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decisions when it weighs the merits of the agreeable in society. You suffer it to commit an injustice of equal magnitude, if you decide upon the total absence of qualities worthy of your esteem, upon no other grounds than perceiving awkward and rough manners, with an unpleasing expression of
ON THE CHOICE OF FRIENDS.
MRS. L. "It has been said, 'Show me your friends, and I will tell you what you are.' We may apply this saying to our own use, and, by the qualities which we seek in our friends, we may unveil to ourselves the bearings of our own characters. If their conduct deviate generally from the rule of right; if their tastes are perverted from what is pure and innocent, and they find pleasure in the breach of morality; if their sentiments, as well as their conduct, betray deficiency of principle, and their tempers indifference to the welfare of others; if, perceiving these traits and qualities in them, we still court and enjoy their society, repose confidence in their judgment, and rely on the constancy of their regard for us, we may assure ourselves that our tastes, also, are neither pure nor innocent; that we are neither firm in principle, nor wise in our decisions; but are profaning the name of friendship, and denying ourselves its true enjoyment. Upright and virtuous characters, and persons of a genuine taste, seek congenial qualities in their associates, and
having found them, their mutual esteem and regard become firmly implanted; and as long as they continue each intrinsically the same, their friendship remains unshaken either by the storms of adversity, or by those minor frailties which still must cling to human nature. Such friendships are our joy in prosperity, and our solace in seasons of grief and misfortune. Intimacies, misnamed friendships, when founded on a less worthy basis, may please the fancy for a time, but can afford no permanent satisfaction; for where mutual esteem and confidence cannot subsist, lasting pleasure refuses to dwell.
“A true friend must be untarnished by vicious pursuits; his soul displayed in the uprightness of his actions, and in the simplicity of his demeanour. His benevolence should not consist merely in acts of charity or beneficence, but should pervade his sentiments, and influence his judgment in regarding the conduct of his fellow-creatures. If he is consistent in his expectations, and ambitious chiefly of distinction in virtue, his temper will be untried by many of the mortifications which beset the misjudging and worldly minded. If he is willing also (not inconsistently with judgment and prudence) to stretch forth an assisting hand to save his friends when sinking under the trials of adversity, he is worthy of our high regard; nor should we deem the sacrifice of every uncongenial propensity in ourselves as too great, if it enable us to form with him a compact of mutual esteem and regard.
"Such are the qualities and characteristics of him whom we should desire for our friend. That
friendships are often interrupted by dissension, sometimes utterly destroyed, must be attributed to the disqualifications and imperfections of the parties themselves. Thus it is in many things: Providence supplies us with blessings and the means of enjoyment, which our frailties alone either annul or diminish in value.
"There are, however, other obstacles to the permanent enjoyment of true friendship, which, although still attributable to human imperfection, are such as we cannot reasonably expect to surmount; and which, in the formation of our friendships, we should, if possible, avoid encountering. Of these impediments, great inequality of rank and fortune may be first considered.
"It is true, that friendships, apparently sincere in their outset, have been frequently formed between those of unequal stations in society. But their unbroken continuance has always depended upon the peculiar excellence of each party. It can
rarely happen that individuals, whose earliest years have been under directly opposite influences, can perfectly assimilate with each other in opinion, prejudice, and habit. Each having different spheres of action to call their powers into play, and different views and objects in life, can scarcely judge accurately of the proprieties which belong to their opposite ranks, so as to give each to the other good counsel when in circumstances of doubt or of difficulty. This alone would touch a vital principle of true friendship, namely, mutual confidence in each other's judgment.
"Should the friend of superior rank betray any
mark of contempt for the station filled by the other, their friendship would certainly be shaken, because we can scarcely avoid identifying ourselves with the rank we hold, nor divest our minds of the persuasion, that if that is despised, we, too, share a similar portion of contempt. Resentment, and subsequent estrangement, must ensue.
the nature of his friendship would be equivocal, who could brook contempt from one whom he himself held in esteem. Whatever destroys the feeling of equality between friends, must weaken the bonds that unite them. Even the munificence of a friend may in some cases have this effect. It opens a debtor and creditor account, which, perhaps, is not to be closed until the debtor has relinquished his independence of opinion and sentiment, and his own free agency in all his concerns. The obliged friend has sometimes no alternative but to be termed ungrateful, or to become timeserving.
"Disproportion in age is not always a favourable circumstance in friendship. It is desirable that the young should have the benefit of the experience of age; yet, from feelings peculiar to each of these stages of life, great intimacy seldom subsists between them, without frequent interruptions to its friendly course. The aged expect deference from the young, both in manners and opinions; and the young, presumptuous and inconsiderate, are not always willing to show it. The old think and act in unison with a generation passing away, and the young, although reaping much from the wisdom and acquisitions in knowledge of that gener
ation, still cannot, nor ought, to tread undeviatingly in the paths of their forefathers. Superior light appears to break in upon them, but, in diffusing this, they do not always evince sufficient regard for the prejudices of older minds. The declining generation consider the young as rash, who, in return, regard the opinions of their elders as mere prejudice.
"Besides these points of difference, the pursuits of each naturally separate them. The one takes its pleasures from passive circumstances, and in rest rather than in active employments, while the state of the other demands the constant exercise of its energies, both physical and mental.
"Inequality of mental endowment is another bar to the formation of friendship. Commiseration may influence an individual of superior intellect in his conduct towards one of weaker parts and judgment, and may prompt him to perform every good office of friendly regard. But a free, equal intercourse of mind cannot subsist between them; the one would be perpetually disappointed by the deficiency in the apprehension of the other, who, on his part, would be unable to appreciate his value, or to enter into his pleasures.
"Such are among the hinderances to the formation and continuance of perfect friendship; and their enumeration leads us to the melancholy conclusion, that it is a blessing rarely to be enjoyed while we wear the garb of mortality. That which will partake of most of its characteristics must be established upon the rock of moral worth; and, as far as it can be, secured, upon equality in rank and fortune, in years and in intellect."