The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 37
"Not at Home"
"Not at Home".
It will not surprise anybody who can estimate probabilities to learn that the polite Romans, like ourselves, when it was not agreeable to them to receive visits, directed their servants to say "not at home." But it may be amusing to see a direct confirmation of the fact from an antient author. This is found in a very neat and goodhumored epigram of Martial:
So may I thrive, my Decius, as 'tis true,
Whole days and nights I'd gladly pass with you;
But two long miles divide, which, told again,
Amount to four, when I return in vain.
Oft you are out, or, if not, Denied,
By causes or by studies occupied.
Two miles to see you willingly I trudge,
But four miles to miss you, I confess I grudge.
When Scipio Nasica called on the poet Ennius he was told by the maid that Ennius was "not at home;" but Nasica heard him speak. After a few days Ennius visited the abode of Nasica and inquired for him. The latter called out, "I am not at home." Then Ennius said, "Do you think I do not know your voice?" Nasica replied, "What an impudent man! I inquired for him the other day, and believed his maid when she said he was not at home; and now he will not believe me when I tell him so myself!"