Happiness in the Age of Victoria

Happiness

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.”

 Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Charles Dickens was a fierce critic of poverty and the social stratification endemic within Victorian society.  Even today, we still encounter the idea of keeping up with a wealthy lifestyle.  There is a subtle promise that happiness comes from buying the “niceties” of life.

John Stuart Mill, a philosopher, advocate for human rights and a contemporary of Charles Dickens once said, “I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.”  Perhaps frugality is the mechanism that helps us to live within our means and gently reminds us that happiness cannot be purchased.  Happiness is already free.

24 thoughts on “Happiness in the Age of Victoria

  1. Love those Victorians – and towering ones you have here!

    I read the other day that people often assume that to be happy means having a lot of money. But that really the happiness comes with what that money can buy – ie the freedom of choice. So if one’s choice is not very expensive, one does not need much money!

    We exchanged comments a while ago about the need to lift one’s eyes up from the path to look around – here is another classic example of where we could all benefit from taking ourselves off automatic pilot!

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    • I agree! wholeheartedly! Freedom of choice – what a wonderful gift. I often wonder what it would be like to follow a blog by Charles Dickens! Can you imagine how many followers he would have…

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  2. Money does not bring happiness, but only help you to live. Happiness is within us – we can find it or not – it is strongly linked with love for others. If we can not find it – the wealth won’t help – we become like dragons in “Hobbit” : alone, immersed in gold, injurious to others.

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    • Well said – the linkage is with love for others. Money does not buy happiness; it give us the means to sustain our needs for home, food, security. And speaking of J.R.R. Tolkien! I love when he said, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” The greatest happiness that I have experienced is in the company of family and friends.

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    • A very interesting point and one that I have considered many times, especially with the passing of my father last year. It seems that I can divide my life into two simple parts – the time for accumulation; the time for de-accumulation. In my 20’s and 30’s and 40’s I was busy with marriage and raising a son, building a career, maintaining a household etc. Now, I lead a much simpler lifestyle. What once meant so much to me has lost relevance in the face of living more in the moment. Someone once said to me, we only borrow “things.” Our homes, our cars, our careers, our things – even time. We pass from moment to moment almost like we are renting the space. So back to your thought – yes, I agree – I realize that I have all that I ever desired. And I appreciate it so much more than when I was younger. Thank you so much for your visit…

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      • I love your divisions of accumulation and de-accumulation; very apt for my life too. Hopefully, my accumulations were always reasonably modest. Not so sure though because sometimes I look around me and think STUFF, what is all this STUFF? And if it is only borrowed, (which is a lovely idea) would the real owner please come and take it back?🙂

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  3. Happiness is not an object, or a static state. It’s a feeling, often elusive.
    In the attempt to obtain a happiness by purchase, it becomes a possession, a “thing”. Things tend to accumulate, become burdens, and burdens slow progress along the way to happiness…
    John Stuart Mill begins with “I have learned to seek my happiness….”
    Our constitution guarantees “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”
    Both imply that travel is required; travel light and one may catch up with the Bluebird of Happiness!

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    • Thank you so much for sharing your words of wisdom! I agree – we are in the travel mode when we are pursuing happiness. It seems that flexibility and openness should be our companions along the way. I know that the Bluebird of Happiness would welcome our presence. Your visit and comments are very much appreciated!

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    • I have wondered that myself over the years. Perhaps experiencing the bitterness of not finding happiness in “things” challenges us to examine the matter more closely. As Tolkien once said, “You can only come to the morning through the shadows.”

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    • Thank you, my dear friend for your encouragement and thoughtfulness. I am honoured and delighted! I am even more excited that we have connected over the blogger miles – I am enjoying our dialogue! We may be on opposite sides of the world, but we are travelling the same path…

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    • The 365/52 project has given me a new perspective on simplicity. We rush through out lives – only now that I look over my photos, I realize how much was there for me to appreciate – the flower, the bird, the sun…

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