We've all experienced a time in our lives when our hearts are so full that we simply have to tell someone what is going on inside us. At those moments, we seek out a friend. Indeed, in his essay “Of Friendship,” Francis Bacon identifies this ability to pour out the heart to another person as the first great fruit of friendship. Joys, he explains, become twice as joyful when we share them with a friend, and griefs are cut in half. Our hearts find sympathy, compassion, and relief when a friend shares our burdens and our excitements.
Our minds, too, can sometimes be so full of thoughts, so confused and upset and wandering, that we simply cannot capture our own ideas. Then, we seek out a friend. Here is Bacon's second fruit of friendship: the ability to gain clearer understanding by speaking to a friend. As we speak, the jumble of thoughts begins to organize itself. We can see connections we missed before, notice faulty patterns, and discover hidden gems just by talking things out with a friend. What's more, our friends, who know our manners and our business well, can and do listen to us and give us helpful advice. A friend can tell us when we're doing something wrong and need to change our ways. A friend might see an opportunity or an error we've missed. Indeed, conversation with a friend can greatly increase our understanding of our own thoughts and actions.
Finally, sometimes we simply cannot do everything we must do on our own. We need help, so we turn to a friend. This is Bacon's third fruit of friendship: friends provide aid in the many necessities and difficulties of life. Since our friends act out of love, we feel comfortable and confident accepting their help because we know that they have our best interests in mind and that they will accomplish whatever tasks they do for us to the best of their ability.
Francis Bacon's essay "On Friendship" extols the various virtues and benefits of having a friend. He describes how being a member of a crowd is not the same as really being in company: one needs to have love in common with other people in order to feel no longer lonely.
He describes the fruits of friendship as follows:
1. "The ease and discharge of the fulness and swellings of the heart." Here, Bacon is suggesting that there is actually a physical benefit to having a friend. He makes a connection between the physical and the metaphorical heart, common to the understanding of the time. A true friend, with whom you can share your joy, grief, hope, suspicion, advice, confessions, and so on, will render your heart open, so it will be less oppressed, and you will feel better in body as well as in spirit.
2. "Daylight in the understanding." The second fruit of friendship, Bacon argues, is that we are able to understand the world around us better. Having a friend helps us clarify our own views and understanding of the world around us. By having someone to exchange thoughts with, we come to understand ourselves better, as well as our world. A true friend will also tell you the truth about yourself.
3. The final fruit of friendship is "aid." If a person truly has a friend, they do not have to worry about what will happen to their loved ones after they die. They do not have to worry that there will be things they cannot do because they are only one person. A friend can speak to a person's son as a friend, rather than as a father, thus helping their friend to make sense of their life.
1. Francis Bacon believes that the 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." Bacon means that friends share a close emotional bond that allows them to express their emotions and feelings to each other. Speaking about one's problems is therapeutic. Bacon refers to this back-and-forth communication of feelings between friends as a sort of "civil shrift or confession."
2. Francis Bacon writes that the second fruit of friendship is the "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." Bacon feels that friends provide comfort and stability through hard times. Friendship allow a person to express their thoughts and provides them clarity when they are feeling confused. Friends also provide unbiased counsel that allows a person to view their situation from a different perspective. People have a tendency to allow their emotions to influence their decision-making, and speaking to a friend can provide an accurate evaluation of a person's given situation.
3. Bacon compares the third fruit of friendship to a pomegranate. He writes that friendship is like a "pomegranate, full of many kernels; I mean aid, and bearing a part, in all actions and occasions." Bacon essentially means that friends help people in many different areas of life. They provide counsel, help mediate relationships, and aid their friends in any endeavor. Friends are essential to have in times of both need and joy. They provide innumerable benefits and allow individuals to view their actions from another perspective.
One of the first fruits he describes as follows:
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.
With the understanding of the view of the human body at the time, that it was full of humors that sometimes needed to get out in order to be healthy, one of the main benefits of having friends was that you could get out the "fulness and swellings of the heart" so that the body would remain healthy. Obviously you can talk and share with a friend, and at the time this was seen as connected to bodily health as well as spiritual.
The second he describes thusly:
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.
The idea that a friend can help you to understand the thoughts that rattle around in your head is another that Bacon points out as one of the principal benefits.
The third I will leave to you to find.