The Value Of Solitude by Arthur Brisbane

Story type: Essay

We inflict a piece of advice upon our readers. It is intended especially for the young, who have still to get their growth, whose characters and possibilities are forming.


Full individual growth, special development, rounded mental operations–all these demand room, separation from others, solitude, self-examination and the self-reliance which solitude gives.

The finest tree stands off by itself in the open plain. Its branches spread wide. It is a complete tree, better than the cramped tree in the crowded forest.

The animal to be admired is not that which runs in herds, the gentle browsing deer or foolish sheep thinking only as a fraction of the flock, incapable of personal independent direction. It’s the lonely prowling lion or the big black leopard with the whole world for his private field that is worth looking at.

The man who grows up in a herd, deer-like, thinking with the herd, acting with the herd, rarely amounts to anything. —-

Do you want to succeed? Grow in solitude, work, develop in solitude, with books and thoughts and nature for friends. Then, if you want the crowd to see how fine you are, come back to it and boss it if it will let you.

Constant craving for indiscriminate company is a sure sign of mental weakness.

Schopenhauer–a sour genius, BUT a genius–speaks contemptuously of the negroes herded in small rooms unable to get “enough of one another’s snub-nose company.” —-

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If you enter a village or small town and want to find the man or youth of ability, do you look for him leaning over the village pool table, sitting on the grocery store boxes, lounging in the smelly tavern with other vacant minds?

Certainly not. You find him at work, and you find him by himself.

Think how public institutions dwarf the brains and souls of unhappy children condemned to live in them. No chance there for individual, separate development. Millions of children have grown up in such places millions of sad nonentities. —-

Here is what Goethe says:

“Es bildet ein Talent sich in der Stille, doch ein Charakter in dem Strome der Welt.” (Talent is developed in solitude, character in the rush of the world.)

You wonder why so much ability comes from the country–why a Lincoln comes from the backwoods while you, flourishing in a great city, can barely keep your place as a typewriter.

The countryman has GOT to be by himself much of the time whether he wishes to or not. If he has anything in him it comes out.

Astronomy, man’s grandest study, grew up among the shepherds. You of the cities never even see the stars, much less study them.


Don’t be a sheep or a deer. Don’t devote your hours to the company and conversation of those who know as little as you do. Don’t think hard only when you are trying to remember a popular song or to decide on the color of your Winter overcoat or necktie.

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Remember that you are an individual, not a grain of dust or a blade of grass. Don’t be a sheep; be a man. It has taken nature a hundred million years to produce you. Don’t make her sorry she took the time.

Get out in the park and walk and think. Get up in your hall bedroom, read, study, write what you think. Talk more to yourself and less to others. Avoid magazines, avoid excessive newspaper reading.

There is not a man of average ability but could make a striking career if he could but WILL to do the best that is in him.

Proofs of growth due to solitude are endless. Milton’s greatest work was done when blindness, old age and the death of the Puritan government forced him into completest seclusion. Beethoven did his best work in the solitude of deafness.

Bacon would never have been the great leader of scientific thought had not his trial and disgrace forced him from the company of a grand retinue and stupid court to the solitude of his own brain.

“Multum insola fuit anima mea.” (My spirit hath been much alone.) This he said often, and lucky it was for him. Loneliness of spirit made him.

Get a little of it for yourself.

Drop your club, your street corner, your gossipy boarding-house table. Drop your sheep life and try being a man.

It may improve you.

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