What I Demand of Life by Frank Swinnerton

My Deal-Me-In Challenge has been going the way of my other challenges this year, but I thought with a few months left in the year, I might try to resurrect it and at least finish well.  We’ll see …. In any case, I drew the queen of Spades, which gave me an essay entitled, What I Demand of Life by Frank Swinnerton.

At the age of 40, Swinnerton is evaluating his life: what he has experienced and musing on the years to come.  While men can be failures in a number of ways, few fail from aiming too high, yet many aim amiss or do not aim at all and are like parasites on others.  These men should be pitied.  Swinnerton then lists things he does not want:

  1. money
  2. fame
  3. a life of gaiety
  4. possessions
  5. innumerable acquaintances
  6. contentment
  7. people to sing “for he’s a jolly good fellow”

Wealth has no value and breeds insincere friends.  Fame lacks privacy, brings judgement and breeds pomposity and tyrants.  Poverty gave Swinnerton a good spirit and he was able to land a job with a publish company, J.M Dent and Co., a job which honed his insights into human character.  He realized his dreams about living in a cottage, writing “goodish” novels and marrying for love.  He has good friends, the best, in fact, a good nature and because he is not labelled among the popular authors, is able to write what he wants.

Now we get to the title.  What does Swinnerton demand of life?

  1. health
  2. privacy
  3. moderate security
  4. affections of those dear to him
  5. some leisure
Swinnerton is advocating a life of modest means.

“That is the whole point.  No man can be satisfied with his attainment, although he may be satisfied with his circumstances …… I have been returning thanks to good fortune.  I have been betraying perhaps, a readiness to be pleased with small results.”


Swinnerton does not have lofty ambitions but only wishes to live the remainder of his life in enjoyment, immune from hardship.

“I do not demand to be happy, because I expect — on a basis of experience — to be happy.  Is not happiness the most satisfactory of all possessions? …. when I come to die I shall be able — in spirit at least — to repeat the memorable last words of William Hazlitt ….. ‘Well, I’ve had a happy life.’  Which of us — uncertain travellers as we are upon uncharted ways — can ask to say more?  Not I.”


While I found Swinnerton’s modest desires and thoughtful life philosophy interesting, I cannot say his expectations were particularly realistic.  Could he really be happy simply on expectation?  Could he avoid hardship because he had already experienced it and was therefore immune to it?  Could his moderate philosophy really bring happiness?

I supposed the fewer expectations we have, the less chance of being disappointed. There is something to be said for appreciating our lives as they are.  However, I’m not certain if I am in complete agreement with Swinnerton’s approach to life.  What about you?  Is it better to accept mediocrity and be happy or to strive for higher ideals and perhaps encounter more dissatisfaction and strife but also maybe experience more intense joy and satisfaction?

Deal Me In Challenge 2018 #2 ~ Queen of Spades


0 thoughts on “What I Demand of Life by Frank Swinnerton

  1. That essay sounds pretty deep… I can certainly see where he's coming from, being one who prefers a simple life. On the other hand, my experience has been that drama/strife will find you whether you want it or not. Following your ideals, you sort of choose your battles, instead of waiting for them to show up. 🙂

  2. I know exactly what you mean. And I couldn't help thinking, what if you get a chance to do something grand or lofty or highly meaningful? Do you refuse because you want to stay moderate and simple? I think Swinnerton would refuse and I'm not sure I'd agree. But his ideas are very thought-provoking, that's for sure!

  3. i've read several of Swinnerton's books and they were enjoyable but somewhat underwhelming… my impression is that he was a sort of man-about-town, a social butterfly type… but he wrote some biographies, one on Arnold Bennett which i have and mean to read pretty soon…
    i tend to agree with Swinnerton's premise: my life has been a product of accident in the main, taking directions i couldn't have imagined in my youth… anticipating the future seems a bit solipsistic, as the world seems to ignore what goes on inside our heads…

  4. Funny, I thought you might be familiar with Swinnerton. I can see him as a social-butterfly and also a man of different ideas who holds onto them with an iron grip. He doesn't seem like one who would be swayed.

    I was somewhat disappointed that he didn't really distinguish the difference between contentment, which he said he didn't want, and happiness, which he said he did. I would have liked to find out more.

    I agree ….. while I think on one hand it's good to learn from the past and be able in some cases to anticipate the future (such as how our actions might affect us in the future), it's more important to live in the present and enjoy every moment!

Thanks for visiting. I'd love to hear from you and have you join in the discussion!