The speeches betray the politician; the letters of Cicero bare the man, and make even the politician forgivable. Nearly all of them were dictated to a secretary and never revised by Cicero; most of them were written with no thought of publication; seldom, therefore, has a man’s secret soul been so completely exposed. “He who reads these letters,” said Nepos, “will not much need a history of those times”; in them the most vital part of the revolutionary drama is seen from within, all blinds removed. Usually their style is artless and direct and dances with humor and wit; their language is an attractive mixture of literary grace and colloquial ease. They are the most interesting of Cicero’s remains; indeed, of all extant Latin prose. It is natural that we should find in so large a correspondence (864 letters, ninety of them to Cicero) occasional contradictions and insincerities. There is no sign here of the religious piety and belief that appear so frequently in Cicero’s essays or in those speeches in which he plays up the gods as his last trump. His private opinion of various men, especially of Caesar, does not always conform with his public protestation. His incredible vanity appears more amiably here than in his orations, where he seems to be carrying his own statue with him wherever he goes; he smilingly confesses that “my own applause has the greatest weight with me.” He assures us, with charming innocence, that “if ever any man was a stranger to vainglory it is myself.” We are amused to find so many letters about money and so much ado about so many homes. Besides modest villas at Arpinum, Asturae, Puteoli, and Pompeii, Cicero had an estate at Formiae valued at 250,000, another at Tusculum worth 500,000, and a palace on the Palatine that cost him 3,500,000 sesterces. Such comfort seems outrageous in a philosopher. But which of us is so virtuous that his reputation could survive the publication of his intimate correspondence? Indeed, as we continue to read these letters, we almost come to like the man. He had no more faults, perhaps no greater vanity, than we; he made the mistake of immortalizing them with perfect prose. At his best he was a hard worker, a tender father, a good friend. We see him in his home, loving his books and his children, and trying to love his wife, the rheumatic and irritable Terentia, whose wealth and eloquence equaled his own. They were too rich to be happy; their worries and quarrels were always in large figures; at last, in their old age, he divorced her over some financial dispute. Soon afterward he married Publilia, who attracted him by having more money than years; but when she showed dislike for his daughter Tullia he sent Publilia away, too. Tullia he loved humanly beyond reason; he grieved almost to madness at her death and wished to build a temple to her as a deity. Pleasanter are the letters to and about Tiro, his chief secretary, who took his dictation in shorthand and managed his finances so ably and honestly that Cicero rewarded him with freedom. Most numerous are the letters to Atticus, who invested Cicero’s savings, extricated him from financial difficulties, published his writings, and gave him excellent unheeded advice. To Atticus, wisely absent in Greece at the height of the revolution, Cicero writes a letter of typical cordiality and charm:

There is nothing of which I so much feel the want as of him with whom I can communicate everything that concerns me; who loves me, who is prudent; to whom I can speak without flattery, dissimulation, or reserve. My brother, who is all candor and kindness, is away…. And you, who have so often relieved my cares and anxieties by your counsel, who used to be my companion in public matters, my confidant in all private ones, the partaker of all my words and thoughts- where are you?