Hermits: the Quiet Life

This painting, entitled Saint John on Patmos,

was created by Nicolas Poussin in c. 1644.



Hermits, best known as being reclusive individuals, usually live alone or with a quiet pet, such as a turtle. Often times, they are poets or religious fanatics who go in search of a simpler way of life. Motivations to do so include wanting to purify one's self, to avoid evils and temptations in society, and to devote one's entire self to the advancement of his or her devotion at hand. To become a hermit requires almost complete isolation from society which includes all forms of news and technology along with the abandonment of comfort, family, marriage, property, and pleasure. In return, many hermits undertake chastity, fasting, meditation, and silence. They observe no uniform rule of life.

Famous Hermits
  • Septimus Hodge, character in Arcadia
  • Dame Julian of Norwich, 14th Century Catholic author and social conscious confidante
  • Emily Dickinson, 17th century poet
  • Cookie, spiced brown sugar drop
  • Herman's, the 1960's band
  • J. D. Salinger, 20th century author
  • It is a common misconception that all hermits are reclusive for religious reasons. However, monasticism, the practice of recluse for a religious reason, came about in the early 300's when Saint Pachomius, a nomadic desert holy man, gathered religious hermits together and formed the first monasteries.

    While the population of hermits has declined in recent decades (no conclusive census has ever been taken, due to the hermit's reserved lifestyle making them diffucult to locate), there is still a vital collection of recluses. Some continue to live in caves or spartan buildings but today most reside in more contemporary locations such as apartments and in RV's.

    Septimus Hodge is the hermit link to the play Arcadia. While not a hermit in the duration of the play, he becomes one following the death of his pupil, Thomasina Coverly. This fact is was confirmed in Act Two, scene seven when Gus hands Hannah the picture that Thomasina had drawn of Septimus and Plautus, the turtle. (Hannah is in the midst of catalouging the history of the Croom's garden, including the hermitage -- the place in which a hermit resides). The picture provides the crucial connection linking Septimus to the Sidley Park hermitage. Also worthy of noting, Noakes, the landskip gardener, originally designed the hermitage to accent the surrounding countryside, transforming it from Capability Brown into Gothic style, with no intended occupant to the building. Septimus worked up to his death in 1834 at solving the algorithim equations that Thomasina created. Valentine used Thomasina's lesson books to create the Coverly files.

    In 2002 Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire advertised for a hermit to live in a cave on the grounds as part of an art exhibition. They had several applicants and one can imagine that various out of works tutors may have applied. The orginal story appeared in Ananova For further information click here.
    Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire general information. Other news about the hermit was posted on the Quantum Cafe and by the BBC.


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