Samuel Butler

Easton Press Samuel Butler books

The Way of All Flesh - 100 Greatest Books Ever Written - 1980
Erewhon - Collector's Library of Famous Editions - 1984


Samuel Butler biography

Samuel Butler, a 19th-century English author, satirist, and philosopher, was born on December 4, 1835, in Langar, Nottinghamshire, England. Known for his sharp wit, original thinking, and unconventional views, Butler made notable contributions to literature and philosophy. Butler was born into a family of clergy, and his father was the rector of Langar. Despite the family's strong religious background, Butler developed an early interest in science, literature, and art. He attended Shrewsbury School and later went on to study at St John's College, Cambridge. However, his time at Cambridge was marked by a certain rebelliousness against the religious orthodoxy of the time.

In the mid-1850s, Butler traveled to New Zealand, seeking to establish a sheep farm. His experiences in New Zealand would later influence his writings, particularly in his semi-autobiographical novel Ernest Pontifex, published posthumously as The Way of All Flesh. The novel satirized Victorian family life and the oppressive influence of religion. Returning to England in 1864, Butler dedicated himself to a career as a writer. His early works included satirical essays, and he gained recognition for his wit and originality. In 1872, he published "Darwin Among the Machines," a provocative essay exploring the idea that machines and technology could evolve in a manner analogous to biological evolution.

One of Butler's most famous works is Erewhon, published anonymously in 1872. The novel is a satirical exploration of a fictional utopian society where sickness is considered a crime, and machines are forbidden. The title Erewhon is an anagram for "nowhere," reflecting Butler's critique of certain societal norms and institutions. In the following years, Butler continued to produce a diverse body of work, including novels, essays, and autobiographical writings. He explored themes such as art, literature, and the complexities of human relationships. The Way of All Flesh, his semi-autobiographical novel, was not published during his lifetime but gained recognition for its modern and realistic portrayal of Victorian family life when it was posthumously published in 1903.

Samuel Butler Poems

Samuel Butler, the 19th-century English author and satirist, is not primarily known for his poetry. His fame rests more on his novels, essays, and philosophical works. However, he did write some poems throughout his lifetime. Notable Samuel Butler poems include The Snail, I Fear'd to Hope and The Skylark.

Samuel Butler's unconventional ideas and his critique of societal norms often put him at odds with contemporary conventions. His later works, such as The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, provide insight into his philosophical musings on subjects ranging from the nature of consciousness to the origins of life. Samuel Butler passed away on June 18, 1902, leaving behind a legacy of thought-provoking and often controversial writings that challenged Victorian sensibilities. His works have continued to be studied and appreciated for their wit, originality, and their impact on the development of satire and philosophical thought in literature.


The Way of All Flesh

Written between 1873 and 1884 and published posthumously in 1903, The Way of All Flesh is regarded by some as the first twentieth-century novel. Samuel Butler's autobiographical account of a harsh upbringing and troubled adulthood shines an iconoclastic light on the hypocrisy of a Victorian clerical family's domestic life. It also foreshadows the crumbling of nineteenth-century bourgeois ideals in the aftermath of the First World War, as well as the ways in which succeeding generations have questioned conventional values.

Hailed by George Bernard Shaw as "one of the summits of human achievement," this chronicle of the life and loves of Ernest Pontifex spans four generations, focusing chiefly on the relationship between Ernest and his father, Theobald. Written in the wake of Darwin's Origin of Species, it reflects the dawning consciousness of heredity and environment as determinants of character. Along the way, it offers a powerfully satirical indictment of Victorian England's major institutions the family, the church, and the rigidly hierarchical class structure.

'The Way of All Flesh' 'exploded like a bomb' in Edwardian England. Based on Samuel Butler's own life & published posthumously, it indicts Victorian bourgeois values as personified in five generations of the Pontifex family.

Ernest's father is a rigid and hypocritical clergyman who expects his son to follow in his footsteps, but Ernest finds himself unable to reconcile his own beliefs with the demands of the Church. He rebels against his father's authority and pursues his own interests, but his efforts are met with resistance from his family and society at large.
The novel explores themes such as the conflict between individualism and conformity, the hypocrisy of Victorian society, the destructive effects of family expectations, and the struggle for personal autonomy in the face of social pressure.
Butler's writing style is characterized by a sharp wit and satire, which he uses to criticize the societal norms and expectations of his time.
"The Way of All Flesh" was initially rejected by publishers and remained unpublished until after Butler's death. It was later recognized as a significant work of English literature and a precursor to modernist literature. It has been praised for its realism, psychological depth, and social commentary.


In this novel, Butler satirically describes a utopian society, using the civilization of 'Erewhon' ('nowhere,' scrambled) to satirize beliefs popular in the England of his day. Butler wrote a sequel to the novel, Erewhon Revisited.

In Erewhon, an anagram for "nowhere," sickness is a punishable crime, criminals receive compassionate medical treatment, and machines are banned, lest they evolve and take over. Originally published in 1872, the proto-steampunk novel Erewhon won its author immediate recognition as a satirist. Samuel Butler followed in the tradition of Voltaire and Swift in creating Erewhon and Erewhon Revisited, which are widely recognized as the nineteenth century's most important works of their kind.

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