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The gift of friendship

The gift of friendship
Title: The gift of friendship
Release Date: 2018-09-02
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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T N FOULISLondon & Edinburgh

Printed October 1910
Edinburgh: T. and A. Constable, Printers to His Majesty


IR. W. Emerson
IIH. D. Thoreau
Friends and Friendship45
IIIThomas Carlyle
The Sentiment of Friendship79
IVHenry Mackenzie
On the Acquisition of Friends89
VOliver Goldsmith
On Friendship99
VIDr. Johnson
The Pleasures of Friendship109
VIIDr. Johnson
The True Art of Friendship119
VIIIGeorge Berkeley
The Virtue of Friendship137
{vi}IXSir Richard Steele
On the Choice of Friends151
XJoseph Addison
The Qualifications of Friendship161
XIFrancis Bacon
Of Friendship173
Of Friendship193
XIIIAnthusa to St. John
Ideal Friendship231
The Blessings of Friendship247



From Water-Colour Drawings by
H. C. Preston Macgoun, R.S.W.

‘We snatch at the slowest fruit in the whole garden of God’Frontispiece
Facing page
‘My friends have come to me unsought. The great God gave them to me’56
‘It is a spiritual gift, worthy of him to give and of me to receive’136
‘Then shall we meet ... as water with water’216








An element of love

WE have a great deal more kindness than is ever spoken. Maugre all theselfishness that chills like east winds the world, the whole humanfamily is bathed with an element of love like a fine ether. How manypersons we meet in houses whom we scarcely speak to, whom yet we honour,and who honour us; how many we see in the street, or sit with in church,whom, though silently, we warmly rejoice to be with! Read the languageof these wandering eye-beams. The heart knoweth.

The effect of the indulgence of this human affection is a certaincordial exhilaration. In poetry, and in common{4}

Affection the sweetness of life

speech, the emotions of benevolence and complacency which are felttowards others are likened to the material effects of fire; so swift ormuch more swift, more active more cheering are these fine inwardirradiations. From the highest degree of passionate love, to the lowestdegree of goodwill, they make the sweetness of life.

Our intellectual and active powers increase with our affection. Thescholar sits down to write, and all his years of meditation do notfurnish him with one good thought or happy expression; but it isnecessary to write a letter to a friend—and, forthwith, troops ofgentle thoughts invest themselves on every hand with chosen words. See,in any house where virtue and self-respect abide, the palpitation whichthe approach of a stranger causes. A commended stranger is expect{5}ed

A stranger’s arrival

and announced, and an uneasiness betwixt pleasure and pain invades allthe hearts of a household. His arrival almost brings fear to the goodhearts that would welcome him. The house is dusted, all things fly intotheir places, the old coat is exchanged for the new, and they must getup a dinner if they can. Of a commended stranger, only the good reportis told by others, only the good and new is heard by us. He stands to usfor humanity. He is what we wish. Having imagined and invested him, weask how we should stand related in conversation and action with such aman, and are uneasy with fear. The same idea exalts conversation withhim. We talk better than we are wont. We have the nimblest fancy, aricher memory, and our dumb devil has taken leave for the time. For longhours we{6}

Rich communications

can continue a series of sincere, graceful, rich communications, drawnfrom the oldest, secretest experience, so that they who sit by, of ourown kinsfolk and acquaintance, shall feel a lively surprise at ourunusual powers. But as soon as the stranger begins to intrude hispartialities, his definitions, his defects, into the conversation, it isall over. He has heard the first, the last, and best he will ever hearfrom us. He is no stranger now. Vulgarity, ignorance, misapprehensionare old acquaintances. Now, when he comes, he may get the order, thedress, and the dinner—but the throbbing of the heart, and thecommunications of the soul, no more.

What is so pleasant as these jets of affection which make a young worldfor me again? What so delicious as a just and firm encounter of two, ina thought,{7}

A thanksgiving for friends

in a feeling? How beautiful, on their approach to this beating heart,the steps and forms of the gifted and the true! The moment we indulgeour affections, the earth is metamorphosed; there is no winter, and nonight; all tragedies, all ennuis, vanish—all duties even; nothing fillsthe proceeding eternity but the forms all radiant of beloved persons.Let the soul be assured that somewhere in the universe it should rejoinits friend, and it would be content and cheerful alone for a thousandyears.

I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the oldand the new. Shall I not call God the Beautiful, who daily showethhimself so to me in his gifts? I chide society, I embrace solitude, andyet I am not so ungrateful as not to see the wise, the lovely, and{8}

Friends come unsought

the noble-minded, as from time to time they pass my gate. Who hears me,who understands me, becomes mine—a possession for all time. Nor isnature so poor but she gives me this joy several times, and thus weweave social threads of our own, a new web of relations; and, as manythoughts in succession substantiate themselves, we shall by and by standin a new world of our own creation, and no longer strangers and pilgrimsin a traditionary globe. My friends have come to me unsought. The greatGod gave them to me. By oldest right, by the divine affinity of virtuewith itself, I find them, or rather not I, but the Deity in me and inthem derides and cancels the thick walls of individual character,relation, age, sex, circumstance, at which he usually connives, and nowmakes many one. High{9}

The nobility of friendship

thanks I owe you, excellent lovers, who carry out the world for me tonew and noble depths, and enlarge the meaning of all my thoughts. Theseare new poetry of the first Bard—poetry without stop—hymn, ode, andepic, poetry still flowing, Apollo and the Muses chanting still. Willthese, too, separate themselves from me again, or some of them? I knownot, but I fear it not; for my relation to them is so pure that we holdby simple affinity, and the Genius of my life being thus social, thesame affinity will exert its energy on whomsoever is as noble as thesemen and women, wherever I may be.

I confess to an extreme tenderness of nature on this point. It is almostdangerous to me to ‘crush the sweet poison of misused wine’ of theaffections. A new person is to me a great event, and hinders{10}

A great event

me from sleep. I have often had fine fancies about persons which havegiven me delicious hours; but the joy ends in the day; it yields nofruit. Thought is not born of it; my action is very little modified. Imust feel pride in my friend’s accomplishments as if they were mine—anda property in his virtues. I feel as warmly when he is praised as thelover when he hears applause of his engaged maiden. We over-estimate theconscience of our friend. His goodness seems better than our goodness,his nature finer, his temptations less. Everything that is his—hisname, his form, his dress, books, and instruments—fancy enhances. Ourown thought sounds new and larger from his mouth.

Yet the systole and diastole of the heart are not without their analogyin{11}

The golden hour of friendship

the ebb and flow of love. Friendship, like the immortality of the soul,is too good to be believed. The lover, beholding his maiden, half knowsthat she is not verily that which he worships; and in the golden hour offriendship we are surprised with shades of suspicion and unbelief. Wedoubt that we bestow on our hero the virtues in which he shines, andafterwards worship the form to which we have ascribed this divineinhabitation. In strictness, the soul does not respect men as itrespects itself. In strict science all persons underlie the samecondition of an infinite remoteness. Shall we fear to cool our love bymining for the metaphysical foundation of this Elysian temple? Shall Inot be as real as the things I see? If I am, I shall not fear to knowthem for what they are. Their essence{12}

A magnificent conception

is not less beautiful than their appearance, though it needs finerorgans for its apprehension. The root of the plant is not unsightly toscience, though for chaplets and festoons we cut the stem short. And Imust hazard the production of the bald fact amidst these pleasingreveries, though it should prove an Egyptian skull at our banquet. A manwho stands united with his thought conceives magnificently of himself.He is conscious of a universal success, even though bought by uniformparticular failures. No advantages, no powers, no gold or force, can beany match for him. I cannot choose but rely on my own poverty more thanon your wealth. I cannot make your consciousness tantamount to mine.Only the star dazzles; the planet has a faint, moon-like ray. I hear{13}

The shadow of the Phenomenal

what you say of the admirable parts and tried temper of the party youpraise, but I see well that for all his purple cloaks I shall not likehim, unless he is at last a poor Greek like me. I cannot deny it, Ofriend, that the vast shadow of the Phenomenal includes thee also in itspied and painted immensity,—thee, also, compared with whom all else isshadow. Thou art not Being, as Truth is, as Justice is,—thou art not mysoul, but a picture and effigy of that. Thou hast come to me lately, andalready thou art seizing thy hat and cloak. It is not that the soul putsforth friends as the tree puts forth leaves, and presently, by thegermination of new buds, extrudes the old leaf? The law of nature isalternation forevermore. Each electrical state super-induces theopposite. The soul environs{14}

The search after friendship

itself with friends, that it may enter into a grander self-acquaintanceor solitude; and it goes alone for a season, that it may exalt itsconversation or society. This method betrays itself along the wholehistory of our personal relations. The instinct of affection revives thehope of union with our mates, and the returning sense of insulationrecalls us from the chase. Thus every man passes his life in the searchafter friendship, and if he should record

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