[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review]
[Click HERE to see my previous posts referencing Lapham’s Quarterly.]
[Some of LQ’s contents are available free.]
[L.Q. cover, quotes, and images are from Lapham’s Quarterly Spring 2021: Friendship, except where noted.]
[Click or right-click on a photo may give the option to open it separately.]
[NEW to Lapham’s Quarterly? See the standard notes at the end of this review. After 50+ LQ summaries I jump right in.]
[This is a READING section, for those who might stumble in looking for photography. My edits/summaries of the L.Q. historical journal continue.]
My print copy arrived, thus the fuzzy laptop photos. Now, pencil in hand, I can bracket or underline pertinent, apposite passages for later reference, like one might a textbook in school. M’lady asks why I do that, to which I reply: “There might be a quiz.” As a friend once said to me, ‘Churchill annotated his reading, why shouldn’t you?’
As noted, the three sections of Voices In Time this issue are Assets, Liabilities, and Equity. I’ve read Assets.
Assets of friendship. Assets being ‘useful or valuable things, persons, or qualities’, per the dictionary. I thought quite a few of the extracts in this section were useful, valuable, insightful, thought-provoking. It was a good section.
I’m still pondering friendship as history, or the history of friendship. I don’t doubt that friendship, present or absent, has had a great impact on history. Did Alexander the Great have friends? Louis XVI of France? (Off with his head!)
From Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare, spoken by Marc Antony:
My own contribution, not from this issue of L.Q. Men who rule might not be a good source of good friendships.
Ben Jonson, 1616, invites a friend to dinner:
“Tonight, grave sir, both my poor house and I
Do equally desire your company:
Not that we think us worthy such a guest,
But that your worth will dignify our feast,”
[“I have been complimented many times and they always embarrass me; I always feel that they have not said enough.” –MARK TWAIN] [Not from this issue.]
Aristotle, c. 330 B.C.:
“For the sake of pleasure or utility, then, even bad men may be friends of each other, or good men of bad, or one who is neither good nor bad may be a friend to any sort of person. But for their own sake, clearly only good men can be friends, for bad men do not delight in each other unless some advantage comes of the relation.” (p. 31) (Free online.)
1840 Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville, seemingly, by the frequency of his reference, the acute observer and astute commentator on being American, expounds on class structure in a democracy:
“It may probably be supposed that the final consequence and necessary effect of democratic institutions is to confound together all the members of the community in private as well as in public life and to compel them all to live in common, but this would be to ascribe a very coarse and oppressive form to the equality that originates in democracy.”
“The Americans, who mingle so readily in their political assemblies and courts of justice, are wont, on the contrary, carefully to separate into small distinct circles, in order to indulge by themselves in the enjoyments of private life. Each of them is willing to acknowledge all his fellow citizens as his equals, but he will only receive a very limited number of them among his friends or his guests.”
“Among aristocratic nations the different classes are like vast chambers; it is impossible to get out of one and enter into another. These classes have no communication with each other, but within their pale men necessarily live in daily contact.”
“In aristocracies men are separated from each other by lofty stationary barriers. In democracies they are divided by a number of small and almost invisible threads that are constantly broken or moved from place to place.” (p. 32-33) (Free online.)
In other words, we can all be friends and all get along with each other, but don’t mingle.
“The most important person in any prisoner’s life is not the minister of justice, not the commissioner of prisons, not even the head of prison, but the warder in one’s section.”
“I always tried to be decent to the warders in my section; hostility was self-defeating. There was no point in having a permanent enemy among the warders.” (p. 34) –Nelson Mandela, 1966
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer? [The Godfather: Part 2.]
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is entertaining with an extract about how his renown, fictional, detective Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson happen to come together to share an apartment. (Free online.)
With a Holmesian focus, Charles Darwin closely observes friendly behavior in dogs and cats. (Free online.)
C.S. Lewis, author of more than 30 books including The Chronicles of Narnia, is particularly insightful about friendship. His extract is from his book The Four Loves ‘in which Lewis explores the possibilities and problems of the four basic kinds of human love- affection, friendship, erotic love, and the love of God.’ (Amazon)
Sadly, it is not free online, unless you are a super-sleuth and get a free membership to it at Archive.org , using this link to find the paragraph starting “Let us begin with the suspicions of those in Authority,” toward the bottom of page 78.
Following are a few of his perceptions:
“Friendship is born at the moment when one man says to another,“What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…” But the common taste or vision or point of view which is thus discovered need not always be a nice one.”
“Put me back among my friends, and in half an hour—in ten minutes— these same views and standards become once more indisputable. The opinion of this little circle, while I am in it, outweighs that of a thousand outsiders: as friendship strengthens, it will do this even when my friends are far away. [Emphasis mine.–JRH] For we all wish to be judged by our peers, by the men “after our own heart.” Only they really know our mind, and only they judge it by standards we fully acknowledge. Theirs is the praise we really covet and the blame we really dread. The little pockets of early Christians survived because they cared exclusively for the love of “the brethren,” and stopped their ears to the opinion of the pagan society all around them. But a circle of criminals, cranks, or perverts survives in just the same way, by becoming deaf to the opinion of the outer world, by discounting it as the chatter of outsiders who “don’t understand,” of the “conventional,” “the bourgeois,” the “Establishment,” of prigs, prudes, and humbugs.”
“What concerns us is not to expatiate on the badness of bad friendships but to become aware of the possible danger in good ones.”
“It will be obvious that the element of secession, of indifference or deafness (at least on some matters) to the voices of the outer world, is common to all friendships, whether good, bad, or merely innocuous. Even if the common ground of the friendship is nothing more momentous than stamp collecting, the circle rightly and inevitably ignores the views of the millions who think it a silly occupation and of the thousands who have merely dabbled in it.”
“The danger is that this partial indifference or deafness to outside opinion, justified and necessary though it is, may lead to a wholesale indifference or deafness.”
“To discount the voice of the peasant where it really ought to be discounted makes it easier to discount his voice when he cries for justice or mercy. The partial deafness which is noble and necessary encourages the wholesale deafness which is arrogant and inhuman.”
“The partial and defensible deafness was based on some kind of superiority—even if it were only a superior knowledge about stamps. The sense of superiority will then get itself attached to the total deafness. The group will disdain as well as ignore those outside it. It will, in effect, have turned itself into something very like a class. A coterie is a self-appointed aristocracy.” (p. 45-47)
Hmm. Keep an open mind? Don’t discount or shut out the rest of the world? Food for thought. It’s why I read L.Q.
There’s an extract from Melville’s Moby Dick, about Ishmael and Queequeg. Now there is as strange a friendship as I’ve ever seen. Keep in mind it is fiction. I’ve been very slowly and intermittently re-reading this book over the past many months. I wonder if I’m being anachronistic and applying today’s mores about homoerotic love to what Melville meant to be a stoic fraternization. It’s one of the difficulties in reading history. I know how this friendship looks now, but how did it look to Melville THEN?
In a college literature class I read Melville’s Billy Budd. I recall Budd being characterized as a Christ figure, suffering and sacrificed. Still, he was very young, blond, too good-looking to be a seafarer on a ship of men. Hmm. The Moby Dick extract is Free Online.
Roman philosopher Seneca, c. year 62, expounds thoughtfully:
“The wise man, self-sufficient as he is, still desires to have a friend if only for the purpose of practicing friendship and ensuring that those talents are not idle. Not, as Epicurus put it, “for the purpose of having someone to come and sit beside his bed when he is ill or come to his rescue when he is hard up or thrown into chains,” but so that, on the contrary, he may have someone by whose sickbed he himself may sit or whom he may himself release when that person is held prisoner by hostile hands. Anyone thinking of his own interests and seeking out friendship with this in view is making a great mistake. Things will end as they began; he has secured a friend who is going to come to his aid if captivity threatens: at the first clank of a chain, that friend will disappear. These are what are commonly called fair-weather friendships. A person adopted as a friend for the sake of his usefulness will be cultivated only for so long as he is useful. This explains the crowd of friends that clusters about successful men and the lonely atmosphere about the ruined—their friends run thoughtfully away when it comes to the testing point; it explains the countless scandalous instances of people deserting or betraying others out of fear for themselves.”
“There can be no doubt that the desire lovers have for each other is not so very different from friendship— you might say it was friendship gone mad. Well, then, does anyone ever fall in love with a view to a profit, or advancement, or celebrity? Actual love in itself, heedless of all other considerations, inflames people’s hearts with a passion for the beautiful object, not without the hope, too, that the affection will be mutual. How then can the nobler stimulus of friendship be associated with any ignoble desire?”
“To procure friendship only for better and not for worse is to rob it of all its dignity.” (p. 67-68)
“…in 65 Seneca was forced to take his own life for alleged complicity in the Pisonian conspiracy to assassinate Nero, in which he was likely to have been innocent. His stoic and calm suicide has become the subject of numerous paintings.” (Wikipedia)
Next up, Friendship as Liabilities. (Seneca is a fitting segue?) To be continued…
The standard notes:
1. Since L.Q.’s inception with the Winter 2008 issue its size is always 7″ x 10″ x 1/2-17/32″. It is white-covered, printed on high quality paper throughout, with richly printed reproductions of fine art from time immemorial, and 221 pages up to a page or two of addenda at the back.
2. Each issue contains extracts about the title topic from great authors and thinkers spanning all recorded history. It begins with an eloquent, to a fault, preamble/introduction by editor Lewis Lapham. The main body is called Voices In Time and contains 3 or 4 subcategories of the topic with about 25 extracts per section. Noteworthy sidebars, side quotes, and depictions of appropriate art from the ages are liberally distributed throughout. Several extended contemporary essays bring up the rear. There are several other small sections every issue (Among the Contributors, Conversations, Miscellany, ‘The Graphic’).
3. Per the L.Q. website:
“Lapham’s Quarterly embodies the belief that history is the root of all education, scientific and literary as well as political and economic. Each issue addresses a topic of current interest and concern—war, religion, money, medicine, nature, crime—by bringing up to the microphone of the present the advice and counsel of the past.”
4. I encourage all to subscribe to this fine publication. It is a rich supplement to anyone’s reading.