chapter  1
24 Pages

Letter-writing and Friendship Reconsidered

The primary aim of this chapter is to situate the Peter/Bernard correspondence within the tradition of epistolary writing, as derived from antiquity and assimilated within the early Christian period and throughout the Middle Ages. As stated in the introduction, an underlying concern of this study is a re-evaluation of the value and nature of these letters as historical documentation, through an examination of the parameters surrounding the use of epistolary discourse. The question will be approached initially through a consideration of the relevance and applicability of models and precepts to be found in classical and medieval rhetorical handbooks. This will be set alongside modern critical theory, in particular, contemporary concepts of epistolarity as developed around the notion of the epistolary relationship pertaining to letter-writer and addressee. The second part of the chapter will consider the relationship between the activity of letter-writing and the development of classical and Christian ideals of friendship, focusing on two aspects in particular: the terminology employed to express such ideals, and the enshrinement of the latter in what can be seen as a form of epistolary etiquette. It will start from the premise that epistolary ‘friendship’ can in itself be viewed as a construct, utilising a range of standard devices and serving a variety of purposes. This will be demonstrated through selected examples drawn from sources both prior to and contemporaneous with the correspondence in question, together with passages taken from letters of Peter and Bernard addressed to other recipients.