Origin of evolutionary psychology's view of man?: The hired hermits of ye olde British landscape parks?
A hack friend writes:
One of you asked the other day what were the terms for hiring hermits to staff the grotto, folly, or cell in yer landscape park in 18th-C Blimey. I am now in a position to answer that question, thanks to ye Shell Gardens Buke (ed. Peter Hunt, 1964), acquired in junque store yesterday at Port Credit, Ont. (a.k.a. South Mississauga).
The standard contract is seven years. Food & drink to be supplied by the house, but to be consumed discreetly. Hermit is forbidden to cut hair, beard, or nails during period of employment. Hermit must affect to be eating gnarled bones, glaring through matted hair, &c, on approach of visitors. No words to be spoken. Hut not to be left. On no account is hermit to slip down to ye village pub for a quick one. Payment reserved as large lump sum at end of contract. (This strongly favoured the employer, since many recruits freaked & ran away after a year or two. No mention of an hermits' union.)
Well, Frederick of Prussia hired Voltaire, but I think he got a better arrangement.
So, here we have it, the traditional "wild man" of Western European literature eventually morphs into the landscape park hermit attractin in the days of Wedgewood* china, and eventually into the Pleistocene cave man of evolutionary psychology. Plus ca change ...
*Darwin's wife Emma was a Wedgwood heiress.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.
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