Abstract Wenskus (41/2017)

If we take Marcus Aurelius’ letters to Fronto at face value, Marcus does not seem to have thought there was a real conflict between philosophy and rhetoric, just competition for the time and energy assigned to each discipline. But truth-loving as Marcus is supposed to have been, he was also intent not to hurt the feelings of his teacher, whom he probably genuinely admired in his youth and continued to be fond of. The conflict is there, but it is never openly acknowledged by Marcus, while it is by Fronto, who applauds the fact that in one case at least Marcus avoided an ethical hard call by delegating the decision to Lucius Verus. As for Marcus’ Meditations, while we have no way of knowing whether writing them down actually helped him, i.e. whether his combination of philosophy and rhetoric worked for him in real life, they were hugely successful in the nineteenth century, as is shown by the significant example of Fritz Reuter (who wrote novels in his native Mecklenburg dialect and whose literary persona abhorred intellectual name dropping), particularly as he was sentenced to death and spent seven years in various prisons and fortresses. But this changes during the twentieth century; the writings of P.G. Wodehouse are a case in point.