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The Hermit in the Garden: From Imperial Rome to Ornamental Gnome Paperback – 31 Jul 2014

4.1 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Review

he Hermit in the Garden is a fascinating journey down this strange byway of the past. (Shiny New Books)

a useful addition to the literature on the Georgian garden (Roger White, Historic House)

About the Author

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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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
An entertaining and informative read, this is a comprehensive survey of hermits and hermitages through history and across the world. Most of the significant sites are illustrated in the text with some also earning a colour plate. Campbell has a humorous style which is most engaging. The material is clearly presented and, unusually, the paucity or contradictory nature of the evidence is frequently acknowledged.
I was surprised that there was so little about the Christian hermit tradition, but as this book focuses on the existence of buildings, that can be forgiven.
I've long wondered about the ornamental hermit tradition, having now reached the age where a National Trust property visit seems like the perfect highlight for a special weekend. And now I'm much better informed.
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By Kat Man Do TOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 Sept. 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I remember laughing when I was reading Snuff: (Discworld Novel 39) (Discworld Novels) as Terry Pratchett described this character living in a hermitage (cave) on the Ramkin family estate who had taken over from his father who had been the previous incumbent and he was expecting the post to go to his son when he retired. When asked how he's managed to have a family he stated that he had a week off every year from hermitting as a holiday. I just thought that this was comic invention on the part of TP and a bit out of left field given that my previous acquaintance with the idea of a hermit was that of a religious who lived the simple life, living apart from people and eschewing materialism to glorify god - whether it meant living in a cave in the wilds or a cell in a monastery or cathedral. I never realised it could be potentially a career choice for some that paid money.

I loved the idea of this book and Gordon Campbell has done a magnificent job of charting the early history of the ornamental hermit from Roman times to its heyday in Georgian England. At its best it was a way of someone earning enough money to live the rest of their lives comfortably after their contract finished, at its worst it was a form of slavery whereby the master of the house would consign a member of staff, or even a tenant, to take on the role of the hermit whether they wanted to or not. The duty of the hermit was to take on board the sadness or melancholy of the family (and in a broader sense society) and be the outward expression of that emotion.
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By Stromata VINE VOICE on 30 July 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Gordon Campbell is to be congratulated for producing a work of real interest and great charm. 'The Hermitage in the Garden' charts the curious history of a genre of building, as well as its inhabitants, the likes of which has gone in and out of fashion more often than flared trousers.

The first chapter charts the history of the hermitage; the second chapter explores the notion of the hermit in general whilst chapter three looks at the hermit specifically, with plenty of examples from both real life and literature. In chapter four and five the author looks in depth at the eighteenth century English and Celtic craze for hermitage building and in chapter six the story is brought up to date, including the modern take on the hermit - the garden gnome! The appendices include a comprehensive list of British and Continental hermitages.

The illustrations are good with many black and white on-page photographs and a nice selection of full page glossy pictures.

A well written book, the author allows his sense of humour shine through without ever lapsing into frivolity - quite a feat, given the subject matter! I found the subject really quite absorbing. The only two examples of the hermitage I am familiar with are at opposite ends of the scale - the small cave at Warkworth in Northumberland and the stupendous Hermitage in St Petersburg, but I realise now how much they have in common.

Highly recommended.
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By Damaskcat HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 2 Sept. 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a beautifully produced book, with plenty of black and white illustrations and some colour plates as well. It is clear that the author knows his subject inside and out and has done a great deal of research. He traces the idea of having a decorative hermit in the garden from its origins, through its heyday in the eighteenth century and its subsequent gradual decline.

Owners of large estates had hermits installed in appropriately designed hermitages as a talking point for their visitors. In many instances the hermits were actually statues or models and not real people.

The author quotes some advertisements placed in various publications for hermits which stipulated that they must agree to not cut their nails or their hair for the time of their residence. Sometimes it was the landowner who took up residence in the hermitage. Some hermits were there for religious reasons but many were installed for decorative and fashionable reasons.

The book contains two appendices - one contains a catalogue of hermitages and the other is an essay on the hermit, the hermitage and the continent. There is a list of works consulted for anyone who wants to read more about the subject and an index.
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