friendship" or "fellowship" or "brotherhood" could be written where "of affection" is written, in whichever way the truth of the matter will require.

Salutations of Subjects to their Secular Lords

When secular subordinates write a salutation to their lords, they should not under any circumstances say "veneration" or "allegiance," but should say instead "service," "compliance," "servitude," "loyalty" "subordination," and the like.

"To his most beloved lord" or else "to his most pre-eminently esteemed and most worthy excellency," "N_, his loyal servant" or "his devoted follower" or "subject to him in all things," "declares his loyal servitude," "earnestness in the highest loyalty," "obedience of due servitude," "servanthood of due obedience," "loyalty and all manner of servitude," "servitude in the warmest loyalty," and the like.

Salutations of These Same Lords to their Subordinates

"N_, son of Guido, N_, loyal servant" or "devoted follower," "sends greetings and good-will," "greetings and enduring good wishes," "good-will and every support," "unceasing assistance, with greetings," and the like.

Salutations of Lords to Blamable and Offending Subordinates

"N_, bishop of Faventia although unworthy, to John, presbyter of the church of Holy Mary, sends greetings and pardon according to merit," "greetings as they have been deserved," "pardon insofar as it is considered deserved," or "greetings proportionate to his iniquity" and the like.

The Salutation of a Teacher to his Pupil

"N_, promoter of the scholastic profession, wishes N_, his most dear friend and companion, to acquire the teachings of all literature, to possess fully all the diligence of the philosophical profession, to pursue not folly but the wisdom of Socrates and Plato."

The Salutation of a Pupil to his Teacher

"To N_, by divine grace resplendent in Ciceronian charm, N_, inferior to his devoted learning, expresses the servitude of a

sincere heart," or "always obedient honorable service," or some other phrase corresponding to those suitable to be sent from subordinates to prelates.

What Should be Included in Parents' Salutations

to their Sons

In salutations which are sent out of a feeling of love from parents to their sons, we are accustomed always to put the term "blessings"; this is stipulated since it is written: "The obedience of sons gladdens their parents, and the sons are always enriched by their blessings."

Salutations of Parents to their Sons

"Peter the father and Mary the mother, to John their most beloved son, send parental blessings with their greetings," or "fresh greetings and eternal blessings."

Salutations of Sons to their Parents

On the other hand, a salutation of a son to his parents should by all means be one which is described above as appropriate to be sent to superiors by subordinates, as for example, "filial veneration with love," "servitude of filial veneration," and the like.

Salutations of Delinquent Sons to the Same Parents

"To Peter and Mary his parents, N_, once their son but now deprived of filial affection," "once dear to them but now without cause become worthless, does whatever he can though he seems to be able to do nothing."

Another example: "To N_, most beloved lord," or "dearest father" or "relation" or "brother" or "comrade," "N_, shackled by iron chains" or "subjected to the harshest confinement of prison" or "tied by heavy bonds," "sends wishes for all manner of good fortune which he himself utterly lacks," "sends wishes with his greetings for all the prosperity he does not have," and the like.

Considerations in Salutations

It is necessary to reflect carefully at this point so that we may apply ourselves to preparing several such letter salutations as will be appropriate to the subject we are going to take up later in the letter.

For instance, if someone wanted to chide someone else who seemed to have deserted good customs and devoted himself to vicious ones, he should express his greetings thus: "Alderic, indecently devoting himself to vicious conduct and presenting himself otherwise than is proper, N_ his brother" or "once his close friend," "advises him to abandon vices altogether and to return to the pursuit of honor."

Another Consideration

Furthermore it is a custom to take the material of the salutation from the name of the recipient in such a way that we urge him to greater good-will. In this way, for example, if he is called Benedictus or Gratianus or Johannes (which means "grace of God"), or Benignus or Amatus or some similar names, we can begin in someone's salutation as follows:

To Benedictus by name: "To the man of all wisdom by divine grace, Benedictus by grace, Benedictus by name, Benedictus even by deed, N_ offers loyal service and wishes the protection of divine blessings."

To Gratianus by name: "Gratianus, resplendent by divine grace both in deeds and in honors, N_ wishes to be uplifted always by divine grace and not ever to be disturbed by any evil."

To any whatsoever: "Maximus" or "Honorius" or "Odorius, blessed with invigorating spirits," or "Desiderius, desirable according to the meaning of his name itself, N_ wishes to flourish in prosperous successes and to shine forth in the fame of all honor."



Now that these things have been explained, especially the varieties of salutations, let us turn to the Securing of Goodwill. The Securing of Goodwill (benivolentiae captatio) in a letter is a certain fit ordering of words effectively influencing the mind of the recipient.

Now this may be secured in a letter in five ways: from the person sending the letter, or from the person receiving it, or by both at once, or from the effect of circumstances, or from the matter at hand.

Goodwil1 will be secured by the person sending the letter if he mentions humbly something about his achievements or his duties or his motives.

On the other hand, it will be secured according to the person receiving the letter when not only the humility of the sender but also the praises of the recipient are duly indicated.

Goodwill will be secured also from the effect of circumstances if something is added which would be appropriate to both persons involved, or which would be in the purpose of things, or could be suitably or reasonably connected to goodwill, such as "intimacy," "affection," "fellowship," "familiarity," "lordship and service," "fatherly feeling and filial feeling," and the like.

In any case, goodwill will be secured from the matter at hand if the extent of its future importance is openly set forth. That kind of securing of goodwill is also used in the conclusion of a letter.

If however the situation arises for a combative letter to be written, that is, for enemies or opponents, the goodwill could in fact be sought in it according to the persons of the adversaries, namely in that fashion which Cicero introduces in his Books of Rhetoric, this method should be used, by all means, if we would lead our opponents into hatred, jealousy, or contention. If the matter at hand is honorable, or if the auditor is known to be friendly, we should seek goodwill immediately and clearly; if it is not honorable, we should use indirection and dissimulation. As a matter of fact, opponents are led into hatred if their disgraceful deeds are cited with cruel pride; into jealousy if their bearing is said to be insolent and insupportable; and into contention if their cowardice or debauchery is exposed.

Besides, very often the largest part of the securing of goodwill is in the course of the salutation itself. For that reason we should devise our letters in such a way that whenever the humility of the sender or the merits of the recipient are advanced at large in the salutation, we should either begin the rest of the letter immediately with the narration or with the petition, or we should point out our own goodwill rather briefly and modestly.

Also, in the remaining parts of the letter a not inconsiderable goodwill is expressed again and again--such as in certain names indicating the honor or glory of the recipient's office or rank. The recipient himself would be called many times "father" or "lord" or "eminent pontiff" or "noble duke" or "closest of comrades" according to the principles of variation noted earlier.



The Narration is the orderly account of the matter under discussion, or, even better, a presentation in such a way that the materials seem to present themselves. We should by all means run through such a Narration quickly and clearly for the advantage of the sender's cause.

Some Narrations are simple, others complex. A Narration is simple that is completed by the narration of only one matter. A Narration is complex, on the other hand, in which several matters are recounted.

Furthermore, some Narrations are written about the past, others about the present, and still others about the future. The subject of handling these various forms will be taken up later in its proper place in this book.



Now, that discourse is called the Petition in which we endeavor to call for something.

There are indeed nine species of Petition: supplicatory or didactic or menacing or exhortative or hortatory or admonitory or advisory or reproving or even merely direct.

A petition is supplicatory when we entreat by prayers that something be done or not done. Minors often use this form.

A Petition is didactic when we seek, through precepts, that something be done or not done. It is menacing, when we do it with threats; after all, someone's official office is in a sense a threat, as for instance when a bishop sends a message to admonish one of his subordinates under the force of his office, or when some lord addresses a slave under threat of cutting out his eyes or head or his right hand, and the like.

A Petition is exhortative when we seek through urging that something be done or not done; admonitory, through admonishing; advisory, through advising, reproving, through chiding.

On the other hand, it is said to be direct when we ask that something be done or not done in none of these ways, but only by indicating or writing it directly.

Again, some Petitions are simple, some complex, just as we have set them forth above.



The Conclusion, of course, is the passage with which a letter is terminated.

It is customary for it to be used because it is offered to point out the usefulness or disadvantage possessed by the subjects treated in the letter. For example, if these topics have been treated at length and in a roundabout way in the Narration, these same things are here brought together in a small space and are thus impressed on the recipient's memory.

Thus we can use this passage for affirming or denying. For affirming the letter's usefulness, it might be put in this way: "If you do this, you will have the entirety of our fullest affection"; for denying, disadvantage might be phrased thus: "If you fail to do this you will without doubt lose our friendship."

The ending of a letter contains nothing that relates directly to the subject matter of the letter itself. Thus I might say in the first person, "I salute Petrus and Paulus"; in the second person, "Farewell, Petrus and Paulus, my brothers and friends"; or in the third person, May good fortune be increased for Petrus and Paulus."



We have now described the five parts of a letter. But lest it seem by any chance that no letter could be acceptable without all of them, let us see now which parts must remain untouched in the shortening of a letter. Indeed the Conclusion, which is the final part, is many times left out, either because the usefulness or inconvenience of what has been said before is already clear, or because the letter has been lengthy in its other parts and therefore the prolongation of a tedious letter is being avoided.

The Petition is frequently passed over because the sender intends to ask for nothing. Even in this case the letter remains complete with only the three remaining parts.

However, if the Narration is not used, the letter will not be whole with only the remaining two parts. Thus the beginning of a properly shortened letter will be at the Narration, in this way: "It has been indicated," or "It is revealed to us," or "We have learned through the reliable account of many men...."

Again, though, if the Salutation is removed from the beginning, the letter will remain complete with only the remaining four parts. Indeed this is sometimes done, so that when someone wishes to declare the scorn or anger or passion of an indignant mind, he would present no Salutation but would merely use the regular place of the Salutation to list the names involved--for example, "Petrus to Johannes"; or he may wish to indicate something signifying greater disdain of spirit, as follows: "Petrus to Johannes, worthless and deservedly forsaken servant," and the like. On the other hand, the Salutation is sometimes left unsaid out of fear, as in Sallust: "Who I am you will learn from what is being sent to you."

Now if the Salutation is removed in some way, it is necessary for the Securing of Goodwill to be likewise removed, since they are contiguous and mutually connected. Therefore, the letter will remain correct with only the three remaining parts according to the sender.

If the Narration is also removed from these, the letter will remain complete enough with just the Petition and Conclusion. The beginning of this kind of letter will be: "By bearer we entrust writings to you," or "in constancy" or "firmly" "we turn to you, without further delay."

Also we find such a case that many letters remain complete with only the Petition.

Again it should be noted that the Salutation with the Narration alone, or the Petition alone, constitutes a complete letter; but with a Securing of Goodwill alone, or with a Conclusion alone, it does not resemble anything.



Now that the parts of a letter have been enumerated and carefully explained, let us discuss briefly the order in which the parts themselves can be moved about.

Indeed, in order that we may treat the instances useful in the majority of cases, let us state as a rule that they should be arranged m such an order that they are seen by the reader to be clearly used and explained--for example, the Salutation should always come first--so that a letter thus set up would be seen clearly to perform the function of a messenger. By the same token, in a letter using only the other four parts, the beginning should be the Securing of Goodwill, so that when the attention of the recipient is secured in this part, he will be more favorably inclined to understand the rest of the letter. By all means then, the Narration must follow it and after that the Petition; it is especially for the sake of these parts that complete goodwill is sought. Then must follow the Conclusion, which concludes what has been said before and points out what can develop from it.

Nevertheless, even these ways can sometimes be changed without violating correctness.

Now the Securing of Goodwill--which is, of course, written according to the person of the sender or of the recipient or of both at the same time, or according to circumstances--can be placed not improperly in the position of the Narration. This is done in such a way that, after the receptive feelings of the recipient are assured by this part, the place of the Petition will immediately follow, in this way:

Narration: "What care and sorrow, what loss and heart-felt grief cruel death has brought upon us with the passing away of our own pastora--surely everyone who knew the life and moral conduct of our devout father can know this only too well! That above all is why, O eminent father, we flee to your paternal love. That is why we seek your kindness in our letters."

Securing of Good-Will: "Indeed, who would not freely ask aid of him he knows as one who provides piously for the welfare of his flock? Who would not unhesitatingly seek the comfort of one whom he knows is compassionate and holy? Since therefore, father, we perceive that all these gifts of virtue thrive in you almost bodily,"

Petition: "We humbly entreat that you provide for our_nay, rather your_church with the care of a father devout in the lord, and that you arrange to find us a capable father according to the discretion of your stewardship and to assign to us the one you find."

Sometimes the Securing of Goodwill is even placed after the Narration and Petition, and a Conclusion is not even used in the last place. This is usually done to greatest effect in letters of reply, in this fashion:

Narration: "Most rarely--or never--does it happen that anyone prefers giving to receiving. Indeed, it is the nature of the human condition that when a man knows he needs a few things, he seeks after and demands a great many. For, each man comes forth naked from his mother's womb, and just as he is deprived of clothing, in other words, so is he in want of all things. Therefore, it is entirely in accordance with man's nature that your parents should send a few things to you, even though less than your filial respect would urge them to send. But I cannot provide in full, my son, what you have asked for."

Petition: "I ask on friendly terms that you do not receive this message with annoyance."

Securing of Good-will: "For I know that the wisdom of your good sense is so great that you are worthy of being praised not only by those bound to you by kinship, but also by everyone."

The Petition can even be placed with sufficient correctness before the Narration, if the discretion of the writer takes pains to do it carefully. For when the Narration follows the Petition, it is necessary for it to be so connected that the subject of the discussion is related partly to the Petition and partly to the demonstration of it, just as it is set forth in the format of the following letter:

Securing of Good-will: "Since I truly know that you are bound to me both by the tie of kinship and by the unity of warm affection, therefore I do not hesitate at all to ask your kindness with confident boldness, and then to seek from you a favor."

Petition: "I therefore ask humbly, I pray most earnestly, I entreat compassionately, that you sustain me generously with your gifts from now until the feast of the Resurrection." 12

Narration: "For indeed you know how scanty are the gifts of parents, how infrequent, how inadequate. If they send a little, they consider it to have been a lot; and they think without cause that the work applied to the study of literature is obviously stupid, and that my worthless labors are in no way productive."

Again it must be carefully considered that often a simple Petition follows a complicated Narration, or that a complicated Petition accompanies a simple Narration, or that both are made simply or complexly.

Now, when a complicated Petition follows a complicated Narration, if particular elements of the Petition correspond to certain elements of the Narration, they can be handled mixed together, in this way:

Part of the Narration: "We have heard it said in public--and we trust some particular parts of this information--that Roger the Tyrant of Apulia has made war against Beneventum, and that he has already seized several most stoutly defended fortifications as bases for his troops."

Part of the Petition: "Because of this, we now call upon your loyalty, so that you will attack him with fighting men and throw up against that man all the force you can."

Another Part of the Narration: "We have likewise heard that the Anconans, who have changed their loyalty over to him, have resigned the government of their city to his most abominable rule."

Another Part of the Petition: "For this reason we also ask that, after the truth of this matter is made known, you either recall them to the constancy of our loyalty, or else chastise and overthrow them as traitors and enemies of Roman role."

And thus in all similar letters the intermixture can go on quite correctly for as long as desired. Or, after all elements of the Narration have been set forth, all the elements of the Petition can then be placed in unbroken succession, however it pleases the discretion of the letter-writer.




Now that these five parts have been briefly treated, let us turn to the syntax of a letter. But prior to this discussion, it must be noted that in every kind of composition there are three kinds of sentences which both theory and the practice of reading will indicate clearly to us.

The first of these is called "suspensive," another "constant," and a third "finite." That one is called "suspensive" by which, when it is heard, the mind of the hearer is virtually kept in doubt and expects to hear something else besides. And this must always be delivered with an acute accent. On the other hand, that one is called "constant" which in fact lacks nothing for the completion of its meaning except whatever the will of the writer wishes to add. We say that that one is "finite" by which the discourse and the intention of the writer is completed.

Indeed, an example of all these is found in the following: "A1though it is the property of justice to give itself to every man, nevertheless justice itself loves to be treated with moderation, and solace loves to be employed with compassion for the contrite of heart."



For truly every letter must be arranged within the approved format as it is said above, or in accordance with circumstances.

It is especially necessary for this adaptation to circumstances to be made smooth and harmonious and resplendent in the judicious use of words. Since that capacity is acquired by the judgment of the ears and experience in writing--rather than by any very fixed precepts--we are contenting ourselves in this book with providing some basic skills for the untrained.

Now let us postpone no longer the discussion of the syntax of a letter.

[At this point the author adds a brief discussion of the eight parts of speech, the six case endings of words, and other matter concerning the "construction" or grammatical form of a written composition. The discussion of syntax is largely taken from the Roman grammarian Priscian (fl. 550 A.D.), whose Ars grammatica concludes with two chapters which circulated separately in the middle ages under the title On Constructions (De constructionibus).]