Pliny the Younger, Letters 9.34
Pliny wonders how best to negotiate a reading of his poetry. This must surely be the earliest reference to the subtle art of the lip-sync.
C. PLINIUS TRANQUILLO SUO S.
explica aestum meum: audio me male legere, dumtaxat versus; rationes enim commode, sed tanto minus versus. cogito ergo recitaturus familiaribus amicis experiri libertum meum. hoc quoque familiare, quod elegi non bene sed melius – scio – lecturum, si tamen non fuerit perturbatus. est enim tam novus lector quam ego poeta. ipse nescio, quid illo legente interim faciam, sedeam defixus et mutus et similis otioso an, ut quidam, quae pronuntiabit, murmure oculis manu prosequar. sed puto me non minus male saltare quam legere. iterum dicam, explica aestum meum vereque rescribe, num sit melius pessime legere quam ista vel non facere vel facere. vale.
Gaius Plinius greets his Tranquillus.
Settle my anxiety: I hear it said that I read badly, at least when it comes to verse. I do well enough with speeches, but so much less well with verses. So, as I intend to put on a reading for my closest friends, I’m thinking of trying out one of my freedmen. This is also treating them informally, because I’ve chosen a man who I know will not read well, but better than me – so long as he isn’t flustered. In fact he’s as new to being a reader as I am to being a poet. As for me, I don’t know what I should do while he’s reading, whether I should sit still and silent like an audience-member or whether, as some people do, I should accompany what he’s reciting with my mumbling, with my eyes and my hands. But I think I’m no less bad at miming than I am at reading. So I say again, settle my anxiety and write back with your true opinion: would it be better for me to read really badly than to do, or not do, those things I mentioned? Farewell!