Today’s Blog Tour visit takes me to So Little Time… where I talk about some famous people who might have been on the autism spectrum. Here’s the link:
And here’s the post:
I’m so pleased to be here at So Little Time… today as part of my blog tour for Through a Different Lens, my new release. Thanks, Candy, for hosting me on your lovely blog.
In Through a Different Lens, I’ve explored what might happen if Mr. Darcy has Asperger’s Syndrome, and if Lizzy has some insight into how he thinks.
People with Asperger’s often have obsessive interests, difficulties with social interactions and non-verbal communication, sensory issues, adherence to routine and “the rules,” and a tendency to retreat into their own world.
But from my research, as well as from personal knowledge, I have learned that this form of “high-functioning” autism can also come with gifts. Not everyone with the condition is unusually talented, of course; no set of characteristics is universal. But the different neurological processes that make an autistic person’s brain work differently than a neurotypical person’s can lead them to see the world in a different and wonderful way that can be of benefit to everyone.
Because of the recent recognition of autism spectrum conditions, dating back only as far as the late 1930s, there are no definitive diagnoses available for people who lived in earlier times. However, based on descriptions by friends and associates, we can identify some famous people who might have had Asperger’s Syndrome.
Thomas Jefferson – he was shy, struggled to relate to others, and was sensitive to loud noises. These are hardly conclusive pieces of evidence, but they do raise the question!
Albert Einstein – he didn’t speak until he was four years old and until age seven, he compulsively repeated sentences. He also had no friends as a child. His highly theoretical theories of physics reflect a mind that works on completely different lines than most people’s.
Lewis Carroll – he was painfully shy and had trouble making friends and relating to people of his own age. He struggled with manners and social conventions and saw the world in very rigid terms.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – his possible symptoms of Asperger’s included repeated facial expressions, rapid mood swings, extreme sensitivity to loud noises, meaningless repetition of other people’s words, and inappropriate comments. Much of this is also compatible with Tourette’s syndrome, however.
Nikola Tesla – Asperger’s Syndrome is often called “the engineer’s disorder,” and Tesla embodied this aspect of it. He struggled to interact with others and worked in solitude. He was very sensitive to certain sounds and physical sensations and had the gift of visualizing complex machinery and “testing” it in his mind.
Michelangelo – In common with people with Asperger’s, Michelangelo had few friends and found conversation difficult. He was described as “strange” and “isolated.” He may have had trouble expressing emotion, and obsessively followed his routines. He also had a phenomenal memory, which allowed him to create hundreds of sketches in a very short time
Politicians, statesmen, scientists, musicians, artists, writers and more… It seems that Mr. Darcy might have been in good company. Here is an excerpt from Through a Different Lens, where Lizzy begins to tease out this enigmatic man’s symptoms.
“Mr. Darcy.” Lizzy gave a proper curtsey and then continued, “I did not expect to find anybody here. If I have interrupted your solitude, please accept my apologies. I will leave you if you wish.”
“No!” The vehemence of his exclamation caught her somewhat by surprise. She had imagined he would be too much of a gentleman to ask her to leave, but now she stopped. Did he actually wish her to stay?
Before her revelation, she would have made another curtsey and found some excuse to depart. She had never sought out the gentleman’s company, and had, rather, been pleased to avoid it, certain of their mutual dislike. If he had been in her company more than she believed he wished, she ascribed it to his carefully-taught manners and a societal expectation not to be too uncivil to one’s company. At no point had she imagined he might have desired her presence. And yet, the strength of his assertion had surprised her, and in the new light in which she saw him, she found herself softening towards his stern demeanour.
He continued, “I would be happy for your company, although you know that I am not adept at small talk.”
“Whereas I,” she smiled, ‘excel at it. But never fear, sir, I shall not torment you with mindless chatter about the weather and the lovely flower arrangement on the dining table.”
“Should you wish to discuss flower arrangements, Miss Bennet? I had not supposed you to be interested in the art, but I must confess my ignorance as to your diversions.”
“Mr. Darcy,” she countered, “I believe the boot is on the other leg, for I know nought of your interests, so as to discuss them with you.”
“Your boots, madam? Are you mis-shod? I shall turn my back should you wish to replace your footwear.” The expression clearly had him confused.
She assured him with a gentle smile, “‘Tis a common idiom, sir, to indicate the reversal of affairs from what was first stated.” He nodded sagely, but Elizabeth suspected he only partly took her meaning.
“If you wish to tell me of your particular interests, sir, I should be happy to hear of them.”
To this he made no reply, but stared at her, forcing himself at intervals to meet her eyes. Ah, she thought, he does not wish to discuss his amusements, and understood my reply merely to be an offer to listen and not a request to speak. I am more and more convinced of my supposition.
She paused for a moment, uncertain quite how to continue. If she were indeed correct, however, this man would better appreciate a direct approach, rather than some more subtle approach to the topic she wished to discuss. Taking a deep breath, she plunged into her speech like a soldier into battle.
“Indeed, Mr. Darcy,” she said as calmly as she might, “I had wished to speak with you about exactly this subject.”
Mr. Darcy’s eyebrows rose. “About the flower arrangement? Why should you wish to discuss that?”
Elizabeth smiled. This was, she quickly ascertained, the best way into her inquiries. “Do you always take things so literally, Mr. Darcy?”
His quizzical expression answered her question before his words did. “I very often fail to find any other way of understanding them. In retrospect, when I have time to consider the words and context, I have a much deeper understanding of what had been said, but at the moment, these ambiguities of speech confound me.” He frowned at the thought, and added, “I now understand your allusion to the boot being on the other leg. It is a metaphorical expression, one which really rather delights upon contemplation. However, at the moment of hearing it, as so often happens, I quite missed the meaning.” He paused, and stared once more at Elizabeth’s face, not quite meeting her eyes. She realised that her sympathetic expression would be unnoticed by her companion, and she invited him to continue, which he did shortly. “I find this is one of the many impediments I seem to have in catching the tone of conversations. People so often say what they do not, exactly, mean, or otherwise influence how they are understood by gestures or some subtle means which I cannot grasp, and I find I am left quite confused by how the discussions progress. I often find that it is to my advantage to remain silent. I would rather be thought aloof than a fool.”