The Life of Cicero, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter xi.

Cicero’s Rhetoric.

It is well known that Cicero’s works are divided into four main parts. There are the Rhetoric, the Orations, the Epistles, and the Philosophy. There is a fifth part, indeed — the Poetry; but of that there is not much, and of the little we have but little is esteemed. There are not many, I fear, who think that Cicero has deserved well of his country by his poetry. His prose works have been divided as I have stated them. Of these, two portions have been dealt with already — as far as I am able to deal with them. Of the Orations and Epistles I have spoken as I have gone on with my task, because the matter there treated has been available for the purposes of biography: the other two, the Rhetoric and the Philosophy, have been distinct from the author’s life.1 They might have been good or bad, and his life would have been still the same; therefore it is necessary to divide them from his life, and to speak of them separately. They are the work of his silent chamber, as the others were the enthusiastic outpourings of his daily spirit, or the elaborated arguments of his public career. Who has left behind him so widely spread a breadth of literature? Who has made so many efforts, and has so well succeeded in them all? I do not know that it has ever been given to any one man to run up and down the strings of knowledge, and touch them all as though each had been his peculiar study, as Cicero has done.

His rhetoric has been always made to come first, because, upon the whole, it was first written. It may be as well here to give a list of his main works, with their dates — premising, however, that we by no means in that way get over the difficulty as to time, even in cases as to which we are sure of our facts. A treatise may have been commenced and then put by, or may have been written some time previously to publication. Or it may be, as were those which are called the Academica, that it was remodelled, and altered in its shape and form. The Academica were written at the instance of Atticus. We now have the altered edition of a fragment of the first book, and the original of the second book. In this manner there have come discrepancies which nearly break the heart of him who would fain make his list clear. But here, on the whole, is presented to the reader with fair accuracy a list of the works of Cicero, independent of that continual but ever-changing current of his thought which came welling out from him daily in his speeches and his letters. Again, however, we must remember that here are omitted all those which are either wholly lost or have come to us only in fragments too abruptly broken for the purposes of continuous study. Of these I will not even attempt to give the names, though when we remember some of the subjects — the De Gloria, the De Re Militari — he could not go into the army for a month or two without writing a book about it — the De Auguriis, the De Philosophia, the De Suis Temporibus, the De Suis Consiliis, the De Jure Civili, and the De Universo, we may well ask ourselves what were the subjects on which he did not write. In addition to these, much that has come to us has been extracted, as it were unwillingly, from palimpsests, and is, from that and from other causes, fragmentary. We have indeed only fragments of the essays De Republica. De Legibus, De Natura Deorum, De Divinatione, and De Fato, in addition to the Academica.

The list of the works of which it is my purpose to give some shortest possible account in the following chapters is as follows:

                         NATURE OF THE WORK.
 TITLES OF        Those as to Rhetoric are marked [a]         THE DATE
 THE WORKS.         "    "  Philosophy      "     [b]            OF
                  The Moral Essays          "     [c]        PUBLICATION.

 Rheticorum  { Four books, giving lessons in Rhetoric;        }
 ad C.       { supposed to have been written, not by Cicero,  } B.C.
 Herennium.  { but by one Cornificius.[a]2                } 87, 86.
                                                              } Ætat.
 De          { Four books, giving lessons in Rhetoric,        } 20, 21.
 Inventione. { supposed to have been translated from the      }
             { Greek. Two out of four have come to us.[a]     }

             { Three dialogues, in three books--supposed to   }
             { have been held under a plane-tree, in the      }
 De Oratore. { garden at Tusculum belonging to Crassus,       } B.C. 55.
             { forty years before--in which are laid down     } Ætat. 52.
             { instructions for the making of an orator.[a]   }

             { Six political discussions--supposed to have    }
 De          { been held seventy-five years before the date   } B.C. 53.
 Republica.  { at which they were written--on the best mode   } Ætat. 54.
             { of governance. We have but a fragment of them. }
             { [c]                                            }

             { Three out of six books as to the best laws for }
             { governing the Republic. They are carried on    }
 De Legibus. { between Atticus, Quintus, and Marcus. They     } B.C. 52.
             { are supposed to have been written B.C. 52      } Ætat. 55.
             { (ætat. 55), but were not published till after  }
             { his death.[c]                                  }

 De Optimo   { A preface to the translation of the speeches   }
 Genere      { of Æschines and of Demosthenes for and against } B.C. 52.
 Oratorum.   { Ctesiphon--in the matter of the Golden Crown.  } Ætat. 55.
             { [a]                                            }

 De          { Instructions by questions and answers,         }
 Partitione  { supposed to have been previously given to his  } B.C. 46.
 Oratoria.   { son in Greek, on the art of speaking in public.} Ætat. 61.
             { [a]                                            }

             { Treatises, in which he deals with the various  }
             { phases of Philosophy taught by the Academy. It }
 The         { has been altered, and we have only a part of   } B.C. 45.
 Academica.  { the first book of the altered portion and the  } Ætat. 62.
             { second part of the treatise before it was      }
             { altered. In its altered form it is addressed   }
             { to Varro.[b]                                   }

 De Finibus  { A treatise in five books, in the form of       }
 Bonorum et  { dialogues, as to the results to be looked for  } B.C. 45.
 Malorum.    { in inquiries as to what is good and what is    } Ætat. 62.
             { evil. It is addressed to Brutus.[b]            }

 Brutus: or, { A treatise on the most perfect orators of past }
 De Claris   { times. It is addressed to Brutus, and has, in  } B.C. 45.
 Oratoribus. { a peculiar manner, been always called by his   } Ætat. 62.
             { name.[a]                                       }

 Orator.     { A treatise, addressed to Brutus, to show what  } B.C. 45.
             { the perfect orator should be.[a]               } Ætat. 62.

             { Or the Tusculan Inquiries, supposed to have    }
 Tusculanæ   { been held with certain friends in his Tusculan }
 Disputa-    { villa, as to contempt of Death and Pain and    } B.C. 45.
 tiones.     { Sorrow, as to conquering the Passions, and the } Ætat. 62.
             { happiness to be derived from Virtue. They are  }
             { addressed to Brutus.[a]                        }

             { Three books addressed to Brutus. Velleius,     }
 De Natura   { Balbus, and Cotta discuss the relative merits  } B.C. 44.
 Deorum.     { of the Epicurean, Stoic, and Academic Schools. } Ætat. 63
             { [b]                                            }

             { He discusses with his brother Quintus the      }
 De          { property of the gods to "divine," or rather    } B.C. 44.
 Divinatione.{ to enable men to read prophecies. It is a      } Ætat. 63.
             { continuation of a former work.[b]              }

 De Fato.    { The part only of a book on Destiny.[b]         } B.C. 44.
             {                                                } Ætat. 63.

 The Topica. { A so-called translation from Aristotle. It is  } B.C. 44.
             { addressed to Trebatius.[a]                     } Ætat. 63.

 De          { A treatise on Old Age, addressed to Atticus,   } B.C. 44.
 Senectute.  { and called Cato Major.[c]                      } Ætat. 63.

 De          { A treatise on Friendship, addressed also to    } B.C. 44.
 Amicitia.   { Atticus, and called Lælius.[c]                 } Ætat. 63.

             { To his son. Treating of the Moral Duties of    }
 De          { Life. Containing three books--                 } B.C. 44.
 Officiis.   {    I. On Honesty                               } Ætat. 63.
             {   II. On Expediency                            }
             {  III. Comparing Honesty and Expediency.        }

It is to be observed from this list that for thirty years of his life Cicero was silent in regard to literature — for those thirty years in which the best fruits of a man’s exertion are expected from him. Indeed, we may say that for the first fifty-two years of his life he wrote nothing but letters and speeches. Of the two treatises with which the list is headed, the first, in all probability, did not come from his pen, and the second is no more than a lad’s translation from a Greek author. As to the work of translation, it must be understood that the Greek and Latin languages did not stand in reference to each other as they do now to modern readers. We translate in order that the pearls hidden under a foreign language may be conveyed to those who do not read it, and admit, when we are so concerned, that none can truly drink the fresh water from a fountain so handled. The Romans, in translating from the Greek, thinking nothing of literary excellence, felt that they were bringing Greek thought into a form of language in which it could be thus made useful. There was no value for the words, but only for the thing to be found in it. Thence it has come that no acknowledgment is made. We moderns confess that we are translating, and hardly assume for ourselves a third-rate literary place. When, on the other hand, we find the unexpressed thought floating about the world, we take it, and we make it our own when we put it into a book. The originality is regarded as being in the language, not in the thought. But to the Roman, when he found the thought floating about the world in the Greek character, it was free for him to adopt it and to make it his own. Cicero, had he done in these days with this treatise as I have suggested, would have been guilty of gross plagiarism, but there was nothing of the kind known then. This must be continually remembered in reading his essays. You will find large portions of them taken from the Greek without acknowledgment. Often it shall be so, because it suits him to contradict an assertion or to show that it has been allowed to lead to false conclusions. This general liberty of translation has been so frequently taken by the Latin poets — by Virgil and Horace, let us say, as being those best known — that they have been regarded by some as no more than translations. To them to have been translators of Homer, or of Pindar and Stesichorus, and to have put into Latin language ideas which were noble, was a work as worthy of praise as that of inventing. And it must be added that the forms they have used have been perfect in their kind. There has been no need to them for close translation. They have found the idea, and their object has been to present it to their readers in the best possible language. He who has worked amid the bonds of modern translation well knows how different it has been with him. There is not much in the treatise De Inventione to arrest us. We should say, from reading it, that the matter it contains is too good for the production of a youth of twenty-one, but that the language in which it is written is not peculiarly fine. The writer intended to continue it — or wrote as though he did — and therefore we may imagine that it has come to us from some larger source. It is full of standing cases, or examples of the law courts, which are brought up to show the way in which these things are handled. We can imagine that a Roman youth should be practised in such matters, but we cannot imagine that the same youth should have thought of them all, and remembered them all, and should have been able to describe them.

The following is an example: “A certain man on his journey encountered a traveller going to make a purchase, having with him a sum of money. They chatted along the road together, and, as happens on such occasions, they became intimate. They went to the same inn, where they supped, and said that they would sleep together. Having supped they went to bed; when the landlord — for this was told after it had all been found out, and he had been taken for another offence — having perceived that one man had money, in the middle of the night, knowing how sound they would sleep from fatigue, crept up to them, and having taken out of its scabbard the sword of him that was without the money as it lay by his side, he killed the other man, put back the sword, and then went to his bed. But he whose sword had been used rose long before daylight and called loudly to his companion. Finding that the man slumbered too heavily to be stirred, he took himself and his sword and the other things he had brought away with him and started alone. But the landlord soon raised the hue-and-cry, ‘A man has been killed!’ and, with some of the guests, followed him who had gone off. They took the man on the road, and dragged his sword out of its sheath, which they found all bloody. They carried him back to the city, and he was accused.” In this cause there is the declaration of the crime alleged, “You killed the man.” There is the defence, “I did not kill him.” Thence arises the issue. The question to be judged is one of conjecture. “Did he kill him?”3 We may judge from the story that the case was not one which had occurred in life, but had been made up. The truculent landlord creeping in and finding that everything was as he wished it; and the moneyless man going off in the dark, leaving his dead bedfellow behind him — as the landlord had intended that he should — form all the incidents of a stock piece for rehearsal rather than the occurrence of a true murder. The same may be said of other examples adduced, here as afterward, by Quintilian. They are well-known cases, and had probably been handed down from one student to another. They tell us more of the manners of the people than of the rudiments of their law.

From this may be seen the nature of the work. From thence we skip over thirty years and come at once to B.C. 55. The days of the Triumvirate had come, and the quarrel with Clodius — of Cicero’s exile and his return, together with the speeches which he had made, in the agony of his anger, against his enemies. And all this had taken place since those halcyon days in which he had risen, on the voices of his countrymen, to be Quæstor, Ædile, Prætor, and Consul. He had first succeeded as a public man, and then, having been found too honest, he had failed. There can be no doubt that he had failed because he had been too honest. I must have told the story of his political life badly if I have not shown that Cæsar had retired from the assault because Cicero was Consul, but had retired only as a man does who steps back in order that his next spring forward may be made with more avail. He chose well the time for his next attack, and Cicero was driven to decide between three things — he must be Cæsarean, or must be quiet, or he must go. He would not be Cæsarean, he certainly could not be quiet, and he went. The immediate effect of his banishment was on him so great that he could not employ himself. But he returned to Rome, and, with too evident a reliance on a short-lived popularity, he endeavored to replace himself in men’s eyes; but it must have been clear to him that he had struggled in vain. Then he looked back upon his art, his oratory, and told himself that, as the life of a man of action was no longer open to him, he could make for himself a greater career as a man of letters. He could do so. He has done so. But I doubt whether he had ever a confirmed purpose as to the future. Had some grand Consular career been open to him — had it been given to him to do by means of the law what Cæsar did by ignoring the law — this life of him would not have been written. There would, at any rate, have been no need of these last chapters to show how indomitable was the energy and how excellent the skill of him who could write such books, because — he had nothing else to do.

The De Oratore is a work in three divisions, addressed to his brother Quintus, in which it has undoubtedly been Cicero’s object to convince the world that an orator’s employment is the highest of all those given to a man to follow; and this he does by showing that, in all the matters which an orator is called upon to touch, there is nothing which he cannot adorn by the possession of some virtue or some knowledge. To us, in these days, he seems to put the cart before the horse, and to fail from the very beginning, by reason of the fact that the orator, in his eloquence, need never tell the truth. It is in the power of man so to praise — constancy, let us say — as to make it appear of all things the best. But he who sings the praise of it may be the most inconstant of mankind, and may know that he is deceiving his hearers as to his own opinions — at any rate, as to his own practice. The virtue should come first, and then the speech respecting it. Cicero seems to imply that, if the speech be there, the virtue may be assumed.

But it has to be acknowledged, in this and in all his discourses as to the perfect orator, that it is here as it has been in all the inquirers after the [Greek: to kalon].4 We must recognize the fact that the Romans have adopted a form of inquiry from the Greeks, and, having described a more than human perfection, have instigated men to work up toward it by letting it be known how high will be the excellence, should it ever be attained. It is so in the De Oratore, as to which we must begin by believing that the speech-maker wanted is a man not to be found in any House of Commons. No Conservative and no Liberal need fear that he will be put out of court by the coming of this perfectly eloquent man. But this Cicero of whom we are speaking has been he who has been most often quoted for his perfections.5 The running after an impossible hero throws a damp over the whole search. When no one can expect to find the thing sought for, who can seek diligently? By degrees the ambitious student becomes aware that it is impossible, and is then carried on by a desire to see how he is to win a second or a third place, if so much may be accorded to him. In his inquiries he will find that the Cicero, if he look to Quintilian or Tacitus — or the Crassus, if he look to Cicero — is so set before him as the true model; and with that he may be content.

The De Oratore is by far the longest of his works on rhetoric, and, as I think, the pleasantest to read. It was followed, after ten years, by the Brutus, or De Claris Oratoribus, and then by the Orator. But in all of them he charms us rather by his example than instructs us by his precepts. He will never make us believe, for instance, that a man who talks well will on that account be better than a man who thinks well; but he does make us believe that a man who talks as Cicero knew how to do must have been well worth hearing, and also that to read his words, when listening to them is no longer possible, is a great delight. Having done that, he has no doubt carried his object. He was too much a man of the world to have an impracticable theory on which to expend himself. Oratory had come uppermost with him, and had indeed made itself, with the Romans, the only pursuit to be held in rivalry with that of fighting. Literature had not as yet assumed its place. It needed Cicero himself to do that for her. It required the writing of such an essay as this to show, by the fact of its existence, that Cicero the writer stood quite as high as Cicero the orator. And then the written words remain when the sounds have died away. We believe that Cicero spoke divinely. We can form for ourselves some idea of the rhythm of his periods. Of the words in which Cicero spoke of himself as a speaker we have the entire charm.

Boccaccio, when he takes his queen into a grassy meadow and seats her in the midst of her ladies, and makes her and them and their admirers tell their stories, seems to have given rise to the ideas which Cicero has used when introducing his Roman orators lying under a plane-tree in the garden of Tusculum, and there discussing rhetoric; so much nearer to us appear the times of Cicero, with all the light that has been thrown upon them by their own importance, than does the middle of the fourteenth century in the same country. But the practice in this as in all matters of social life was borrowed from the Greeks, or perhaps rather the pretence of the practice. We can hardly believe that Romans of an advanced age would so have arranged themselves for the sake of conversation. It was a manner of bringing men together which had its attraction for the mind’s eye; and Cicero, whose keen imagination represented to him the pleasantness of the picture, has used the form of narrative with great effect. He causes Crassus and Antony to meet in the garden of Crassus at Tusculum, and thither he brings, on the first day, old Mucius Scævola the augur, and Sulpicius and Cotta, two rising orators of the period. On the second day Scævola is supposed to be too fatigued to renew the intellectual contest, and he retires; but one Cæsar comes in with Quintus Lutatius Catulus, and the conversation is renewed. Crassus and Antony carry it on in chief, but Crassus has the leading voice. Cæsar, who must have been the wag among barristers of his day, undertakes to give examples of that Attic salt by which the profundity of the law courts is supposed to have been relieved. The third conversation takes place on the afternoon of the second day, when they had refreshed themselves with sleep; though Crassus, we are specially told, had given himself up to the charms of no mid-day siesta. His mind had been full of the greatness of the task before him, but he will show neither fatigue nor anxiety. The art, the apparent ease with which it is all done, the grace without languor, the energy without exertion, are admirable. It is as though, they were sitting by running water, or listening to the music of some grand organ. They remove themselves to a wood a little farther from the house, and there they listen to the eloquence of Crassus. Cotta and Sulpicius only hear and assent, or imply a modified dissent in doubting words.

It is Crassus who insists that the orator shall be omniscient, and Antony who is supposed to contest the point with him. But they differ in the sweetest language; and each, though he holds his own, does it with a deference that is more convincing than any assertion. It may be as well, perhaps, to let it be understood that Crassus and Cæsar are only related by distant family ties — or perhaps only by ties of adoption — to the two of the First Triumvirate whose names they bear; whereas Antony was the grandfather of that Cleopatra’s lover against whom the Philippics were hurled.

No one, as I have said before, will read these conversations for the sake of the argument they contain; but they are, and will be, studied as containing, in the most appropriate language, a thousand sayings respecting the art of speech. “No power of speaking well can belong to any but to him who knows the subjects on which he has to speak;"6 a fact which seems so clear that no one need be troubled with stating it, were it not that men sin against it every day. “How great the undertaking to put yourself forward among a crowd of men as being the fittest of all there to be heard on some great subject!”7 “Though all men shall gnash their teeth, I will declare that the little book of the twelve tables surpasses in authority and usefulness all the treatises of all the philosophers.”8 Here speaks the Cicero of the Forum, and not that Cicero who amused himself among the philosophers. “Let him keep his books of philosophy for some Tusculum idleness such as is this of ours, lest, when he shall have to speak of justice, he must go to Plato and borrow from him, who, when he had to express him in these things, created in his books some new Utopia.”9 For in truth, though Cicero deals much, as we shall see by-and-by, with the philosophers, and has written whole treatises for the sake of bringing Greek modes of thought among the Romans, he loved the affairs of the world too well to trust them to philosophy. There has been some talk of old age, and Antony, before the evening has come, declares his view. “So far do I differ from you,” he says, “that not only do I not think that any relief in age is to be found in the crowd of them who may come to me for advice, but I look to its solitude as a harbor. You indeed may fear it, but to me it will be most welcome.”10

Then Cicero begins the second book with a renewal of the assertion as to oratory generally, not putting the words into the mouth of any of his party, but declaring it as his own belief: “This is the purpose of this present treatise, and of the present time, to declare that no one has been able to excel in eloquence, not merely without capacity for speaking, but also without acquired knowledge of all kinds.”11 But Antony professes himself of another opinion: “How can that be when Crassus and I often plead opposite causes, and when one of us can only say the truth? Or how can it be possible, when each of us must take the cause as it comes to him?”12 Then, again, he bursts into praise of the historian, as though in opposition to Crassus: “How worthy of an orator’s eulogy is the writing of history, whether greatest in the flood of its narrative or in its variety! I do not know that we have ever treated it separately, but it is there always before our eyes. For who does not know that the first law of the historian is that he must not dare to say what is false: the next, that he must not dare to suppress what is true.”13 We wonder, when Cicero was writing this, whether he remembered his request to Lucceius, made now two years ago. He gives a piece of advice to young advocates, apologizing, indeed, for thinking it necessary; but he has found it to be necessary, and he gives it: “Let me teach this to them all; when they intend to plead, let them first study their causes.”14 It is not only here that we find that the advice which is useful now was wanted then. “Read your cases!” The admonition was wanted in Rome as it has been since in London.

But the great mistake of the whole doctrine creeps out at every page as we go on, and disproves the idea on which the De Oratore is founded. All Cicero’s treatises on the subject, and Quintilian’s, and those of the pseudo-Tacitus, and of the first Greek from which they have come, fall to the ground as soon as we are told that it must be the purport of the orator to turn the mind of those who hear him either to the right or to the left, in accordance with the drift of the cause.15 The mind rejects the idea that it can be the part of a perfect man to make another believe that which he believes to be false. If it be necessary that an orator should do so, then must the orator be imperfect. We have the same lesson taught throughout. It is the great gift of the orator, says Antony, to turn the judge’s mind so that he shall hate or love, shall fear or hope, shall rejoice or grieve, or desire to pity or desire to punish.16 No doubt it is a great power. All that is said as to eloquence is true. It may be necessary that to obtain the use of it you shall educate yourself with more precision than for any other purpose. But there will be the danger that they who have fitted the dagger to the hand will use it. It cannot be right to make another man believe that which you think to be false.

In the use of raillery in eloquence the Roman seems to have been very backward; so much so that it is only by the examples given of it by themselves as examples that we learn that it existed. They can appall us by the cruelty which they denounce. They can melt us by their appeals to our pity. They can terrify; they can horrify; they can fill us with fear or hope, with anger, with despair, or with rage; but they cannot cause us to laugh. Their attempts at a joke amuse us because we recognize the attempt. Here Cæsar is put forward to give us the benefit of his wit. We are lost in surprise when we find how miserable are his jokes, and take a pride in finding that in one line we are the masters of the Romans. I will give an instance, and I pick it out as the best among those selected by Cicero. Nasica goes to call upon Ennius, and is informed by the maid-servant that her master is not at home. Ennius returns the visit, and Nasica halloos out from the window that he is not within. “Not within!” says Ennius; “don’t I know your voice?” Upon which Nasica replies, “You are an impudent fellow! I had the grace to believe your maid, and now you will not believe me myself.”17 How this got into a law-case we do not know; it is told, however, just as I have told it. But there are enough of them here to make a small Joe Miller; and yet, in the midst of language that is almost divine in its expressions, they are given as having been worthy of all attention.

The third book is commenced by the finest passage in the whole treatise. Cicero remembers that Crassus is dead, and then tells the story of his death. And Antony is dead, and the Cæsars. The last three had fallen in the Marian massacres. There is but little now in the circumstances of their death to excite our tears. Who knows aught of that Crassus, or of that Antony, or of those Cæsars? But Cicero so tells it in his pretended narrative as almost to make us weep. The day was coming when a greater than either of them was to die the same death as Antony, by the order of another Antony — to have his tongue pierced, and his bloody head thrust aloft upon the rostra. But no Roman has dared to tell us of it as Cicero has told the story of those others. Augustus had done his work too well, and it was much during his reign that Romans who could make themselves heard should dare to hold their tongues.

It would be useless in me here to attempt to give any notion of the laws as to speech which Cicero lays down. For myself I do not take them as laws, feeling that the interval of time has been too great to permit laws to remain as such. No orator could, I feel sure, form himself on Cicero’s ideas. But the sweetness of the language is so great as to convince us that he, at any rate, knew how to use language as no one has done since: “But there is a building up of words, and a turning of them round, and a nice rendering. There is the opposing and the loosening. There is the avoiding, the holding back, the sudden exclamation, and the dropping of the voice; and the taking an argument from the case at large and bringing it to bear on a single point; and the proof and the propositions together. And there is the leave given; and then a doubting, and an expression of surprise. There is the counting up, the setting right; the utter destruction, the continuation, the breaking off, the pretence, the answer made to one’s self, the change of names, the disjoining and rejoining of things — the relation, the retreat, and the curtailing.”18 Who can translate all these things when Quintilian himself has been fain to acknowledge that he has attempted and has failed to handle them in fitting language?

And then at last there comes that most lovely end to these most charming discourses: “His autem de rebus sol me ille admonuit, ut brevior essem, qui ipse jam præcipitans, me quoque hac præcipitem pæne evolvere coegit.”19 These words are so charming in their rhythm that I will not rob them of their beauty by a translation. The setting sun requires me also to go to rest: that is their simple meaning. At the end of the book he introduces a compliment to Hortensius, who during his life had been his great rival, and who was still living when the De Oratore was written.

B.C. 52, ætat. 55.

The next on the list is the De Optimo Genere Oratorum — a preliminary treatise written as a preface to a translation made by himself on the speeches of Æschines and Demosthenes against Ctesiphon in the matter of the Golden Crown. We have not the translations; but we have his reasons for translating them — namely, that he might enable readers only of Latin to judge how far Æschines and Demosthenes had deserved, either of them, the title of “Optimus orator.” For they had spoken against each other with the most bitter abuse, and each spokesman was struggling for the suppression of the other. Each was speaking with the knowledge that, if vanquished, he would have to pay heavily in his person and his pocket. He gives the palm to neither; but he tells his readers that the Attic mode of speaking is gone — of which, indeed, the glory is known, but the nature unknown. But he explains that he has not translated the two pieces verbatim, as an interpreter, but in the spirit, as an orator, using the same figures, the same forms, the same strength of ideas. We have to acknowledge that we do not see how in this way he can have done aught toward answering the question De Optimo Genere Oratorum; but he may perhaps have done something to prove that he himself, in his oratory, had preserved the best known Grecian forms.

The De Partitione Oratoria Dialogus follows, of which we have already spoken, written when he was an old man, and was in the sixty-first year of his life. It was the year in which he had divorced Terentia, and had been made thoroughly wretched in private and in public affairs. But he was not on that account disabled from preparing for his son these instructions, in the form of questions and answers, on the art of speaking.

We next come to the Brutus; or, De Claris Oratoribus, a dialogue supposed to have been held between Brutus, Atticus, and Cicero himself. It is a continuation of the three books De Oratore. He there describes what is essential to the character of the optimus orator. He here looks after the special man, going back over the results of past ages, and bringing before the reader’s eyes all Greek and Roman orators, till he comes down to Cicero. I cannot but say that the feeling is left with the reader that the orator optimus has been reached at last in Cicero’s mind.

We must remark, in the first place, that he has chosen for his friend, to whom to address his piece, one whom he has only known late in life. It was when he went to Cilicia as governor, when he was fifty-six years old, that he was thrown by Atticus into close relations with Brutus. Now he has, next to Atticus, become his most chosen friend. His three next treatises, the Orator, the Tusculan Disquisitions, and the De Natura Deorum, have all been graced, or intended to be graced, by the name of Brutus. And yet, from what we know, we can hardly imagine two men less likely to be brought together by their political ambition. The one compromising, putting up with the bad rather than with a worse, knowing that things were evil, and contented to accept those that were the least so; the other strict, uncompromising, and one who had learned lessons which had taught him that there was no choice among things that were bad! And Brutus, too, had told Cicero that his lessons in oratory were not to his taste. There was a something about Cicero which enabled him to endure such rebukes while there was aught worthy of praise in the man who rebuked him; and it was to this something that his devotion was paid. We know that Brutus was rapacious after money with all the greed of a Roman nobleman, and we know also that Cicero was not. Cicero could keep his hands clean with thousands around him, and with thousands going into the pockets of other men. He could see the vice of Brutus, but he did not hate it. He must have borne, too, with something from Atticus of the same kind. The truth seems to me that to Cicero there was no horror as to greediness, except to greed in himself. He could hate it for himself and yet tolerate it in others, as a man may card-playing, or rackets, or the turf. But he must have known that Brutus had made himself the owner of all good gifts in learning, and took him to his heart in consequence. In no other way can I explain to myself the feeling of subservience to Brutus which Cicero so generally expresses: it exists in none other of his relations of life. Political subservience there is to Pompey; but he can laugh at Pompey, and did not dedicate to him his treatises De Republica, or De Legibus. To Appius Claudius he was very courteous. He thought badly of Appius, but hardly worse than he ought to have done of Brutus. Of Cælius he was fond, of Curio, of Trebatius. To Pætus he was attached, to Sulpicius and Marcellus. But to none of them did he ever show that deference which he did to Brutus. I could have understood this feeling as evinced in the political letters at the end of his life, and have explained it to myself by saying that the “ipsissima verba” have not probably come to us. But I cannot say that the name of Brutus does not stand there, written in imperishable letters on the title-pages of his most chosen pieces. If this be so, Brutus has owed more to his learning than the respect of Cicero. All ages since have felt it, and Shakespeare has told us that “Brutus is an honorable man.”

There is a dispute as to the period of the authorship of this treatise. Cicero in it tells us of Cato and of Marcellus, and therefore we must suppose that it was written when they were alive. Indeed, he so compares Cæsar and Marcellus as he could not have done had they not both been alive. But Cato and Marcellus died B.C. 46, and how then could the treatise have been written in B.C. 45? It should, however, be remembered that a written paper may be altered and rewritten, and that the date of authorship and that of publication cannot be exactly the same. But the time is of but little matter to those who can take delight in the discourse. He begins by telling us how he had grieved when, on his return from Cilicia, he had heard that Hortensius was dead. Hortensius had brought him into the College of Augurs, and had there stood to him in the place of a parent. And he had lamented Hortensius also on behalf of Rome. Hortensius had gone. Then he goes on to say that, as he was thinking of these things while walking in his portico, Brutus had come to him and Pomponius Atticus. He says how pleasantly they greeted each other; and then gradually they go on, till Atticus asks him to renew the story he had before been telling. “In truth, Pomponius,” he says, “I remember it right well, for then it was that I heard Deiotarus, that truest and best of kings, defended by our Brutus here,” Deiotarus was that Eastern king whose defence by Cicero himself I have mentioned when speaking of his pleadings before Cæsar. Then he rushes off into his subject, and discusses at length his favorite idea. It must still be remembered that neither here are to be traced any positive line of lessons in oratory. There is no beginning, no middle, and no end to this treatise. Cicero runs on, charming us rather by his language than by his lessons. He says of Eloquence that “she is the companion of peace, and the associate of ease.”20 He tells us of Cato, that he had read a hundred and fifty of his speeches, and had “found them all replete with bright words and with great matter; * * * and yet no one in his days read Cato’s speeches!”21 This, of course, was Cato the elder. Then we hear how Demosthenes said that in oratory action was everything: it was the first thing, the second, and the third. “For there is nothing like it to penetrate into the minds of the audience — to teach them, to turn them, and to form them, till the orator shall be made to appear exactly that which he wishes to be thought.22 * * * The man who listens to one who is an orator believes what he hears; he thinks everything to be true, he approves of all.”23 No doubt! In his power of describing the orator and his work Cicero is perfect; but he does not describe the man doing that which he is bound to do by his duty.

He tells us that nothing is worse than half a dozen advocates — which certainly is true.24 Further on he comes to Cæsar, and praises him very highly. But here Brutus is made to speak, and tells us how he has read the Commentaries, and found them to be “bare in their beauty, perfect in symmetry, but unadorned, and deprived of all outside garniture.”25 They are all that he has told us, nor could they have been described in truer words. Then he names Hortensius, and speaks of him in language which is graceful and graphic; but he reserves his greatest strength for himself, and at last, declaring that he will say nothing in his own praise, bursts out into a string of eulogy, which he is able to conceal beneath dubious phrases, so as to show that he himself has acquired such a mastery over his art as to have made himself, in truth, the best orator of them all.26

Perhaps the chief charm of this essay is to be found in the lightness of the touch. It is never heavy, never severe, rarely melancholic. If read without reference to other works, it would leave on the reader’s mind the impression that though now and again there had come upon him the memory of a friend who had gone, and some remembrance of changes in the State to which, as an old man, he could not give his assent; nevertheless, it was written by a happy man, by one who was contented among his books, and was pleased to be reminded that things had gone well with him. He writes throughout as one who had no great sorrow at his heart. No one would have thought that in this very year he was perplexed in his private affairs, even to the putting away of his wife; that Cæsar had made good his ground, and, having been Dictator last year, had for the third time become Consul; that he knew himself to be living, as a favor, by Cæsar’s pleasure. Cicero seems to have written his Brutus as one might write who was well at ease. Let a man have taught himself aught, and have acquired the love of letters, it is easy for him then, we might say, to carry on his work. What is it to him that politicians are cutting each other’s throats around him? He has not gone into that arena and fought and bled there, nor need he do so. Though things may have gone contrary to his views, he has no cause for anger, none for personal disappointment, none for personal shame; but with Cicero, on every morning as he rose he must have remembered Pompey and have thought of Cæsar. And though Cæsar was courteous to him, the courtesy of a ruler is hard to be borne by him who himself has ruled. Cæsar was Consul; and Cicero, who remembered how majestically he had walked when a few years since he was Consul by the real votes of the people, how he had been applauded for doing his duty to the people, how he had been punished for stretching the laws on the people’s behalf, how he had refused everything for the people, must have had bitter feelings in his heart when he sat down to write this conversation with Brutus and with Atticus. Yet it has all the cheerfulness which might have been expected from a happy mind. But we must remark that at its close — in its very final words — he does allude with sad melancholy to the state of affairs, and that then it breaks off abruptly. Even in the middle of a sentence it is brought to a close, and the reader is left to imagine that something has been lost, or that more might have been added.

The last of these works is the Orator. We have passed in review the De Oratore, and the Brutus; or, De Claris Oratoribus. We have now to consider that which is commonly believed to be the most finished piece of the three. Such seems to have become the general idea of those scholars who have spoken and written on the subject. He himself says that there are in all five books. There are the three De Oratore; the fourth is called the Brutus, and the fifth the Orator.27 In some MSS. this work has a second title, De Optimo Genere Dicendi — as though the five books should run on in a sequence, the first three being on oratory in general, the fourth as to famous orators, while the last concluding work is on the best mode of oratory. Readers who may wish to carry these in their minds must exclude for the moment from their memory the few pages which he wrote as a preface to the translations from Æschines and Demosthenes. The purport is to show how that hitherto unknown hero of romance may be produced — the perfect orator.

Here as elsewhere we shall find the greatest interest lies in a certain discursive treatment of his subject, which enables him to run hither and thither, while he always pleases us, whatever attitude he may assume, whatever he may say, and in whatever guise he may speak to us. But here, in the last book, there does seem to be some kind of method in his discourse. He distinguishes three styles of eloquence — the simple, the moderate, and the sublime, and explains that the orator has three duties to perform. He must learn what on any subject he has to say; he must place his arguments in order, and he must know how to express them. He explains what action should achieve for the orator, and teaches that eloquence depends wholly on elocution. He tells us that the philosophers, the historians, and the poets have never risen to his ideas of eloquence; but that he alone does so who can, amid the heat and work of the Forum, turn men’s minds as he wishes. Then he teaches us how each of the three styles should be treated — the simple, the moderate, and the sublime — and shows us how to vary them. He informs us what laws we should preserve in each, what ornaments, what form, and what metaphors. He then considers the words we should use, and makes us understand how necessary it is to attend to the minutest variety of sound. In this matter we have to acknowledge that he, as a Roman, had to deal with instruments for listening infinitely finer than are our British ears; and I am not sure that we can follow him with rapture into all the mysteries of the Poeon, the Dochmius, and the Dichoreus. What he says of rhythm we are willing to take to be true, and we wonder at the elaborate study given to it; but I doubt whether we here do not read of it as a thing beyond us, by descending into which we should be removing ourselves farther from the more wholesome pursuits of our lives.

There are, again, delightful morsels here. He tells us, for instance, that he who has created a beautiful thing must have beauty in his soul,28— a charming idea, as to which we do not stop to inquire whether it be true or not. He gives us a most excellent caution against storing up good sayings, and using them from the storehouse of our memory: “Let him avoid these studied things, not made of the moment, but brought from the closet.”29 Then he rises into a grand description of the perfect orator: “But that third man is he, rich, abundant, dignified, and instructed, in whom there is a divine strength. This is he whose fulness and culture of speech the nations have admired, and whose eloquence has been allowed to prevail over the people.30 * * * Then will the orator make himself felt more abundantly. Then will he rule their minds and turn their hearts. Then will he do with them as he would wish.”31

But in the teeth of all this it did not please Brutus himself. “When I wrote to him,” he said to Atticus, “in obedience to his wishes, ‘De Optimo Genere Dicendi,’ he sent word, both to you and me, that that which pleased me did not satisfy him.”32 “Let every man kiss his own wife,” says Cicero in his letter in the next words to those we have quoted; and we cannot but love the man for being able to joke when he is telling of the rebuff he has received. It must have been an additional pang to him, that he for whom he had written his book should receive it with stern rebuke.

At last we come to the Topica; the last instructions which Cicero gives on the subject of oratory. The Romans seem to have esteemed much the lessons which are here conveyed, but for us it has but little attraction. He himself declares it to have been a translation from Aristotle, but declares also that the translation has been made from memory. He has been at sea, he says, in the first chapter, and has there performed his task, and has sent it as soon as it has been done. There is something in this which is unintelligible to us. He has translated a treatise of Aristotle from memory — that is, without having the original before him — and has done this at sea, on his intended journey to Greece!33 I do not believe that Cicero has been false in so writing. The work has been done for his young friend Trebatius, who had often asked it, and was much too clever when he had received it not to recognize its worth. But Cicero has, in accordance with his memory, reduced to his own form Aristotle’s idea as to “invention” in logic. Aristotle’s work is, I am informed, in eight books: here is a bagatelle in twenty-five pages. There is an audacity in the performance — especially in the doing it on board ship; but we must remember that he had spent his life in achieving a knowledge of these things, and was able to write down with all the rapidity of a practised professor the doctrines on the matter which he wished to teach Trebatius.

This later essay is a recapitulation of the different sources to which an orator, whether as lawyer, advocate, philosopher, or statesman, may look for his arguments. That they should have been of any great use to Trebatius, in the course of his long life as attorney-general about the court of Augustus, I cannot believe. I do not know that he rose to special mark as an orator, though he was well known as a counsellor; nor do I think that oratory, or the powers of persuasion, can be so brought to book as to be made to submit itself to formal rules. And here they are given to us in the form of a catalogue. It is for modern readers perhaps the least interesting of all Cicero’s works.

There is left upon us after reading these treatises a general idea of the immense amount of attention which, in the Roman educated world, was paid to the science of speaking. To bring his arguments to bear at the proper moment — to catch the ideas that are likely to be rising in the minds of men — to know when the sympathies may be expected and when demanded, when the feelings may be trusted and when they have been too blunted to be of service — to perceive from an instinctive outlook into those before him when he may be soft, when hard, when obdurate and when melting — this was the business of a Roman orator. And this was to be achieved only by a careful study of the characters of men. It depended in no wise on virtue, on morals, or on truth, though very much on education. How he might please the multitude — this was everything to him. It was all in all to him to do just that which here in our prosaic world in London we have been told that men ought not to attempt. They do attempt it, but they fail — through the innate honesty which there is in the hearts of men. In Italy, in Cicero’s time, they attempted it, and did not fail. But we can see what were the results.

The attention which Roman orators paid to their voices was as serious, and demanded the same restraint, as the occupations of the present athlete. We are inclined to doubt whether too much of life is not devoted to the purpose. It could not be done but by a people so greedy of admiration as to feel that all other things should be abandoned by those who desire to excel. The actor of today will do it, but it is his business to act; and if he so applies himself to his profession as to succeed, he has achieved his object. But oratory in the law court, as in Parliament, or in addressing the public, is only the means of imbuing the minds of others with the ideas which the speaker wishes to implant there. To have those ideas, and to have the desire to teach them to others, is more to him than the power of well expressing them. To know the law is better than to talk of knowing it. But with the Romans so great was the desire to shine that the reality was lost in its appearance; and so prone were the people to indulge in the delight of their senses that they would sacrifice a thing for a sound, and preferred lies in perfect language to truth in halting syllables. This feeling had sunk deep into Cicero’s heart when he was a youth, and has given to his character the only stain which it has. He would be patriotic: to love his country was the first duty of a Roman. He would be honest: so much was indispensable to his personal dignity. But he must so charm his countrymen with his voice as to make them feel while they listened to him that some god addressed them. In this way he became permeated by the love of praise, till it was death to him not to be before the lamps.

The “perfect orator” is, we may say, a person neither desired nor desirable. We, who are the multitude of the world, and have been born to hold our tongues and use our brains, would not put up with him were he to show himself. But it was not so in Cicero’s time; and this was the way he took to sing the praises of his own profession and to magnify his own glory. He speaks of that profession in language so excellent as to make us who read his words believe that there was more in it than it did in truth hold. But there was much in it, and the more so as the performers reacted upon their audience. The delicacy of the powers of expression had become so great, that the powers of listening and distinguishing had become great also. As the instruments became fine, so did the ears which were to receive their music. Cicero, and Quintilian after him, tell us this. The latter, in speaking of the nature of the voice, gives us a string of epithets which it would be hopeless to attempt to translate: “Nam est et candida, et fusca, et plena, et exilis, et levis, et aspera, et contracta, et fusa, et dura, et flexibilis, et clara, et obtusa; spiritus etiam longior, breviorque.”34 And the remarkable thing was, that every Roman who listened would understand what the orator intended, and would know too, and would tell him of it, if by error he had fallen into some cadence which was not exactly right. To the modes of raising the voice, which are usually divided into three — the high or treble, the low or bass, and that which is between the two, the contralto and tenor — many others are added. There are the eager and the soft, the higher and the lower notes, the quicker and the slower. It seems little to us, who know that we can speak or whisper, hammer our words together, or drawl them out. But then every listener was critically alive to the fact whether the speaker before him did or did not perform his task as it should be done. No wonder that Cicero demanded who was the optimus orator. Then the strength of body had to be matured, lest the voice should fall to “a sick, womanly weakness, like that of an eunuch.” This must be provided by exercise, by anointing, by continence, by the easy digestion of the food — which means moderation; and the jaws must be free, so that the words must not strike each other. And as to the action of the orator, Cicero tells us that it should speak as loudly and as plainly as do the words themselves. In all this we find that Quintilian only follows his master too closely. The hands, the shoulders, the sides, the stamping of the foot, the single step or many steps — every motion of the body, agreeing with the words from his mouth, are all described.35 He attributes this to Antony — but only because, as he thinks of it, some movement of Antony’s has recurred to his memory.

To make the men who heard him believe in him was the one gift which Cicero valued; not to make them know him to be true, but to believe him to be so. This it was, in Cicero’s time, to be the optimus orator.

Since Cicero’s time there has been some progress in the general conduct of men. They are less greedy, less cruel, less selfish — greedy, cruel, and selfish though they still are. The progress which the best among us have made Cicero in fact achieved; but he had not acquired that theoretic aversion to a lie which is the first feeling in the bosom of a modern gentleman; therefore it was that he still busied himself with finding the optimus orator.

1 In the following list I have divided the latter, making the Moral Essays separate from the Philosophy.

2 I have given here those treatises which are always printed among the works of Cicero.

3 De Inventione, lib. ii., 4.

4 Quintilian, in his Proæmium or Preface: “Oratorem autem instituimus illum perfectum, qui esse nisi vir bonus non potest.” It seems as though there had almost been the question whether the perfect orator could exist, although there was no question he had never done so as yet.

5 Quint., lib. iii., 1: “Præcipuum vero lumen sicut eloquentiæ, ita præceptis quoque ejus, dedit unicum apud nos specimen orandi, docendique oratorias artes, M. Tullius.” And in Tacitus, De Oratoribus, xxx.: “Ita ex multa eruditione, ex pluribus artibus,” he says, speaking of Cicero, “et omnium rerum scientia exundat, et exuberat illa admirabilis eloquentia; neque oratoris vis et facultas, sicut ceterarum rerum, angustis et brevibus terminis cluditur; sed is est orator, qui de omni quæstione pulchre, et ornate, et ad persuadendum apte dicere, pro dignitate rerum, ad utilitatem temporum, cum voluptate audientium possit.” This has not the ring of Tacitus, but it shows equally well the opinion of the day.

6 De Oratore, lib. i., ca. xi.

7 Ibid., lib. i., ca. xxv.

8 Ibid., lib. i., ca. xliv.

9 Ibid., lib. i., ca. lii.

10 Ibid., lib. i., ca. lx.

11 De Oratore, lib. ii., ca. i.

12 Ibid., lib. ii., ca. vii.

13 Ibid., lib. ii., ca. xv.

14 Ibid., lib. ii., ca. xxiv.

15 De Oratore, lib. ii., ca. xxvii.: “Ut probemus vera esse ea, quæ defendimus; ut conciliemus nobis eos, qui audiunt; ut animos eorum, ad quemcumque causa postulabit motum, vocemus.”

16 Ibid., lib. ii., ca. xliv.

17 De Oratore, lib. ii., ca. lxviii.

18 De Oratore, lib. iii., ca. liv.

19 Ibid., lib. iii., ca. lv.

20 Brutus, ca. xii.

21 Ibid., ca. xvii.

22 Ibid., ca. xxxviii.

23 Ibid., ca. l.

24 Ibid., ca. lvii.

25 Ibid., ca. lxxv.

26 Brutus, ca. xciii.

27 De Divinatione, lib. ii., 1.

28 Orator, ca. ii.

29 Orator, ca. xxvi.

30 Ibid., ca. xxviii.

31 Ibid., ca. xxxvi. Here his language becomes very fine.

32 Ad. Att., lib. xiv., 20.

33 Topica, ca. 1: “Itaque hæc quum mecum libros non haberem, memoria repetita, in ipsa navigatione conscripsi, tibique ex itinere misi.”

34 Quint., lib. xi., 3. The translations of these epithets are “open, obscure, full, thin, light, rough, shortened, lengthened, harsh, pliable, clear, clouded.”

35 Brutus, ca. xxxviii.

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