Laura Cereta has no time for your bullshit

In 1487, Venetian humanist Laura Cereta sent some samples of her writing in Latin to fellow scholar Giovanni Olivieri, asking for his critique. Olivieri, doubting Cereta’s ability to produce such a piece of writing and suspecting she’d had help, sent his wife Elena to catch Cereta out by requesting a piece of writing in Latin on the spot. Understandably incensed, Laura wrote back sarcastically to Olivieri,

Although I have neither consulted the divination of Tages nor the Sybilline books in order to know the future, nor have I been possessed by the god, or guided by auguries, still I had a suspicion that had already caused me to write on another occasion that I thought you’d be rightly amazed that I had the courage — mere woman though I was, untutored in literature, and utterly ignorant — to send you a little epistolary oration, however crude and in need of editing with a scythe it might be.

Anyway, look how conveniently it has worked out that a more prescient mind than mine has provided inspiration from higher places. Your wife has approached me in a friendly manner — and she is very charming and addresses everyone in the right way at the right time. It seemed she wouldn’t leave me alone until she asked me to write something on the spur of the moment to you even though I had nothing in the least worthwhile to say. I don’t know if she came over, in the role of a scout or deserter herself, to have a look at the modest education I’ve had. In any case I do see the nature of these attempts of hers: and they are — if you’ll permit me the liberty of saying so — underhanded missions under the guise of which you expect me to get tangled up in the net of my own inexperience, just as you tend to imagine me wandering around on unknown roads, blind without a father’s guidance.

© T H E M E