One thing Johnson did learn: the way to deal with his anxieties was to distract himself from them, not wrestle with them. “To think them down,” he told Boswell, “is madness.” All his life he reproached himself bitterly for “indolence,” by which he meant not just normal procrastination, but a general slackness that allowed his demons to emerge. His friend Arthur Murphy said acutely that for him, “indolence was the time of danger: it was then that his spirits, not employed abroad, turned with inward hostility against himself.”26 A book Johnson greatly admired was Robert Burton’s massive 1638 treatise The Anatomy of Melancholy, which stressed the suffering of melancholics who allow themselves to become idle: “It crucifies their souls, and seizeth on them in an instant, for whilst they are any ways employed, in action, discourse, about any business, or recreation, or in company to their liking, they are very well; but if alone, or idle, tormented instantly again.” Johnson always acknowledged that his hunger for companionship was rooted in his dread of solitude.27 Damrosch, Leo. The Club (Kindle Locations 392-398). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition. Damrosch, Leo. The Club (Kindle Locations 389-392). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

— Johnson’s anxiety  

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