'THE TRUE ENDS OF LIFE'. Philosophy was to the Roman what religion is to me. It professed to answer, so far as it might be answered Pilate's question, "What is truth?" or to teach men, as Cicero described it, "the knowledge of things human and divine". Hence the philosopher invests his subject with all attributes of dignity. To him Philosophy brings all blessings in her train. She is the guide of life, the medicine for his sorrows, "the fountain-head of all perfect eloquence--the mother of all good deeds and good words". He invokes with affectionate reverence the great name of Socrates--the sage who had "first drawn wisdom down from heaven". [Footnote 1: 'De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum'.] No man ever approached his subject more richly laden with philosophic lore than Cicero. Snatching every leisure moment that he could from a busy life, he devotes it to the study of the great minds of former ages. Indeed, he held this study to be the duty of the perfect orator; a knowledge of the human mind was one of his essential qualifications. Nor could he conceive of real eloquence without it; for his definition of eloquence is, "wisdom speaking fluently". But such studies were also suited to his own natural tastes. And as years passed on, and he grew weary of civil discords and was harassed by domestic troubles, the great orator turns his back upon the noisy city, and takes his parchments of Plato and Aristotle to be the friends of his councils and the companions of his solitude, seeking by their light to discover Truth, which Democritus had declared to be buried in the depths of the sea. [Footnote 1: "Copiose loquens sapientia".] Yet, after all, he professes to do little more than translate. So conscious is he that it is to Greece that Rome is indebted for all her literature, and so conscious, also, on the part of his countrymen, of what he terms "an arrogant disdain for everything national", that he apologises to his readers for writing for the million in their mother-tongue. Yet he is not content, as he says, to be "a mere interpreter". He thought that by an eclectic process--adopting and rearranging such of the doctrines of his Greek masters as approved themselves to his own judgment--he might make his own work a substitute for theirs. His ambition is to achieve what he might well regard as the hardest of tasks--a popular treatise on philosophy; and he has certainly succeeded. He makes no pretence to originality; all he can do is, as he expresses it, "to array Plato in a Latin dress", and "present this stranger from beyond the seas with the freedom of his native, city". And so this treatise on the Ends of Life--a grave question even to the most careless thinker--is, from the nature of the case, both dramatic and rhetorical. Representatives of the two great schools of philosophy--the Stoics and Epicureans--plead and counter-plead in his pages, each in their turn; and their arguments are based on principles broad and universal enough to be valid even now. For now, as then, men are inevitably separated into two classes--amiable men of ease, who guide their conduct by the rudder-strings of pleasure--who for the most part "leave the world" (as has been finely said) "in the world's debt, having consumed much and produced nothing"; or, on the other hand, zealous men of duty, "Who scorn delights and live laborious days", and act according to the dictates of their honour or their conscience. In practice, if not in theory, a man must be either Stoic or Epicurean. [Footnote 1: Lord Derby.] Each school, in this dialogue, is allowed to plead its own cause. "Listen" (says the Epicurean) "to the voice of nature that bids you pursue pleasure, and do not be misled by that vulgar conception of pleasure as mere sensual enjoyment; our opponents misrepresent us when they say that we advocate this as the highest good; we hold, on the contrary, that men often obtain the greatest pleasure by neglecting this baser kind. Your highest instances of martyrdom--of Decii devoting themselves for their country, of consuls putting their sons to death to preserve discipline--are not disinterested acts of sacrifice, but the choice of a present pain in order to procure a future pleasure. Vice is but ignorance of real enjoyment. Temperance alone can bring peace of mind; and the wicked, even if they escape public censure, 'are racked night and day by the anxieties sent upon them by the immortal gods'. We do not, in this, contradict your Stoic; we, too, affirm that only the wise man is really happy. Happiness is as impossible for a mind distracted by passions, as for a city divided by contending factions. The terrors of death haunt the guilty wretch, 'who finds out too late that he has devoted himself to money or power or glory to no purpose'. But the wise man's life is unalloyed happiness. Rejoicing in a clear conscience, 'he remembers the past with gratitude, enjoys the blessings of the present, and disregards the future'. Thus the moral to be drawn is that which Horace (himself, as he expresses it, 'one of the litter of Epicurus') impresses on his fair friend Leucon?e: 'Strain your wine, and prove your wisdom; life is short; should hope be more? In the moment of our talking envious time has slipped away. Seize the present, trust to-morrow e'en as little as you may'". Passing on to the second book of the treatise, we hear the advocate of the counter-doctrine. Why, exclaims the Stoic, introduce Pleasure to the councils of Virtue? Why uphold a theory so dangerous in practice? Your Epicurean soon turns Epicure, and a class of men start up who have never seen the sun rise or set, who squander fortunes on cooks and perfumers, on costly plate and gorgeous rooms, and ransack sea and land for delicacies to supply their feasts. Epicurus gives his disciples a dangerous discretion in their choice. There is no harm in luxury (he tells us) provided it be free from inordinate desires. But who is to fix the limit to such vague concessions? Nay, more, he degrades men to the level of the brute creation. In his view, there is nothing admirable beyond this pleasure--no sensation or emotion of the mind, no soundness or health of body. And what is this pleasure which he makes of such high account? How short-lived while it lasts! how ignoble when we recall it afterwards! But even the common feeling and sentiments of men condemn so selfish a doctrine. We are naturally led to uphold truth and abhor deceit, to admire Regulus in his tortures, and to despise a lifetime of inglorious ease. And then follows a passage which echoes the stirring lines of Scott-- "Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife! To all the sensual world proclaim, One crowded hour of glorious life Is worth an age without a name". Do not then (concludes the Stoic) take good words in your mouth, and prate before applauding citizens of honour, duty, and so forth, while you make your private lives a mere selfish calculation of expediency. We were surely born for nobler ends than this, and none who is worthy the name of a man would subscribe to doctrines which destroy all honour and all chivalry. The heroes of old time won their immortality not by weighing pleasures and pains in the balance, but by being prodigal of their lives, doing and enduring all things for the sake of their fellow-men. The opening scene in the third book is as lively and dramatic as (what was no doubt the writer's model) the introduction of a Platonic dialogue. Cicero has walked across from his Tusculan villa to borrow some manuscripts from the well-stocked library of his young friend Lucullus--a youth whose high promise was sadly cut short, for he was killed at Philippi, when he was not more than twenty-three. There, "gorging himself with books", Cicero finds Marcus Cato--a Stoic of the Stoics--who expounds in a high tone the principles of his sect. [Footnote 1: See p. 43.] Honour he declares to be the rule, and "life according to nature" the end of man's existence. And wrong and injustice are more really contrary to this nature than either death, or poverty, or bodily suffering, or any other outward evil. Stoics and Peripatetics are agreed at least on one point--that bodily pleasures fade into nothing before the splendours of virtue, and that to compare the two is like holding a candle against the sunlight, or setting a drop of brine against the waves of the ocean. Your Epicurean would have each man live in selfish isolation, engrossed in his private pleasures and pursuits. We, on the other hand, maintain that "Divine Providence has appointed the world to be a common city for men and gods", and each one of us to be a part of this vast social system. And thus every man has his lot and place in life, and should take for his guidance those golden rules of ancient times--"Obey God; know thyself; shun excess". Then, rising to enthusiasm, the philosopher concludes: "Who cannot but admire the incredible beauty of such a system of morality? What character in history or in fiction can be grander or more consistent than the 'wise man' of the Stoics? All the riches and glory of the world are his, for he alone can make a right use of all things. He is 'free', though he be bound by chains; 'rich', though in the midst of poverty; 'beautiful', for the mind is fairer than the body; 'a king', for, unlike the tyrants of the world, he is lord of himself; 'happy', for he has no need of Solon's warning to 'wait till the end', since a life virtuously spent is a perpetual happiness". [Footnote 1: So Bishop Butler, in the preface to his Sermons upon 'Human Nature', says they were "intended to explain what is meant by the nature of man, when it is said that virtue consists in following, and vice in deviating from it".] In the fourth book, Cicero himself proceeds to vindicate the wisdom of the ancients--the old Academic school of Socrates and his pupils--against what he considers the novelties of Stoicism. All that the Stoics have said has been said a hundred times before by Plato and Aristotle, but in nobler language. They merely "pick out the thorns" and "lay bare the bones" of previous systems, using newfangled terms and misty arguments with a "vainglorious parade". Their fine talk about citizens of the world and the ideal wise man is rather poetry than philosophy. They rightly connect happiness with virtue, and virtue with wisdom; but so did Aristotle some centuries before them. But their great fault (says Cicero) is, that they ignore the practical side of life. So broad is the line which they draw between the "wise" and "foolish", that they would deny to Plato himself the possession of wisdom. They take no account of the thousand circumstances which go to form our happiness. To a spiritual being, virtue _might_ be the chief good; but in actual life our physical is closely bound up with our mental enjoyment, and pain is one of those stern facts before which all theories are powerless. Again, by their fondness for paradox, they reduce all offences to the same dead level. It is, in their eyes, as impious to beat a slave as to beat a parent: because, as they say, "nothing can be _more_ virtuous than virtue,--nothing _more_ vicious than vice". And lastly, this stubbornness of opinion affects their personal character. They too often degenerate into austere critics and bitter partisans, and go far to banish from among us love, friendship, gratitude, and all the fair humanities of life. The fifth book carries us back some twenty years, when we find Cicero once more at Athens, taking his afternoon walk among the deserted groves of the Academy. With him are his brother Quintus, his cousin Lucius, and his friends Piso and Atticus. The scene, with its historic associations, irresistibly carries their minds back to those illustrious spirits who had once made the place their own. Among these trees Plato himself had walked; under the shadow of that Porch Zeno had lectured to his disciples; yonder Quintus points out the "white peak of Colonus", described by Sophocles in "those sweetest lines;" while glistening on the horizon were the waves of the Phaleric harbour, which Demosthenes, Cicero's own great prototype, had outvoiced with the thunder of his declamation. So countless, indeed, are the memories of the past called up by the genius of the place, that (as one of the friends remarks) "wherever we plant our feet, we tread upon some history". Then Piso, speaking at Cicero's request, begs his friends to turn from the degenerate thinkers of their own day to those giants of philosophy, from whose writings all liberal learning, all history, and all elegance of language may be derived. More than all, they should turn to the leader of the Peripatetics, Aristotle, who seemed (like Lord Bacon after him) to have taken all knowledge as his portion. From these, if from no other source, we may learn the secret of a happy life. But first we must settle what this 'chief good' is--this end and object of our efforts--and not be carried to and fro, like ships without a steersman, by every blast of doctrine. [Footnote 1: The Stoics took their name from the 'stoa', or portico in the Academy, where they _sat_ at lecture, as the Peripatetics (the school of Aristotle) from the little knot of listeners who followed their master as he _walked_. Epicurus's school were known as the philosophers of 'the Garden', from the place where he taught. The 'Old Academy' were the disciples of Plato; the 'New Academy' (to whose tenets Cicero inclined) revived the great principle of Socrates--of affirming nothing.] If Epicurus was wrong in placing Happiness "In corporal pleasure and in careless ease", no less wrong are they who say that "honour" requires pleasure to be added to it, since they thus make honour itself dishonourable. And again, to say with others that happiness is tranquillity of mind, is simply to beg the question. Putting, then, all such theories aside, we bring the argument to a practical issue. Self-preservation is the first great principle of nature; and so strong is this instinctive love of life both among men and animals, that we see even the iron-hearted Stoic shrink from the actual pangs of a voluntary death. Then comes the question, What _is_ this nature that is so precious to each of us? Clearly it is compounded of body and mind, each with many virtues of its own; but as the mind should rule the body, so reason, as the dominant faculty, should rule the mind. Virtue itself is only "the perfection of this reason", and, call it what you will, genius or intellect is something divine. Furthermore, there is in man a gradual progress of reason, growing with his growth until it has reached perfection. Even in the infant there are "as it were sparks of virtue"--half-unconscious principles of love and gratitude; and these germs bear fruit, as the child develops into the man. We have also an instinct which attracts us towards the pursuit of wisdom; such is the true meaning of the Sirens' voices in the Odyssey, says the philosopher, quoting from the poet of all time: "Turn thy swift keel and listen to our lay; Since never pilgrim to these regions came, But heard our sweet voice ere he sailed away, And in his joy passed on, with ampler mind". It is wisdom, not pleasure, which they offer. Hence it is that men devote their days and nights to literature, without a thought of any gain that may accrue from it; and philosophers paint the serene delights of a life of contemplation in the islands of the blest. [Footnote 1: Odyss. xii. 185 (Worsley).] Again, our minds can never rest. "Desire for action grows with us;" and in action of some sort, be it politics or science, life (if it is to be life at all) must be passed by each of us. Even the gambler must ply the dice-box, and the man of pleasure seek excitement in society. But in the true life of action, still the ruling principle should be honour. Such, in brief, is Piso's (or rather Cicero's) vindication of the old masters of philosophy. Before they leave the place, Cicero fires a parting shot at the Stoic paradox that the 'wise man' is always happy. How. he pertinently asks, can one in sickness and poverty, blind, or childless, in exile or in torture, be possibly called happy, except by a monstrous perversion of language? [Footnote 1: In a little treatise called "Paradoxes", Cicero discusses six of these scholastic quibbles of the Stoics.] Here, somewhat abruptly, the dialogue closes; and Cicero pronounces no judgment of his own, but leaves the great question almost as perplexed as when he started the discussion. But, of the two antagonistic theories, he leans rather to the Stoic than to the Epicurean. Self-sacrifice and honour seem, to his view, to present a higher ideal than pleasure or expediency.
II. 'ACADEMIC QUESTIONS'. Fragments of two editions of this work have come down to us; for almost before the first copy had reached the hands of his friend Atticus, to whom it was sent, Cicero had rewritten the whole on an enlarged scale. The first book (as we have it now) is dedicated to Varro, a noble patron of art and literature. In his villa at Cumae were spacious porticoes and gardens, and a library with galleries and cabinets open to all comers. Here, on a terrace looking seawards, Cicero, Atticus, and Varro himself pass a long afternoon in discussing the relative merits of the old and new Academies; and hence we get the title of the work. Varro takes the lion's share of the first dialogue, and shows how from the "vast and varied genius of Plato" both Academics and Peripatetics drew all their philosophy, whether it related to morals, to nature, or to logic. Stoicism receives a passing notice, as also does what Varro considers the heresy of Theophrastus, who strips virtue of all its beauty, by denying that happiness depends upon it. The second book is dedicated to another illustrious name, the elder Lucullus, not long deceased--half-statesman, half-dilettante, "with almost as divine a memory for facts", says Cicero, with something of envy, "as Hortensius had for words". This time it is at his villa, near Tusculum, amidst scenery perhaps even now the loveliest of all Italian landscapes, that the philosophic dialogue takes place. Lucullus condemns the scepticism of the New Academy--those reactionists against the dogmatism of past times, who disbelieve their very eyesight. If (he says) we reject the testimony of the senses, there is neither body, nor truth, nor argument, nor anything certain left us. These perpetual doubters destroy every ground of our belief. Cicero ingeniously defends this scepticism, which was, in fact, the bent of his own mind. After all, what is our eyesight worth? The ship sailing across the bay yonder seems to move, but to the sailors it is the shore that recedes from their view. Even the sun, "which mathematicians affirm to be eighteen times larger than the earth, looks but a foot in diameter". And as it is with these things, so it is with all knowledge. Bold indeed must be the man who can define the point at which belief passes into certainty. Even the "fine frenzy" of the poet, his pictures of gods and heroes, are as lifelike to himself and to his hearers as though he actually saw them: "See how Apollo, fair-haired god, Draws in and bends his golden bow, While on the left fair Dian waves her torch". No--we are sure of nothing; and we are happy if, like Socrates, we only know this--that we know nothing. Then, as if in irony, or partly influenced perhaps by the advocate's love of arguing the case both ways, Cicero demolishes that grand argument of design which elsewhere he so carefully constructs, and reasons in the very language of materialism--"You assert that all the universe could not have been so ingeniously made without some godlike wisdom, the majesty of which you trace down even to the perfection of bees and ants. Why, then, did the Deity, when he made everything for the sake of man, make such a variety (for instance) of venomous reptiles? Your divine soul is a fiction; it is better to imagine that creation is the result of the laws of nature, and so release the Deity from a great deal of hard work, and me from fear; for which of us, when he thinks that he is an object of divine care, can help feeling an awe of the divine power day and night? But we do not understand even our own bodies; how, then, can we have an eyesight so piercing as to penetrate the mysteries of heaven and earth?" [Footnote 1: See p. 168.] The treatise, however, is but a disappointing fragment, and the argument is incomplete.
III. THE 'TUSCULAN DISPUTATIONS'. The scene of this dialogue is Cicero's villa at Tusculum. There, in his long gallery, he walks and discusses with his friends the vexed questions of morality. Was death an evil? Was the soul immortal? How could a man best bear pain and the other miseries of life? Was virtue any guarantee for happiness? Then, as now, death was the great problem of humanity--"to die and go we know not where". The old belief in Elysium and Tartarus had died away; as Cicero himself boldly puts it in another place, such things were no longer even old wives' fables. Either death brought an absolute unconsciousness, or the soul soared into space. "_Lex non poena mors_"--"Death is a law, not a penalty"--was the ancient saying. It was, as it were, the close of a banquet or the fall of the curtain. "While we are, death is not; when death has come, we are not". Cicero brings forward the testimony of past ages to prove that death is not a mere annihilation. Man cannot perish utterly. Heroes are deified; and the spirits of the dead return to us in visions of the night. Somehow or other (he says) there clings to our minds a certain presage of future ages; and so we plant, that our children may reap; we toil, that others may enter into our labours; and it is this life after death, the desire to live in men's mouths for ever, which inspires the patriot and the martyr. Fame to the Roman, even more than to us, was "the last infirmity of noble minds". It was so in a special degree to Cicero. The instinctive sense of immortality, he argues, is strong within us; and as, in the words of the English poet, "Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting", so also in death, the Roman said, though in other words: "Our souls have sight of that immortal sea Which brought us hither". Believe not then, says Cicero, those old wives' tales, those poetic legends, the terrors of a material hell, of the joys of a sensual paradise. Rather hold with Plato that the soul is an eternal principle of life, which has neither beginning nor end of existence; for if it were not so, heaven and earth would be overset, and all nature would stand at gaze. "Men say they cannot conceive or comprehend what the soul can be, distinct from the body. As if, forsooth, they could comprehend what it is, when it is _in_ the body,--its conformation, its magnitude, or its position there.... To me, when I consider the nature of the soul, there is far more difficulty and obscurity in forming a conception of what the soul is while in the body,--in a dwelling where it seems so little at home,--than of what it will be when it has escaped into the free atmosphere of heaven, which seems its natural abode". And as the poet seems to us inspired, as the gifts of memory and eloquence seem divine, so is the soul itself, in its simple essence, a god dwelling in the breast of each of us. What else can be this power which enables us to recollect the past, to foresee the future, to understand the present? [Footnote 1: I. c. 22.] There follows a passage on the argument from design which anticipates that fine saying of Voltaire--"Si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer; mais toute la nature crie qu'il existe". "The heavens", says even the heathen philosopher, "declare the glory of God". Look on the sun and the stars; look on the alternation of the seasons, and the changes of day and night; look again at the earth bringing forth her fruits for the use of men; the multitude of cattle; and man himself, made as it were to contemplate and adore the heavens and the gods. Look on all these things, and doubt not that there is some Being, though you see him not, who has created and presides over the world. "Imitate, therefore, the end of Socrates; who, with the fatal cup in his hands, spoke with the serenity of one not forced to die, but, as it were, ascending into heaven; for he thought that the souls of men, when they left the body, went by different roads; those polluted by vice and unclean living took a road wide of that which led to the assembly of the gods; while those who had kept themselves pure, and on earth had taken a divine life as their model, found it easy to return to those beings from whence they came". Or learn a lesson from the swans, who, with a prophetic instinct, leave this world with joy and singing. Yet do not anticipate the time of death, "for the Deity forbids us to depart hence without his summons; but, on just cause given (as to Socrates and Cato), gladly should we exchange our darkness for that light, and, like men not breaking prison but released by the law, leave our chains with joy, as having been discharged by God". The feeling of these ancients with regard to suicide, we must here remember, was very different from our own. There was no distinct idea of the sanctity of life; no social stigma and consequent suffering were brought on the family of the suicide. Stoic and Epicurean philosophers alike upheld it as a lawful remedy against the pangs of disease, the dotage of old age, or the caprices of a tyrant. Every man might, they contended, choose his own route on the last great journey, and sleep well, when he grew wearied out with life's fitful fever. The door was always open (said Epictetus) when the play palled on the senses. You should quit the stage with dignity, nor drain the flask to the dregs. Some philosophers, it is true, protested against it as a mere device of cowardice to avoid pain, and as a failure in our duties as good citizens. Cicero, in one of his latest works, again quotes with approval the opinion of Pythagoras, that "no man should abandon his post in life without the orders of the Great Commander". But at Rome suicide had been glorified by a long roll of illustrious names, and the protest was made in vain. But why, continues Cicero, why add to the miseries of life by brooding over death? Is life to any of us such unmixed pleasure even while it lasts? Which of us can tell whether he be taken away from good or from evil? As our birth is but "a sleep and a forgetting", so our death may be but a second sleep, as lasting as Endymion's. Why then call it wretched, even if we die before our natural time? Nature has lent us life, without fixing the day of payment; and uncertainty is one of the conditions of its tenure. Compare our longest life with eternity, and it is as short-lived as that of those ephemeral insects whose life is measured by a summer day; and "who, when the sun sets, have reached old age". Let us, then, base our happiness on strength of mind, on a contempt of earthly pleasures, and on the strict observance of virtue. Let us recall the last noble words of Socrates to his judges. "The death", said he, "to which you condemn me, I count a gain rather than a loss. Either it is a dreamless sleep that knows no waking, or it carries me where I may converse with the spirits of the illustrious dead. _I_ go to death, _you_ to life; but which of us is going the better way, God only knows". No man, then, dies too soon who has run a course of perfect virtue; for glory follows like a shadow in the wake of such a life. Welcome death, therefore, as a blessed deliverance from evil, sent by the special favour of the gods, who thus bring us safely across a sea of troubles to an eternal haven. The second topic which Cicero and his friends discuss is, the endurance of pain. Is it an unmixed evil? Can anything console the sufferer? Cicero at once condemns the sophistry of Epicurus. The wise man cannot pretend indifference to pain; it is enough that he endure it with courage, since, beyond all question, it is sharp, bitter, and hard to bear. And what is this courage? Partly excitement, partly the impulse of honour or of shame, partly the habituation which steels the endurance of the gladiator. Keep, therefore--this is the conclusion--stern restraint over the feminine elements of your soul, and learn not only to despise the attacks of pain, but also "The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune". From physical, the discussion naturally passes to mental, suffering. For grief, as well as for pain, he prescribes the remedy of the Stoics--_aequanimitas_--"a calm serenity of mind". The wise man, ever serene and composed, is moved neither by pain or sorrow, by fear or desire. He is equally undisturbed by the malice of enemies or the inconstancy of fortune. But what consolation can we bring to ease the pain of the Epicurean? "Put a nosegay to his nostrils--burn perfumes before him--crown him with roses and woodbine"! But perfumes and garlands can do little in such case; pleasures may divert, but they can scarcely console. Again, the Cyrenaics bring at the best but Job's comfort. No man will bear his misfortunes the more lightly by bethinking himself that they are unavoidable--that others have suffered before him--that pain is part and parcel of the ills which flesh is heir to. Why grieve at all? Why feed your misfortune by dwelling on it? Plunge rather into active life and forget it, remembering that excessive lamentation over the trivial accidents of humanity is alike unmanly and unnecessary. And as it is with grief, so it is with envy, lust, anger, and those other "perturbations of the mind" which the Stoic Zeno rightly declares to be "repugnant to reason and nature". From such disquietudes it is the wise man who is free. The fifth and last book discusses the great question, Is virtue of itself sufficient to make life happy? The bold conclusion is, that it is sufficient. Cicero is not content with the timid qualifications adopted by the school of the Peripatetics, who say one moment that external advantages and worldly prosperity are nothing, and then again admit that, though man may be happy without them, he is happier with them,--which is making the real happiness imperfect after all. Men differ in their views of life. As in the great Olympic games, the throng are attracted, some by desire of gain, some by the crown of wild olive, some merely by the spectacle; so, in the race of life, we are all slaves to some ruling idea, it may be glory, or money, or wisdom. But they alone can be pronounced happy whose minds are like some tranquil sea--"alarmed by no fears, wasted by no griefs, inflamed by no lusts, enervated by no relaxing pleasures,--and such serenity virtue alone can produce". These 'Disputations' have always been highly admired. But their popularity was greater in times when Cicero's Greek originals were less read or understood. Erasmus carried his admiration of this treatise to enthusiasm. "I cannot doubt", he says, "but that the mind from which such teaching flowed was inspired in some sort by divinity".
IV. THE TREATISE 'ON MORAL DUTIES'. The treatise 'De Officiis', known as Cicero's 'Offices, to which we pass next, is addressed by the author to his son, while studying at Athens under Cratippus; possibly in imitation of Aristotle, who inscribed his Ethics to his son Nicomachus. It is a treatise on the duties of a gentleman--"the noblest present", says a modern writer, "ever made by parent to a child". Written in a far higher tone than Lord Chesterfield's letters, though treating of the same subject, it proposes and answers multifarious questions which must occur continually to the modern Christian as well as to the ancient philosopher. "What makes an action right or wrong? What is a duty? What is expediency? How shall I learn to choose between my principles and my interests? And lastly (a point of casuistry which must sometimes perplex the strictest conscience), of two 'things honest', which is most so?" [Footnote 1: Kelsall.] [Footnote 2: The English "Honesty" and "Honour" alike fail to convey the full force of the Latin _honestus_. The word expresses a progress of thought from comeliness and grace of person to a noble and graceful character--all whose works are done in honesty and honour.] The key-note of his discourse throughout is Honour; and the word seems to carry with it that magic force which Burke attributed to chivalry--"the unbought grace of life--the nurse of heroic sentiment and manly enterprise". _Noblesse oblige_,--and there is no state of life, says Cicero, without its obligations. In their due discharge consists all the nobility, and in their neglect all the disgrace, of character. There should be no selfish devotion to private interests. We are born not for ourselves only, but for our kindred and fatherland. We owe duties not only to those who have benefited but to those who have wronged us. We should render to all their due; and justice is due even to the lowest of mankind: what, for instance (he says with a hardness which jars upon our better feelings), can be lower than a slave? Honour is that "unbought grace" which adds a lustre to every action. In society it produces courtesy of manners; in business, under the form of truth, it establishes public credit. Again, as equity, it smooths the harsh features of the law. In war it produces that moderation and good faith between contending armies which are the surest basis of a lasting peace. And so in honour are centred the elements of all the virtues--wisdom and justice, fortitude and temperance; and "if", he says, reproducing the noble words of Plato, as applied by him to Wisdom, "this 'Honour' could but be seen in her full beauty by mortal eyes, the whole world would fall in love with her". Such is the general spirit of this treatise, of which only the briefest sketch can be given in these pages. Cicero bases honour on our inherent excellence of nature, paying the same noble tribute to humanity as Kant some centuries after: "On earth there is nothing great but man; in man there is nothing great but mind". Truth is a law of our nature. Man is only "lower than the angels"; and to him belong prerogatives which mark him off from the brute creation--the faculties of reason and discernment, the sense of beauty, and the love of law and order. And from this arises that fellow--feeling which, in one sense, "makes the whole world kin"--the spirit of Terence's famous line, which Cicero notices (applauded on its recitation, as Augustin tells us, by the cheers of the entire audience in the theatre)-- "Homo sum--humani nihil a me alienum puto:"  for (he continues) "all men by nature love one another, and desire an intercourse of words and action". Hence spring the family affections, friendship, and social ties; hence also that general love of combination, which forms a striking feature of the present age, resulting in clubs, trades-unions, companies, and generally in what Mr. Carlyle terms "swarmery". [Footnote 1: "I am a man--I hold that nothing which concerns mankind can be matter of unconcern to me".] Next to truth, justice is the great duty of mankind. Cicero at once condemns "communism" in matters of property. Ancient immemorial seizure, conquest, or compact, may give a title; but "no man can say that he has anything his own by a right of nature". Injustice springs from avarice or ambition, the thirst of riches or of empire, and is the more dangerous as it appears in the more exalted spirits, causing a dissolution of all ties and obligations. And here he takes occasion to instance "that late most shameless attempt of Caesar's to make himself master of Rome". There is, besides, an injustice of omission. You may wrong your neighbour by seeing him wronged without interfering. Cicero takes the opportunity of protesting strongly against the selfish policy of those lovers of ease and peace, who, "from a desire of furthering their own interests, or else from a churlish temper, profess that they mind nobody's business but their own, in order that they may seem to be men of strict integrity and to injure none", and thus shrink from taking their part in "the fellowship of life". He would have had small patience with our modern doctrine of non-intervention and neutrality in nations any more than in men. Such conduct arises (he says) from the false logic with which men cheat their conscience; arguing reversely, that whatever is the best policy is--honesty. There are two ways, it must be remembered, in which one man may injure another--force and fraud; but as the lion is a nobler creature than the fox, so open violence seems less odious than secret villany. No character is so justly hateful as "A rogue in grain, Veneered with sanctimonious theory". Nations have their obligations as well as individuals, and war has its laws as well as peace. The struggle should be carried on in a generous temper, and not in the spirit of extermination, when "it has sometimes seemed a question between two hostile nations, not which should remain a conqueror, but which should remain a nation at all". No mean part of justice consists in liberality, and this, too, has its duties. It is an important question, how, and when, and to whom, we should give? It is possible to be generous at another person's expense: it is possible to injure the recipient by mistimed liberality; or to ruin one's fortune by open house and prodigal hospitality. A great man's bounty (as he says in another place) should be a common sanctuary for the needy. "To ransom captives and enrich the meaner folk is a nobler form of generosity than providing wild beasts or shows of gladiators to amuse the mob". Charity should begin at home; for relations and friends hold the first place in our affections; but the circle of our good deeds is not to be narrowed by the ties of blood, or sect, or party, and "our country comprehends the endearments of all". We should act in the spirit of the ancient law--"Thou shalt keep no man from the running stream, or from lighting his torch at thy hearth". Our liberality should be really liberal,--like that charity which Jeremy Taylor describes as "friendship to all the world". Another component principle of this honour is courage, or "greatness of soul", which (continues Cicero) has been well defined by the Stoics as "a virtue contending for justice and honesty"; and its noblest form is a generous contempt for ordinary objects of ambition, not "from a vain or fantastic humour, but from solid principles of reason". The lowest and commoner form of courage is the mere animal virtue of the fighting-cock. But a character should not only be excellent,--it should be graceful. In gesture and deportment men should strive to acquire that dignified grace of manners "which adds as it were a lustre to our lives". They should avoid affectation and eccentricity; "not to care a farthing what people think of us is a sign not so much of pride as of immodesty". The want of tact--the saying and doing things at the wrong time and place--produces the same discord in society as a false note in music; and harmony of character is of more consequence than harmony of sounds. There is a grace in words as well as in conduct: we should avoid unseasonable jests, "and not lard our talk with Greek quotations". [Footnote 1: This last precept Cicero must have considered did not apply to letter-writing, otherwise he was a notorious offender against his own rule.] In the path of life, each should follow the bent of his own genius, so far as it is innocent-- "Honour and shame from no condition rise; Act well your part--there all the honour lies". Nothing is so difficult (says Cicero) as the choice of a profession, inasmuch as "the choice has commonly to be made when the judgment is weakest". Some tread in their father's steps, others beat out a fresh line of their own; and (he adds, perhaps not without a personal reference) this is generally the case with those born of mean parents, who propose to carve their own way in the world. But the _parvenu_ of Arpinum--the 'new man', as aristocratic jealousy always loved to call him--is by no means insensible to the true honours of ancestry. "The noblest inheritance", he says, "that can ever be left by a father to his son, far excelling that of lands and houses, is the fame of his virtues and glorious actions"; and saddest of all sights is that of a noble house dragged through the mire by some degenerate descendant, so as to be a by-word among the populace,--"which may" (he concludes) "be justly said of but too many in our times". The Roman's view of the comparative dignity of professions and occupations is interesting, because his prejudices (if they be prejudices) have so long maintained their ground amongst us moderns. Tax-gatherers and usurers are as unpopular now as ever--the latter very deservedly so. Retail trade is despicable, we are told, and "all mechanics are by their profession mean". Especially such trades as minister to mere appetite or luxury--butchers, fishmongers, and cooks; perfumers, dancers, and suchlike. But medicine, architecture, education, farming, and even wholesale business, especially importation and exportation, are the professions of a gentleman. "But if the merchant, satisfied with his profits, shall leave the seas and from the harbour step into a landed estate, such a man seems justly deserving of praise". We seem to be reading the verdict of modern English society delivered by anticipation two thousand years ago. The section ends with earnest advice to all, that they should put their principles into practice. "The deepest knowledge of nature is but a poor and imperfect business", unless it proceeds into action. As justice consists in no abstract theory, but in upholding society among men,--as "greatness of soul itself, if it be isolated from the duties of social life, is but a kind of uncouth churlishness",--so it is each citizen's duty to leave his philosophic seclusion of a cloister, and take his place in public life, if the times demand it, "though he be able to number the stars and measure out the world". The same practical vein is continued in the next book. What, after all, are a man's real interests? what line of conduct will best advance the main end of his life? Generally, men make the fatal mistake of assuming that honour must always clash with their interests, while in reality, says Cicero, "they would obtain their ends best, not by knavery and underhand dealing, but by justice and integrity". The right is identical with the expedient. "The way to secure the favour of the gods is by upright dealing; and next to the gods, nothing contributes so much to men's happiness as men themselves". It is labour and co-operation which have given us all the goods which we possess. Since, then, man is the best friend to man, and also his most formidable enemy, an important question to be discussed is the secret of influence and popularity--the art of winning men's affections. For to govern by bribes or by force is not really to govern at all; and no obedience based on fear can be lasting--"no force of power can bear up long against a current of public hate". Adventurers who ride rough-shod over law (he is thinking again of Caesar) have but a short-lived reign; and "liberty, when she has been chained up a while, bites harder when let loose than if she had never been chained at all". Most happy was that just and moderate government of Rome in earlier times, when she was "the port and refuge for princes and nations in their hour of need". Three requisites go to form that popular character which has a just influence over others; we must win men's love, we must deserve their confidence, and we must inspire them with an admiration for our abilities. The shortest and most direct road to real influence is that which Socrates recommends--"for a man to be that which he wishes men to take him for". [Footnote 1: It is curious to note how, throughout the whole of this argument, Cicero, whether consciously or unconsciously, works upon the principle that the highest life is the political life, and that the highest object a man can set before him is the obtaining, by legitimate means, influence and authority amongst his fellow-citizens.] [Footnote 2: "Not being less but more than all The gentleness he seemed to be". --Tennyson: 'In Memoriam'.] Then follow some maxims which show how thoroughly conservative was the policy of our philosopher. The security of property he holds to be the security of the state. There must be no playing with vested rights, no unequal taxation, no attempt to bring all things to a level, no cancelling of debts and redistribution of land (he is thinking of the baits held out by Catiline), none of those traditional devices for winning favour with the people, which tend to destroy that social concord and unity which make a common wealth. "What reason is there", he asks, "why, when I have bought, built, repaired, and laid out much money, another shall come and enjoy the fruits of it?" And as a man should be careful of the interests of the social body, so he should be of his own. But Cicero feels that in descending to such questions he is somewhat losing sight of his dignity as a moralist. "You will find all this thoroughly discussed", he says to his son, "in Xenophon's Economics--a book which, when I was just your age, I translated from the Greek into Latin". [One wonders whether young Marcus took the hint.] "And if you want instruction in money matters, there are gentlemen sitting on the Exchange who will teach you much better than the philosophers". The last book opens with a saying of the elder Cato's, which Cicero much admires, though he says modestly that he was never able in his own case quite to realise it--"I am never less idle than when I am idle, and never less alone than when alone". Retirement and solitude are excellent things, Cicero always declares; generally contriving at the same time to make it plain, as he does here, that his own heart is in the world of public life. But at least it gives him time for writing. He "has written more in this short time, since the fall of the Commonwealth, than in all the years during which it stood". He here resolves the question, If honour and interest seem to clash, which is to give way? Or rather, it has been resolved already; if the right be always the expedient, the opposition is seeming, not real. He puts a great many questions of casuistry, but it all amounts to this: the good man keeps his oath, "though it were to his own hindrance". But it is never to his hindrance; for a violation of his conscience would be the greatest hindrance of all. In this treatise, more than in any of his other philosophical works, Cicero inclines to the teaching of the Stoics. In the others, he is rather the seeker after truth than the maintainer of a system. His is the critical eclecticism of the 'New Academy'--the spirit so prevalent in our own day, which fights against the shackles of dogmatism. And with all his respect for the nobler side of Stoicism, he is fully alive to its defects; though it was not given to him to see, as Milton saw after him, the point wherein that great system really failed--the "philosophic pride" which was the besetting sin of all disciples in the school, from Cato to Seneca: "Ignorant of themselves, of God much more, * * * * * Much of the soul they talk, but all awry; And in themselves seek virtue, and to themselves All glory arrogate,--to God give none; Rather accuse Him under usual names, Fortune, or Fate, as one regardless quite Of mortal things". [Footnote 1: Paradise Regained.] Yet, in spite of this, such men were as the salt of the earth in a corrupt age; and as we find, throughout the more modern pages of history, great preachers denouncing wickedness in high places,--Bourdaloue and Massillon pouring their eloquence into the heedless ears of Louis XIV, and his courtiers--Sherlock and Tillotson declaiming from the pulpit in such stirring accents that "even the indolent Charles roused himself to listen, and the fastidious Buckingham forgot to sneer"--so, too, do we find these "monks of heathendom", as the Stoics have been not unfairly called, protesting in their day against that selfish profligacy which was fast sapping all morality in the Roman empire. No doubt (as Mr. Lecky takes care to tell us), their high principles were not always consistent with their practice (alas! whose are?); Cato may have ill-used his slaves, Sallust may have been rapacious, and Seneca wanting in personal courage. Yet it was surely something to have set up a noble ideal, though they might not attain to it themselves, and in "that hideous carnival of vice" to have kept themselves, so far as they might, unspotted from the world. Certain it is that no other ancient sect ever came so near the light of revelation. Passages from Seneca, from Epictetus, from Marcus Aurelius, sound even now like fragments of the inspired writings. The Unknown God, whom they ignorantly worshipped as the Soul or Reason of the World, is--in spite of Milton's strictures--the beginning and the end of their philosophy. Let us listen for a moment to their language. "Prayer should be only for the good". "Men should act according to the spirit, and not according to the letter of their faith". "Wouldest thou propitiate the gods? Be good: he has worshipped them sufficiently who has imitated them". It was from a Stoic poet, Aratus, that St. Paul quoted the great truth which was the rational argument against idolatry--"For we are also His offspring, and" (so the original passage concludes) "we alone possess a voice, which is the image of reason". It is in another poet of the same school that we find what are perhaps the noblest lines in all Latin poetry. Persius concludes his Satire on the common hypocrisy of those prayers and offerings to the gods which were but a service of the lips and hands, in words of which an English rendering may give the sense but not the beauty: "Nay, then, let us offer to the gods that which the debauched sons of great Messala can never bring on their broad chargers,--a soul wherein the laws of God and man are blended,--a heart pure to its inmost depths,--a breast ingrained with a noble sense of honour. Let me but bring these with me to the altar, and I care not though my offering be a handful of corn". With these grand words, fit precursors of a purer creed to come, we may take our leave of the Stoics, remarking how thoroughly, even in their majestic egotism, they represented the moral force of the nation among whom they flourished; a nation, says a modern preacher, "whose legendary and historic heroes could thrust their hand into the flame, and see it consumed without a nerve shrinking; or come from captivity on parole, advise their countrymen against a peace, and then go back to torture and certain death; or devote themselves by solemn self-sacrifice like the Decii. The world must bow before such men; for, unconsciously, here was a form of the spirit of the Cross-self-surrender, unconquerable fidelity to duty, sacrifice for others". [Footnote 1: Macaulay.] [Footnote 2: F.W. Robertson, Sermons, i. 218.] Portions of three treatises by Cicero upon Political Philosophy have come down to us: 1. I De Republica'; a dialogue on Government, founded chiefly on the 'Republic' of Plato: 2. 'De Legibus'; a discussion on Law in the abstract, and on national systems of legislation 3. 'De Jure Civili'; of which last only a few fragments exist. His historical works have all perished.