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No. 068 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 068
Friday, May 18, 1711.

‘Nos duo turba sumus …’

Ovid.

One would think that the larger the Company is, in which we are engaged, the greater Variety of Thoughts and Subjects would be started in Discourse; but instead of this, we find that Conversation is never so much straightened and confined as in numerous Assemblies. When a Multitude meet together upon any Subject of Discourse, their Debates are taken up chiefly with Forms and general Positions; nay, if we come into a more contracted Assembly of Men and Women, the Talk generally runs upon the Weather, Fashions, News, and the like publick Topicks. In Proportion as Conversation gets into Clubs and Knots of Friends, it descends into Particulars, and grows more free and communicative: But the most open, instructive, and unreserved Discourse, is that which passes between two Persons who are familiar and intimate Friends. On these Occasions, a Man gives a Loose to every Passion and every Thought that is uppermost, discovers his most retired Opinions of Persons and Things, tries the Beauty and Strength of his Sentiments, and exposes his whole Soul to the Examination of his Friend.

Tully was the first who observed, that Friendship improves Happiness and abates Misery, by the doubling of our Joy and dividing of our Grief; a Thought in which he hath been followed by all the Essayers upon Friendship, that have written since his Time. Sir Francis Bacon has finely described other Advantages, or, as he calls them, Fruits of Friendship; and indeed there is no Subject of Morality which has been better handled and more exhausted than this. Among the several fine things which have been spoken of it, I shall beg leave to quote some out of a very ancient Author, whose Book would be regarded by our Modern Wits as one of the most shining Tracts of Morality that is extant, if it appeared under the Name of a Confucius, or of any celebrated Grecian Philosopher: I mean the little Apocryphal Treatise entitled, The Wisdom of the Son of Sirach. How finely has he described the Art of making Friends, by an obliging and affable Behaviour? And laid down that Precept which a late excellent Author has delivered as his own,

‘That we should have many Well-wishers, but few ‘Friends.’

Sweet Language will multiply Friends; and a fair-speaking Tongue will increase kind Greetings. Be in Peace with many, nevertheless have but one Counsellor of a thousand. [1]

With what Prudence does he caution us in the Choice of our Friends? And with what Strokes of Nature (I could almost say of Humour) has he described the Behaviour of a treacherous and self-interested Friend?

If thou wouldst get a Friend, prove him first, and be not hasty to credit him: For some Man is a Friend for his own Occasion, and will not abide in the Day of thy Trouble. And there is a Friend, who being turned to Enmity and Strife will discover thy Reproach.

Again,

Some Friend is a Companion at the Table, and will not continue in the Day of thy Affliction: But in thy Prosperity he will be as thy self, and will be bold over thy Servants. If thou be brought low he will be against thee, and hide himself from thy Face. [2]

What can be more strong and pointed than the following Verse?

Separate thy self from thine Enemies, and take heed of thy Friends

In the next Words he particularizes one of those Fruits of Friendship which is described at length by the two famous Authors above-mentioned, and falls into a general Elogium of Friendship, which is very just as well as very sublime.

A faithful Friend is a strong Defence; and he that hath found such an one, hath found a Treasure. Nothing doth countervail a faithful Friend, and his Excellency is unvaluable. A faithful Friend is the Medicine of Life; and they that fear the Lord shall find him. Whoso feareth the Lord shall direct his Friendship aright; for as he is, so shall his Neighbour (that is, his Friend) be also.[3]