Hermits Through History

by Elissa Haney

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Saint Anthony. Many scholars agree that Saint Anthony, an Egyptian monk who lived from about A.D. 251 to 350, was the first person to seek a life of solitude in the name of Christianity. Challenged by the devil in his first years of seclusion, Saint Anthony successfully resisted every temptation and went on to live a long life alone, mainly in the desert.

Walden; Or, Life in the Woods
Juliana of Norwich. Considered one of the greatest English mystics, Juliana is one of the few female hermits who can claim celebrity status. She spent her years of solitude writing the religious work Revelations of Divine Love, completed c. 1393.

Henry David Thoreau. Some may dispute Thoreau's status as a hermit. During his two years and two months in Walden Woods, he received visitors and took trips into town. However, Thoreau's decision to "live deliberately" encapsulates the spirit of positive, nonreligious hermitude and his writings have inspired many to seek the solitary life–or at least to spend time in the solitary act of reading.

Herman's Hermits. Though this British pop group of the 60's was too public to fit into the hermit category, their worldwide name recognition no doubt helped to bolster appreciation for hermits everywhere.

—Elissa Haney is an editor at Information Please.

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