I'm currently about halfway through The Wrong Side of Paris and enjoying the timeless philosophical tangents quite as much as the deliciously romantic post-revolutionary intrigue.
The charms of solitude might be compared with the pleasures of the savage life, which no European has ever fled once he has of them. This might seem like an unlikely proposition in our present age, when we have grown so accustomed through living with others that we think nothing of making their business our own, an age that will soon see the end of all private life, so bold and greedy have the eyes of the Press, that modern Argus, become. Nevertheless, the history of Christianity's first six centuries offers ample confirmation of this truth: Never did any holy hermit of that time choose to return to life in society. There are few psychic wounds that solitude cannot heal; and so, from the moment he entered his new home, Godefroid reveled in its perfect tranquility and silence, just as a weary traveler delights in the first moments of a warm bath.
Thus, on his first morning at Madame de la Chanterie's house, he was forced to look deep into his own soul, cut off as he was from all he once knew, cut off from Paris itself, even here in the very shadows of the cathedral. Here, stripped of all social vanity, his acts would have no witness other than his own conscious...
The Wrong Side of Paris, Honoré de Balzac