Believe me, my very good, and (as far as the times will admit) my eloquent friends, had it been your lot to live under the old republic, and the men whom we so much admire had been reserved for the present age; if some god had changed the period of theirs and your existence, the flame of genius had been yours, and the chiefs of antiquity would now be acting with minds subdued to the temper of the times. Upon the whole, since no man can enjoy a state of calm tranquillity, and, at the same time, raise a great and splendid reputation; to be content with the benefits of the age in which we live, without detracting from our ancestors, is the virtue that best becomes us.
XLII. Maternus concluded [a] his discourse. There have been, said Messala, some points advanced, to which I do not entirely accede; and others, which I think require farther explanation. But the day is well nigh spent. We will, therefore, adjourn the debate. Be it as you think proper, replied Maternus; and if, in what I have said, you find any thing not sufficiently clear, we will adjust those matters in some future conference. Hereupon he rose from his seat, and embracing Aper, I am afraid, he said, that it will fare hardly with you, my good friend. I shall cite you to answer before the poets, and Messala will arraign you at the bar of the antiquarians. And I, replied Aper, shall make reprisals on you both before the school professors and the rhetoricians. This occasioned some mirth and raillery. We laughed, and parted in good humour.
NOTES ON THE DIALOGUE CONCERNING ORATORY.
The scene of the following Dialogue is laid in the sixth year of Vespasian, A.U.C. 828. A.D. 75. The commentators are much divided in their opinions about the real author; his work they all agree is a masterpiece in the kind; written with taste and judgement; entertaining, profound, and elegant. But whether it is to be ascribed to Tacitus, Quintilian, or any other person whom they cannot name, is a question upon which they have exhausted a store of learning. They have given us, according to their custom, much controversy, and little decision. In this field of conjecture Lipsius led the way. He published, in 1574, the first good edition of Tacitus, with emendations of the text, and not removed; he still remains in suspense. Cum multa dixerim, claudo tamen omnia hoc responso; MIHI NON LIQUERE. Gronovius Pichena, Ryckius, Rhenanus, and others, have entered warmly into the dispute. An elegant modern writer has hazarded a new conjecture. The last of Sir Thomas Fitzosborne’s Letters is a kind of preface to Mr. Melmoth’s Translation of the Dialogue before us. He says; of all the conversation pieces, whether ancient or modern, either of the moral or polite kind, he knows not one more elegantly written than the little anonymous Dialogue concerning the rise and decline of eloquence among the Romans. He calls it anonymous,