Some of the eighteenth-century hermits employed by rich landowners were in fact characterized as “Druids.”
Campbell clearly had fun with his quest for real hermits. At Hawkstone in Shropshire, a bare-footed and venerable Fr Francis regularly posed with his stock-in-trade: a skull, an hourglass and book. Although replaced at times by an automaton, Hawkstone’s hermit – a hereditary post – may have survived into the twentieth century. The impecunious Charles Hamilton reputedly advertised for a hermit for his Gothic hermitage at Painshill in Surrey, offering a fee of 700 guineas (some reports say 500) to anyone able and willing to meet his stringent conditions over seven years: to go barefoot in a woollen robe, never to cut beard or nails, or to speak with the servant who brought his food. Although the advertisement cannot now be traced, the hermit undoubtedly existed, and Campbell’s exhaustive enquiries confirm how ubiquitous hermits were in Georgian Britain.
Maybe there is still a niche waiting to be exploited here, for either philosophy majors or designers of animatronic hermits.