CICERO, by Gaston Delayen. E. P. Dutton & Co., New York, 1931, $4.
To the average person, Cicero is only too likely to mean a Roman orator who had something or other to do with some speeches against the nefarious Catiline. The other phases of his many-sided career are not sufficiently known. Certainly there is always room for a book which may present a living portrait of such a character in his proper setting, and as such M. Delayen's volume serves a very useful purpose.
Although the author has not been as successful in portraying this Golden Age of Rome as Gertrude Atherton was in recreating for us fifth century Athens, nevertheless, the reader is sure to carry away a fairly substantial picture of the life at Rome in the height of its greatness. Inevitably other great characters of history figure to a more or less extent in this account; men such as Caesar, Crassus, Octavius, Mark Antony, Brutus, Cassius are all seen in their relation to Cicero and his times. Of course Cicero's life is the central theme of the book, and is shown throughout its development.
As a romanticized piece of history for light reading, then, M. Delayen may have succeeded, but beyond this point very little is to be said. Throughout the book there are footnotes which, when looked up in the back, refer to ancient authors and authorities for his statements. As references they are completely impossible because of the vague character of most of them. For example, one reference says, "of, Zenophon, Aristophanes, Thueydides, Demosthenes, etc." This would seem to be an attempt to make a novel look like a really critical and scholarly piece of work, which it certainly is not. Furthermore, the text is riddled with small inaccuracies which might be overlooked by the man who is reading romanticized history; but then there is this critical set of notes and references which would seem to be an attempt to tie everything down to fact. It is hard to understand how the French Academy could have awarded the Montyon prize to this work.