9 January 2014

If a Man Will Be Content With Oatmeal

William James Dawson (1854-1928), "On Losing Money," The Book of Courage (New York: F. H. Revell, 1911), pp. 89-90:
It is a sad irony on the human wisdom which has been contriving plans of living for so many centuries that, after all, with average men, the largest expenses of life go to keeping up appearances. The worst of this kind of expense is that a man pays a part of his soul with his money; for nothing puts so heavy a mortgage on the spirit as this base business of keeping up appearances. Thoreau found by actual experiment that he could live as well as he desired on less than one hundred dollars a year. Without recommending, or attempting to practise Thoreau's methods, we may profitably recollect that some of the greatest men have known how to live greatly on less money than a rich man spends for his cigars in a twelvemonth. Emerson lived loftily and well on the most exiguous rewards, and Carlyle laid the foundations of his fame in the austere poverty of Craigenputtock. The ironical motto of the early Edinburgh reviewers was to the effect that they cultivated literature on a little oatmeal, and if a man will be content with oatmeal he can go a long way in literature. At all events, when we find men who, by common consent, are the superiors of princes, living upon less than princes pay their grooms, it is obvious that money does not play a high part in the best forms of human achievement.
Ozias Leduc, Nature morte, étude à la lumière d’une chandelle (1893)