I’m reading a lovely paperback called Solitude by Anthony Storr and his introduction struck me.
He quotes Edward Gibbon:
‘Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius; and the uniformity of a work denotes the hand of a single artist.’
Many people today are afraid of solitude and modern attitudes state that we, as humans, can only ever find true fulfilment in companionship.
Writing is often called a ‘lonely profession.’ Many creative activities could be called the same and it is interesting to note that many of the greatest minds never married or formed any close personal ties.
To whit – Spinoza, Pascal, Locke, Kant, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Newton, Descartes or Hildegarde or St Theresa or Hypatia.
‘Creative talent of a major kind is not widely bestowed. Those who possess it are often regarded with awe and envy because of their gifts. They also tend to be thought of as peculiar; odd human beings who do not share the pains and pleasures of the average person. Does this difference imply abnormality in the sense of psychopathology? More particularly, is the predilection of the creative person for solitude evidence of some inability to make close relationships?’
Edward Gibbon was a writer and a happy man who chose the solitary life and his writing over all else:
‘In old age, the consolation of hope is reserved for the tenderness of parents, who commence a new life in their children; the faith of enthusiasts who sing Hallelujahs above the clouds, and the vanity of authors who presume the immortality of their name and writings.’
There is a happy medium. A wonderful family, several pets – and a sound-proofed room of one’s own. Oh! And Army Issue Ear Defenders.