The object of this book is to give the English-speaking public a convenient form, as faithful and readable a copy as the translator was capable of making of a document unique in the literature of antiquity. Whether we regard the orrespondence of Cicero from the point of view of the biographer and observer of character, the historian, or the lover of belles lettres, it is equally worthy of study. It seems needless to dwell on the immense historical importance of letters written by prominent actors in one of the decisive periods of the world's history, when the great Republic, that had spread its victorious arms, and its law and discipline, over the greater part of the known world, was in the throes of its change from the old order to the new. If we would understand—as who would not ?—the motives and aims of the men who acted in that great drama, there is nowhere that we can go with better hope of doing so than to these letters. To the student of character also the personality of Cicero must always have a great fascination. Statesman, orator, man of letters, father, husband, brother, and friend—in all these capacities he comes before us with singular vividness. In every one of them he will doubtless rouse different feelings in different minds. But though he will still, as he did in his lifetime, excite vehement disapproval as well as strong admiration, he will never, I think, appear to anyone dull or uninteresting. In the greater part of his letters he is not posing or assuming a character; he lets us only too frankly into his weaknesses and his vanities, as well as his generous admirations and warm affections. Whether he is weeping, or angry, or exulting, or eager for compliments, or vain of his abilities and achievements, he is not a phantasm or a farceur, but a human being with fiercely-beating pulse and hot blood.

The difficulty of the task which I have been bold enough to undertake is well known to scholars, and may explain, though perhaps not excuse, the defects of my work. One who undertakes to express the thoughts of antiquity in modern idiom goes to his task with his eyes open, and has no right at every stumbling-block or pitfall to bemoan his unhappy fate. So also with the particular difficulties presented by the great founder of Latin style—his constant use of superlatives, his doubling and trebling of nearly synonymous terms, the endless shades of meaning in such common words as officium, fides, studium, humanitas, dignitas, and the like—all these the translator has to take in the day's work. Finally, there are the hard nuts to crack—often very hard—presented by corruption of the text. Such problems, though, relatively with other ancient works, not perhaps excessively numerous, are yet sufficiently numerous and sufficiently difficult. But besides these, which are the natural incidents of such work, there is the special difficulty that the letters are frequently answers to others which we do not possess, and which alone can fully explain the meaning of sentences which must remain enigmatical to us; or they refer to matters by a word or phrase of almost telegraphic abruptness, with which the recipient was well acquainted, but as to which we are reduced to guessing. When, however, all such insoluble difficulties are allowed for, which after all in absolute bulk are very small, there should (if the present version is at all worthy) be enough that is perfectly plain to everyone, and generally of the highest interest.

I had no intention of writing a commentary on the language of Cicero or his correspondents, and my translation must, as a rule, be taken for the only expression of my judgment formed after reading and weighing the arguments of commentators. I meant only to add notes on persons and things enabling the reader to use the letters for biographical, social, and historical study. I should have liked to dedicate it by the words Boswellianus Boswellianis. But I found that the difficulties of the text compelled me to add a word here and there as to the solution of them which I preferred, or had myself to suggest. Such notes are very rare, and rather meant as danger signals than critical discussions. I have followed in the main the chronological arrangement of the letters adopted by Messrs. Tyrrell and Purser, to whose great work my obligations are extremely numerous. If, as is the case, I have not always been able to accept their conclusions, it is none the less true that their brilliant labours have infinitely lightened my task, and perhaps made it even possible.

I ought to mention that I have adopted the English mode of dating, writing, for instance, July and August, though Cicero repudiated the former and, of course, never heard of the latter. I have also refrained generally from attempting to represent his Greek by French, partly because I fear I should have done it ill, and partly because it is not in him as in an English writer who lards his sentences with French. It is almost confined to the letters to Atticus, to whom Greek was a second mother-tongue, and often, I think, is a quotation from him. It does not really represent Cicero's ordinary style.

One excuse for my boldness in venturing upon the work is the fact that no complete translation exists in English. Mr. Jeans has published a brilliant translation of a selection of some of the best of the letters. But still it is not the whole. The last century versions of Melmoth and Herbenden have many excellences; but they are not complete either (the letters to Brutus, for instance, having been discovered since), and need, at any rate, a somewhat searching revision. Besides, with many graces of style, they may perhaps prove less attractive now than they did a century ago. At any rate it is done, and I must bear with what equanimity nature has given me the strictures of critics, who doubtless will find, if so minded, many blemishes to set off against, and perhaps outweigh, any merit my translation may have. I must bear that as well as I may. But no critic can take from me the days and nights spent in close communion with Rome's greatest intellect, or the endless pleasure of solving the perpetually recurring problem of how best to transfer a great writer's thoughts and feelings from one language to another: “Caesar in hoc potuit juris habere nihil.”

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