Aphorisms on solitude and society

I can’t remember which secondhand bookshop I found it in, but The Oxford Book of Aphorisms, edited by John Gross, is an absolute gem.

Some of the aphorisms I read in the chapter ‘One Among Many’ will become titles of forthcoming articles for Thought Shrapnel, but below I’ve captured five that were a bit too long for that purpose:

Man cannot long survive without air, water, and sleep. Next in importance comes food. And close on its heels, solitude.

Thomas Szasz

How can you say my life is not a success? Have I not for more than sixty years got enough to eat and escaped being eaten?

Logan Pearsall Smith

The moment you enter society, you draw the key from your heart and put it in your pocket. those who fail to do so are fools.


Almost from the cradle to the grave one has an audience to whom one is playing up. The story of these audiences succeeding one another, their character and quality should be treated as an important part of a biography or an autobiography.

Bernard Berenson

The world is a country which nobody ever yet knew by description; one must travel through it one’s self to be acquainted with it.

Lord Chesterfield