Sir Francis Bacon Essay Of Friendship

This is the essay of a wise man, who describes the three fruits of friendship as follows:

For there is no man, that imparteth his joys to his friend, but he joyeth the more; and no man that imparteth his griefs to his friend, but he grieveth the less (para.5).

What Bacon is saying here is that joys shared with a friend increase the joy experienced, and that sorrows shared with a friend become less...

This is the essay of a wise man, who describes the three fruits of friendship as follows:

For there is no man, that imparteth his joys to his friend, but he joyeth the more; and no man that imparteth his griefs to his friend, but he grieveth the less (para.5).

What Bacon is saying here is that joys shared with a friend increase the joy experienced, and that sorrows shared with a friend become less sorrowful. All of us have had the experience of sharing some happiness with a good friend and feeling even happier upon doing so.  When we share our troubles with a good friend, the troubles seem less terrible, now that the burden is shared. 

[W]hosoever hath his mind fraught with many thoughts, his wits and understanding do clarify and break up, in the communicating and discoursing with another; he tosseth his thoughts more easily; he marshalleth them more orderly, he seeth how they look when they are turned into words: finally, he waxeth wiser than himself; and that more by an hour’s discourse, than by a day’s meditation (para. 6). 

Here, Bacon is saying that a friend is a sounding board for one's thoughts and feelings. When we bounce our ideas off another, it helps us to articulate them, see them more clearly, and organize them better. When we sit around and think of ideas by ourselves, it is in a vacuum, really, and the ideas cannot be easily refined or thought about as critically as when we share.

[W]here friendship is, all offices of life are as it were granted to him, and his deputy. For he may exercise them by his friend. How many things are there which a man cannot, with any face or comeliness, say or do himself? A man can scarce allege his own merits with modesty, much less extol them; a man cannot sometimes brook to supplicate or beg; and a number of the like. But all these things are graceful, in a friend’s mouth, which are blushing in a man’s own (para.8).

The third fruit of friendship is the way in which a friend can act on one's behalf more easily and effectively than one can on one's own. A friend can tell others how wonderful we are, saving us from appearing to be braggarts.  A friend can ask a favor on our behalf that we might be embarrassed to ask for on our own. In a very famous poem, "The Courtship of Miles Standish" (Longfellow), one young man, John Alden, courts Priscilla Mullens on behalf of his friend Miles Standish.  While the poem ends with Priscilla in love with John, this is a classic example of what a friend will do when someone is reluctant to speak for himself. 

The “dry light” of the friendly advice that characterized Francis Bacon’s The Essays, and which also gave us the excellent essay “On Beauty,” shines with particular power in his essay “On Friendship.” Here he does not delve into the nature of friendship, or into its moral aspect (as several philosophers and essayists have done, such as Montaigne, Kant and Emerson), but instead he moves straight to its usefulness, to the “fruits” that it brings to human beings. Those who do not have friends, “cannibalizes his own heart. ” And at the risk of going crazy, according to the writer.

His advice is astute and practical. Bacon is perhaps the first to conceive the need for an amoral friendship that is not the result of kindness, either natural or acquired, in a person. “The emotions of a human being are like fluids under pressure, which need to be discharged: this discharge takes place only through the outlet of a friend.”

This is the kind of essay that serves a fundamental purpose in the activity of reading: to promote non-hypocritical reflection, and which is not too elevated and above all not moral regarding the importance of relationships with another person, and from there give thanks for the ‘fruits’ that result from it. The essay contains some really persuasive passages, for example when he explains tersely why a friendship can contribute to character, in ways that self-examination or reading a book cannot. Perhaps, as Michel Pakaluk writes in his introduction, Bacon’s most notable suggestion in this essay is that self-knowledge involves the clarification of our thoughts, and which necessarily depends on communicating them with others. And for that there are friends, not family or colleagues. Here are two fragments that we consider magnificent:

A principal fruit of friendship, is the ease and discharge of the fulness and swellings of the heart, which passions of all kinds do cause and induce. We know diseases of stoppings, and suffocations, are the most dangerous in the body; and it is not much otherwise in the mind; you may take sarza to open the liver, steel to open the spleen, flowers of sulphur for the lungs, castoreum for the brain; but no receipt openeth the heart, but a true friend; to whom you may impart griefs, joys, fears, hopes, suspicions, counsels, and whatsoever lieth upon the heart to oppress it, in a kind of civil shrift or confession.

The second fruit of friendship, is healthful and sovereign for the understanding, as the first is for the affections. For friendship maketh indeed a fair day in the affections, from storm and tempests; but it maketh daylight in the understanding, out of darkness, and confusion of thoughts. Neither is this to be understood only of faithful counsel, which a man receiveth from his friend; but before you come to that, certain it is, that whosoever hath his mind fraught with many thoughts, his wits and understanding do clarify and break up, in the communicating and discoursing with another; he tosseth his thoughts more easily; he marshalleth them more orderly, he seeth how they look when they are turned into words: finally, he waxeth wiser than himself; and that more by an hour’s discourse, than by a day’s meditation.

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Image credit: Alessandro Pinto

.

The “dry light” of the friendly advice that characterized Francis Bacon’s The Essays, and which also gave us the excellent essay “On Beauty,” shines with particular power in his essay “On Friendship.” Here he does not delve into the nature of friendship, or into its moral aspect (as several philosophers and essayists have done, such as Montaigne, Kant and Emerson), but instead he moves straight to its usefulness, to the “fruits” that it brings to human beings. Those who do not have friends, “cannibalizes his own heart. ” And at the risk of going crazy, according to the writer.

His advice is astute and practical. Bacon is perhaps the first to conceive the need for an amoral friendship that is not the result of kindness, either natural or acquired, in a person. “The emotions of a human being are like fluids under pressure, which need to be discharged: this discharge takes place only through the outlet of a friend.”

This is the kind of essay that serves a fundamental purpose in the activity of reading: to promote non-hypocritical reflection, and which is not too elevated and above all not moral regarding the importance of relationships with another person, and from there give thanks for the ‘fruits’ that result from it. The essay contains some really persuasive passages, for example when he explains tersely why a friendship can contribute to character, in ways that self-examination or reading a book cannot. Perhaps, as Michel Pakaluk writes in his introduction, Bacon’s most notable suggestion in this essay is that self-knowledge involves the clarification of our thoughts, and which necessarily depends on communicating them with others. And for that there are friends, not family or colleagues. Here are two fragments that we consider magnificent:

A principal fruit of friendship, is the ease and discharge of the fulness and swellings of the heart, which passions of all kinds do cause and induce. We know diseases of stoppings, and suffocations, are the most dangerous in the body; and it is not much otherwise in the mind; you may take sarza to open the liver, steel to open the spleen, flowers of sulphur for the lungs, castoreum for the brain; but no receipt openeth the heart, but a true friend; to whom you may impart griefs, joys, fears, hopes, suspicions, counsels, and whatsoever lieth upon the heart to oppress it, in a kind of civil shrift or confession.

The second fruit of friendship, is healthful and sovereign for the understanding, as the first is for the affections. For friendship maketh indeed a fair day in the affections, from storm and tempests; but it maketh daylight in the understanding, out of darkness, and confusion of thoughts. Neither is this to be understood only of faithful counsel, which a man receiveth from his friend; but before you come to that, certain it is, that whosoever hath his mind fraught with many thoughts, his wits and understanding do clarify and break up, in the communicating and discoursing with another; he tosseth his thoughts more easily; he marshalleth them more orderly, he seeth how they look when they are turned into words: finally, he waxeth wiser than himself; and that more by an hour’s discourse, than by a day’s meditation.

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Image credit: Alessandro Pinto

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Tagged:Francis Bacon @en, Francis Bacon on friendship, friendship, writers on friendship

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