What is a critical appreciation of the essay "Of Friendship" by Francis Bacon?  

Francis Bacon begins his essay “Of Friendship” with a quotation from Aristotle, disagreeing with part of it, agreeing with another aspect, and qualifying the whole. He proceeds to identify three benefits of friendship (emotional support, growth in understanding, and help throughout life) and to support his assertions with evidence drawn from the lives of the ancients and with reasoned discussion.

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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.

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In the opening paragraph, Bacon establishes the importance of friendship by implication when he says "whatsoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god."  He expands on this theme in the same paragraph by saying that, without friends, the "world is but a wilderness."

Bacon's essay is centered on what he calls the "fruit of friendship," of which there are three, and the first is the ability to get rid of all one's frustrations by having a true friend to listen.  Bacon lived in an era when men believed that our bodies were controlled by "humours"--earth, air, fire and water--and if the humours became unbalanced in our bodies, we got sick.  Bacon likens the balance of humours in the body to balance in the mind, and one restores balance to the mind by unburdening onself to a friend.

The next section of the essay is a long discussion of friendships and failed friendships in classical Roman history, and then Bacon articulates the "second fruit of friendship," which is the result of discussing one's problems with a sympathetic friends, and in the process of "communicating and discoursing with another," one actually becomes "wiser than himself."  But, the second fruit has another half that is just as important, and that is counsel from the friend, which, according to Bacon, is "drier and purer" than the counsel that comes from within oneself.

Bacon compares the third fruit of friendship to a pomegranate, which hundreds of kernels.  Bacon argues that there are many things a man cannot do for himself--praise himself (modestly), ask for help--that a friend can do for him with no embarrassment.  These are among the many kernels of friendship embodied in the third fruit.

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