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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Greatness of Friendship
By Grace Aguilar (1816–1847)
 
From ‘Woman’s Friendship’

IT is the fashion to deride woman’s influence over woman, to laugh at female friendship, to look with scorn on all those who profess it; but perhaps the world at large little knows the effect of this influence,—how often the unformed character of a young, timid, and gentle girl may be influenced for good or evil by the power of an intimate female friend. There is always to me a doubt of the warmth, the strength, and purity of her feelings, when a young girl merges into womanhood, passing over the threshold of actual life, seeking only the admiration of the other sex; watching, pining, for a husband, or lovers, perhaps, and looking down on all female friendship as romance and folly. No young spirit was ever yet satisfied with the love of nature.  1
  Friendship, or love, gratifies self-love; for it tacitly acknowledges that we must possess some good qualities to attract beyond the mere love of nature. Coleridge justly observes, “that it is well ordered that the amiable and estimable should have a fainter perception of their own qualities than their friends have, otherwise they would love themselves.” Now, friendship, or love, permits their doing this unconsciously: mutual affection is a tacit avowal and appreciation of mutual good qualities,—perhaps friendship yet more than love, for the latter is far more an aspiration, a passion, than the former, and influences the permanent character much less. Under the magic of love a girl is generally in a feverish state of excitement, often in a wrong position, deeming herself the goddess, her lover the adorer; whereas it is her will that must bend to his, herself be abnegated for him. Friendship neither permits the former nor demands the latter. It influences silently, often unconsciously; perhaps its power is never known till years afterwards. A girl who stands alone, without acting or feeling friendship, is generally a cold unamiable being, so wrapt in self as to have no room for any person else, except perhaps a lover, whom she only seeks and values as offering his devotion to that same idol, self. Female friendship may be abused, may be but a name for gossip, letter-writing, romance, nay worse, for absolute evil: but that Shakespeare, the mighty wizard of human hearts, thought highly and beautifully of female friendship, we have his exquisite portraits of Rosalind and Celia, Helen and the Countess, undeniably to prove; and if he, who could portray every human passion, every subtle feeling of humanity, from the whelming tempest of love to the fiendish influences of envy and jealousy and hate; from the incomprehensible mystery of Hamlet’s wondrous spirit, to the simplicity of the gentle Miranda, the dove-like innocence of Ophelia, who could be crushed by her weight of love, but not reveal it;—if Shakespeare scorned not to picture the sweet influences of female friendship, shall women pass by it as a theme too tame, too idle for their pens?  2
 
 
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