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This essay appeared in the November 1792 edition of the Massachusetts Magazine
under the name "Constantia."
The Repository. No. III.
FRIENDSHIP is a broadly comprehensive term; it hath many pretenders, but few there are who are acquainted with its import—persons ought to consider its magnitude before they aspire to its distinctions -- Friendship includes every thing benevolent, every thing social, and endearing -- it is a divine emanation, and its enjoyments are sacred to the exquisitely sensible.
I comprehend not, in my views of friendship, sexual distinction -- I think that it may exist in high perfection in those of the same, or different sexes -- if, however, it happens to glow in the bosom of male, and female, it would be more eligible, that hymen, barring the licentious tongue, should sanctify the union. But if my situation precluded a matrimonial connexion, and I was conscious of rectitude, I should not, in complaisance to a censorious world, relinquish the virtuous pleasures of friendship. My friend should possess a capacious and well informed understanding -- she should be as discreet as prudence, as firm as fortitude, and as benign as candour -- she should repose in me the most unlimited confidence -- soft as mercy, and diffusive in her regard, she should have the tear of pity ready for every sufferer -- mild and serene, generous, frank, unsuspecting, and sincere as virtue, while her attachment to me was fervent, superiour, and unwaveringly permanent -- she should not, unless compelled by circumstances, form any connexion, however transient, in which it was impossible I could take a share -- she should have no secrets but such as she would gladly deposit in my bosom, and consequently she could have no fear of detection -- upon every little absence she should be fond of communicating each particular which had occurred -- she should never, but from necessity, in obedience to the calls of duty, or the civilities of life, quit my society; and when thus summoned she should leave me with manifest reluctance, and with smiling alacrity she should, with all possible expedition, return -- vanity, in what ever form, should not possess a charm potent enough to draw her from my haunts -- pleasure should not tempt her thence, for she should at all times and upon all occasions, find her enjoyments in the presence of friendship -- she might be fond of every rational amusement, if she could partake them with me -- but if she must relinquish either the presence of the beloved object, or those indulgencies, she should not hesitate to which to give the preference -- In short, she should feel for me, precisely as I felt for her -- nor should this similarity proceed from a servile acquiescence, but flow, spontaneously, from a congeniality of minds which should ever impel us to approve, to disapprove, to love and to esteem the felt same object.
Constraint I abhor -- the awkward intruder annihilates even the a appearance of satisfaction -- my friend should not be induced by any consideration foreign to her own feelings -- a perfect equality should subsist between us -- one should be our hopes -- one our fears -- and our wishes and expectations should be the same -- this would render our complacency mutual, give choice and freedom to every action, and entirely destroy the necessity of efforts to please -- I cannot think that male or female hath ever yet experienced the animating glow of genuine friendship, who would for a single moment, prefer any enjoyment, wholly independent of the objects to which they are attached, even to the silent language which may often be indulged (though conversations may fail) in the society of the person beloved; and, I repeat, that real friends never separate, but from hard necessity, which necessity they will communicate tenderly deliberating upon the possibility of eluding it -- if it cannot be avoided, they will join to lament -- they will submit with reluctance, and, like the rod which is forcibly bent, they will avail themselves of the first instant of release, to fly back to the direct line, from whence they have deduced their highest pleasures.
2007 © Bonnie Hurd Smith
Independent scholar and author Bonnie Hurd Smith is the president and CEO of History Smiths
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