I intend the Paper for this Day as a loose Essay upon Friendship, in which I shall throw my Observations together without any set Form, that I may avoid repeating what has been often said on this Subject.
Friendship is a strong and habitual Inclination in two Persons to promote the Good and Happiness of one another. Tho' the Pleasures and Advantages of Friendship have been largely celebrated by the best moral Writers, and are considered by all as great Ingredients of human Happiness, we very rarely meet with the Practice of this Virtue in the World.
Every Man is ready to give in a long Catalogue of those Virtues and good Qualities he expects to find in the Person of a Friend, but very few of us are careful to cultivate them in our selves.
Love and Esteem are the first Principles of Friendship, which always is imperfect where either of these two is wanting.
As, on the one hand, we are soon ashamed of loving a Man whom we cannot esteem: so, on the other, tho we are truly sensible of a Man's Abilities, we can never raise ourselves to the Warmths of Friendship, without an affectionate Good-will towards his Person.
Friendship immediately banishes Envy under all its Disguises. A Man who can once doubt whether he should rejoice in his Friends being happier than himself, may depend upon it that he is an utter Stranger to this Virtue.
There is something in Friendship so very great and noble, that in those fictitious Stories which are invented to the Honour of any particular Person, the Authors have thought it as necessary to make their Hero a Friend as a Lover. Achilles has his Patroclus, and Æneas his Achates. In the first of these Instances we may observe, for the Reputation of the Subject I am treating of, that Greece was almost ruin'd by the Hero's Love, but was preserved by his Friendship.
The Character of Achates suggests to us an Observation we may often make on the Intimacies of great Men, who frequently chuse their Companions rather for the Qualities of the Heart than those of the Head, and prefer Fidelity in an easy inoffensive complying Temper to those Endowments which make a much greater Figure among Mankind. I do not remember that Achates, who is represented as the first Favourite, either gives his Advice, or strikes a Blow, thro' the whole Æneid.
A Friendship which makes the least noise, is very often most useful: for which reason I should prefer a prudent Friend to a zealous one.
Atticus, one of the best Men of ancient Rome, was a very remarkable Instance of what I am here speaking. This extraordinary Person, amidst the Civil Wars of his Country, when he saw the Designs of all Parties equally tended to the Subversion of Liberty, by constantly preserving the Esteem and Affection of both the Competitors, found means to serve his Friends on either side: and while he sent Money to young Marius, whose Father was declared an Enemy of the Commonwealth, he was himself one of Sylla's chief Favourites, and always near that General.
During the War between Cæsar and Pompey, he still maintained the same Conduct. After the Death of Cæsar he sent Money to Brutus in his Troubles, and did a thousand good Offices to Antony's Wife and Friends when that Party seemed ruined. Lastly, even in that bloody War between Antony and Augustus, Atticus still kept his place in both their Friendships; insomuch that the first, says Cornelius Nepos, whenever he was absent from Rome in any part of the Empire, writ punctually to him what he was doing, what he read, and whither he intended to go; and the latter gave him constantly an exact Account of all his Affairs.
A Likeness of Inclinations in every Particular is so far from being requisite to form a Benevolence in two Minds towards each other, as it is generally imagined, that I believe we shall find some of the firmest Friendships to have been contracted between Persons of different Humours; the Mind being often pleased with those Perfections which are new to it, and which it does not find among its own Accomplishments. Besides that a Man in some measure supplies his own Defects, and fancies himself at second hand possessed of those good Qualities and Endowments, which are in the possession of him who in the Eye of the World is looked on as his other self.
The most difficult Province in Friendship is the letting a Man see his Faults and Errors, which should, if possible, be so contrived, that he may perceive our Advice is given him not so much to please ourselves as for his own Advantage. The Reproaches therefore of a Friend should always be strictly just, and not too frequent.
The violent Desire of pleasing in the Person reproved, may otherwise change into a Despair of doing it, while he finds himself censur'd for Faults he is not Conscious of. A Mind that is softened and humanized by Friendship, cannot bear frequent Reproaches; either it must quite sink under the Oppression, or abate considerably of the Value and Esteem it had for him who bestows them.
The proper Business of Friendship is to inspire Life and Courage; and a Soul thus supported, outdoes itself: whereas if it be unexpectedly deprived of these Succours, it droops and languishes.
We are in some measure more inexcusable if we violate our Duties to a Friend, than to a Relation: since the former arise from a voluntary Choice, the latter from a Necessity to which we could not give our own Consent.
As it has been said on one side, that a Man ought not to break with a faulty Friend, that he may not expose the Weakness of his Choice; it will doubtless hold much stronger with respect to a worthy one, that he may never be upbraided for having lost so valuable a Treasure which was once in his Possession.
X.Translation of motto: