Last modified on 3 January 2015, at 17:19


In the solitude to which every man is always returning, he has a sanity and revelations, which in his passage into new worlds he will carry with him. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Solitude is a state of isolation, seclusion, or lack of contact, association, or similarity with other people. Short-term solitude is often valued as a time when one may work, think or rest without being disturbed, or for the sake of desirable privacy. Loneliness is a state of sorrow associated with undesired solitude.

He was by himself always. Remote, detached, aloof. Seeing past everyone and everything — that is, until all at once something clicked and he momentarily rephased, reentered their world briefly. ~ Philip K. Dick
In spite of language, in spite of intelligence and intuition and sympathy, one can never really communicate anything to anybody. The essential substance of every thought and feeling remains incommunicable, locked up in the impenetrable strong-room of the individual soul and body. Our life is a sentence of perpetual solitary confinement. ~ Aldous Huxley
Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition. Man is the only being who knows he is alone. ~ Octavio Paz
We are rarely proud when we are alone. ~ Voltaire


  • Alone, adj. In bad company.
  • But 'midst the crowd, the hum, the shock of men,
    To hear, to see, to feel, and to possess,
    And roam along, the world's tired denizen,
    With none who bless us, none whom we can bless.
  • 'Tis solitude should teach us how to die;
    It hath no flatterers; vanity can give
    No hollow aid; alone—man with his God must strive.
  • Alone, alone, all, all alone,
    Alone on a wide, wide sea.
  • So lonely 'twas that God himself
    Scarce seemed there to be.
  • Who knows what true loneliness is — not the conventional word, but the naked terror? To the lonely themselves it wears a mask. The most miserable outcast hugs some memory or some illusion.
  • He was by himself always. Remote, detached, aloof. Seeing past everyone and everything — that is, until all at once something clicked and he momentarily rephased, reentered their world briefly.
  • And Wisdom's self
    Oft seeks to sweet retired solitude,
    Where, with her best nurse, Contemplation,
    She plumes her feathers, and lets grow her wings,
    That in the various bustle of resort
    Were all too ruffled, and sometimes impaired.
  • For solitude sometimes is best society,
    And short retirement urges sweet return.
  • Where there have been powerful governments, societies, religions, public opinions, in short wherever there has been tyranny, there the solitary philosopher has been hated; for philosophy offers an asylum to a man into which no tyranny can force it way, the inward cave, the labyrinth of the heart.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, trans. Hollingdale, “Schopenhauer as educator,” § 3.3, p. 139
  • These people who have fled inward for their freedom also have to live outwardly, become visible, let themselves be seen; they are united with mankind through countless ties of blood, residence, education, fatherland, chance, the importunity of others; they are likewise presupposed to harbour countless opinions simply because these are the ruling opinions of the time; every gesture which is not clearly a denial counts as agreement.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, trans. Hollingdale, “Schopenhauer as educator,” § 3.3, p. 139
  • When, musing on companions gone,
    We doubly feel ourselves alone.
  • Solitude is the mother of anxieties.
  • Modern civilization is so complex as to make the devotional life all but impossible. It wears us out by multiplying distractions and beats us down by destroying our solitude, where otherwise we might drink and renew our strength before going out to face the world again.
    “The thoughtful soul to solitude retires,” said the poet of other and quieter times; but where is the solitude to which we can retire today? Science, which has provided men with certain material comforts, has robbed them of their souls by surrounding them with a world hostile to their existence.
  • We are rarely proud when we are alone.
    • Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary (1764)
  • Similar though Marx and Thoreau may be in their accounts of the consequences of living in a society defined by money, their suggestions for how to respond to it are poles apart. Forget the Party. Forget the revolution. Forget the general strike. Forget the proletariat as an abstract class of human interest. Thoreau's revolution begins not with discovering comrades to be yoked together in solidarity but with the embrace of solitude. For Thoreau, Marx's first and fatal error was the creation of the aggregate identity of the proletariat. Error was substituted for error. The anonymity and futility of the worker were replaced by the anonymity and futility of the revolutionary. A revolution conducted by people who have only a group identity can only replace one monolith of power with another, one misery with another, perpetuating the cycle of domination and oppression. In solitude, the individual becomes most human, which is to say most spiritual.
    • Curtis White, “The spirit of disobedience: An invitation to resistance,” Harper’s, April 2006, pp. 37-38
  • O sacred solitude! divine retreat!
    Choice of the prudent! envy of the great,
    By thy pure stream, or in thy waving shade,
    We court fair wisdom, that celestial maid.
  • O! lost to virtue, lost to manly thought,
    Lost to the noble sallies of the soul!
    Who think it solitude to be alone.
    • Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night III, line 6
  • This sacred shade and solitude, what is it?
    'Tis the felt presence of the Deity,
    Few are the faults we flatter when alone.
    • Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night V, line 172

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical QuotationsEdit

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 729-31.
  • Converse with men makes sharp the glittering wit,
    But God to man doth speak in solitude.
  • I am as one who is left alone at a banquet, the lights dead and the flowers faded.
  • Alone!—that worn-out word,
    So idly spoken, and so coldly heard;
    Yet all that poets sing, and grief hath known,
    Of hope laid waste, knells in that word—ALONE!
  • Nunquam se minus otiosum esse quam cum otiosus; nec minus solum quam cum solus esset.
    • That he was never less at leisure than when at leisure; nor that he was ever less alone than when alone.
    • Cicero, De Officiis (44 B.C.), Book III, Chapter I. Also in Rep. I. 17. 27. A saying of Scipio Africanus, as quoted by Cato. Also attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux
  • I praise the Frenchman; his remark was shrewd,—
    "How sweet, how passing sweet is solitude."
    But grant me still a friend in my retreat,
    Whom I may whisper—Solitude is sweet.
    • William Cowper, Retirement, line 739. The quotation is attributed to La Bruyère and to Jean Guez de Balzac
  • Oh, for a lodge in some vast wilderness,
    Some boundless contiguity of shade,
    Where rumour of oppression and deceit,
    Of unsuccessful or successful war,
    Might never reach me more!
  • O solitude, where are the charms
    That sages have seen in thy face?
    Better dwell in the midst of alarms,
    Than reign in this horrible place.
  • Solitude is the nurse of enthusiasm, and enthusiasm is the true parent of genius. In all ages solitude has been called for—has been flown to.
    • Isaac D'Israeli, The Literary Character, Illustrated by the History of Men of Genius (1795-1822), Chapter X
  • There is a society in the deepest solitude.
    • Isaac D'Israeli, The Literary Character, Illustrated by the History of Men of Genius (1795-1822), Chapter X
  • So vain is the belief
    That the sequestered path has fewest flowers.
  • Thrice happy he, who by some shady grove,
    Far from the clamorous world; doth live his own;
    Though solitary, who is not alone,
    But doth converse with that eternal love.
  • We enter the world alone, we leave it alone.
  • I was never less alone than when by myself.
  • Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergiebt,
    Ach! der ist bald allein.
  • Nobody with me at sea but myself.
  • Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife.
    • Thomas Gray, Elegy in a Country Churchyard, Stanza 19
  • O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
    Let it not be among the jumbled heap
    Of murky buildings: climb with me the steep,—
    Nature's observatory—whence the dell,
    In flowery slopes, its river's crystal swell,
    May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
    'Mongst boughs pavilion'd, where the deer's swift leap
    Startles the wild bee from the foxglove bell.
    • John Keats, Sonnet, O Solitude! If I Must With Thee Dwell
  • Why should we faint and fear to live alone,
    Since all alone, so Heaven has willed, we die,
    Nor even the tenderest heart and next our own
    Knows half the reasons why we smile and sigh.
    • John Keble, Christian Year, Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity
  • Solitude is as needful to the imagination as society is wholesome for the character.
  • I feel like one who treads alone
    Some banquet hall deserted,
    Whose lights are fled, whose garlands dead,
    And all but he departed.
  • Now the New Year reviving old Desires,
    The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires.
    • Omar Khayyam, Rubaiyat, FitzGerald's translation, Stanza 4
  • You must show him … by leaving him severely alone.
  • Far in a wild, unknown to public view,
    From youth to age a reverend hermit grew;
    The moss his bed, the cave his humble cell,
    His food the fruits, his drink the crystal well,
    Remote from man, with God he pass'd the days;
    Prayer all his business, all his pleasure praise.
  • Whosoever is delighted in solitude, is either a wild beast or a god.
    • Francis Bacon, 'Essays', XXVII “On Friendship” (1612, rewritten 1625). Bacon is paraphrasing from Aristotle, 'Politics', 1253a25-30
  • Shall I, like an hermit, dwell
    On a rock or in a cell?
  • Then never less alone than when alone.
  • Atque ubi omnia nobis mala solitudo persuadet.
    • And when Solitude leads us into all manner of evil.
    • Seneca the Younger, Epistle 25. Quoting Galgacus, leader of the Britains
  • I love tranquil solitude
    And such society
    As is quiet, wise, and good.
  • A wise man is never less alone than when he is alone.
  • Alone each heart must cover up its dead;
    Alone, through bitter toil, achieve its rest.
  • 'Tis not for golden eloquence I pray,
    A godlike tongue to move a stony heart—
    Methinks it were full well to be apart
    In solitary uplands far away,
    Betwixt the blossoms of a rosy spray,
    Dreaming upon the wonderful sweet face
    Of Nature, in a wild and pathless place.
  • I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.
  • I could live in the woods with thee in sight,
    Where never should human foot intrude:
    Or with thee find light in the darkest night,
    And a social crowd in solitude.
  • Impulses of deeper birth
    Have come to him in solitude.
  • They flash upon that inward eye
    Which is the bliss of solitude.
  • Often have I sighed to measure
    By myself a lonely pleasure,—
    Sighed to think I read a book,
    Only read, perhaps, by me.

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