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by [?]

Seneca was a combination of Delsarte and Emerson. He was as popular as Henry Irving, and as wise as Thomas Brackett Reed. His writings were in demand; when he spoke in public, crowds hung upon his words, and the families of the great and powerful sent him their sons, hoping he would impart the secret of success. The world takes a man at the estimate he puts upon himself. Seneca knew enough to hold himself high. Honors came his way, and the wealth he acquired is tokened in those five hundred tables, inlaid with ivory, to which at times he invited his friends to feast. As a lawyer, he took his pick of cases, and rarely appeared, except on appeal, before the Emperor. The poise of his manner, the surety of his argument, the gentle grace of his diction, caused him to be likened to Julius Caesar.

And this led straight to exile, and finally–death. To mediocrity, genius is unforgivable.

* * * * *

There are various statements to the effect that Claudius was a mental defective, a sort of town fool, patronized by the nobles for their sport and jest. We are also told that he was made Emperor by the Pretorian Guards, in a spirit of rollicking bravado. Men too much abused must have some merit, or why should the pack bay so loudly? Possibly it is true that, in the youth of Claudius, his mother used to declare, when she wanted a strong comparison, “He is as big a fool as my son, Claudius.” But then the mother of Wellington used exactly the same expression; and Byron’s mother had a way of referring to the son who was to rescue her from oblivion, and send her name down the corridors of time, as “that lame brat.”

Claudius was a brother of the great Germanicus, and was therefore an uncle of Caligula. Caligula was the worst ruler that Rome ever had; and he was a brother of Agrippina, mother of Nero. This precious pair had a most noble and generous father, and their gentle mother was a fit mate for the great Germanicus–these things are here inserted for the edification of folks who take stock in that pleasant fallacy, the Law of Heredity, and who gleefully chase the genealogical anise-seed trail.

Caligula happily passed out without an heir, and Claudius, next of kin, put himself in the way of the Pretorian Guard, and was declared Emperor.

He was then fifty years old, a grass-widower–twice over–and on the lookout for a wife. He was neither wise nor great, nor was he very bad; he was kind–after dinner–and generous when rightly approached. Canon Farrar likened Claudius to King James the First, who gave us our English Bible. His comparison is worth quoting, not alone for the truth it contains, but because it is an involuntary paraphrase of the faultless literary style of the Roman rhetors. Says Canon Farrar: “Both were learned, and both were eminently unwise. Both were authors, and both were pedants. Both delegated their highest powers to worthless favorites, and both enriched these favorites with such foolish liberality that they remained poor themselves. Both of them, though of naturally good dispositions, were misled by selfishness into acts of cruelty; and both of them, though laborious in the discharge of duty, succeeded only in rendering royalty ridiculous. King James kept Sir Walter Raleigh, the brightest intellect of his time, in prison; and Claudius sent Seneca, the greatest man in his kingdom, into exile.”

New-made kings sweep clean. The impulses of Claudius were right and just, a truthful statement I here make in pleasant compliment to a brother author. The man was absent-minded, had much faith in others, and moved in the line of least resistance. Like most students and authors, he was decidedly littery. He secured a divorce from one wife because she cleaned up his room in his absence so that he could never find anything; and the other wife got a divorce from him because he refused to go out evenings and scintillate in society–but this was before he was made Emperor.