Hermits

Something amusing from Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life (2011). In a chapter on gardens, Bryson describes the triumph of “artificial nature,” inaugurated by the Serpentine (1730) in Hyde Park, an unprecedentedly asymmetrical pond. Follies (fake ruins) were also part of this movement, and then:

For a time 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 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 a year for life to anyone who would pass seven years in an underground dwelling on his estate 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 given at least a partial pension for his efforts is sadly unknown.