The Hermit in the Garden: From Imperial Rome to Ornamental Gnome

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OUP Oxford, Mar 28, 2013 - Architecture - 257 pages
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Lavishly illustrated with numerous black-and-white and color images, The Hermit in the Garden tells the engagingly eccentric tale of the eighteenth-century craze for ornamental hermits-the must-have accessory for the grand gardens of Georgian England and beyond.

Eminent historian Gordon Campbell-an authority on the Renaissance and on the decorative arts-takes the reader on a journey that is at once illuminating and whimsical, shedding light on the history of the ornamental hermit and visiting the sites of many of the surviving hermitages themselves, which remain scattered throughout England, Scotland, and Ireland. Tracing its distant origins to the villa of the Roman emperor Hadrian in the second century AD, Campbell focuses on the heyday of the ornamental hermit in England, when it became highly fashionable for owners of country estates to commission architectural follies for their landscape gardens, follies which often included hermitages, many of which still survive. Perhaps most curious, Campbell relates how landowners peopled their hermitages either with imaginary hermits or with real hermits, and in some cases the landowner became his own hermit. Those who took employment as garden hermits were typically required to refrain from cutting their hair or washing, and some were dressed as druids. These were wholly secular hermits, products of the fashion for "pleasing melancholy." And though the fashion for hermits fizzled out by the end of the eighteenth century, the craze left their indelible mark on both the literature as well as the gardens of the period. And, as Gordon Campbell shows, they live on in the art, literature, and drama of our own day-most notably, in Tom Stoppard's Arcadia-as well as in the figure of the modern-day garden gnome.

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The Hermit in the Garden: From Imperial Rome to Ornamental Gnome

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Would you be willing to let a man who rarely bathed and never cut his nails or hair live in your garden—and even pay him to do so? For just over a century it was a fashion for the British landed ... Read full review

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User Review  - NielsenGW - LibraryThing

At some point during the European Renaissance (no one knows for sure when), a curious trend started. Men of religion or of means built themselves a small shack in the countryside with the barest ... Read full review


1 Origins and Antecedents
2 The Idea of the Hermit
3 The Hermits
4 The Hermitage in Georgian England
5 The Hermitage in the Celtic Lands
6 The Afterlife of the Hermit
APPENDIX 1 A Catalogue of Hermitages
APPENDIX 2 The Hermit and the Hermitage on the Continent
Works Consulted
Picture Acknowledgements

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About the author (2013)

Gordon Campbell is Professor of Renaissance Studies at the University of Leicester. He is the author of the best-selling Bible: The Story of the King James Bible and of many other books on literature, art, history, and biography. A fellow of the British Academy and a former chair of the Society for Renaissance Studies, in 2012 he was awarded the Longman - History Today Trustees Award for a lifetime contribution to History. In this book his interests in cultural history, architectural history, and designed landscapes converge in a pioneering study of the phenomenon of the English ornamental hermit and his hermitage.

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