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.
* * * * *
No. 386. Friday, May 23, 1712. Steele.
’Cum Tristibus severe, cum Remissis
jucunde, cum Senibus graviter, cum
Juventute comiter vivere.’
The piece of Latin on the Head of this Paper is part of a Character extremely vicious, but I have set down no more than may fall in with the Rules of Justice and Honour. Cicero spoke it of Catiline, who, he said, lived with the Sad severely, with the Chearful agreeably, with the Old gravely, with the Young pleasantly; he added, with the Wicked boldly, with the Wanton lasciviously. The two last Instances of his Complaisance I forbear to consider, having it in my thoughts at present only to speak of obsequious Behaviour as it sits upon a Companion in Pleasure, not a Man of Design and Intrigue. To vary with every Humour in this Manner, cannot be agreeable, except it comes from a Man’s own Temper and natural Complection; to do it out of an Ambition to excel that Way, is the most fruitless and unbecoming Prostitution imaginable. To put on an artful Part to obtain no other End but an unjust Praise from the Undiscerning, is of all Endeavours the most despicable. A Man must be sincerely pleased to become Pleasure, or not to interrupt that of others: For this Reason it is a most calamitous Circumstance, that many People who want to be alone or should be so, will come into Conversation. It is certain, that all Men who are the least given to Reflection, are seized with an Inclination that Way; when, perhaps, they had rather be inclined to Company: but indeed they had better go home, and be tired with themselves, than force themselves upon others to recover their good Humour. In all this the Cases of communicating to a Friend a sad Thought or Difficulty, in order to relieve [a ] heavy Heart, stands excepted; but what is here meant, is, that a Man should always go with Inclination to the Turn of the Company he is going into, or not pretend to be of the Party. It is certainly a very happy Temper to be able to live with all kinds of Dispositions, because it argues a Mind that lies open to receive what is pleasing to others, and not obstinately bent on any Particularity of its own.