Thursday, May 22, 1712. Budgell.
‘Thesea pectora juncta fide.’
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 AEneas 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 AEneid.
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 Caesar and Pompey, he still maintained the same Conduct. After the Death of Caesar 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.