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Distributed for Reaktion Books

John Evelyn

A Life of Domesticity

Distributed for Reaktion Books

John Evelyn

A Life of Domesticity

The great English writer and gardener John Evelyn (1620–1706) kept a diary all his life. Today, this diary is considered an invaluable source of information on more than fifty years of social, cultural, religious, and political life in seventeenth-century England. Evelyn’s work is often overshadowed by the literary contributions of his contemporary and friend, Samuel Pepys. This new biography changes that.

John Dixon Hunt takes a fresh look at the life and work of one of England’s greatest diarists, focusing particularly on Evelyn’s “domesticity.” The book explores Evelyn’s life at home, and perhaps even more importantly, his domestication of foreign ideas and practices in England. During the English Civil Wars, Evelyn traveled extensively throughout Europe, taking in ideas on the management of estate design while abroad to apply them in England. Evelyn’s greatest accomplishment was the import of European garden art to the UK, a feat Hunt puts into context alongside a range of Evelyn’s social and ethical thinking. Illustrated with visual material from Evelyn’s time and from his own pen, the book is an ideal introduction to a hugely important figure in the shaping of early modern Britain.

272 pages | 10 color plates, 40 haltones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2

Renaissance Lives

History: European History


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Reviews

"Hunt explains that for Evelyn 'domesticity' had a double meaning: his home life, but also the domestication of 'foreign ideas, new theories, new resources and technologies, as well as learning to live with a rapidly changing and expanding world.' It is in this second sense that Evelyn steps forward, a man ahead of his time with concerns that resonate in the twenty-first century."

Ruth Scurr | Times Literary Supplement

"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 seventeenth-century sense of 'domesticating' (ie, bringing home from abroad) ideas from elsewhere. 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

"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 domesticity in both senses: on the one hand, home life, and on the other, the process of assimilating new ideas into the national consciousness."

Garden History

"Hunt’s thoroughly illustrated book takes readers on a journey through John Evelyn’s efforts at domesticity. . . . Hunt addresses, in a balanced way, key moments from Evelyn’s public and personal life, family, home, and interests. What emerges is a fresh portrait of the acclaimed seventeenth-century figure, one that paints him as a man intent upon employing his personal pursuits for the betterment of England. . . . Hunt’s book is lucid, well-documented, and an informative read for those looking to explore John Evelyn as a keen gardener, an avid learner, and an instructor, both inside and outside of the family. . . . This text [is] a most useful tool in pulling the curtain a little further back on the renowned gardener and intellectual."

Renaissance and Reformation

"Hunt’s John Evelyn: A Life of Domesticity contains ten color plates and forty halftones, is well produced and bound, and in short remarkable value and inexpensive. . . . [A] fine study."

Year's Work in English Studies

"The book has a number of beautiful color images. . . . Hunt declares the Character of England 'great fun to read'; I declare John Evelyn: A Life of Domesticity great fun to read."

Studies in English Literature 1500–1900

"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

“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, University of East Anglia

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