A Pelican in the Wilderness: Hermits, Solitaries and Recluses Paperback – 15 May 2003
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"Dazzling...It's a great pleasure to ramble with the author through varied wisdom about a place that exists in everyone's heart, the small strip of territory between solitude and loneliness where peace is easily found, and easily lost." -Michael Joseph Gross, Amazon.com (editorial review) "A durable examination of the great and enduring human urge to set oneself apart in order to get at the heart of things." -Michael Glover, The Financial Times "She casts her net wide, catching fish of every kind: holy men and women, poets, travelers, naturalists, misanthropes, and misfits. Colegate's interest is, at bottom, personal. As a novelist she prizes solitude and regrets the encroachments of modern life. She is... engaged and engaging, describing the people she admires, the literature she loves, and the places that have inspired both." -The Economist "This is a delicious book, not least because it has a brisk, even secular, approach to a subject too often approached in a spirit of gushing awe. [Colegate] is adding to a select literature of spiritual tourism (most of which she usefully cites) among pilgrims engaged on 'the solitary voyage of the practiced mind into the void.'" -Richard D. North, The Independent "Colegate sees, and wittily conveys, the funny side of her subject, but it is its serious face that engages her. Her character sketches of her chosen saints, sages, and holy fools are precise and vivid. She says modestly that she is not competent to write about 'the Matter of God, which is the most interesting subject in the world,' but she can and does write with delicate exactitude about landscape, about birds, about silence, and about the ecstatic self-transcendence that is the solitary's reward." -Lucy Hughes-Hallett, The Sunday Times "An engrossing book." -P. J. Kavanagh, The Spectator "It is impossible not to be moved by these stories and the author's evident delight in them." -Murrough O'Brien, The Independent on Sunday "Colegate...interweaves historical accounts with descriptions of her own wanderings in the footsteps of celebrated hermits and encounters with their present-day counterparts...She has restored a hermit's cell, both literally in her own garden and metaphorically for the reader, with her sympathetic evocation of a distant and often alien way of life." -Michael Arditti, The Times"
From the Back Cover
In A Pelican in the Wilderness, Isabel Colegate casts through time and place to uncover tales of human solitude.
The quest for solitude – whether for social, religious, personal or intellectual reasons – dates back to ancient times. As a spiritual phenomenon it has its roots in Chinese, Hindu and Western philosophies; from the mystical Desert Fathers – the most famous of which was St Jerome – who cast themselves out into deserts and wastelands in search of spiritual revelation, to the Celts on Iona and Lindisfarne (who arrived with only onions to live on). Rousseau found solitaries inspirational, (but declared that he would die of boredom if he had to become a hermit himself, a view possibly shared by St Jerome who only managed to stay in the desert for two years.)
Hermits and hermitages even used to be a feature of rural and urban England. Sir John Soane had a hermit's cell installed in his house in Lincolns' Inn. At Hawkstone in Shropshire in the 1780s it was reported that a live hermit was seen gazing at a human skull. And in the eighteenth-century it was seen as highly fashionable to place a hermitage in landscaped gardens; an advert would then be placed for a hermit, specifying particular requirements such as a promise not to cut hair, nails or beard. In return the hermit would receive food and a small gratuity. One hermit in Painshill, Surrey was sacked for drinking beer in the village inn.
But of course, recluses, solitaries, hermits, anchoresses (female solitaries) and 'loners' continue to exist to this day, quietly opting to live outside society or living in complete seclusion in wildernesses. Isabel Colegate examines their lives, motivations, self-reflections, writings and the thoughts of present-day urban and rural hermits.
Those who love Colegate's fiction will find all of its virtues here: historical imagination, quicksilver characterization, understated wit, and an eye for the bizarre matched by a power to evoke the sublime.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product Description