Samuel Butler

Butler, Samuel (1835–1902, English author)

Samuel Butler, 1835–1902, English author. He was the son and grandson of eminent clergymen. In 1859, refusing to be ordained, he went to New Zealand, where he established a sheep farm and in a few years made a modest fortune. He returned to England in 1864 and devoted himself to a variety of interests, including art, music, biology, and literature. Besides exhibiting some of his paintings (1868–76) at the Royal Academy, he composed several works in collaboration with Henry Festings Jones, among them the Handelian Narcissus: A Dramatic Cantata (1888). His Erewhon, in which he satirized English social and economic injustices by describing a country in which manners and laws were the reverse of those in England, appeared in 1872. It brought Butler immediate literary fame. Erewhon Revisited was published in 1901. Butler opposed Darwin's explanation of evolution, finding it too mechanistic, and he expounded his own theories in Evolution Old and New (1879), Unconscious Memory (1880), and Luck or Cunning as the Main Means of Organic Modification? (1887). In his single novel, the autobiographical The Way of All Flesh (1903), he attacked the Victorian pattern of life, in particular the ecclesiastical environment in which he was reared. Brilliantly ironic and witty, The Way of All Flesh is ranked among the great English novels. Butler's notebooks were published in 1912.

See selections from the notebooks ed. by G. Keynes and B. Hill (1951). See also A. Sliver, ed., The Family Letters of Samuel Butler, 1841–1886 (1962); biographies by H. F. Jones (1921, repr. 1973), L. E. Holt (1964), and P. Henderson (1953, repr. 1967); study by W. G. Becker (1925, repr. 1964).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Samuel Butler: Selected full-text books and articles

Samuel Butler By G. D. H. Cole Longmans, Green Co., 1952
The Way of All Flesh By Samuel Butler Jonathan Cape, 1931
Erewhon and Erewhon Revisited By Samuel Butler Modern Library, 1927
Samuel Butler and The Way of All Flesh By G. D. H. Cole Home and Van Thal, 1947
Librarian’s tip: This is a book of literary criticism
Samuel Butler (1835-1902) By C. E. M. Joad Leonard Parsons, 1924
Samuel Butler, the Incarnate Bachelor By Philip Henderson Indiana University Press, 1954
Samuel Butler, a Mid-Victorian Modern By Clara G. Stillman The Viking Press, 1932
Fifty Major Thinkers on Education: From Confucius to Dewey By Joy A. Palmer; Liora Bresler; David E. Cooper Routledge, 2001
Librarian’s tip: "Samuel Butler, 1835-1902" begins on p. 138
The Age of Milton: An Encyclopedia of Major 17th-Century British and American Authors By Alan Hager Greenwood Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "Samuel Butler (1612/1613-1680)" begins on p. 57
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