Summary: Alan Bray’s The Friend

This chapter summary is part of my reading summaries series. Click here for more information on the series.

The Friend is a book that grew out of Alan Bray’s encounter with the shared tomb of John Finch and Thomas Baines in the chapel of Christ’s College at Cambridge. It was published postmortem. It sought to answer the question, when faced with this tomb: “What do you make of this?” Bray believes that friendship occupied a distinctive place in what he identifies as “traditional society”, in contrast to modern culture, which he claims suffers “a crisis of friendship.” Modern culture views friendship as essentially private, while traditional culture valued friendship as a public institution. Faced with the polemicist historians for and against the “traditional family”, Bray seeks to navigate a challenging history of friendship that cannot be considered separately from the history of the family. He notes that the evidence suggested a “formal and objective character that friendship could possess that could overlap with the character of kinship.” The proceeding chapters pursue this character. 

(You can order a copy here.)

Chapter 1: Wedded Brother

Chapter 2: Friend to Sir Philip Sidney

Chapter 3: Families and Friends

Chapter 4: The Body of the Friend (part one)

Chapter 4: The Body of the Friend (part two)

Chapter 5: Friends and Enemies

Chapter 6: Friendship and Modernity

Chapter 7: Coda: The Lickey Hills, August 1890

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