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From Dioscorus to Augustine.
To you, who esteem the substance, not the style of expression, as important, any formal preamble to this letter would be not only unnecessary, but irksome. Therefore, without further preface, I beg your attention. The aged Alypius had often promised, in answer to my request, that he would, with your help, furnish a reply to a very few brief questions of mine in regard to the Dialogues of Cicero; and as he is said to be at present in Mauritania, I ask and earnestly entreat you to condescend to give, without his assistance, those answers which, even had your brother been present, it would doubtless have fallen to you to furnish. What I require is not money, it is not gold; though, if you possessed these, you would, I am sure, be willing to give them to me for any fit object. This request of mine you can grant without effort, by merely speaking. I might importune you at a greater length, and through many of your dear friends; but I know your disposition, that you do not desire to be solicited, but show kindness readily to all, if only there be nothing improper in the thing requested: and there is absolutely nothing improper in what I ask. Be this, however, as it may, I beg you to do me this kindness, for I am on the point of embarking on a voyage. You know how very painful it is to me to be burdensome to any one, and much more to one of your frank disposition; but God alone knows how irresistible is the pressure of the necessity under which I have made this application. For, taking leave of you, and committing myself to divine protection, I am about to undertake a voyage; and you know the ways of men, how prone they are to censure, and you see how any one will be regarded as illiterate and stupid who, when questions are addressed to him, can return no answer. Therefore, I implore you, answer all my queries without delay. Send me not away downcast. I ask this that so I may see my parents; for on this one errand I have sent Cerdo to you, and I now delay only till he return. My brother Zenobius has been appointed imperial remembrancer, and has sent me a free pass for my journey, with provisions. If I am not worthy of your reply, let at least the fear of my forfeiting these provisions by delay move you to give answers to my little questions. May the most high God spare you long to us in health! Papas salutes your excellency most cordially.
Source. Translated by J.G. Cunningham. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 1. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1102117.htm>.
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