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The Quest of the Simple Life

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This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery.

93 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 1907

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About the author

William James Dawson

97 books1 follower
William James Dawson (1854–1928) was an English clergyman, author, and the father of Coningsby Dawson. He was born at Towchester, Northamptonshire, was educated at Didsbury College, Manchester, and entered the Wesleyan ministry in 1875. He resigned from the Wesleyan ministry and entered the Congregational in 1892. in 1904 he resigned his charge in London to devote himself to evangelistic work.

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5 stars
99 (21%)
4 stars
180 (38%)
3 stars
133 (28%)
2 stars
31 (6%)
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21 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 27 of 27 reviews
Profile Image for Daniel Frank.
266 reviews33 followers
August 31, 2019
An absolutely delightful book. I read this in one sitting on my balcony with a cup of tea and Ryan Adams in the background and had a smile on my face throughout.

Written in 1907, this book laid the blueprints for the FIRE movement (Financial Independence Retire Early). I highly recommend this short book for anyone interested in nature, minimalism, stoicism or FIRE.
Profile Image for Siddarth Gore.
245 reviews17 followers
December 14, 2017
It starts off well. The language is different and rich. I was learning a new word on very page. It is honestly and earnestly written. A worth while read.

Then then like all autobiographical books the authors life diverges from the things that you can identify with. After that identification is lost you really cannot keep on reading it. If some happens to share the exact same tastes as the author then surely they will enjoy this till the end.
Profile Image for Camille Michiko Gica.
49 reviews2 followers
June 17, 2017
I am truly grateful for this book.

Having stumbled upon "The Quest of the Simple Life", I would have gladly paid the price for it. I don't know what else to say, but for those who somehow have the desire to live simply in their hearts, I would recommend this book. And maybe for those who are somehow forced to live simply due to some circumstances, this might be insightful to them. I enjoyed this book. It serves me well and I am truly grateful for it. It is not a page-turner kind, but it has something wonderful to offer to the world. I hope some will take it. I long towards a life in this direction, although not entirely in the same way, but of a very similar substance.
November 8, 2020
A beautiful memoir based on transcendentalism which emphasizes How little a man needs to have a heartful and a fulfilled life. Resembles Thoreau's Walden and Emerson's Nature
Profile Image for Tere.
130 reviews2 followers
August 20, 2020
I was looking more about Slow Life when I found this free ebook in the Kindle Store. It's written by a man living in London in 1907, he was tired of the city, his job, feeling just alive and not living. I can't relate more while reading it because I'm stuck in a big city during the 2020 covid19 pandemic. He has a really poetic way of writing, with old words and really long sentences. It's a slow read, with patience, we are not used to this anymore. It's nice to see all the changes the world made in more than a hundred years and all we have yet to go.
Profile Image for Sterlingcindysu.
1,341 reviews47 followers
May 21, 2022
Live simply so that others may simply live.
― Mahatma Gandhi

A short free read for Kindle from Amazon. Written in 1907 this has to be one of the first financial books about how to live vs. earn a living.

Now this has to be fiction because according to the internets this was where he was living when he wrote it--

So, sure a person could live on the land--farmers have been doing it forever--and the clerk in the story obviously found his niche. However there wasn't a word about how his wife felt doing 4x the work or how his young sons coped as they got older. In fact, how did *he* cope once he got older and couldn't spade his potatoes?

One thing he mentions that I agree with, is the advantage of shopping during the day. As he says, "If he shops at the hour when all the drudges are working, no one will take him for a drudge" and he got great service from a clerk. (However he bought a book he said he couldn't afford, so that's that.) Another action he takes, which I think is wonderful, is that he sells all his furniture when he moves. Since I live in retirement community more people should do that vs. trying to cram rooms with furniture they no longer need.

Another interesting quote--"Marriage is ordained not for man's pleasure but for his discipline."

Since he was a minister about 1/3 of the book is about him not being able to "do good works" being selfish and living in the country. He argues that being good is just as important as doing good. Since he was becoming a jack of all trades in fixing up his house I thought the "good works" he could offer was to fix plumbing, etc in the city.

Anyway, most of the book is about how wonderful nature is, not the financial aspects of his life.

Profile Image for Emil Petersen.
433 reviews20 followers
March 7, 2021
This is about a guy who left the big city to find himself (and his family) in the rural countryside. He spends quite a while pondering why and what good it has done him. It's about a hundred years old, but I found it highly relevant. I live in a "big city" (Copenhagen, capitol of Denmark, as of March, 2021) and for work I basically sit in front of my computer all day; it would be perfectly fine if I did this from some house in the middle of nowhere. and I love the outside (yes, even though I am a Computer Scientist) and property/land is way more cheap once you get at some distance. This book got me thinking about all of this. I definitely recommend it.
Profile Image for Sam Klemens.
223 reviews15 followers
January 12, 2019
I oddly liked this book. It was sort of hokey and biased and silly at parts. Even long winded in the beginning. But there was something about it. Maybe just that the author seemed earnest and I thought it was cool that he had the wherewithal to give up his city life and transplants his family.

It was almost like a very, very lite version of Emerson. It's a short book anyways, I think it's worth reading.
Profile Image for Colleen Mertens.
1,042 reviews4 followers
January 18, 2020
This book chronicles one writers desire to leave London for a simple life in the country to determine if it could be done. For this author, it could and was quite nicely. The tome expounds on simple vs city living to determine which is closer to how man in general should live. It was interesting to read his thoughts though at times the tone is a little dry.
Profile Image for Vikas Suresh.
54 reviews
November 18, 2018
One of the best books on living, the title is so apt. I like the parts on expenses, though it’s a century old book it is striking how true it is even today. It’s no surprising that 30% to 40% of our income goes on keeping up with the joes.

It is one of those books that you keep coming back to.
Profile Image for Lisa.
Author 32 books114 followers
March 19, 2018
Intriguing example of previous century Londoner coming to the realization that he preferred to live and raise his family is a different environment than the expensive big city.
September 18, 2015
This book for me was a debate about the choices a Man must make when he chooses a mode of life, a life that is self sufficient, isolated, avoiding the conflicts of life's struggle, or a life that is in a constant battle with his contemporaries, his leaders, but collectively is a progress for the race. I found the arguments on both side to be just in their own thought. That man's action should not be judged by his individual outcome but rather by the collective outcome of the race. It should also be kept in mind that not every man can lead a life that will directly impact the race, and hence neither extremes should be imitated everyone, it is only that man should choose his niche and yet contribute to the progress of mankind, lest he not waste his skills. Man should also devote his time and energy to the skill that will bring out the maximum potential within himself thereby contributing to the well being of society in the best possible way.
There is also a talk about whether Man should devote his time to leading the race or helping the destitute, a direct correlation to which is, A Man should not be bogged down by the ailing part of his body but rather strengthen his mind to lead his will. Seeing the poor does make the sunshine unpleasant, but maybe leading their mind is the broader picture for humanity rather than softening the heart seeing their penury.

I have found this book very enriching especially as I was in a crossroad of my own.
178 reviews1 follower
December 21, 2022
A book written at the beginning of the 1900s from a London finance professional who moved to the countryside in search of a simpler life. Different style of English so a bit dated, but some good reminders.

Some notes I took:

The true zest of all pleasures lies in contrast

For rich men, it is the pursuit of wealth rather than the wealth itself that is their pleasure

The anxieties of getting money only begets the more torturing anxiety of how to keep it

Is it worth it to destroy the power of living in attaining the means to live?

The man who can buy anything he wants values nothing that he buys

Satisfaction is the death of progress

Work that is not genuinely loved cannot be done well

Women of the best kind have much more garnish in finance compared to men

For more notes and quotes, see here - https://www.anichexperience.com/book-...
Profile Image for Sanjeev.
145 reviews6 followers
June 12, 2015
Author started with criticizing city life, then he went to a village and settled there and started praising how village life is economical. Though I am a city - guy I agree with so far. Then he produced a counter argument that living in city itself is kind of philanthropic and called going back to village is selfish. He lost me there. Then he refuted it and wrote how change happens in the society , totally agreed with that point. Then he went on talking how a city should be. That's where I stopped enjoying and read for the sake of finishing it.

Great book for those who romanticize village living ( like my dad ) .

I might have criticized it , but , this is one good book, I am glad I finished. Taught me how people living in city depends on others for house chores and simple house repairs.
Profile Image for Matt Wilson.
8 reviews3 followers
January 22, 2022
I found this randomly in the gutenberg project catalog of free books.

This is a memoir by a dude living in London in like 1905, working in a white-collar middle class job, trying to get ahead.

He loves the energy and excitement in London. But he also feels like there's more to life than just trying to win the rat race. So he decides to do something about it.

This guy died before my grandparents were born. But when he talks about feeling frustrated in city life, I felt like I could have been reading blog posts from people in my generation today.

Really good stuff.
Profile Image for Dave Bolton.
192 reviews80 followers
November 13, 2011
Though written a century ago, this small book shows that the alienation of the individual spirit in a big city was just as much a problem then as now. I'm assuming that since the industrial revolution was much more recent when Dawson wrote this (indeed, it was still in swing, as apparently a large proportion of people still earned their keep through agriculture) that the idea was a little newer though. I thought it was engaging and honest. Enjoyable.
Profile Image for Sheri.
49 reviews1 follower
December 23, 2014
This book may not be for everyone, but I found it while reading free Kindle books on sustainable living. It was REALLY cool to read about one man's quest from 100 years ago to leave the hustle-and-bustle of London life in pursuit of things truly valuable. He waxes a bit preachy at moments, but as a voice of the past it is remarkable how much he sounds like a lot of my friends now! A fun piece of history.
Profile Image for Shelley.
536 reviews38 followers
March 2, 2015
It is a little slow. Some may find it boring, but I love getting a glimpse of his quest to simplify life. He talked of walden pond some.
So many great quotes from it. I love him and his boys just waking up and going into the woods to swim and enjoy themselves, then coming home to read classics together. Sounds refreshing.
Profile Image for Mitzi.
396 reviews33 followers
June 4, 2016
This book was written in 1907, but most of it can easily be applied to modern life - I guess it goes to show that some things never change? The first 3rd of the book hit home with me most of all, when he goes into detail on his thoughts on living in a city and working for a living. Well worth a read!
9 reviews
November 4, 2013
While this book was written nearly 200 years ago, many of the ideas and arguments hold up well even today. For anyone who has felt trapped by city living, numerous material possessions, and a yearning for the simple life, this book is highly recommended.
6 reviews3 followers
October 14, 2014
I found this book intriguing. I agree with much of what Dawson wrote, though I feel the second to last chapter was a better ending. The final chapter talks about a future that 'may one day be' for London. I suppose the first-hand experiences were easier to read than his thoughts of the future.
4 reviews6 followers
April 19, 2013
Taking into consideration the time it was written, I found this book a beautiful and informative read.
Displaying 1 - 27 of 27 reviews

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