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POSTED: April 6, 2020

This morning I listened to Thinking Allowed as I walked my post-breakfast walk. In the episode I heard about loneliness, Fay Bound Alberti, reader in history at the University of York, talked about the research that led to her book A Biography of Loneliness: The history of an emotion.

During the course of this she raised the idea of oneliness, a term that has gone out of use. I looked it up and it seems a very useful idea, without which our language (and thus our ideas) gets slightly poorer.

The dictionaries online define oneliness as

(obsolete) The state of being one or single.

As Fay Bound Alberti defined it, the word has a positive connotation that counter-balances the ideas often encapsulated in the way we use loneliness. In her example, when Wordsworth wandered lonely as a cloud, he would feel oneliness: the feeling that voluntary solitude would almost certainly lead to insight and inspiration.