Views & Reviews Between the Lines

The advantages of solitude

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 03 November 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6129
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

Pascal once said that all the misfortunes of the world arose from our ignorance of how to stay quietly in a room; and certainly these days people seem more than ever in need of ceaseless stimulation, more or less as balloons need air to keep them inflated.

But this complaint is not a new one; it was made by Johann Georg Zimmermann in the middle of the 18th century, for example. His book on the advantages of solitude went through many editions; indeed it has never been out of print long for a quarter of a millennium.

Zimmermann (1728-95) was a Swiss doctor who became physician to George III, but only at Hanover. …

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