In 1840 Edgar Allan Poe described the ‘mad energy’ of an ageing man who roved the streets of London from dusk till dawn.
His excruciating despair could be temporarily relieved only by immersing himself in a tumultuous throng of city-dwellers.
‘He refuses to be alone’ Poe wrote.
He ‘is the type and the genius of deep crime … He is the man of the crowd.’
Like many poets and philosophers through the ages Poe stressed the significance of solitude.
It was ‘such a great misfortune’ he thought to lose the capacity to be alone with oneself – to get caught up in the crowd – to surrender one’s singularity to mind-numbing conformity.