Samuel Butler

Samuel Butler

Samuel Butler

Samuel Butler

Excerpt

SAMUEL BUTLER, sometimes called ' Erewhon ' Butler to distinguish him from his seventeenth-century namesake, the author of Hudibras , was born in 1835 and died in 1902. His best-known book in his own day was Erewhon , that amusing satire on the conventions and standards of his age; but of late he has been better known as the author of The Way of All Flesh , his only true novel, which was composed over many years, but published only after his death. His writings make up a curious collection. There are the stones-- The Way of All Flesh , Erewhon and its sequel Erewhon Revisited , and the satirical memoir of an John Pickard Owen which forms the opening part of his essay in the higher criticism, The Fair Haven . Then there are four books, beginning with Life and Habit , in which he sets forth his own theory of creative evolution and attacks the Darwinians. These books have never been widely read; but the popularization of some of their ideas by Bernard Shaw has given Butler's theory a currency much wider than it got in his lifetime. Next come two books about Italy and his wanderings there-- Alps and Sanctuaries and Ex Voto -- both concerned with the people and, most of all, with the arts in their setting of land and people. Akin to these, because it took Butler to Sicily and has a similar setting, is that queer book, The Authoress of the Odyssey , in which he tried to prove that that poem was composed by a Sicilian woman and that the geography of Odysseus' wanderings is that of Sicily and the neighboring lands. Nor is this the only oddity--another is his edition and rearrangement of Shakespeare Sonnets , in which he attempted to reconstruct the story lying behind them, in such a way as to infuriate Shakespearian scholars as much as he had already enraged in turn the biblical critics, the Darwinians, and the classical . . .

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