Last Updated on May 28, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 287
Context: In one of his finest moral essays, Addison speaks on the subject of friendship. And in his May 18 meditation we see a superb economy, as well as the essentially moral tone that, though less pragmatic and less ambitious than Lord Chesterfield's, is both disciplined and warmly human. Addison, one of the arbiters of gentility and social morality in his time, moved Pope to say "No whiter page than Addison remains,/ He from the taste obscene reclaims our youth,/ And sets the passions on the side of truth;/ Forms the soft bosom with the gentlest art,/ And pours each human virtue thro' the heart." And it is largely through his magazine, The Spectator, that the public knew and knows his ideas and influence. In this essay Addison advises of the joys and consolations of real friendship. He advises that the length of intimacy is important to real friendship; that one should have many acquaintances, but few friends; that friendship multiplies joys and divides griefs. And while discussing variable personalities, he advances a translation from Martial:
. . . A man often contracts a friendship with one whom perhaps he does not find out 'till after a year's conversation; when on a sudden some latent ill humor breaks out upon him, which he never discovered or suspected at his first entering into an intimacy with him. There are several persons who in some certain periods of their lives are inexpressibly agreeable, and in others as odious and detestable. Martial has given us a very pretty picture . . . 'In all thy humours, whether grave or mellow/ Thou'rt such a touchy, testy, pleasant fellow;/ Hast as much wit, and mirth, and spleen about thee,/ There is no living with thee, nor without thee.'
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