Cicero, On the Commonwealth
1.17.27 (tr. Clinton Walker Keyes):
Only such a man, finally, can say of himself what my grandfather Africanus used to say, according to Cato's account—that he was never doing more than when he was doing nothing, and never less alone than when alone.
qui denique, ut Africanum avum meum scribit Cato solitum esse dicere, possit idem de se praedicare, numquam se plus agere quam nihil cum ageret, numquam minus solum esse quam cum solus esset.
Cicero, On Duties
3.1.1 (tr. Walter Miller):
Cato, who was of about the same years, Marcus, my son, as that Publius Scipio who first bore the surname of Africanus, has given us the statement that Scipio used to say that he was never less idle than when he had nothing to do and never less lonely than when he was alone. An admirable sentiment, in truth, and becoming to a great and wise man. It shows that even in his leisure hours his thoughts were occupied with public business and that he used to commune with himself when alone; and so not only was he never unoccupied, but he sometimes had no need for company. The two conditions, then, that prompt others to idleness — leisure and solitude—only spurred him on.
P. Scipionem, M. fili, eum, qui primus Africanus appellatus est, dicere solitum scripsit Cato, qui fuit eius fere aequalis, numquam se minus otiosum esse, quam cum otiosus, nec minus solum, quam cum solus esset. magnifica vero vox et magno viro ac sapiente digna; quae declarat illum et in otio de negotiis cogitare et in solitudine secum loqui solitum, ut neque cessaret umquam et interdum colloquio alterius non egeret. ita duae res, quae languorem afferunt ceteris, illum acuebant, otium et solitudo.
For the history of the saying, see a series of articles all with the title "Never Less Alone Than When Alone" and all published in Modern Language Notes
- Albert S. Cook, 24.2 (February, 1909) 54-55
- Edward A. Allen, 24.4 (April, 1909) 123
- W.F. Brewer, 24.7 (November, 1909) 226
- Henry Noble MacCracken, 25.1 (January, 1910) 28-29
- John Livingston Lowes, 25.3 (March, 1910) 96
- Lane Cooper, 26.7 (November, 1911) 232
- John Richie Schultz, 34.2 (February, 1919) 122
- John S.P. Tatlock, 34.7 (November, 1919) 441