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216 × 138 mm
328 pages
51 illustrations, 10 in colour
20 Oct 2017
Renaissance Lives

John Evelyn A Life of Domesticity John Dixon Hunt

The work of English writer, gardener and diarist John Evelyn is of great historical value. His most famous work, his Diary, which he kept throughout his life, is considered an invaluable source of information on more than fifty years of social, cultural, religious and political life in seventeenth-century England. But Evelyn’s work is often overshadowed by the literary contributions of his contemporary and friend Samuel Pepys.

John Dixon Hunt’s biography takes a fresh look at the life and work of one of England’s greatest diarists, focusing particularly on the seventeenth-century notion of ‘domesticity’. He explores Evelyn’s domestic life and, more importantly, the domestication of foreign ideas and practices in England. From his early, extensive European travels, Evelyn imbibed ideas above all on the management of estate design and developed an understanding of how to explore English topography. The book puts Evelyn’s great accomplishment – making European garden art available in the UK – into context alongside a range of social and ethical ideas.

Illustrated with visual material from Evelyn’s time and often from his own pen, this is an ideal introduction to a seventeenth-century figure of huge importance in early modern Britain.

‘In John Evelyn: A Life of Domesticity John Dixon Hunt plays with the concept of the “domestic“ both in its sense of life in the home and the family, relationships and beliefs, and in the 17th century sense of “domesticating“ (ie bringing home from abroad) ideas from elsewhere. Professor Hunt describes a man who combined a strict adherence to the scientific and empirical principles of Sir Francis Bacon with a most un-English openness to Continental advances in garden-making. Hunt is particularly interesting on the last decades of Evelyn’s life, a period largely ignored by other biographers.’ – Historic Gardens Review

‘A principal theme of his biography is his achievement in making European garden arts accessible to a British audience and in influencing estate design and management . . . Evelyn’s diaries and correspondence provide a rich source of material, and these have been expertly distilled to provide insights into the seventeenth century life of a landowner and scholar . . . Anyone interested in the development of garden design, particularly in the latter half of the seventeenth century, will find this book a rich source of ideas . . . Despite the existence of several earlier biographies it stands as a definitive account of a domesticity in both senses: on the one hand, home life; and on the other, the process of assimilating new ideas into the national consciousness.’ – Bulletin of the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust

‘John Dixon Hunt’s richly textured and highly readable account sheds new light on Evelyn . . . This is more than a biography. It is an invaluable insight into a world in intellectual ferment, on the brink of the modern age.’ – Tom Williamson, Professor of Landscape History, University of East Anglia.

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John Dixon Hunt is Emeritus Professor of the History and Theory of Landscape, University of Pennsylvania. His previous books include A World of Gardens (Reaktion, 2012), Site, Sight, Insight: Essays on Landscape Architecture (2016) and The Making of Place (Reaktion, 2016).