CDLVI (F V, 21)
TO L. MESCINIUS RUFUS1 I was gratified by your letter which told me, what I thought to be the case even without any letter, that you were inspired with a very eager desire to see me. I gladly accept the compliment, but I do not yield to you in the strength 9f the wish: for may I have all my heart's desire, as I ardently long to be with you! Even at the time when I had a greater wealth of good citizens, agreeable men, and attached friends about me, there was yet no one whose Society I enjoyed more than yours, and few whose I enjoyed as much. But at the present time, since some have died, others are away, and others changed in feeling, upon my honour, a single day devoted to you will bring a richer return of pleasure than all this time given to most of those with whom I am forced to live. For do not imagine that solitude—and even that, after all, I am not allowed to en-joy—is not pleasanter than the talk of those who crowd my house, with one or at most two exceptions. 2 Accordingly, I fly to that refuge, which I think you should also seek—my darling studies: and, in addition to them, the consciousness of the principles I have maintained. For I am a man, as you will have no difficulty in conceiving, who have never acted for my own interests in preference to those of my fellow citizens: a man of whom, if he whom you never loved—for you loved me—had not been jealous, he would now have been in prosperity, and so would all the loyalists. I am he whose wish was that no man's brute force should be preferred to peace with honour. And again, when I perceived that the very appeal to arms, which I had always dreaded, was to influence the result more than that union of all loyalists (of which I again was the author), I preferred accepting a peace on any terms whatever that were safe to a combat with the stronger. But all this and much else when we meet, as we soon shall. For after all there is nothing to keep me at Rome except the expectation of news from Africa: for the campaign there seems to me to have come to a point when the decisive stroke cannot be far off. Now whatever that news may be, I suppose it is of some importance to me that I should not be out of the way of consulting my friends: I don't, indeed, see clearly what the precise importance is, but nevertheless it must be of some. In fact, it has come to this, that though there is a wide difference between the merits of the two contending sides, I should imagine there will not be much difference between the way they will use their victory. But my courage, which has perhaps been somewhat weak while the result was undecided, now that all is lost, has greatly recovered its tone. You, too, did much to strengthen it by your previous letter, from which I learnt how bravely you were bearing your injurious treatment: and it was helpful to me to find that your lofty character, as well as your literary studies, had stood you in good stead. For I will be candid: I used to think you somewhat lacking in spirit, as indeed most of us were, who have lived the life of free men in a state that was itself wealthy and free. But as we were moderate in the old prosperity, so ought we to endure now with courage what is not a mere reverse of fortune, but a total loss of it: to the end that we may get this amount of good at least in the midst of the gravest ills, that, while even in prosperity we were bound to disregard death (seeing that it will bring with it an absence of all sensation 3 ), at this time and with these distresses we ought not only to disregard, but even to wish for it. If you have any regard for me, continue to enjoy your leisure and convince yourself that, except misconduct and crime—of which you have been and always will be clear-nothing can happen to a man that can soil his honour or should rouse his fear. For my part, if it shall seem feasible, I will come to see you before long: if anything happens to make a change in my plans necessary, I will at once let you know. Don't allow your eagerness to see me induce you to move in your present weak state of health, without first asking me by letter what I want you to do. Pray go on loving me as before, and devote yourself to your health and peace of mind.