Friendship Itself Will Not Stand the Strain of Very Much Good Advice for Very Long

Robert Wilson Lynd? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Providing copious assertive advice to a friend can jeopardize the relationship especially when the advice has not been solicited. The Irish journalist and essayist Robert Lynd crafted a remark about these strains with a humorous edge. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1924 Robert Wilson Lynd published a collection of essays called “The Peal of Bells”. The title essay appeared first in the book and contained the following guidance: 1

I often long to direct them with good advice, and refrain only because I know that friendship itself will not stand the strain of very much good advice for very long. And so, while I am inwardly aching to preach to my errant fellow-creatures, I find myself talking to them instead about diet, diseases, cinemas, Bernard Shaw, and the day on which I backed three winning horses at Ascot.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.




In 1927 “The Philadelphia Inquirer” mentioned a specific type of prescription that could sever a friendship: 2

A strong friendship will withstand years of separation and months of traveling together (both of which are customarily granted to be the most severe tests of congeniality). But friendship will not stand one mother telling another how to raise her baby and it won’t stand listening to the young mother rave.

In 1932 Lynd’s essay containing the quotation was reprinted in the grandiosely titled collection: “The World’s Best Essays: from Confucius to Mencken”. 3

Hence I feel an honest glow of pleasure when I see other people behaving well, and I am melancholy when I see, or even hear of, other people behaving badly. I often long to direct them with good advice, and refrain only because I know that friendship itself will not stand the strain of very much good advice for very long.

In 1963 “The Holland Evening Sentinel” printed a filler item with a streamlined version of the quotation omitting the word “itself”, 4 and the same version appeared in “The Journal-Tribune” of Marysville, Ohio: 5

Friendship will not stand the strain of very much good advice for very long. — Lynd.

In conclusion, Robert Wilson Lynd should be credited with the words he published in 1924. The common modern version is slightly shortened.

Image Notes: Picture of two individuals climbing together by sasint at Pixabay. Image has been cropped and resized.

(Great thanks to Mardy Grothe whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Mardy’s latest wonderful book is “Metaphors Be With You: An A to Z Dictionary of History’s Greatest Metaphorical Quotations”.)

Notes:

  1. 1924, The Peal of Bells by Robert Lynd, Chapter 1: The Peal of Bells, Start Page 1, Quote Page 2 and 3, Methuen & Company, London. (Verified with hardcopy)
  2. 1927 March 6, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Section: Theatres Society. Live Chats With the Woman In the Home by Helen Baxter, Quote Page 6, Column 1, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)
  3. 1932 (1929 copyright), The World’s Best Essays: from Confucius to Mencken, Edited by F. H. Pritchard (Francis Henry Pritchard), The Peal of Bells (excerpt) by Robert Lynd, Start Page 334, Quote Page 335, Albert & Charles Boni, New York. (Verified with hardcopy of fourth printing 1934)
  4. 1963 June 14, The Holland Evening Sentinel, (Untitled filler item), Quote Page 4, Column 2, Holland, Michigan. (Newspapers_com)
  5. 1963 June 14, The Journal-Tribune, The Raymond Elevator, Quote Page 6, Column 6, Marysville, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)