The Way of All Flesh is a semi-autobiographical novel by Samuel Butler that attacks Victorian-era hypocrisy. In 1998, the Modern Library ranked The Way of All Flesh twelfth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. The story is narrated by Overton, godfather to the central character. The novel takes its beginnings in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to trace Ernest's emergence from previous generations of the Pontifex family. John Pontifex was a carpenter; his son George rises in the world to become a publisher; George's son Theobald, pressed by his father to become a minister, is manipulated into marrying Christina, the daughter of a clergyman; the main character Ernest Pontifex is the eldest son of Theobald and Christina. The author depicts an antagonistic relationship between Ernest and his hypocritical and domineering parents. His aunt Alethea is aware of this relationship, but dies before she can fulfill her aim of counteracting the parents' malign influence on the boy. However, shortly before her death she secretly passes a small fortune into Overton's keeping, with the agreement that once Ernest is twenty-eight, he can receive it. As Ernest develops into a young man, he travels a bumpy theological road, reflecting the divisions and controversies in the Church of England in the Victorian era. Easily influenced by others at university, he starts out as an Evangelical Christian, and soon becomes a clergyman. He then falls for the lures of the High Church (and is duped out of much of his own money by a fellow clergyman). He decides that the way to regenerate the Church of England is to live among the poor, but the results are, first, that his faith in the integrity of the Bible is severely damaged by a conversation with one of the poor he was hoping to redeem, and, second, that under the pressures of poverty and theological doubt, he attempts a sexual assault on a woman he had incorrectly believed to be of loose morals. This assault leads to a prison term. His parents disown him. His health deteriorates. As he recovers he learns how to tailor and decides to make this his profession once out of prison. He loses his Christian faith. He marries Ellen, a former housemaid of his parents, and they have two children and set up shop together in the second-hand clothing industry. However, in due course he discovers that Ellen is both a bigamist and an alcoholic. Overton at this point intervenes and pays Ellen a stipend, and she happily leaves with another for America. He gives Ernest a job, and takes him on a trip to Continental Europe. In due course Ernest becomes 28, and receives his aunt Alethea's gift. He returns to the family home until his parents die: his father's influence over him wanes as Theobald's own position as a clergyman is reduced in stature, though to the end Theobald finds small ways purposefully to annoy him. Ernest becomes an author of controversial literature.
When the traveller Higgs discovers the remote land of Erewhon, he finds himself amongst a strange race who have forbidden the use of machines, who suppress originality and uphold the study of unreason and hypothetics.
As fresh and original today as when it was first published in 1872, Erewhon, inspired by Darwin's The Origin of Species, is Samuel Butler's brilliant satirical response to religious and social orthodoxy.
A semi-autobiographical novel that attacks Victorian era hypocrisy as it traces four generations of the Pontifex family. Butler dared not publish it during his lifetime, but when it was published, it was accepted as part of the general revulsion against Victorianism.
Samuel Butler (4 December 1835 – 18 June 1902) was an iconoclastic Victorian-era English author who published a variety of works. Two of his most famous pieces are the Utopian satire Erewhon and a semi-autobiographical novel published posthumously, The Way of All Flesh. He is also known for examining Christian orthodoxy, substantive studies of evolutionary thought, studies of Italian art, and works of literary history and criticism. Butler made prose translations of the Iliad and Odyssey, which remain in use to this day (font: Wikipedia)
Erewhon: or, Over the Range' is a novel by Samuel Butler which was first published anonymously in 1872. Erewhon is a fictional country in the story, which is discovered by the protagonist. Butler meant the title to be read as "nowhere" backwards even though the letters "h" and "w" are transposed, as it would have been pronounced in his day. The book is a satire on Victorian society.
It is hardly necessary to apologise for the miscellaneous character of the following collection of essays. Samuel Butler was a man of such unusual versatility, and his interests were so many and so various that his literary remains were bound to cover a wide field. Nevertheless it will be found that several of the subjects to which he devoted much time and labour are not represented in these pages. I have not thought it necessary to reprint any of the numerous pamphlets and articles which he wrote upon the Iliad and Odyssey, since these were all merged in "The Authoress of the Odyssey,” which gives his matured views upon everything relating to the Homeric poems.
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