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A Roving Recluse

Peter Anson
Date Published
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A Roving Recluse is the second volume of memoirs by Peter Frederick Anson; the eccentric monk, writer and artist who became Britain’s leading authority on 19th and 20th century church décor and religious ritual. Whereas Anson’s first memoir, Harbour Head chronicled the lives of fishermen and his abiding interest in the sea, this volume (published in 1946) is concerned with the religious life.

In A Roving Recluse twelve of the author’s elegant line drawings evoke the world he describes. He first joined the Benedictine order on the Island of Caldey just at the moment when the majority of the monks converted to Roman Catholicism. He next became attached to the Franciscans in Italy when he embarked on his career of connoisseur extraordinaire not just of church furnishings, but also of church characters: Abbot Sir David Oswald Hunter-Blair; Eric Gill at Ditchling pouring scorn on ungodly railway lines and typewriters; the enigmatic couple Raffalovich and Gray. Anson brings unrivaled insights into the strangely exotic world of 20th century monastic communities, most of them now dispersed and their buildings demolished or converted into luxury spa hotels.


Peter Frederick Anson (1889-1975) was born in Southsea, the son of a Rear Admiral with strong ties to the Church of England and the monarchy and on his mother’s family’s side, strong ties to Scotland. Throughout his life Anson would live out the tensions between these early influences of the sea, the Church and Scotland and his attempts to reconcile…

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