I’ve always thought of solitary holy men being creatures of the past, but this comes from 1872 in Wales. I love it because it makes me feel much better about my inability to tidy my flat.
As Kilvert was preparing to leave his post near the town of Hay in mid Wales, he seems to have done a farewell tour which took in places he had not visited, including to that of a solitary minister living in poverty on Llanbedr Hill. He knocked on the door of the small, apparently deserted hut, and a strange creature emerged:
[He was] rather below the middle height, abut 60 years of age, his head covered with a luxuriant growth of light brown or chestnut hair and his face made remarkable by a mild thoughtful melancholy blue eye and red moustache and white beard. The hermit was dressed in a seedy faded greasy suit of black, a dress coat and a large untidy white cravat, or a cravat that had once been white, lashed round his neck with a loose knot and flying ends. Upon his feet he wore broken low shoes and in his hand he carried a tall hat. There was something in the whole appearance of the Solitary singularly dilapidated and forlorn and he had a distant absent look and a preoccupied air as if the soul were entirely unconscious of the rags in which his body was clothed.
The Solitary came forward and greeted us with the most perfect courtesy and the natural simplicity of the highest breeding.
The old man was waiting for his landlord to deliver his supply of peat, so they waited.
“I sat in amazement taking mental notes of the strangest interior I ever saw. Inside the hut there was a wild confusion of litter and rubbish almost choking and filling up all available space. The floor had once been of stone but was covered thick and deep with an accumulation of the dirt and peat dust of years. The furniture consisted of 2 wooden saddle-seated chairs polished smooth by the friction of continual sessions, and one of them without a back, a 4 legged dressing table littered with broken bread and meat, crumbs, dirty knives and forks, glasses, plates, cups and saucers in squalid hugger-mugger confusion. No table cloth. No grate. The hearth foul with cold peat ashes, broken bricks and dust, under the great wide open chimney though which stole down a faint ghastly sickly light. In heaps and piles upon the floor were old books, large Bibles, commentaries, old-fashioned religious disputations, C.M.S. Reports and odd books fo all sorts. Luther on the Galatians, etc. The floor was further encumbered with beams and logs of wood, floor pans covered over, and old chests. All the other articles of food were hung up on pot hooks some from the ceiling, some in the chimney out of the way of the rats. The squalor, the dirt, the dust, the foulness and wretchedness of the place were indescribable, almost inconceivable. And in this cabin thus lives the Solitary of Llanbedr, the Revd. John Price, Master of Arts of Cambridge University and Vicar of Lanbedr Painscastle.