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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.
the question whether my continual inward protest against the kind of life which I led was founded on anything more stable than an opinion or a sentiment?  No man ever yet took a positively heroic or original course for the sake of an opinion.  Opinion must become conviction before it has any potency to change the ordering of life.  I saw plainly that I must either bring my thoughts to the point of conviction or discard them altogether.

There is a good phrase which is sometimes used about men who are members of a party, without in any way entering into its propagandist aims—­we say that they ‘do not play the game.’  They may have excellent philosophic reasons for their aloofness, or even admirable scruples; but parties do not ask for either.  Parties ask for party loyalty, and to give this loyalty personal scruples must be set aside.  I could not but apply this doctrine to my own state of mind.  London asked me to play the game, and I was not playing it.  It was impossible to put heart into a kind of life which I inwardly detested.  I did my day’s work with a mind divided; and, although no one could accuse me of wilful negligence, yet a child could see that my work missed that quality of entire efficiency which makes for success.  I might count myself much superior to men like Arrowsmith by the possession of superior sentiments, yet, in the long run, my sentiment debilitated me, and his destitution of sentiment was a source of power to him in the kind of work we both had to do.  To the man who detests the nature of his employment as I detested mine, I would say at once, either conquer your detestation or change your work.  Work that is not genuinely loved cannot possibly be done well.  It is no use chafing and fretting and wishing that you lived in the country, if you know perfectly well that you have not the least intention of living anywhere but in the town.  If it is town life you are really bent upon, the sooner rustic instincts are uprooted the better for you.  London can prove herself a complaisant mistress to those who desire no other, but she will give nothing to those who flout her in their hearts.  In plain words there is no middle course between accepting the yoke or finally rejecting it; either course may be justified, but it is the silliest folly to accept with complacency a yoke which you mean to shake off the moment you have courage or opportunity to revolt.  London marks such dissemblers with an angry eye, as captains mark reluctant soldiers; and if time holds no disgrace for them it will certainly bring them no advancement.

Were my fine theories composed of mere fluid sentiment, or had they some more consistent element in them which was capable of hardening into invincible conviction?  That was my problem.  It was debated in season and out of season.  Gradually the two dominant factors in the problem became evident; they were health and economics.

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