Hard Core Onelers: Hired Hermits March 11, 2011Posted by Onely in book review, Food for Thought, Great Onelies in History, Reviews.
Tags: hermit, victorian england
Welcome to the latest installment in our series Hard Core Onelers, where we feature people who take independence to new or interesting extremes. Today’s subject: Hired Hermits.
Copious Readers, what would it take for you to become a hermit?
Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. Doubleday, 2010. (Onely recommends: Read this book. It’s amazing.)
For a time [at estates in Victorian England] it was highly fashionable to build a hermitage and install in it a live-in hermit. At Painshill in Surrey, one man signed a contract to live seven years in picturesque seclusion, observing a monastic silence, for 100 pounds a year, but was fired after just three weeks when he was spotted drinking in the local pub.
An estate owner in Lancashire promised 50 pounds a year for life to anyone who would pass seven years in an underground dwelling without cutting his hair or toenails or talking to another person. Someone took up the offer and actually lasted four years before deciding he could take no more; whether he was at least given a partial pension for his efforts is sadly unknown.
Queen Caroline had the architect William Kent build for her a hermitage at Richmond into which she installed a poet named Stephen Duck, but that was not quite a success either, for Duck decided he didn’t like the silence or being looked at by strangers, so he quit.
Copious Readers, would you be a hired hermit? For how long? Under what sort of parameters? Before I’d make my decision, I’d need the answers to a few simple questions:
Do people have to journey through the woods and up a mountain to see me? Am I confined to the cave/cottage or can I frolic in the nearby fields too? Does the public come to watch me do my hermitting? Do I get food delivered or must I rely on my gardening and snare-making skills? Am I allowed to trim my nails and nose hairs?
I thought long and hard and decided I could last at least five years under some combination of these conditions. Time to nap! Time to write! Time to do backbends and tree pose! I would only need just a few meager possessions:
–warm babbling brook running through the cave floor
–some bags of cashews
–memory foam mattress
–$20,000 year stipend (good cat food is expensive)
–make that $60,000 (good cat food is really expensive)
–access to medical care (assuming the doctor makes cave calls)
–visits from my family and friends (depending on the conditions set by the estate owner, these might have to be clandestine, involving parachutes and balaclavas)
Rich estate-owning readers, want to add a touch of whimsy and mystique to your premises? By following the few simple guidelines above, you can have your very own Onely hermit, with crisply groomed nose hairs.
Photo credit: aug.edu