Langland and Hermits
L’s identification of holy hermits with those who remain enclosed in cells derives from a transhistorical idealization of the desert fathers, and seems at odds with the sanctioned practices of hermits in late fourteenth-century England. Historical record demonstrates that many hermits were laymen and laborers, granted permission to travel in search of alms and to engage in building projects, practices L derides in his characterization of “landleperis heremytes” whose status seems difficult to distinguish from ordinary peasants. L’s suspicion of hermits as among the undeserving poor anticipates a fifteenth-century drive to clarify the status of hermits.
YLS 11 (1997): 67-86.