14 December 2012

The Necessity of Solitude

Johann Georg Zimmermann, Solitude (London: Thomas Tegg, 1827), pp. 148-149:
Solitude is not merely desirable, but absolutely necessary, to those characters who possess sensibilities too quick, and imaginations too ardent, to live quietly in the world; and who are incessantly inveighing against men and things. Those who suffer their minds to be subdued by circumstances which would scarcely produce an emotion in other bosoms, who complain of the severity of their misfortunes on occasions which others would not feel, who are dispirited by every occurrence which does not produce immediate satisfaction and pleasure, who are incessantly tormented by the illusions of fancy, who are unhinged and dejected the moment prosperity is out of their view, repine at what they possess from an ignorance of what they really want; whose minds are for ever veering from one vain wish to another; who are alarmed at every thing and enjoy nothing; are not formed for society, and, if solitude have no power to heal their wounded spirits, are certainly incurable.
Men who in other respects possess rational minds and pious dispositions frequently fall into low spirits and despair; but it is in general, almost entirely, their own fault. If it proceed, as is generally the case, from unfounded fears; if they love to torment themselves and others on every trivial disappointment or slight indisposition; if they constantly resort to medicine for that relief which reason alone can bestow; if they fondly indulge instead of repressing these idle fancies; if, after having endured the most excruciating pains with patience, and supported the greatest misfortunes with fortitude, they neither can nor will learn to bear the puncture of the smallest pin, or those trifling adversities to which human life is unavoidably subject, they can only attribute their unhappy condition to their own misconduct; and, although they might, by no very irksome effort of their understandings, look with an eye of composure and tranquillity on the multiplied and fatal fires issuing from the dreadful cannon's mouth, will continue shamefully subdued by the idle apprehensions of being fired at by popguns.
All these qualities of the soul, fortitude, firmness, and stoic inflexibility, are much sooner acquired by silent meditation than amidst the noisy intercourses of mankind, where innumerable difficulties continually oppose us; where ceremony, servility, flattery, and fear, contaminate our dispositions; where every occurrence opposes our endeavours; and where, for this reason, men of the weakest minds and most contracted notions become more active and popular, gain more attention, and are better received, than men of feeling hearts and liberal understandings.
As I've mentioned in earlier posts from this book, a search for a digital version of the original Über die Einsamkeit turns up a mess of jumbled editions and misnumbered volumes in both Archive.org and Google Books. There is a complete scanned edition (Troppau: s.n., 1785) in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.