Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

FENN Chapman, a schoolboy at Rugby, is convinced that there is more to life than `university, a job, a mortgage, a car and death'. Deep thinkers, these Rugbeians. So Fenn has run away to Barbados to `find himself . They will surely be ecstatically happy together if he succeeds. The younger Seneca (c. AD 1-65), however, would have his doubts whether he will.

In Letter XXVIII, Seneca (who was an adviser to Nero before being ordered to commit suicide) is writing to a friend who had a similar problem and took a similar course. Depressed and miserable, this friend had departed on a long holiday in order to rectify matters but came back no better, and Seneca wrote to him on his return to tell him it was not surprising it had been a complete waste of time:

`Do you think you are the only person to have had this experience? Are you really surprised that so long a tour and such a diversity of scene have not enabled you to throw off this melancholy and this feeling of depression? A change of character, not a change of air, is what you need. Though you cross the boundless ocean, whatever your destination, you will be followed by your failings. Here is what Socrates said to someone who was making the same complaint: "How can you wonder your travels do you no good, when you carry yourself around with you? …

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