Calpurnia Cycle: Novel - Letters


There is no way to break this news softly. Your grand-daughter, Calpurnia, has had a miscarriage. For a time her own life was endangered, but she will recover. I know you hunger for news of a grandchild and this comes as a blow to both you and I. I take some comfort that while this has happened, we will keep trying.

At times like this we should look beyond the sorry present, and the day when this grief will become joy. For it is our children that write the future.


To C. HISPULLA, Good health!

I have written to your father with news of Calpurnia.

There is good news and bad. While her aunt, I know you consider her more a daughter than a niece, and out of respect for that love let me start with the good news.

Calpurnia's unsuspected pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage, perhaps due to her youth. She escaped with her life by the slimmest chance, although it left her grievously ill. Do not despair! She is starting to mend, her spirits are returning, she is getting stronger, and once again she can look on me and say my name.

I know that this will burden your thoughts. Both your father and you have placed high hopes in a child. This joy is merely postponed, Calpurnia and I will not be denied.

Please help your father through this time. Your understanding will help explain this accident.


To CALPURNIA, Good health!

I cannot survive without you. Thoughts of you chain me tight.

My love echoes through all we have built. If you are not here to quiet it, the unanswered questions drive me crazy.

Instead, at night, my mind turns without rest. In daytime, I pace the spaces and interspaces of our life, searching for your trace. My heart pauses at the locked door of your chambers: silent and deserted.

Look at me! Is this life: that I must turn to the sledgehammer of toil to escape the pain of love?


To CALPURNIA, Good health!

I thought we had lost all, but you tell me you are recovering in those vine covered hills, far to the south.

I need to be with you right now, and I hate the circumstance that keep us apart. My eyes need to see you growing stronger and eating properly. I need you to return to health. I trust that my family in Naples is helping you recover with their sun soaked gardens, warm springs, and sweet fish stews. But, I need to see it for myself. I must know if the area truly agrees with you.

Maybe I am over-reacting. I know you are in good hands, but our loss torments me and I cannot bear the thought of you remaining unwell.

I dream up the most implausible thoughts. I imagine the worst possibilities.

Please write to me. Ignore the expense, send a courier twice a day. Word from you is the only light that pierces the clouds around me. With such anxiety, every cure is only temporary.


To CALPURNIA, Good health!

You tell me that you have found consolation in a younger man during our absence. You have found a library with my earlier books and you are conversing with my younger self.

In this circumstance I am pleased you miss me, and that your cure gives you rest.

Back here in the capital, I hear your lyre dance across your letters to me. I listen to the music within, time and time again, and a great longing rises within me. How much sweeter will it be to talk the days away next to you!

Send more. Do not spare the pleasure or the pain.


This is a part of the Novel 'Letters" being written here.


After marriage in 100CE, Calpurnia seldom left Pliny's side, eventually travelling with him to the Eastern provinces when the Emperor appointed him govern Bithynia. Elsewhere he refers to her central role in his intellectual life, travel with her to Como, their evening walks, and the routine of the day. For her, he was prepared to break all the rules, even risk incurring the displeasure of the Emperor. In turn, she forgave him the faults of youth and age. If they did not part as a matter of course, these letters may reference one significant exception, after her miscarriage, when she travelled without Pliny (who was conducting trials and then, possibly, a short investigation) to relatives south of Rome near present day Naples to recuperate.


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