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Did flattery, indeed, as most other misfortunes do, generally or altogether wait on the debauched and ignoble part of mankind, the mischief were of less consequence, and might admit of an easier prevention. But, as worms breed most in sweet and tender woods, so usually the most obliging, the most brave and generous tempers readiliest receive and longest entertain the flattering insect that hangs and grows upon them. And since, to use Simonides's expression, it is not for persons of a narrow fortune, but for gentlemen of estates, to keep a good stable of horses; so never saw we flattery the attendant of the poor, the inglorious and inconsiderable plebeian, but of the grandees of the world, the distemper and bane of great families and affairs, the plague in kings' chambers, and the ruin of their kingdoms. Therefore it is a business of no small importance, and one which requires no ordinary circumspection, so to be able to know a flatterer in every shape he assumes, that the counterfeit resemblance some time or other bring not true friendship itself into suspicion and disrepute. For parasites,—like lice, which desert a dying man, whose palled and vapid blood can feed them no longer,— never intermix in dry and insipid business where there is nothing to be got; but prey upon a noble quarry, the ministers of state and potentates of the earth, and afterwards lousily shirk off, if the greatness of their fortune chance to leave them. But it will not be wisdom in us to stay till such fatal junctures, and then try the experiment, which will not only be useless but dangerous and hurtful; for it is a deplorable thing for a man to find himself then destitute [p. 102] of friends, when he most wants them, and has no opportunity either of exchanging his false and faithless friend for a fast and honest one. And therefore we should rather try our friend, as we do our money, whether or not he be passable and current, before we need him. For it is not enough to discover the cheat to our cost, but we must so understand the flatterer, that he put no cheat upon us ; otherwise we should act like those who must needs take poison to know its strength, and foolishly hazard their lives to inform their judgment. And as we cannot approve of this carelessness, so neither can we of that too scrupulous humor of those who, taking the measures of true friendship only from the bare honesty and usefulness of the man, immediately suspect a pleasant and easy conversation for a cheat. For a friend is not a dull tasteless thing, nor does the decorum of friendship consist in sourness and austerity of temper, but its very port and gravity is soft and amiable,—
Where Love and all the Graces do reside.1

For it is not only a comfort to the afflicted,

To enjoy the courtesy of his kindest friend,2

as Euripides speaks; but friendship extends itself to both fortunes, as well brightens and adorns prosperity as allays the sorrows that attend adversity. And as Evenus used to say that fire makes the best sauce, so friendship, wherewith God has seasoned the circumstances of our mortality, gives a relish to every condition, renders them all easy, sweet, and agreeable enough. And indeed, did not the laws of friendship admit of a little pleasantry and good humor, why should the parasite insinuate himself under that disguise? And yet he, as counterfeit gold imitates the brightness and lustre of the true, always puts on the easiness and freedom of a friend, is always pleasant and obliging, and ready to comply with the humor of his company. And therefore it [p. 103] is no way reasonable either, to look upon every just character that is given us as a piece of flattery; for certainly a due and seasonable commendation is as much the duty of one friend to another as a pertinent and serious reprehension; nay indeed, a sour querulous temper is perfectly repugnant to the laws of friendship and conversation; whereas a man takes a chiding patiently from a friend who is as ready to praise his virtues as to animadvert upon his vices, willingly persuading himself that mere necessity obliged him to reprimand, whom kindness had first moved to commend.

1 Hesiod, Theogony, 64.

2 Eurip. Ion, 732.

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