Thursday, March 14, 2013

`Full of Living Beings Like Myself'

Some of us who are solitary by nature are social by preference and of necessity. That is, we preserve our aloneness in a crowd, without complaint or self-pity. Introverted, we learn early to ape extraversion. Don’t mistake this for some newly discovered pathology, an entry in the upcoming DSM-V. At the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, I enjoyed myself, kept an eye on the kids, scratched the heads of ruminants and navigated the mob. I ate a pulled-pork sandwich and cole slaw in lieu of the chicken-fried bacon, bacon hand-dipped in chocolate and Texas taters. I might have preferred sitting in the backyard reading Henry Green but the day wasn’t mine. No, aloneness and sociability are not absolutes. I’ve never been as alone as Charles Lamb, that most sociable man. He writes to his childhood friend Coleridge on May 12, 1800: 

“Hetty [a servant] died on Friday night, about eleven o'clock, after eight days' illness; Mary, in consequence of fatigue and anxiety, is fallen ill again, and I was obliged to remove her yesterday. I am left alone in a house with nothing but Hetty's dead body to keep me company. To-morrow I bury her, and then I shall be quite alone, with nothing but a cat to remind me that the house has been full of living beings like myself. My heart is quite sunk, and I don't know where to look for relief.” 

Lamb begins his letter with this sentence: “I don’t know why I write, except from the propensity misery has to tell her griefs.”

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