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(Supplementary To Published Essay.)

Some little official secrets we learn from the correspondence of Cicero as Proconsul of Cilicia.[1] And it surprises us greatly to find a man, so eminently wise in his own case, suddenly turning romantic on behalf of a friend. How came it–that he or any man of the world should fancy any substance or reality in the public enthusiasm for one whose character belonged to a past generation? Nine out of ten amongst the Campanians must have been children when Pompey’s name was identified with national trophies. For many years Pompey had done nothing to sustain or to revive his obsolete reputation. Capua or other great towns knew him only as a great proprietor. And let us ask this one searching question–Was the poor spirit-broken insolvent, a character now so extensively prevailing in Italian society, likely to sympathize more heartily with the lordly oligarch fighting only for the exclusive privileges of his own narrow order, or with the great reformer who amongst a thousand plans for reinfusing vitality into Roman polity was well understood to be digesting a large measure of relief to the hopeless debtor? What lunacy to believe that the ordinary citizen, crouching under the insupportable load of his usurious obligations, could be at leisure to support a few scores of lordly senators panic-stricken for the interests of their own camarilla, when he beheld–taking the field on the opposite quarter–one, the greatest of men, who spoke authentically to all classes alike, authorizing all to hope and to draw their breath in freedom under that general recast of Roman society which had now become inevitable! As between such competitors, which way would the popularity be likely to flow? Naturally the mere merits of the competition were decisive of the public opinion, although the petty aristocracy of the provincial boroughs availed locally to stifle those tumultuous acclamations which would else have gathered about the name of Caesar. But enough transpired to show which way the current was setting. Cicero does not dissemble that. He acknowledges that all men’s hopes turned towards Caesar. And Pompey, who was much more forced into towns and public scenes, had even less opportunity for deceiving himself. He, who had fancied all Campania streaming with incense to heaven on his own personal account, now made the misanthropical discovery–not only that all was hollow, and that his own name was held in no esteem–but absolutely that the barrier to any hope of popularity for himself was that very man whom, on other and previous grounds, he had for some time viewed as his own capital antagonist.

Here then, in this schism of the public affections, and in the mortifying discovery so abruptly made by Pompey, lay the bitter affront which he could not digest–the injury which he purposed to avenge. What barbed this injury to his feelings, what prepared him for exhausting its bitterness, was the profound delusion in which he had been previously laid asleep by flattering friends–the perfect faith in his own uniform popularity. And now, in the very teeth of all current representations, we advance this proposition: That the quality of his meditated revenge and its horrid extent were what originally unveiled to Cicero’s eyes the true character of Pompey and his partisans.

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The last letter of the sixth book is written from Athens, which city, after a voyage of about a fortnight, Cicero reached precisely in the middle of October, having sailed out of Ephesus on the 1st. He there found a letter from Atticus, dated from Rome on the 18th of September; and his answer, which was ‘by return of post,’ closes with these words: ‘Mind that you keep your promise of writing to me fully about my darling Tullia,’ which means of course about her new husband Dolabella; next about the Commonwealth, which by this time I calculate must be entering upon its agony; and then about the Censors, etc. Hearken: ‘This letter is dated on the 16th of October; that day on which, by your account, Caesar is to reach Placentia with four legions. What, I ask myself for ever, is to become of us? My own situation at this moment, which is in the Acropolis of Athens, best meets my idea of what is prudent under the circumstances.’