Samuel Butler and The Way of All Flesh

By G. D. H. Cole | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE FAIR HAVEN

RELIGION and its place in everyday life, and the conflict between religion and science, played a big part in the development of Samuel Butler's mind. From the moment when he did begin to think seriously about what was involved in being ordained he was perpetually worrying his head about religion until he had settled firmly where he stood about it, in a positive as well as in a merely negative sense. Then, having disposed of the entire problem to his own satisfaction, he ceased, like Ernest Pontifex, to trouble himself any more about it, and directed his logical faculties and his detective instinct away from the "higher criticism" to such other issues as the authorship of the Odyssey and the geography of the Homeric poems, the true inwardness of Shakespeare Sonnets, and the rescue of the memory of Tabachetti and other forgotten painters. The faculties which he applied in these later studies were much the same as he had used in his "religious" period--a refusal to take anything at all on trust from the people who were supposed to know, and indeed a preconception that they were probably all wrong, a love of inverting current beliefs (the same love as made him delight in turning familiar proverbs inside out), and a readiness to be totally captured by an idea, in such a way that it took full possession of him and went buzzing round and round in his head until he had relieved himself of it by the expulsive force of literary creation.

-61-

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Samuel Butler and The Way of All Flesh
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Chapter I- Who Butler Was 7
  • Chapter II- Creative Evolution 21
  • Chapter III- Parents and Children 37
  • Chapter IV- The Fair Haven 61
  • Chapter V- Erewhon 80
  • Chapter VI- Loves and Likings 93
  • Chapter VII- Le Style, C''Est L''Homme 107
  • Appendices 115
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