Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Sulpicius Consoles Cicero after his Daughter Tullia’s Death
By Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 B.C.)
FOR some time after I had received the information of the death of your daughter Tullia, you may be sure that I bore it sadly and heavily, as much indeed as was right for me. I felt that I shared that terrible loss with you; and that had I but been where you are, you on your part would not have found me neglectful, and I on mine should not have failed to come to you and tell you myself how deeply grieved I am. And though it is true that consolations of this nature are painful and distressing, because those [dear friends and relations] upon whom the task naturally devolves are themselves afflicted with a similar burden, and incapable even of attempting it without many tears, so that one would rather suppose them in need of the consolations of others for themselves than capable of doing this kind office to others, yet nevertheless I have decided to write to you briefly such reflections as have occurred to me on the present occasion; not that I imagine them to be ignored by you, but because it is possible that you may be hindered by your sorrow from seeing them as clearly as usual.  1
  What reason is there why you should allow the private grief which has befallen you to distress you so terribly? Recollect how fortune has hitherto dealt with us: how we have been bereft of all that ought to be no less dear to men than their own children—of country, position, rank, and every honorable office. If one more burden has now been laid upon you, could any addition be made to your pain? Or is there any heart that having been trained in the school of such events, ought not now to be steeled by use against emotion, and think everything after them to be comparatively light?  2
  Or it is for her sake, I suppose, that you are grieving? How many times must you have arrived at the same conclusion as that into which I too have frequently fallen, that in these days theirs is not the hardest lot who are permitted painlessly to exchange their life for the grave! Now what was there at the present time that could attach her very strongly to life? what hope? what fruition? what consolation for the soul? The prospect of a wedded life with a husband chosen from our young men of rank? Truly, one would think it was always in your power to choose a son-in-law of a position suitable to your rank out of our young men, one to whose keeping you would feel you could safely intrust the happiness of a child. Or that of being a joyful mother of children, who would be happy in seeing them succeeding in life; able by their own exertions to maintain in its integrity all that was bequeathed them by their father; intending gradually to rise to all the highest offices of the State; and to use that liberty to which they were born for the good of their country and the service of their friends. Is there any one of these things that has not been taken away before it was given? But surely it is hard to give up one’s children? It is hard; but this is harder still—that they should bear and suffer what we are doing.  3
  A circumstance which was such as to afford me no light consolation I cannot but mention to you, in the hope that it may be allowed to contribute equally towards mitigating your grief. As I was returning from Asia, when sailing from Ægina in the direction of Megara, I began to look around me at the various places by which I was surrounded. Behind me was Ægina, in front Megara; on the right the Piræus, on the left Corinth; all of them towns that in former days were most magnificent, but are now lying prostrate and in ruins before one’s eyes. “Ah me,” I began to reflect to myself, “we poor feeble mortals, who can claim but a short life in comparison, complain as though a wrong was done us if one of our number dies in the course of nature, or has met his death by violence; and here in one spot are lying stretched out before me the corpses of so many cities! Servius, be master of yourself, and remember that it is the lot of man to which you have been born.” Believe me, I found myself in no small degree strengthened by these reflections. Let me advise you too, if you think good, to keep this reflection before your eyes. How lately at one and the same time have many of our most illustrious men fallen! how grave an encroachment has been made on the rights of the sovereign people of Rome! every province in the world has been convulsed with the shock: if the frail life of a tender woman has gone too, who being born to the common lot of man must needs have died in a few short years, even if the time had not come for her now, are you thus utterly stricken down?  4
  Do you then also recall your feelings and your thoughts from dwelling on this subject, and as beseems your character bethink yourself rather of this: that she has lived as long as life was of value to her; that she has passed away only together with her country’s freedom; that she lived to see her father elected Prætor, Consul, Augur; that she had been the wife of young men of the first rank; that after enjoying well-nigh every blessing that life can offer, she left it only when the Republic itself was falling. The account is closed, and what have you, what has she, to charge of injustice against Fate? In a word, forget not that you are Cicero—that you are he who was always wont to guide others and give them good advice; and be not like those quack physicians who when others are sick boast that they hold the key of the knowledge of medicine, to heal themselves are never able; but rather minister to yourself with your own hand the remedies which you are in the habit of prescribing for others, and put them plainly before your own soul. There is no pain so great but the lapse of time will lessen and assuage it: it is not like yourself to wait until this time comes, instead of stepping forward by your philosophy to anticipate that result. And if even those who are low in the grave have any consciousness at all, such was her love for you and her tenderness for all around her that surely she does not wish to see this in you. Make this a tribute then to her who is dead; to all your friends and relations who are mourning in your grief; and make it to your country also, that if in anything the need should arise she may be able to trust to your energy and guidance. Finally, since such is the condition we have come to, that even this consideration must perforce be obeyed, do not let your conduct induce any one to believe that it is not so much your daughter as the circumstances of the Republic and the victory of others which you are deploring.  5
  I shrink from writing to you at greater length upon this subject, lest I should seem to be doubtful of your own good sense; allow me therefore to put before you one more consideration, and then I will bring my letter to a close. We have seen you not once but many times bearing prosperity most gracefully, and gaining yourself great reputation thereby: let us see at last that you are capable also of bearing adversity equally well, and that it is not in your eyes a heavier burden than it ought to seem; lest we should think that of all the virtues this is the only one in which you are wanting.  6
  As for myself, when I find you are more composed in mind I will send you information about all that is being done in these parts, and the state in which the province finds itself at present. Farewell.  7

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.