May 19, 2013
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"The Hermit in the Garden" by Gordon Campbell
The British gentry hired live hermits in the 18th century to live in places like this one in Foremark.
The tradition extended all the way back to the Roman Empire, when the emperor Hadrian built himself a miniature villa on a tiny island near his palace.
Gordon Campbell, a professor at the University of Leicester, has traced the history and lasting influence of perhaps the strangest trend in the history of landscaping.
The hermit, Campbell argues in his book, was a public symbol of an emotion that we have since learned to bury: melancholy.
Subtle relics exist today in the form of hidden benches positioned for intimate conversation and even — most literally — garden gnomes.