June 1, 2015


I've always been a fan of Martha Grimes' Richard Jury, not least because of his ridiculous friends. Most of her novels feature Jury's friend Melrose Plant who has renounced his title, though not his fortune, and lives on the family estate in idle wealth the way we Americans imagine all earls living. In all his eccentricities, the most outlandish was his adopting of a hermit to live in his purpose-built hermitage.
I am now reading a completely different book by a different author (Dorothy Cannell's Murder at Mullings) and the main character's mother tells of a hermit living on the family estate where she was a housemaid.
This being too much of a coincidence, I did a brief internet search and discovered that, as absurd as it seems, English lords did employ "hermits" in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Per Wikipedia:
In some early instances, hermits were simply represented or hinted-at, rather than personified; outside a folly or grotto, a small table and chair, reading glasses and a classical text might be placed suggesting that it was where a hermit lived. Later, suggestions of hermits were replaced with actual hermits – men hired for the sole purpose of inhabiting a small structure and functioning as any other garden ornament. Hermits would sometimes be asked to make themselves available to guests, answering questions and providing counsel. In some cases, the hermits would not communicate with visitors, functioning instead like a perpetual stage-play or live diorama.
In return for their services-in-residence, hermits would generally receive a stipend in addition to room and board.
Our "hermitage" previously referred to as the Mother-in-law suite.
What would the want-ad look like for this job?

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