— If you have a large , perhaps even if you have only a small circle of friends, that circle includes persons at variance with one another. In such cases nothing is commoner than that they should expect you to espouse their quarrel, or at least to disown their adversary. Friends’ friends are not usually found very prepossessing, because our acquaintance with them does not arise spontaneously ; and A does not resent it if you decline to adopt his favorites B, C, D, but he does resent your continuance of friendship with X, Y, Z, after they have become his enemies.
Now is not this a little unreasonable ? If I value the friendship both of A and X, why should I renounce either of them ? Of course, if I clearly see that one of them has acted unhandsomely, I remonstrate with him, and, if remonstrance is ineffectual, I may feel it a duty to “ cut ” him, on account of the light thrown by the quarrel on his real character ; but in the vast majority of cases I either see fault on both sides, or cannot profess to judge the right and wrong of the dispute. I cannot, it may be, help siding mentally with one or the other, or at least cannot help thinking that one is more to blame than the other; but why should I mix myself up in the quarrel ? No doubt it is disagreeable to have a name tabooed in conversation ; no doubt it would be better that my friends should he regarded by you with favor or indifference ; but this is an impracticable ideal, and we must take the world as we find it. It is one thing, moreover, to begin an intimacy with your enemy ; it is quite another thing to retain the friendship of a man who has become your enemy, but. whom I continue to respect. If you expect me to turn against yonr enemy, you may expect me, on your changing your mind, to come back to him, and may reproach me with having indorsed or encouraged your mistake. You and he may even be reconciled at my expense. It is certainly awkward to know two persons who may chance to call on me simultaneously ; but the servant may be instructed to ask one to wait till the other has left, and I can take care never to invite them together. What would be most unwise would be to attempt to reconcile them. This should never be done unasked, and should seldom be done even if one of the adversaries requests it.
The late W. E, Forster, who ruled Ireland under Mr. Gladstone in 1880, had been friendly, in the pre-Parnellite days, with Mr. Justin McCarthy as a journalist. When the latter suddenly entered Parliament as Parnell’s lieutenant, Forster “cut” him. Now both were on visiting terms with a lady, and at her receptions they sometimes met. She was anxious that they should be reconciled, and essayed to introduce them to each other. They bowed stiffly, but did not exchange a word. Sometimes the lady, seated between them and talked to by both simultaneously, found the situation embarrassiug ; but she had shown want of tact in trying to reconcile them. Liking both, regretting their estrangement, mentally blaming Forster, she should have resigned herself to facts. It would have been hard, if Forster bad called upon her, to choose between his friendship and Mr. McCarthy’s. Although he did not go this length, he probably felt a little annoyed at her evident opinion that he was in the wrong. Curiously enough, Mr. McCarthy ended by being the opponent, or at least the rival, of the very man his intimacy with whom had alienated Forster. Mr. Gladstone has notoriously lost many of his oldest friends by his alliance with the Home Rulers. Happy the country where political differences are not so heated as to sever friendships. In any war, a neutral is almost sure to displease the belligerents, so difficult is it to hold the scales of neutrality even. In the wars of the French Revolution, America, though anxious to hold aloof, was on the verge of war with France, and was forced into war with England. In our civil war, England disappointed both North and South. If England and Russia, the whale and the elephant, as Bismarck called them, should ever fall out, the United States would remain the friend of both ; yet both would perhaps feel irritation at the continued friendship with the adversary, and would prefer complaints of partiality.
What is especially difficult is to remain neutral in a quarrel between two members of a family ; for the closer the ties between them, the bitterer the quarrel. But am I to renounce a skillful physician because, in a non-professional matter, he has quarreled with a friend of mine, or to dispense with the advocacy of the barrister whom I prefer because, in another case, he has stringently cross-examined that friend ? Life would not be worth living if I could not have a friend except on condition of hating his enemies. We should be reduced to the cynical Greek axiom, “Treat your friend as if he might one day become your enemy, and your enemy as if he might one day become your friend.”