Minimalists in History: Ray Stannard Baker

Ray Stannard Baker

“As I worked alone here in my fields, with the great world all open and beautiful around me, I said to myself, ‘I will be simple, I will not dodge or prevaricate or excuse; I will see the whole of life.'”
– David Grayson, Hempfield

Journalist Ray Stannard Baker was famous for his muckraking articles and Pulitzer Prize-winning official biography of Woodrow Wilson.

He also promoted progressive plain living. Under the pseudonym David Grayson, he wrote nine popular novels espousing the pleasures of rural simple living. In addition, he wrote a series for The American Magazine as Grayson.

The first of the books, Adventures in Contentment, describes how he abandoned the city and a life of ambition for the countryside, discovering satisfaction in the life of a farmer.

“[S]implicity does not necessarily, as some of those who escape from the city seem to think, consist in doing without things, but rather in the proper use of things.”
 – David Grayson, Adventures in Contentment

Although most people today have never heard of David Grayson, his writings were extremely popular. Fan letters arrived by the thousands,and people across the country started “David Grayson clubs.” More than two million copies of the Grayson novels were sold.

A letter from a reader published in The American Magazine indicated that he and his wife had “become David Graysonized.” “On a very moderate income you can be very happy,” he said, “when you have acquired, as we have, the habit of contentment.”

If you’re interested in Grayson’s work, visit the Gutenberg Project, where you can read five of his novels for free.

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