Eremeticism as Romanticism

One of the negative (indeed, tragically pathological) effects of the modern revival of interest in the eremitical life has been the (happily rare) appearance of those eager to “rediscover” or “recreate” some romantic version of eremiticism. This suggests that the life of the Hermit is essential some archaeological or anthropological artefact which needs to be dug up, dusted off and reconstructed in the modern world. The contemporary Hermit cannot be a participant in a “costume drama”, some sort of eremitical “Downtown Abbey”! As amusing as the “decorative Hermit” may be (see, for example, Gordon Campbell’s “The Hermit in the Garden. From Imperial Rome to Ornamental Gnome” (2013)), the eremitical life is not intended to be a species of theatre.

This doomed experiment of “romantic eremiticism” is paralleled in attempts at reviving “monastic life” in the Church of England in the 19th and early 20th centuries, so carefully documented by Peter Anson.
building up the waste places
Peter F. Anson (1889-1975), “Building up the Waste Places. The revival of monastic life on medieval lines in the post-Reformation Church of England” [Faith Press, London, 1973]
nashdom abbey
One of the saddest characters in this pseudo-historical drama was “Ignatius of Llanthony” (Joseph Leycester Lyne, known by his religious name as Father Ignatius of Jesus (23 November 1837 – 16 October 1908).
ignatius photo
His life and eccentric career is well documented in Arthur Calder-Marshall’s “The Enthusiast: An Enquiry into the Life, Beliefs and Character of the Rev. Joseph Leycester Lyne, Alias Fr. Ignatius OSB, Abbot of Elm Hill, Norwich and Llanthony Wales” (London: Faber & Faber, 1962) and some hagiographical works by his devotees.
ignatius cartoon
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Leycester_Lyne, http://www.fatherignatius.com/ and http://trushare.com/0155APR08/09lost_victorian_monk.htm

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