Solitude and Leadership was delivered by William Deresiewicz to the plebe class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in October 2009 and originally published in The American Scholar.
Finding space to be alone in the 18th century
This reminds us of a problem which has faced people for much of history. Finding space to be alone was a challenge for rich and poor alike. Larger households would be filled with staff, while in the houses of those lower down the social scale, there was simply not enough room. The lack of privacy caused by all these bodies jostling for space was compounded by the nature of premodern architecture. Until corridors came into fashion during the 18th century (which in itself affected only the wealthiest households), houses were designed en enfilade, with rooms running onto each other. Household traffic was not contained within corridors, but rather moved through rooms, meaning that doors could (and did) swing open at compromising moments.