As All Roads Lead to Rome
She gave the various early detective writers a thorough dissection, if superficial in contrast to Edmund WIlson's (but then she is sympathetic, he not). Ngaio Marsh seemed interesting. She went into great lengths about the syringe-filled-with-air that I remembered from my youthful reading of Dorothy Sayers as having been the murder weapon. Seems it is impossible. Oh, well.
Then I began to find the discussion even more tedious than ever Cicero got—well, as with Wilson, I am not sympathetic (anymore) with the genre. So better judgement overcame me and I set down the James, and picked back up Cicero.
He is writing to his friend and—well, everything: advisor, proxy (in his absence) and so forth. Now he is returning from his governorship, everything having wrapped up swimmingly; he posts this from Brundisium:
I am glad your little daughter gives you pleasure and that you agree that affection for children is part of nature. Indeed if this is not the case there can be no natural tie between one human being and another, and once you abolish that, you abolish all society. “And good luck!”, says Carneades—an abominable thing to say, but not too naive as the position of our friend Lucius and Patro; when they make self-interest their only yardstick while refusing to believe in any altruistic act and maintain that we should be good only to avoid getting into trouble and not because goodness is naturally right, they fail to see that they are talking about an artful dodger, not a good man. [Brundisium, 25 November (?) 50]
For mercy’s sake, put all your affection, lavished on me as it is, and all your wisdom, remarkable in every field as I do assure you I regard it, into one single concern, the consideration of my position in toto. I fancy I see the greatest struggle—unless the same Providence that delivered me from the Parthian war better than I could have dared to hope takes pity on our country—, the greatest that history has ever known. Well, that is a calamity which I shall have to bear along with the rest of the world. I don’t ask you to think about that. But do pray take up this personal problem of my own. You see, don’t you, that at your instigation I have made friends with both the contestants. And I only wish I had listened to your affectionate admonitions from the first. “The heart within my breast thou ne’er couldst sway.” However in the end you persuaded me to make friends with one of them because of all he had done for me and with the other because of his power. So I did, and by conciliating them in every possible way I managed to win as high a place in their several good graces as any other man’s. We calculated that on the one hand joined with Pompey I should never be obliged to go politically astray, while on the other hand as Pompey’s ally I ought not to be at loggerheads with Caesar—they were so closely linked. Now, as you represent and as I see myself, there looms ahead a tremendous contest between them. Each counts me as his man, unless it be that one of them is only pretending—for Pompey has no doubts, judging correctly that I strongly approve of his present politics. Moreover I received letters from both at the same time as yours, conveying the impression that neither has a friend in the world he values more than myself.
But what am I to do? I don’t mean in the proceedings that will be set on foot when I get back to prevent his candidature in absentia and to make him give up his army. “Speak, M. Tullius!” What shall I say? “Be so kind as to wait until I see Atticus”? There’s no room for fence-sitting. Against Caesar then? “Where are those close-clasped hands?” For I helped to get him this privilege, as requested by himself at Ravenna in connexion with Caelius who was Tribune—and not only by him but by our Gnaeus too in that immortal third Consulship of his. Or shall I take a different line? “I fear” not Pompey only but “the Trojan men and dames”. “Polydamas will foremost cry me shame.” Being who? You yourself of course, the encomiast of my doings and writings.
I escaped this dilemma during the two earlier Marcelline Consulships when the Senate discussed Caesar’s command; now I am coming in just at the crisis. [Athens, 16 October 50]