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William Johnson Dawson
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 147 pages of information about The Quest of the Simple Life.
but useful, for I added dainties to my larder.  In the city I lived to work; here I worked to live.  I might go further and say that in the city I lived to work for other people, for my brains were daily exploited that my master might maintain a house at Kensington, and when the landlord, the water-lord, the light-lord, and the rate-collector had all had their dues from me there was little enough left that I could call my own.  Here, on the contrary, all that I did had an immediate and direct relation to my own well-being.  The amount of work I had to do to live was light, and I bought with it something that was my own.  We are so used to the exactions of a complicated and artificial life, that it is an amazing discovery to ascertain how small is the toll of labour which Nature asks of those who live naturally.  You have but to do certain things which in themselves are pleasures to obtain ample means of life; and as these things are soon and easily done by a healthy human creature there is an abundant leisure at his command.  To split pine-logs, dig a garden, pull a heavy boat down the lake after fish, tramp up the hillside to collect the sheep, are simply so many exercises of the body, the equivalents of which town youths find in the gymnasium or the football field; the difference is that all this exertion in the gymnasium, which the town youth takes to keep up his health, would in the country keep him.  The same amount of muscular exertion which a town youth puts forth to chase a ball round a twenty acre field would, if properly applied, put a roof over his head and food on his table.  The sports of the civilised man are means of life to the natural man.  If a man must needs sweat, and be bemired, and have an aching back, it is surely better economy to have a house and a good meal at the end of it all than merely a good appetite for a meal that he has yet to pay for.  I do not object to buy health in hard physical exercise if I can buy it in no other way; but I am better satisfied if I can buy health and a meal at the same time and for the same price.  This is practically what is done every day by men who live in the country.  In a town they would undertake an equal amount of muscular exertion for the sake of health, and would find that they still had ‘to go to business’ to live; here they have done their business in doing their pleasure.

Earth-hunger is without doubt the most wholesome passion men can entertain, and if Governments were wise they would do all they could to fortify and gratify it.  On the contrary, the settled policy of English Government is entirely hostile to it.  There is no country where it is so difficult to acquire freehold land in small quantities—­a subject on which I shall have more to say presently.  Bad land-laws lie at the back of what we call the urban tendencies of modern life.  If fifty years ago the Irish peasantry had had the same facilities for acquiring land that they have to-day, it is safe to say that

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