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, John Evelyn A Life of Domesticity, 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.

John Evelyn A Life of Domesticity - John Dixon Hunt (Professor Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania) in conversation with Thalia Allington-Wood (Warburg Institute) and François Quiviger (Warburg Institute)

This event took place on 5 May 2023. 

Renaissance Lives is a series of biographies published by Reaktion Books as well as a series of conversations discussing the ways in which individuals transmitted or changed the lives of traditions, ideas and images.