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YOUR perfect affection manifests itself in every sentence of the last letter which I received from you: not that it was anything new to me, but all the same it was grateful to my feelings and all that I could desire. I should have called it "delightful," had not that word been lost to me for ever: and not for that one reason which you imagine, and in regard to which you chide me severely, though in the gentlest and most affectionate terms, but because what ought to have been the remedies for that sorrow are all gone. Well then! Am I to seek comfort with my friends? How many of them are there? You know—for they were common to us both. Some of them have fallen, others I know not how have grown callous. With you indeed I might have gone on living, and there is nothing I should have liked better. Long-standing affection, habit, community of tastes—what tie, I ask, is there lacking to our union? Is it possible then for us to be together? Well, by Hercules, I know not what prevents it: but, at any rate, we have not been so hitherto, though we were neighbours at Tusculum and Puteoli, to say nothing of Rome; where, as the forum is a common meeting-place, nearness of residence does not matter. But by some misfortune our age has fallen upon circumstances, which, just when we ought to be at the very height of prosperity, make us ashamed even of being alive. For what had I to fly to when deprived of everything that could afford me distinction or console my feelings at home or in public life? Literature, I suppose. Well, I devote myself to that without ceasing. But in some indefinable way literature itself seems to shut me out from harbour and refuge, and as it were to reproach me for continuing a life in which there is nothing but extension of utter wretchedness. In these circumstances, do you wonder at my keeping away from the city, in which my own house has no pleasure to offer me, while the state of affairs, the men, the forum, and the senate-house are all utterly repulsive to me? Accordingly, what I seek from literature, on which I spend my whole time, is not a lasting cure but a brief oblivion of pain. But if you and I had done what on account of our daily fears it never occurred to us to do, we should have been always together, and neither would your weak health have annoyed me, nor my sorrow you. Let us aim at securing this as far as it may be possible: for what could suit both of us better? I will see you therefore at an early day.

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load focus Notes (Frank Frost Abbott, 1909)
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