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posed her, in some measure, to the animadversions so freely bestowed by Juvenal on the literary ladies of Rome: but when taunted on this score, she used mildly to reply, "Were I to remain in Rome, I might learn all my life; but when I return to Britain, I must begin to teach!"
After the lapse of a few months, however, an event occurred which obliged her to leave Lucan's family, and ushered in a series of changes, not only affecting her fortunes, but even her character. Leaving her for awhile, we must return to the Emperor, who will have to act a conspicuous part in the few remaining scenes of this narrative.
I have selected the quotation prefixed to this chapter in order to call the reader's attention to Nero's inordinate passion for distinetion in the Grecian accomplishments there particularized. As a charioteer, he had, as might have been expected, excelled most of his competitors; but not content with his supremacy in the circus, he aimed also at the histrionic crown, and had resolved to bear away the palm of poetry. Unfortunately for Lucan, he was the chief obstacle to Nero's triumph in this department; and it was neces
sary to depose him before the Emperor could reign unrivalled. But how was this obstacle to be removed?-how was this deposition to be accomplished? If the Emperor challenged him, and failed, the ignominy would be unendurable: if, on the contrary, Lucan were not challenged, he remained in undisturbed possession of his laurels.
After anxious deliberation on the subject, it was resolved that the gauntlet should be thrown down, and that some of the courtiers should use their private influence with the poet to induce him to acknowledge the Emperor's arrogated superiority. Lucan was accordingly recalled to court, and received, among other marks of favour, the office of quæstor. It must, however, in justice to this high-souled poet be acknowledged that although it is probable—such is the weakness of human nature-that he felt flattered by the Emperor's notice, yet that these distinctions were rather submitted to than courted; and that a refusal would have looked suspicious, and would have exposed him to dangerous consequences.
These preliminary steps having been taken, Nero, in due time, published a challenge against all competitors; but of this challenge
Lucan wisely took no notice. This general measure not having succeeded, the poet was informed that it was the Emperor's particular desire that the public should decide the question of superiority between them but Lucan very respectfully, but firmly declined the contest, as he could not help suspecting some design to ensnare him; more especially as Tigellinus was very pressing in his recommendations to him, to gratify the Emperor.
This monster's design, it needs no extraordinary sagacity to discover, was, by procuring the quæstorship for Lucan, and obliging him to reside in Rome, to draw Claudia a little more within his own reach; and then by inveigling the poet into an altercation with the Emperor, to deprive her of her protector. He, accordingly, with that knowledge of character with which Satan endows his favourites, finding his persuasions unsuccessful, had recourse to another and more effectual mode of attack, and employed some of his satellites to taunt Lucan with cowardice in claiming superiority, and yet refusing competition. It was in vain that he denied having made any such claim the homage, it was observed, was received by him, and he was afraid to allow
his pretensions to be fairly disputed. This
weapon was aimed at his most assailable part, and proved but too successful. Lucan was too vehement a man, and too genuine a poet to endure this charge, and he therefore accepted the challenge.
The Emperor having gained this point, directed his efforts to induce his antagonist to allow him the victory; and to attain this object the most lavish promises were made to him of compensation for a defeat, should such occur!- -a hint not difficult to be understood. Thus were matters arranged, when the important day arrived. The scene of contest was Pompey's glorious Theatre, of which we shall attempt a brief description, as it appeared decorated for the occasion:
It might be deem'd on our historian's part
If he forgot the vast magnificence
Of noble Pompey, and his large expence.
DRYDEN'S PALAMON AND ARCITE.
This magnificent edifice was built of stone, and was capable of containing forty thousand spectators. The niches between the marble pillars were filled with statues of the most exquisite sculpture, among which the most celebrated were
the images of the fourteen nations conquered by Pompey. The bronze colossus of the hero himself stood in the Basilica; and within was a marble statue of Jupiter, erected by Claudius. The scene and the walls were covered with gold; and the awning was of purple studded with golden stars, embroidered in the centre with a representation of Nero as Apollo guiding the chariot of the sun! The varying tint, which the awning gave to the marble statues and to the walls, as it tremulously waved in the breeze and moderated the bright glare of the sun, was not the least beautiful effect produced by art. It reminded the spectator of that purple light which poets have delighted to ascribe to the atmosphere of Elysium. There was another instance of refined luxury too, which must not pass unnoticed. This huge building was perfumed by concealed conduits of liquid scents, carried into the marble statues before described; whence the perfume passed through invisible apertures, and diffused an atmosphere of fragrance.
However, to pursue our narrative:
Lucan had not apprized his family of his intention to contest the palm with the Empe