A Sample from the Correspondence
Below is a sample of the correspondence between Marcus Cornelius Fronto and his pupil which I have been reading. The collection contains other letters—so far, letters to the mother or father of Marcus—but the bulk has been to/from Marcus Aurelius and the collection’s great interest derives from that. Fronto can be a little windy at times. Not many of the letters are so long as what follows (and some are in a fragmented state), but this is entirely typical and gives you a good sense of the tutor’s charm. Marcus would be about age 25; I don’t have enough sense of biography to know what his many duties would have been at this time. So far this Loeb edition is living up to the review which I quoted previously. Of course the whole collection can be read here—though I am finding the scanning is flawed in parts and the “hard copy” may well serve you best if this interests you.
Fronto to Marcus as Caesar
To my Lord.
The coining of new words, or onomatopoeia, which is allowed to poets to enable them more easily to express their thoughts, is a necessity to me for describing my joy. For customary and habitual words do not satisfy me ; so transported am I with joy that I cannot in ordinary language signify the gladness of my heart at your having written me so many letters in so few days, composed too with such felicity, such friendship, such kindness, such fulness, such ardour, though you were distracted by so much business, so many duties, so many letters to be answered throughout the provinces. But indeed had purposed—for I must not keep anything hidden or dissembled from you—I had purposed, I say, to incur even the reproach of laziness from you by writing to you less often, rather than to trouble you, amid your many engagements, with my letters and tempt you to write, whereas you of your own accord have written to daily. But why do I say daily? It is just here that the need of word-coining comes in. For would be daily, if you had written one letter a day; since however, there are more letters than days, that word daily falls short of the meaning. Nor is there need, my Lord, for you to be vexed with me for actually fearing that my too frequent letters should be a burden to you; for the more you love me, the more chary should I be of adding to your work, and the more forbearing in respect of your occupations.
What is sweeter to me than your kiss? That sweet fragrance, that delight dwells for me in your neck, on your lips. Yet the last time you were setting out, when your father had already got into the carriage, but you were delayed by the crowd of those who were saying good-bye and kissing you, it was to your advantage that I alone of all did not embrace or kiss you. So too in all other things, I will never set my convenience before your interests, for, if need were, with heaviest toil and service of mine I would purchase your slightest ease.
Considering therefore, how much labour the writing of letters imposed upon you, I had determined to address you more sparingly, when you wrote daily to me. When I got those letters of yours I was in similar plight to a lover, who sees his darling running towards him along a rough and dangerous pathway. For he rejoices at the loved one's coming at the same time that he fears the danger. Consequently I do not care for the story, which is such a favourite with actors, where a loving girl standing by night in a turret with a lighted taper in her hand, awaits her young lover as he swims the straits. For though I burn with love for you, I would rather be severed utterly from you than let you swim so deep a sea so late at night, for fear the moon should set, the wind dash out your light, the cold benumb your senses there, a wave, a reef, a sea-beast in some way work you harm. This language were more fitting for a lover and better and more sound—not at the peril of another's life to seek to enjoy a pleasure short in duration and fraught with regret.
Now to turn from fiction to reality, my especial anxiety was lest I should add to your unavoidable labours some superfluous trouble and burden, if besides those letters which your unavoidable duties require you to write daily to very many correspondents, I too should weary you with answering my letters. For I should prefer to sacrifice every advantage of your love, rather than that you should suffer the slightest inconvenience to gratify my pleasure.