11 March 2014

I Must Go to School Again

George Gissing to his sister Margaret, from Rome on 17 December 1888, Letters of George Gissing to Members of His Family (London : Constable, 1927) , p. 262:
It is a wonderful thing to walk along the road [Via Appia], where generations of Romans have gone about their pleasure and their business, and to look at the vast ruin of tombs — robbed of their marble clothing — on this side and that. Now and then one finds a legible inscription. One I copied, and the translation is this: "This monument is erected to Marcus Caecilius. Stranger, I am grateful when you sit down by my resting place. May you prosper in business and in health, and may your sleep be without care!" The Latin spelling is very antique; it was written at least 2000 years ago.

Wherever you go it is the same. Everywhere the wonderful antiquity haunts you. The Roman life and literature becomes real in a way hitherto inconceivable. I must begin to study it all over again; I must go to school again and for the rest of my life. Ah, if only I could have come here years ago!