[N]othing about a book is so unmistakable and so irreplaceable as the stamp of the cultured mind. I don't care what the story is about or what may be the momentary craze for books that appear to have been hammered out by the village blacksmith in a state of intoxication; the minute you get the easy touch of the real craftsman with centuries of civilisation behind him, you get literature.
Manlius ... took care in his invitations, actively sought to exclude from his circle crude and vulgar men like Caius Valerius. But they were all around; it was Manlius who lived in a dream world, and his bubble of civility was becoming smaller and smaller. Caius Valerius, powerful member of a powerful family, had never even heard of Plato. A hundred, even fifty years before, such an absurdity would have been inconceivable. Now it was surprising if such a man did know anything of philosophy, and even if it was explained, he would not wish to understand.