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LIFE AND WRITINGS OF CICERO.
H. Good morning, my dear Doctor. I have waited upon you, at this early hour, to display a purchase which I recently made, and to ask your opinion respecting it. I have here the entire works of Cicero, in one stout octavo, by a German scholar of the name of Nobbe.
Dr. B. I have seen the edition, Henry, and am disposed to think very favourably of it, both as regards the text itself, and the typographical execution of the volume. I examined it at Parker's, yesterday, in company with Ashton, of Brasen-Nose. - But do tell me, how stands your acquaintance with the life and writings of "the man of Arpinum?"
H. I am not as much at home there, Doctor, as ought to be. With the general outlines of his character and labours, I am as well acquainted, probably, as most young men of my age are; but still there are many points about which I should like to consult you, when you are perfectly at leisure for the task. Indeed, Doctor, to be candid, I wish you would favour me with a conversation about Cicero similar to the one in which Sallust was our theme.
Dr. B. With all my heart, Henry; for I happen to be quite at leisure just now, as the delegates of the press will not meet to-day, owing to the indisposition of the Camden Professor of History, Dr. Cardwell.
H. I regret the cause, my dear Doctor, and yet cannot but deem myself extremely fortunate in finding you thus disengaged. With your permission, I will occupy this comfortable, old-fashioned armchair, and will place my Cicero on the table between us as a sort of connecting tie.
Dr. B. There is no need, my dear boy, of any such tie in the present case, as a far more powerful one already exists. Besides, I know not how it is, but whoever occupies that plain old seat where you are now reclining, seems endeared to me by what Gaisford would
call the "genius sedilis ; " for it was there that my old friend Copleston, of Oriel, used to sit, and discourse of "high philosophy," before he was transferred to that more elevated sphere of action, which he honours by his talents, and adorns by his numerous virtues. God grant, my dear Henry, that your own career may be as distinguished and successful a one!
H. If patient industry, and a conscientious discharge of duty, can gain for me an honourable name, I trust I shall never disappoint your expectations, my own and my father's friend, although I can never hope to attain to that lofty superiority, which has been reached by the eminent individual whose name you have just mentioned. Let us proceed, now, my dear Doctor, to Cicero.
Dr. B. Marcus Tullius Cicero was born in the 103d year before the Christian era, at Arpinum, a Latin city, the inhabitants of which enjoyed the rights of Roman citizenship, and the privilege, consequently, of voting at the comitia. The birth-year of Cicero was also that of Pompey, who was a few months his junior*: while Arpinum, the orator's natal place, was likewise famous for having produced the celebrated Marius, the well-known opponent of Sylla, and the deliverer at the same time and scourge of his country.
H. Was it not Pompey who made some allusion to this circumstance, Doctor, of Arpinum's having produced both a Cicero and a Marius?
i Dr. B. It was. He took occasion once to remark, in a public speech, that Rome was under the strongest obligations to this municipium, because two citizens had come forth from it, who had each in his turn preserved Italy from ruin. † And Valerius Maximus makes a similar remark.
H. I remember his words: "Conspicua felicitatis Arpinum unicum, sive literarum gloriosissimum contemtorem, sive abundantissimum fontem intueri velis."
Dr. B. Yes, that used to be a favourite quotation with Russell, of Magdalen. The contemtor literarum is Marius, the fons abundantissimus, Cicero. Our orator was of a family, which, though it had never borne any of the great offices of the republic, was yet very ancient and honourable §; of principal distinction and nobility in that part of
* Cicero was born on the third of January (Ep. ad Att. 7. 5.), and Pompey on the last of September following. Pigh. Ann. Plin. 37. 2.
Val. Max. 2. 2.4.
+ Cic. de Leg. 2. 3.
§ Hæc est mea, et hujus fratris mei germana patria: hinc enim orti stirpe antiquissima sumus: hic sacra, hic genus, hic majorum multa vestigia." Cic. de Leg. 2. 2. 3.
Italy in which it resided, and of equestrian rank from its first admission to the freedom of Rome. It appears, that the father of Cicero, having his ambition probably excited by the successful career of his fellow townsman Marius, was the first who thought of obtaining some degree of lustre for his family, by bestowing a careful education on his two sons Marcus and Quintus, and one which might enable them to enjoy the highest offices in the gift of the Roman people.
H. But how could they procure this education at Arpinum?
Dr. B. They obtained it at Rome, in the dwelling of Caius Aculeo, their maternal uncle, and an eminent lawyer of the day; and their cousins, the young Aculeos, were educated with them, according to a method approved of by Crassus, the celebrated orator, and by the very instructors whom he himself had employed.* The language and literature of Greece formed, of course, a prominent part of their early studies, and in this they were carefully instructed by the poet Archias, who came to reside at Rome when Cicero was only five years of age, and to whose fostering care the latter beautifully alludes in the memorable oration in which he defends the poet's citizenship.
H. Do you not think, Doctor, that he rates somewhat too highly the merits of this Archias? Dodgson, of Christ-Church, one of Dean Ireland's scholars, insists that the poet was only an individual of second-rate abilities.
Dr. B. Why, I am inclined to think so myself. But vanity, you know, was the great failing in Cicero's character; and Archias, most probably, in the true spirit of his country and his age, had ministered so abundantly to the personal feelings of the Roman orator, as to entitle him in the eyes of the latter to a more than ordinary return of the language of praise. Be this, however, as it may, we cannot but admire the kind feeling so strongly displayed in his spirited eulogium upon the character and abilities of his early preceptor. But let us proceed. Cicero is said to have attracted, at an early period, the attention of the two greatest orators of their day, Licinius Crassus and Marcus Antonius, who did not disdain to interest themselves in behalf of a youth so conspicuous for zeal and the early development of talent. He had already given a proof of this ability by his poem of Pontius Glaucus, which he is said to have composed while still almost a boy, and which existed as late as the time of Plutarch. +
* "Cumque nos cum consobrinis nostris, Aculeonis filiis, et ea disceremus, quæ Crasso placerent, et ab iis doctoribus, quibus ille uteretur, erudiremur." De Orat. 2. 1. † Plut. Vit. Cic. 2.