Michel de Montaigne (1533-92): On Solitude
Contagion is very dangerous in the crowd. One must either imitate the vicious or hate them. Both these things are dangerous: to imitate them because they are many, and to hate them because they are unlike us.The wise person will flee the crowd, endure it if necessary but given the choice, choose solitude. We are not sufficiently rid of vices to have to be contending with those of others.The aim of solitude is to live more at leisure and at one's ease.
It is not enough to have gotten away from the crowd, it is not enough to move: we must get away from the gregarious instincts that are within us, we must sequester ourselves and repossess ourselves.
We must take the soul back and withdraw it into itself; that is the real solitude, which may be enjoyed in the midst of cities and the courts of kings; but it is best enjoyed alone.
Now since we are undertaking to live alone and do without company, let us make our contentment depend on ourselves; let us cut loose from all the ties that bind us to others; let us win from ourselves the power to truly live alone and at our ease.
We must reserve a back shop all our own, entirely free, in which to establish our real liberty and our principal retreat and solitude.
We must do like the animals that rub out their traces at the entrance to their lairs. Seek no longer that the world should speak of you, but how you should speak to yourself. Retire into yourself, but first prepare to receive yourself there; it would be madness to trust in yourself if you do not know how to govern yourself. ... Borrow nothing except from yourself, arrest your mind and fix it on definite and limited thoughts, and rest content with them, without any desire to prolong life and reputation.