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(Sept. 15, 1942)
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The present volume comprises the most popular inoral treatises of Cicero. In preparing an edition adapted to the wants of the student, the editor has addressed himself to two principal objects. The first, to produce a close and faithful translation, avoiding on the one hand, the freedom of Melinoth's elegant paraphrase, and on the other, the crudeness and inaccuracy of the so-called literal translation of Cockman; the second, to present the opinions of modern moralists, chiefly of our own country, in juxtaposition with those of Cicero, that the reader may be enabled to estimate the changes which liave passed over the hunnan mind in relation to these subjects, and perceive how far these changes have been occasioned by the promulgation of the Christian religion.
A subsidiary design has been to show, by parallel passages, to what extent the writings of modern moralists have been tinctared with the thoughts of the Roman philosopher; and to point out particular instances in which their arguments and illustrations aro identical.
In briefly sketching the subjects of the following treatises, wo shall for the most part adopt the observations of Dunlop, in his “ Jlistory of Roman Literature." The first, and most iinportant treatise, is
The OFFICES, or three books of “Moral Duties.” Of these the first two are supposed to be chiefly derived from a lost work of Panatius, a Greek philosopher, who resided at Rome in the second century before Christ. In the first book lie treats of what is rirtuous in itself, and shows in what manner our duties are founded in morality and virtue, in the right perception of truth, justice, fortitude, and decorum, which four qualities are referred to as the constituent parts of virtue, and the sources from which all our duties are derived. In the second book, the author enlarges on those duties which relates to utility, the improvement of life, and the means of attaining wealth and power. This divi. sion of the work relates principally to political advancement, and the lionorable means of gaining popularity, among which aro enumerated generosity, courtesy, and eloquence. Thus far Cicero had, in all probability, closely followed the steps of Panatius. Garve, in his commentary on Moral Duties, remarks that, when Cicero comes to the more subtle and philosophic parts of his subject, he evidently translates from the Greek, and that he has not always found words in his own language to express the nicer distinctions of the Greek schools. The work of Panatius, however, was left imperfect, and did not comprise the third part of the subject, namely, the choice and distinction to be made when virtue and utility were opposed to each other. On this topic, accordingly, Cicero, in the third book, was left to his own resources; the discussion, of course, relates only to the subordinate duties, as the true and undoubted honestum can never be put in competition with private advantage, or be violated for its sake. As to the minor duties the great maxim inculcated is, that nothing should be accounted useful or profitable but what is strictly virtuous; and that, in fact, there ought to be no separation of the principles of virtue and utility. Cicero enters into some discussion however, and lays down certain rules to enable us to forin a just estiinate of both in cases of doubt, where seeming utility comes into competition with virtue.
The author has addressed the work to his son, and has represented it as written for his instruction. "It is,” says Kelsall, “the noblest present ever made by a parent to a child.” Cicerc declares that he intended to treat in it of all the duties, but it is generally considered to have been chiefly drawn up as a manual of political morality, and as a guide to young Romans of lois son's nge and rank, which might enable them to attain political eminence, and treal with innocence and safety “the slippery stoeps of power
The DIALOGUE ON FriendsNIE is addressed with peculiar propriety to Atticus, who, as Cicero tells him in his dedication, can not fail to discover his own portrait in the delineation of a perfect friend. IIere, as elsewhere, Cicero has most judiciously selected the persons of the dialogne. They were men of eminence in the state, and, though deceased, the Romans had sach veneration for their ancestors, that they would listen with tlie utmost interest even to the imaginary conversation of a Scavola or a Lælius. The memorable and hereditary friendship which subsisted between Lælius and the younger Scipio Africanus, rendered the former a suitable example. To support a conversation on this delightfu. topic, Fannius the historian, and Mucius Scævola the augur, buih sons-in-law of Lælius, are supposed to pay a visit to their father immediately after tho sudden and suspicious death of Scipio Africanus. The recent loss which Loelius had thus sustained, leads to an eulogy on the inimitable virtues of the departed hero, and to a discussion on the true nature of that tie by which they had been so long connected. Cicero, in early youth, had been introduced by his father to Mucius Scævola, and, among other interesting conversations which he thus enjoyed an opportunity of fiearing, he was one day present while Scævola related the substance of the conference on Friendship, which he and Fannius had held with Lælius a few days after the death of Scipio. Many of the ideas and sentiments which Lolius uttered are declared by Scavola to have originally flowed from Scipio, with whom tho nature and laws of friendship formed a favorite topic This, perlaps, is not entirely a fiction, or merely asserted to give the stamp of authenticity to the dialogue.
The TREATISE ON OLD AGE is not properly a dialogue, but a continued discourse delivered by Cato the censor at the request of Scipio and Lælius. It is undoubtedly one of the most interesting pieces of the kind which have descended to us froin antiquity; and no reader can wonder that the pleasure experienced in its composition, not only, as he says, made him forget the infirmities of old age, but even rendered that portion of existence agreeable. In consequence of the years to which Cicero liad attained at the time of its composition, and the circumstances in which he was then placed, it must indeed have been composed with peculiar interest and feeling. It was written by him when he was sixty-threc, and is addressed to his friend Atticus (who had nearly reached the same age), with a view of rendering their accumulating burdens as light as possible. In order to give liis precepts the greater force, he represents them as delivered by the elder Cato, in the eighty-fourth year of a vigorous and useful old age, on the occasion of Lælius and the younger Scipio expressing their admiration at the wonderful ease with which he still bore the weight of years. This affords the author an opportunity of entering into a full explanation of his ideas on the subject, his great object being to show that by internal resources of happiness the closing period may be rendered not only supportable but comfortable. IIe enumerates those causes which are commonly supposed to constitute the infelicity of advanced age under four general heads: that it incapacitates from mingling in the affairs of the world ; that it produces infirmities of the body that it disqualifies for the enjoyment of sensual gratifications; and that it brings us to the verge of death. Some of these disadvantages he inaintains are imaginary, and for any real pleasures of which old men are deprived, he shows that many others incre refined and elevated may be substituted. The wholo work is agreeably diversified, and illustrated by examples.
The PARADOXES contain a defense of six peculiar opinions or paradoxes of the Stoics, something in the manner of those which Cato was wont to promulgate in the senate. These are, that what s morally right (honestum) is alone good; that the virtuous can want nothing for complete happiness; that there are no degrees either in crimes or good actions ; that every fool is mad; that the wise alone are wealthy and free; and that every fool is a slave. The Paradoxes, indeed, seem to have been written as an exercise of rhetorical wit, rather than as a serious disquisition in philosophy, and each is personally applied to some individual.
The narrative, entitled Scipio's Dream is put into the mout! of the younger Scipio Africanus, who relates that, in his youth, when he first served in Africa, he visited thic court of Massinissa, the steady friend of the Romans, and particularly of the Cornclian family. During the feasts and entertainments of the day, tho conversation turned on the words and actions of the first great