CDLXXVII (F IX, 26)
TO L. PAPIRIUS PAETUS (AT NAPLES)I have just lain down to dinner at three o'clock, when I scribble a copy of this note to you in my pocket-book. 1 You will say, "where?" With Volumnius Eutrapelus. One place above me is Atticus, one below Verrius, both friends of yours. Do you wonder that our slavery is made so gay? Well, what am I to do? I ask your advice as the pupil of a philosopher. 2 Am I to be miserable, to torment myself? What should I get by that? And, moreover, how long? "Live with your books," say you. Well, do you suppose that I do anything else? Or could I have kept alive, had I not lived with my books? But even to them there is, I don't say a surfeit, but a certain limit. When I have left them, though I care very little about my dinner—the one problem which you put before the philosopher Dion—still, what better to do with my time before taking myself off to bed I cannot discover. Now listen to the rest. Below Eutrapelus lay Cytheris. 3 At such a party as that, say you, was the famous Cicero, "To whom all looked with rev'rence, on whose face Greeks turned their eyes with wonder?" To tell you the truth, I had no suspicion that she would be there. But, after all, even the Socratic Aristippus himself did not blush when he was taunted with having Lais as his mistress: "Yes," quoth he, "Lais is my mistress, but not my master." It is better in Greek; 4 you must make a translation yourself, if you want one. As for myself, the fact is that that sort of thing never had any attraction for me when I was a young man, much less now I am an old one. I like a dinner party. I talk freely there, whatever comes upon the tapis, as the phrase is, and convert sighs into loud bursts of laughter. Did you behave better in jeering at a philosopher and saying, when he invited anyone to put any question he chose, that the question you asked the first thing in the morning was: "Where shall I dine?" The blockhead thought that you were going to inquire whether there was one heaven or an infinite number! What did you care about that? "Well, but, in heaven's name—you will say to me—"was a dinner a great matter to you, and there of all places ?" 5 Well then, my course of life is this. Every day something read or written: then, not to be quite churlish to my friends, I dine with them, not only without exceeding the law, but even within it, and that by a good deal. 6 So you have no reason to be terrified at the idea of my arrival. You will receive a guest of moderate appetite, but of infinite jest.