I STRONGLY presage (and I am persuaded not falsely) that your histories will be immortal. I ingenuously own therefore, I so much the more covet a place in them. If we are generally careful to have our faces taken by the best artists, ought we not to desire that our actions may be celebrated by an author like yourself? In view to this, I acquaint you with the following affair, which though it cannot have escaped your attention, as it is mentioned in the journals of the public, still I acquaint you with it, that you may be the more sensible how agreeable it will be to me, that my action, greatly heightened by the hazard which attended it, should receive an additional lustre from the testimony of so bright a genius.
The Senate had appointed Herennius Senecio and myself as counsel for the province of Baetica, in their prosecution of Baebius Massa. He was convicted; and the House ordered his effects to be placed under official custody. Senecio, having learnt that tbe consuls were about to sit to hear complaints, came to me, and proposed that with the same unanimity with which we had conducted the prosecution enjoined us, we should lodge an application with the consuls, that they would not suffer Massa's effects to be dissipated by those whose duty it was to guard them. I answered, "As we were appointed counsel in this cause by the Senate, you had better consider whether we have not done our part, now the Senate's inquiry is over." "You are at liberty," said he, "to prescribe what bounds you please to yourself, who have no particular connections with the province, except what arise from your late services to them; but it is not so with me, who was born there, and enjoyed the post of Quaestor among them." If such, I told him, was his determined resolution, I was ready to attend him, that whatever resentment should be the consequence of this affair, it might not fall singly upon himself.
We went to the consuls; Senecio spoke what was proper to the occasion, to which I subjoined some remarks. We had scarce ended, when Massa, complaining that Senecio had not acted from loyalty to his clients but bitter animosity against himself, desired leave to prosecute him for high treason. The whole assembly was struck with consternation. I immediately rose up; "Most noble consuls," said I, "I am afraid that Massa has tacitly charged me with betrayal of my client's interests, since he has not asked leave to prosecute me likewise." This speech was instantly caught up, and soon afterwards was the talk of the town. The late Emperor Nerva (who while still a subject remarked every worthy action which passed in public) wrote a most impressive letter to me, congratulating not only me, but the age, which had been vouchsafed an example so much in the spirit (as he was pleased to call it) of the ancients.
But be my action what it may, 'tis yours to heighten and spread the lustre of it; not that I require you to exceed the bounds of reality. For History ought not to depart from the truth, and the truth is all the praise that virtuous actions need. Farewell.