Samuel Butler, the Incarnate Bachelor

Samuel Butler, the Incarnate Bachelor

Samuel Butler, the Incarnate Bachelor

Samuel Butler, the Incarnate Bachelor

Excerpt

Few men have told us so much about themselves as Samuel Butler. Six large Notebooks, scrupulously indexed, with long accounts of his personal relationships; sixteen volumes of general correspondence; the autobiographical chapters of The Way of all Flesh--Butler took care that we should know all about him. Festing Jones carried on the tradition with one of the most detailed biographies in the language. Jones was, nevertheless, hampered by his inability, or unwillingness, to make use of the family correspondence, and what he gives us in the Memoir (1919) is substantially Butler's own view of himself and his father. Canon Butler may have been very like Theobald Pontifex; but, except for Mrs R. S. Garnett Samuel Butler and his Family Relations (1926), his case has never been really presented. Since he was the most important person in Butler's life, the source from which his whole revolt against Victorian ideology derives, any book about Butler must be to some extent a book about his father. Mrs Garnett wrote with charm and good sense; she had the advantage of a family connection with Butler's younger sister; but her portraits are nevertheless based mainly upon hearsay.

Festing Jones Memoir has an enduring fascination and is still the main source of our knowledge of Butler. But one cannot help feeling that Jones, in his piety, almost buried his friend beneath the accumulated detail of his two bulky volumes, and with much of this detail the harassed reader of today is likely to feel a little impatient --unless he is already a Butler devotee. There are also serious gaps in Jones's account and more than a suspicion of an attempt to conventionalize his subject. Of the more . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.