John Brett. Portrait of Christina Rossetti. 1857.
The Bijou

The Bijou;

or Annual of Literature and the Arts

compiled by William Fraser

London: William Pickering,


pp. pp. 183-187
[Page 183]page image and link
The Epistle of Servius Sulpicius to Marcus Tullius Cicero
Translated by HIS MAJESTY.

AS soon as I heard your daughter Tullia was dead, I confess I was extremely concerned, as it became me to be, at a loss which I regarded as common to us both; and if I had been with you, I should not have been wanting to you, but should have openly testified the bitterness of my grief. 'Tis true this is but a poor and miserable consolation, because those who ought to administer it, I mean our nearest friends and relations, are almost equally affected with ourselves, nor can they attempt it without shedding many a tear: so that they appear to be more in want of comfort themselves than to perform that duty to others. I resolved, however, to set down in a short letter to you such considerations as occurred to my mind, not because they can have escaped you, but because I think that your grief has hindered your attending to them. What reason is there why you should be transported by so immoderate a grief: consider how fortune has [Page 184]page image and linkhitherto dealt with us; consider that we have lost what ought to be dearer to us than our own offspring, our country, our credit, dignity, and all our honours. This one misfortune more, how can it increase our misery? Or what mind is there that has been subject to such distress, but must have now grown callous, and regard every thing else as of little consequence? Is it for her sake that you grieve? But how often must you have fallen into that train of thinking into which I often fall, which suggests to me that those persons are not the most unfortunate at this time who are permitted to exchange life for death? What is there now which could make her so much regret the loss of life? What affairs? what [sic] hopes? what [sic] prospects of comfort? Was it that she might pass her life with some Nobleman of high rank and qualification? And can you really think that it was in your power, deservedly honored as you are, to choose out of our present youth, a son-in-law, to whom you might safely commit a child so dear to you? Or, was it that she might bear children from whose flourishing condition she might have drawn much pleasure? Who might have enjoyed a large fortune, transmitted to them from their parents? Who might have been candidates in turn for the honors of the state; and who might have employed their liberty in the service of your friends! Alas! which of these blessings was not taken [Page 185]page image and linkaway before she was in a condition to bestow them on others? But it is a most shocking thing to lose one's children. True, if it were not much more so to suffer and undergo what we now do. Give me leave to relate to you, what on a certain occasion afforded me some little comfort, and allow me to hope that it may have the same effect upon you. Upon my return from Asia, as I sailed from Ægina to Megara, on my right hand Piræus, on my left Corinth. These cities were at one time flourishing beyond imagination, but are now desolate and in ruins. Thus I began to ruminate with myself; alas! do we poor mortals resent it so much, if one of us dies, or is killed, whose life is of so short a date, when we see in one spot the many carcases [sic] of so great cities lying before us? Will you not, Servius, check your grief by recollecting that you are born a man? Believe me I was not a little comforted by that thought. If you please, therefore, try the power of it on yourself. It was but lately we saw many famous men perish, a great empire declining and all the provinces in the utmost distress. And shall the death of one little woman so grievously afflict you! Who if she had not died now, must in a few years have done so; for she was born a mortal. Let me beg of you therefore, as much as is in your power, to call off your [Page 186]page image and linkmind from brooding over these subjects, and to turn it rather on such as are worthy of your character; consider, that she lived as long as it was desirable for her to live; that her fate was joined to that of her country, that she lived to see her father, Prætor, Consul, and Augur; had been married to youths of the greatest distinction; had enjoyed all manner of happiness: and fell at last with the republic. Upon what account can you or she complain of fortune? Above all, do not forget that you are Cicero, one who is accustomed to advise and direct others; and do not imitate bad physicians, who in the disorders of others profess that they are conversant in the art of physic, and are not able to cure themselves; but rather follow what you recommend to others and keep it constantly before your eyes. There is no grief which length of time will not diminish and soften, it is beneath you to wait for that moment, and not to master your grief, beforehand by your wisdom. But if there be any feeling in the dead, I am certain that she is very desirous that you should not wear yourself out with grief for her sake, on account of her filial piety and affection for you. Grant this favor to her, who is now dead and to the rest of your friends and relations, who sympathise with you in your grief, grant it also to your country, that, if she be in want of your assistance, she may be able to make use of your counsel and advice. And last of all, since we are fallen into such a situation, that we [Page 187]page image and link must submit to the present state of things, do not put it in the power of any one to say, that you grieve less for your daughter, than you do for the misfortunes of the country and for the victories of her enemies. It does not become me to write to you any more concerning this affair lest I should appear to distrust your prudence. Wherefore, when I have mentioned this one piece of advice, I will conclude my letter. We have seen you bear prosperity in a manner that became you, and acquire great glory from it; now let us perceive that you can bear adversity with equal fortitude, and that you are no more oppressed by it than you ought to be: lest this should appear to be the only virtue you want among so many. But as to what belongs to me, when I understand that you are a little more composed, I will inform you concerning what passes here and in what state this province is. Adieu.

[insert scanned image of signature: George P. 1779.]