Samuel Butler And: The Way of All Flesh

By G. D. H. Cole | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER V EREWHON

EREWHON, or, Over the Range, published in 1872, is the story of an imaginary journey to an unknown country, cut off completely from contact with the rest of the world. Erewhon, of course, is "Nowhere" written backwards; and its customs were mainly inversions of those of the Victorian England which Butler was setting out to satirise. In Erewhon what we call crime was regarded as a form of disease needing medical attention and calling for sympathy, whereas what we call disease was treated, and punished, as serious crime. In Erewhon, machinery, instead of being worshipped as the source from which all blessings flow, was execrated and forbidden. In Erewhon there were two kinds of banks and currency--one used for real business transactions and the other--the "Musical Banks" and their token money--merely for show and pretence. Erewhon was Victorian England back to front; and the result was very amusing.

Erewhon was Butler's one commercially successful book; and even its success was very modest. Its author was also usually very modest about its merits, and inclined sometimes to depreciate it severely. That, however, was when he was contrasting its reception with that of other works, such as Life and Habit, which he held to be of much greater importance, or when, in his letters, he was combating Miss Savage's evident desire to turn him into a regular purveyor of threedecker novels. Really, Butler, at any rate in later life,

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