Samuel Butler Books

Easton Press Samuel Butler books:
The Way of All Flesh - 100 Greatest Books Ever Written - 1980
Erewhon - Collector's Library of Famous Editions - 1984


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"The Way of All Flesh" was initially rejected by publishers and remained unpublished until after Butler's death.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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