Books

The Way of All Flesh

Samuel Butler

The Penguin English Library Edition of The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler

'The greater part of every family is always odious; if there are one or two good ones in a very large family, it is as much as can be expected'

Written with great humour, irony and honesty, The Way of All Flesh exploded perceptions of the Victorian middle-class family in its radical depiction of Ernest Pontifex, a young man who casts off his background and discovers himself. The awkward but likeable son of a tyrannical clergyman and a priggish mother, and destined to follow his father into the church, Ernest gleefully rejects his parents' respectability, and chooses instead to find his own way in the world.

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Erewhon

Samuel Butler (and others)

Setting out to make his fortune in a far-off country, a young traveller discovers the remote and beautiful land of Erewhon and is given a home among its extraordinarily handsome citizens. But their visitor soon discovers that this seemingly ideal community has its faults - here crime is treated indulgently as a malady to be cured, while illness, poverty and misfortune are cruelly punished, and all machines have been superstitiously destroyed after a bizarre prophecy. Can he survive in a world where morality is turned upside down? Inspired by Samuel Butler's years in colonial New Zealand and by his reading of Darwin's Origin of Species, Erewhon (1872) is a highly original, irreverent and humorous satire on conventional virtues, religious hypocrisy and the unthinking acceptance of beliefs.

The Way of All Flesh

Samuel Butler (and others)

'I am the enfant terrible of literature and science. If I cannot, and I know I cannot, get the literary and scientific big-wigs to give me a shilling, I can, and I know I can, heave bricks into the middle of them.' With The Way of All Flesh, Samuel Butler threw a subversive brick at the smug face of Victorian domesticity. Published in 1903, a year after Butler's death, the novel is a thinly disguised account of his own childhood and youth 'in the bosom of a Christian family'. With irony, wit and sometimes rancour, he savaged contemporary values and beliefs, turning inside-out the conventional novel of a family's life through several generations.

The Way Of All Flesh

Samuel Butler (and others)

Samuel Butler (1835–1902) made one reputation during his lifetime with his Utopian satire Erewhon, and a second reputation after his death with The Way of All Flesh, published posthumously. This novel, the story of Ernest Pontifex, is a thinly disguised autobiography in which Butler brutally but hilariously savages the financial, sexual, familial and spiritual hypocrisies of late Victorian England.

Biography

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) was an author, literary critic, philosopher, painter and translator of Homer. After a disagreement about his career with his father, a clergyman who had been pressured into joining the Church by his own father, Butler left England to become a sheep farmer in New Zealand. The letters he wrote to his father from here formed the basis of his utopian satire Erewhon. The Way of All Flesh, a semi-autobiographical exploration of Victorian family life and indictment of Victorian hypocrisy, was published posthumously in 1903.