The Stoic Traveler

"Wherever I go, it will be well with me."

06 November 2007

Epistolas Incipio De Novo

L.A.S. s.d. C.L.

I have been too lax in writing to you, amice, too caught up in worldly affairs and the worries of the day, to take time to set my thoughts to paper. The third time, they say, is the charm and I will take advantage of that maxim to re-build and expand the edifice I began thirteen months ago.

You know, I presume, that I have taken a pseudonym in these epistles. I do not pretend that this pseudonym actually shields my identity. Indeed, I often presume that you, dear reader, are at least vaguely aware of my foibles, views, and general opinions. So if the pseudonym is not really a protection, why use it? Why not use my real name?

I use the pseudonym for two main reasons. First, because it provides me a kind of cover, an excuse to use the grandiloquent style I have admired since I was a kid. And second, because I believe it connects me more immediately to my ideas.

You have probably noticed that my writing is not typical of a 21st century American. I write in an archaic style: "misplacing" relative clauses, using Latin expressions, expanding infinitives and purpose clauses, and using affectations such as "dear reader," among other tropes. In most cases, I use far too many words; enough to make at least two teachers of mine scream.

In normal writing, when writing as part of an assignment or specific task, my prose is clear and concise. I excise my hard-won, celestial Latin in favor of earthly German. While I relish the challenge of translating complicated ideas into clear thought, I daily wish I could use the high eloquence of Cicero, or Hamilton, or Burke.

My second reason stems from my first exposure to serious political and philosophical writing: the Federalist Papers. Written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay under the pseudonym Publius, the Federalist set out the case for the American federal constitution. Using "Publius," after the Republican Founder Publius Valerius Publicola, stronger in Roman Republican history than Brutus, Caesar, or even Cato, connected the Federalists with a deep Republican tradition and emphasized the vetus in the novus ordo seclorum that the American Experiment represents.

Using a Classical pseudonym, I believe, helps connect me to the things that I admire, to the American Founders, to the Romans, and to the intellectual world I hope to engage.

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