Friends and Lovers

  • Mark Vernon


The year is 1559 during the brief reign of Mary Queen of France, also known as Queen of Scots. The scene is a festival in the renaissance town of Bar-le-Duc. Two pairs of eyes meet across the crowd, a meeting which one of them later described thus:

We were seeking each other before we set eyes on each other, and at our first meeting, we discovered ourselves to be so seized by each other, so known to each other and so bound together that from then on none was so close as each was to the other.

A question: was this the start of an affair or a friendship?


Sexual Desire Sexual Relationship Sexual Attraction Romantic Love Physical Intimacy 
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Further Reading and References

  1. John Evelyn and Margaret Godolphin’s friendship is examined in wonderful detail by Frances Harris in Transformations of Love, published by Oxford University Press (2002).Google Scholar
  2. Simon Callow’s Love Is Where It Falls: an Account of a Passionate Friendship is a highly readable, witty and moving book published by Penguin (1999).Google Scholar
  3. C. S. Lewis’s essay on friendship in The Four Loves (reissued in HarperCollins Signature Classics edition, 2002) is idiosyncratic and insightful in equal measure.Google Scholar
  4. The classic on Greek homosexuality is Kenneth Dover’s eponymous book (Duckworth, 1997), though James Davidson’s forthcoming The Greeks and Greek Love (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2006) is set to revise that view.Google Scholar
  5. There are many discussions of Plato’s ideas about love; any introduction to Plato will include one. The translations of the Symposium and the Phaedrus, by Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff, are engaging with accessible introductions. Martha Nussbaum is an oft-quoted source too: The Fragility of Goodness (Cambridge University Press, 1986) contains many illuminating discussions.Google Scholar
  6. When it comes to Plato on friendship in particular (and his dialogue the Lysis) there are fewer choices. The first chapter of Lorraine Smith Pangle’s Aristotle and the Philosophy of Friendship (Cambridge University Press, 2003) is an academic examination of the Lysis, as isGoogle Scholar
  7. Anthony Price’s rich and challenging first chapter in Love and Friendship in Plato and Aristotle (Clarendon Press, 1990). My appendix here offers a more accessible outline, though one that may be contested by some. For another alternative translation and commentary on the dialogue David Bolotin captures the drama as well as the philosophy — Plato’s Dialogue on Friendship (Cornell University Press, 1979).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. For general philosophical comparisons of love and friendship I enjoyed Allan Bloom’s Love and Friendship (Simon & Schuster, 1993) and the chapter on love inGoogle Scholar
  9. Andre Comte-Sponville’s A Short Treatise on the Great Virtues (Vintage, 2003), though I am not sure he gets friendship quite right.Google Scholar
  10. Alain de Botton’s Essays in Love (Picador, 1994) is an excellent novelised portrayal of love that touches on friendship too.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Mark Vernon 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Vernon

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