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to the most conspicuous position in the Roman state after Caesar. In one difficult emergency he showed judgment and energy, in the affair of Catilina and his associates, and we may admit that he was, as Augustus is reported to have said of him, “a wise man and a lover of his country?." But he lived in difficult times, and found himself in an awkward position between opposing factions; and this with his great timidity, which however he vehemently denied, as timid people do more than the courageous, is some excuse for his irresolution, insincerity, and duplicity. After being humbled to the dust by his exile and by Caesar's usurpation, he rose again and maintained a last and desperate struggle against M. Antonius and his faction. He was the only man in the senate, so far as we know, who showed either honesty or courage in prosecuting the war against Antonius. He knew it was a contest for his own life, and he perished in the fight, betrayed by men in whom he trusted, and outwitted by the boy, as he called young Caesar.
No man can read Cicero's Orations and bis Letters without discovering that he falls far below the measure of a generous, sincere, and noble character. The evidence against him is himself. Some of my notes in which I have made remarks about him might lead a reader to suppose that I have taken a pleasure in pointing out the weak or the bad parts of his character; but I am conscious that I have had no intention to do so, that when I began this work I had a better opinion of him, and it is not my fault if a man's character will not stand against the evidence which he has himself produced. I believe that as a private man, though very vain and resentful, he was much better than most of his contemporaries; and as to his public life, we must make the same liberal allowance which ought to be made to all men who are engaged in political matters. We must admit that it is very difficult for a statesman to be perfectly honest, even if he wishes it, for he must try to please a great many people, and often get to good ends, or such as he thinks good, by indirect and crooked ways. We may also certainly conclude that he who is strictly honest and unbending, is not fit for the direction of political affairs, though he may be very useful in
7 Plutarch, Life of Cicero, c. 49.
keeping in some kind of order those who have more taste for such business and less scruples than himself.
If Cicero as a man does not command admiration or respect, he has earned by his writings a fame that will exist as long as good letters shall endure : he has got that immortality which he has often spoken of, and the anticipation of which was a motive to his unwearied labour. As he said of his friend Servius Sulpicius, “the life of the dead rests in the remembrance of the living." If his writings were lost, there would be an immense blank in Roman literature. To the versatility of his talents and his diligence we are indebted for a large amount of instructive writing, only a part of the fruits of his untiring industry. His merits as an original thinker and a philosopher are slight, but still he has written a good deal in this sort which may be read with pleasure and some profit ; and though I do not think we can always trust him as an expositor of the philosophy of the Greeks, his writings are useful to the historian of philosophy.
His great merit is that of a writer on oratory, and a writer of orations. He was a perfect master of a difficult art, which he had acquired by great labour, and which he practised to the end of his life. In clearness, fulness, life, and energy, his style has never been surpassed. The only fault is that he sometimes has too much of the florid Asiatic style, and that his metaphors, which are abundant, are not always consistent with propriety and good taste. But this is a fault of the Latin language, this abundance of metaphor, and one of the main reasons why Latin is sometimes difficult to understand, and often very difficult to translate. Cicero's best orations are inferior to nothing that the Greeks have left, and in some respects I think that they are superior. He handled the matter that was before him with the most perfect skill. He could confuse a thing, if he chose, and make a web of sophistry, which it is almost impossible to disentangle. What he wished to make clear, he could state in the simplest, plainest, and most forcible way, and he generally did it in short sentences. His way of telling a story or an anecdote is the best that could be: he does not weary us; he moves on quick, and lets us off before we are tired, which an unskilful teller of stories never does. He could be hu
morous, sarcastic, ironical, satirical; and when he was malignant. his mouth was most foul and his bite most venomous. gumentative power, his way of handling given facts, and getting out of them all that he wanted for his purpose, is really admirable, and more admirable than easy to imitate.
Such a writer is well worth studying; and he has left behind him more than most people will have time to read with care. In fact, out of the wreck of antiquity there is still left enough, and more than enough, good matter for a man to employ his life on; and much more than any person can read whose classical studies are only intended to be a part of his education and a useful discipline. Instead, therefore, of recommending young men to read more of the best ancient writers than they do, and to read even those of little value, of whom there is plenty, I think that they should read only as much as they can read well in a limited time; for it is only by reading well, and not by reading much, that a man is formed and fashioned for use. Those who have leisure to continue their classical studies in after life, though literature may not be their occupation, can select what best suits their taste; but I think that every man of sense would rather read over twenty times something good than waste his time on what is of less value ; his object being, as I presume, improvement and pleasure, and not the idle curiosity of reading something because it is either old or new, or because nobody else reads it. That kind of reading is intemperance, and a sign of an unhealthy appetite. For the same reason,
I suppose a man of sense would rather see a few choice works of art every day than run about to look at all the rubbish which ill-directed industry has produced.
I think that a careful study of some of Cicero's orations is an excellent discipline for youth; but it is not easy for young students to read these orations with profit. The Greek and Roman orators ought to be the last writings which a young student is brought to; and this remark applies more particularly to Cicero'. The matter is so varied, a great deal of it so technical, the facts alluded to are
3 See F. A. Woli's Remarks on reading the Orators : Orat. adv. Leptinem, Ep. ad Reiz. p. x; and Erasmus, Ad Hervagianam primam, Praefatio. Wolf has also some good remarks (p. xxvii) on the reading of the worthless part of ancient literature.
so numerous, and sometimes so incorrectly stated, that in this alone there is enough to perplex even a clever and diligent student. Again, Cicero's argumentation is often so subtle that it is hard to seize it; and since, as I have hinted, he does not always intend to be plain, or to instruct, but to be obscure and to mislead, it requires long practice to see what he means. Under the simple easy form of Cicero's language there lurk difficulties which some do not discover, and none can explain.
There are some orations which are comparatively easy, those in which there is more of narrative, panegyric, and declamation. They are for this reason the easiest for young students, but they are not the best of Cicero's orations. There are some which are so technical and difficult as to be quite unfit for school reading, such as the orations Pro P. Quintio and Pro Caecina ; but a young man at college may try his strength upon them. Other orations are of a mixed character as to difficulty, simple in the narrative, and perfectly clear in the argumentative part to a man who has studied them well, but very difficult to ordinary students. The excellent orations Pro Cluentio and Pro Milone are of this kind. I believe that all who have tried the experiment of reading these two orations, even with intelligent youths of the age of eighteen, must have found that there is a great deal in the argumentative part which they do not readily apprehend; a great deal which no commentator explains, or ought to explain ; for if he explained all, his work would be endless, and also useless. It is in such cases as these that a man has a great advantage over a boy, and the teacher's business is to supply that which no commentator gives; and he can do it sufficiently well, if he has a fair knowledge of the language, and studies the lesson well before he hears it.
I shall make one suggestion, which may seem impertinent to those who are not in need of it; but it may be useful to others. We read an oration of Cicero or a Greek play bit by bit: we examine it as we go along, dissect it, and make a demonstration on the body. The process is necessary, in order that the student may see each part well, and examine it minutely. But though this troublesome process is necessary in order to know what the thing is, if we leave it after this operation in its disjected state, it is indeed a defunct, lifeless body. To reanimate it, to show all the proportions of this noble structure, is the business of the teacher. He should read over the whole to his class in the best language that he can find, and he should do it, if the thing is short, at a sitting ; and if it is long, he should do it in as few sittings as he can. He need not trouble himself about parts that are corrupt, or so difficult as to be almost unintelligible : he may pass over such things lightly. His object is to let the student see what the thing is altogether ; and if it is a work of genius and art, genius and art will show themselves by being presented in their entire and simple beauty . It is not an easy thing for a teacher to do well what I have suggested. Some will do it better than others; but I believe that all who have competent knowledge will with a little practice do it well enough to please their hearers, and be pleased themselves too with the profit which they will get. As to the students, I suppose out of a class of twenty a few would not attend very much, no more than they attend to their usual lessons; but a great many will attend carefully, and will be pleased and instructed. Having often made the experiment, I can speak with confidence of its success.
I said a few words in the Preface to the first volume about the Notes. There are two ways of making notes, and perhaps more; but I have only to deal with two here. No commentator can neglect to look at what has been done by others. He may either read all that has ever been said about his author or the greater part, and make a selection from the commentators' notes : or he may study his author carefully, mark the difficulties, make his own notes, and then improve and correct them by the aid of what others have done. This second way is that which I have followed, and I think it is the best. If an editor follows this method, his work will contain a great deal of his own, either good or bad. A man who has not sufficient confidence in himself to think that he can do something for the explanation of an author by his own labour, had better let the thing alone. He who only reads what others have said, is likely to read too much and to write too much, and there is great risk that he will be encumbered by the mass of matter which he collects. His own judgment will not be so clear as it ought to be,
• See a passage in Seneca, Ep. 33.