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what is equally impossible, could I see before me all I have seen, I would have few acquaintances, fewer friendships, no familiarities. This rubbish, for such it generally is, collecting at the base of an elevated mind, lessens its height and impairs its character." There is no doubt that the being linked by the mere forms and courtesies of society to a very extensive circle, must be injurious alike to a man's ease, purity, and independence. He has too many different opinions to study, and too many tastes to satisfy, to be able to indulge his own particular impulses. Instead of standing out boldly and prominently as an individual, he becomes only an insignificant part of the great mass, and is whirled away like a mere straw, amidst the general refuse that soils the stream of life. A man of eminent intellectual and moral worth cannot long mingle harmoniously with the crowd without a sacrifice of character. The delicate bloom of virtue is soon rubbed off by a close contact with the world, and the finest thoughts and speculations are exchanged for more vulgar and sordid interests. Unless a man lowers himself to the level of those about him by unworthy compliances, he is regarded with a jealous eye. His superiority is a tacit censure on the rest of the world. They call his integrity churlishness, and his genius eccentricity. "Great wit," especially of that kind which renders a man unfit to mingle with the throng, is always held to be very "nearly allied to madness." He who mixes with the world, and yet endeavours to breast the stream of popular opinion, is considered more odd than wise. Thus a man who has many friends has generally very few worth having, nor does he deserve to have better ones; for it is only by a dishonorable flexibility in his own character that he can surround himself with a host of intimates, all differing more or less from himself, and from each other. The friendship that is of any value consists in a close communion of mind, as well as heart, and such is the selfishness of most men, the inequality of human capacities, and the endless variety of dispositions, that
nothing is so rare as the union of congenial spirits. A man may pass through a long life without meeting with one companion, into whose breast he could safely pour the secrets of his soul, or from whom he might expect a perfect and disinterested sympathy. Montaigne has some excellent observations on the rarity of friendship, and relates the anecdote of a young soldier, who, when asked by Cyrus, what he would take for a horse with which he had just won the prize at a race, and whether he would exchange him for a kingdom, replied, "No, truly, sir; but I would freely part with him to gain a friend, could I find a man worthy of such a relation." When Socrates was asked why he had built so small a house-"Small as it is," he replied, "I wish I had friends enough to fill it."
Rochefoucault, who studied human nature closely, observed, that in the misfortunes of our best friends we always find something that does not displease us. Swift has confirmed the truth of this maxim, and has illustrated it by his verses on his own death, in which he anticipates the observations of his surviving friends with great sagacity and a caustic humour. To those who neither analyze their own feelings, nor dive into the hearts of others, this view of human nature may seem as untrue as it is shocking. They perceive not with what eager and indecent haste unhappy intelligence is communicated by friends, and how transparent is the veil of sadness that is worn on such occasions. A keen eye may often detect an ill-suppressed smile beneath it, like the sunlight behind an April cloud. I have seen instances in which it has broken out into actual laughter. People are sometimes heard to express a sense of horror at their own indifference to the afflictions of their friends, and half-conscious of a strange internal pleasure, are unable to account for it. It is truly said, that the most difficult of all knowledge is the knowledge of our own hearts. This secret satisfaction arising from the distresses of others is owing to the sense of superior fortune, increased
by contrast, and not to any natural malignity of disposition, as might be superficially imagined. All happiness is comparative, and we measure our own lot by that of others. This view of the subject in some degree blunts the edge of Rochefoucault's remark, which would otherwise seem a terrible sarcasm against human nature. To enable us to overcome the disposition to congratulate ourselves on our own good fortune at the expense of others, our friendship must be strong indeed. Those who think they have many friends of such truth and fervour indulge in a very gross delusion.
A gentleman once gave me a few odd pages, which he got by mere accident, of a work entitled "The Journal of a Self-Observer," being the diary of the inmost thoughts and feelings of the celebrated Lavater, a keen student of his own heart and the hearts of others. The Journal was not originally intended for publication. "Lest I should deceive myself," says the author, "I I will make a firm resolution never to show these remarks to any person whatever." And he undertakes to put down every thing as truly and as carefully as if he had to read the Journal to his God. The following passage may be given as a specimen of his confessions (more genuine than those of Rousseau), and as a curious evidence of his severe and searching self-study. The book would have delighted Rochefoucault.
Sunday, January the seventh.-When I awoke, a messenger was waiting for me, delivering a letter from my friend ****, at Hwho entreated me to pay him a visit, if possible, for he was very ill.
"I was frightened, and yet this intelligence had something pleasing in it, though, God knows! I love my friend sincerely; his death would grieve me much. It is not the first time that my fright occasioned by afflicting intelligence, seemed to be mixed with secret joy. I recollect to have felt once on a sudden alarm of fire, something so very pleasing, that, on cool reflection, makes me shudder. Was this sensation the effect of the novelty, and the suddenness of the alarm, or of the presentiment of the concern which those with whom I should have an opportunity of conversing on that incident would show, and which is always somewhat flattering to the
narrator? Or was it the effect of the confused idea of the changes which interrupted the sameness of my thoughts or occupations? Or was it, which is most likely, the consequence of the joyful sensation of being exempted from the misfortune which befalls or threatens others?
“I should like to know what passes in the minds of other people, and particularly of those who have an humane, feeling heart, when they are surprised by important, and, at the same time, afflicting intelligence. However, I apprehend that most of them either do not pay proper attention to situations of that kind, or are anxious to hide their feelings from others, and, perhaps from themselves. Yet, I think, one ought to observe one's self with the utmost care in such cases; and, in order to recollect afterwards, to one's own benefit, the most secret emotions of the mind, one ought to commit them faithfully to writing in the first tranquil moment.
"I communicated the letter to my wife, made preparation for my journey, settled in haste some business, gave some orders, and then stepped into the carriage.
"Consternation, anxiety, uneasiness, and a secret satisfaction, on account of the joy my speedy arrival would afford my friend, but not only on account of that joy, but also of the praise which I expected himself and his family would give me—and shame on account of that satisfaction, succeeded each other, alternately, in the first quarter of an hour*.
"I began to pray: 'O! my God! how irregular and impure are my thoughts! When will my heart be in such a condition that I shall be able to look upon myself without blushing!—Merciful God! guide my thoughts and sensations, particularly at present.'' """
Real friendship is almost as exclusive as love, and cannot be diffused over a large circle. I can hardly call that man my friend who cares as much for a hundred other people as he does for me. I am not satisfied with a hundredth share of his heart. He might as well pretend to love as many mistresses. He cannot have an equally deep feeling for them all. In the event of a contrariety of interests amongst them, how is he to act? Every body's friend is no one's. Jealousy is almost as much allied to friendship as to love, and it is more natural to see friends in pairs than in triads or in scores. The close communion of a great number of people is sociality, but not friendship,
*These are genuine confessions, and show a profound self-knowledge.
Some people talk of friendship as if it were as common a thing as the sexual affection, which is by no means the case. All men at some period of their lives have been fired by the latter passion, but comparatively very few of any age have felt the force of genuine friendship. Love is a compound feeling, and is fed with the grossest food; but friendship is a passion which must exist entirely on a moral or intellectual diet. Though love is more fiery and ardent, it is also more fickle and uncertain. It is subject, as are all physical passions, to a fatal satiety. It is destroyed by fruition. But the appetite of friendship grows with what it feeds on. Love is like a hunter who cares not for the game when once caught, which he may have pursued with the most intense and breathless eagerness. Love is strongest in pursuit, friendship in possession.
The ancient philosophers were enthusiastic advocates of friendship, and amongst the Greeks it was made a point of religion and legislation. But Christianity has been thought by some to nullify this virtue. Soame Jenyns, in his " View of the Internal Evidence of the Christian Religion," maintains, that it is not consistent with that universal benevolence which is inculcated by the Scriptures*. Dr. Johnson seems to lean to the same opinion, and Shaftesbury in his "Characteristics" insists that private friendship is a virtue purely voluntary in a Christian. He supports his argument with an extract from Bishop Taylor, who observes that the word friendship, in the sense commonly understood by it, is not so much as mentioned in the New Testament†.
"It is totally incompatible," be observes, "with the genius and spirit of the Gospel." Melmoth in his remarks on Cicero's Lælius warmly combats this notion.
+ But Bishop Heber (who by the way, wrote a Life of Bishop Taylor) made the following remark in a letter to Mr. Hornby: "Whatever may be our prospects of intercourse here, I am not one of those who apprehend that a wellgrounded esteem even for earthly beings, will perish with the present world; and I trust I am not presumptuous in cherishing the hope, that many of the friendships begun here, may be among the sources of our everlasting happiness."