Samuel Butler (1835-1902)

Samuel Butler (1835-1902)

Samuel Butler (1835-1902)

Samuel Butler (1835-1902)

Excerpt

The modern world hears much of Samuel Butler the iconoclast. It is indeed upon his iconoclasm that his reputation mainly rests. It was Samuel Butler who first laughed at the gods of Victorian England; it was Samuel Butler who thawed that first tiny hole in the icy crust of Victorian morality, through which were soon to pour the floods of Shavian invective; it was Samuel Butler who first took the portentous lay figure of Victorian complacency by the throat and shook it until the stuffing came out. Butler, then, was a satirist, a mocker, a jester, not savage like Swift, but irreverent like a schoolboy who laughs his masters out of countenance. He pricked the bubbles, the reputations popped, and the mischievous laughter of the schoolboy was heard in the background.

In this capacity Butler is well enough known to-day. Complete editions of his works, cheap editions of his works, biographies and commentaries have carried his name into the remotest suburbs, where, since the modern disrespect for anything over thirty years old has preceded him . . .

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