Francis Bacon begins his essay “Of Friendship” with an eye-catching quote from Aristotle: “Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.” Although Bacon takes issue with the second half of the statement, claiming that solitude has nothing in common with the divine nature, he does assert that people who deliberately shun the company of others and lack true friends live in a world that is “a wilderness.” His approach to the quotation and the beginning of his argument is thus moderate and well-qualified. He admits that many people do enjoy solitude for the purpose of “a higher conversation” (i.e., time for self-examination, prayer, and so on). But he also advocates the human need for true friendship.
Bacon then goes on to present three benefits of friendship. First, friendship allows people to ease their hearts by sharing their joys, griefs, fears, hopes, and other emotions with their friends. People experience more joy when they share joy with a friend and grieve less when they grieve with a friend, Bacon firmly maintains. Second, friendship helps people grow in understanding, first by being able to talk through their thoughts with their friends and thereby see those ideas more clearly and organize them more logically, and second by receiving helpful advice from their friends. Third, friends help their friends, taking an active part in their lives and supporting them in whatever they require. These are three solid points about friendship, and most readers will be able to easily relate to them based on their own experiences. Bacon presents a solid, logical, organized argument.
The author does not, however, merely state his points and leave them to support themselves. Rather, he offers evidence for each of the three benefits of friendship. He draws largely on stories from the ancient world for the first two, speaking, for instance, of Julius Caesar and Decimus Brutus, Augustus and Agrippa, Tiberius Caesar and Sejanus, and even Themistocles of Persia. The problem here, at least for modern readers, is potentially a lack of knowledge about these ancient men. These days, most people don't know their stories (and perhaps not even their names). Therefore, the effect of these examples diminishes for a modern audience, although Bacon's original readers would probably not have experienced such difficulties.
Bacon also backs his benefits of friendship with reasoned discussion and even some creative metaphors. His final point lacks the stories of ancient men, but it does feature the metaphor of the pomegranate “full of many kernels.” This apt image shows how friends can help each other in many areas of life and in many different ways. Bacon also supports this point through the quotation “a friend is another himself,” someone to share one's cares in life and who takes as much interest in them as if they were his or her own. Admittedly, Bacon seems to run out of space or stamina by the third point, and it is not as well developed as the first two, but perhaps he thought that if readers didn't understand this one, there was not much hope of convincing them of the value of friendship.