Butler was a British writer best known for his satire Erewhon.
He was born in Langar Rectory, near Bingham, Nottinghamshire,
England, into a long line of clerics, preordained as it were to
a career in church in his father's wish and expectation. He went
to Shrewsbury School, where his grandfather, Bishop of Lichfield
and Coventry, had been headmaster before retiring. He then went
up to his father's alma mater, St John's College, Cambridge, in
1854, taking a First in Classics in 1858. The graduate society
of St. John's is named the Samuel Butler Room (SBR) in his honour.
Following graduation from Cambridge, he lived in an low-income
parish in London during 1858 and 1859 as preparation for his ordination
to the Anglican clergy; there he discovered that baptism made
no apparent difference to the morals and behaviour of his peers
and began questioning his faith. This experience would later serve
as inspiration for his work The Fair Haven. Correspondence with
his father about the issue failed to set his mind at peace, inciting
instead his father's furor. As a result, he emigrated to New Zealand,
a British colony since 1840, to put as much distance as possible
between himself and his family. He wrote about his arrival and
his life as a sheep farmer on Mesopotamia Station in A First Year
in Canterbury Settlement (1863).
returned to England in 1864, settling in rooms in Clifford's Inn
(near Fleet Street), where he lived for the rest of his life.
In 1872 his satirical novel Erewhon appeared anonymously, causing
some speculation as to the identity of the author; when Butler
revealed himself as the author, some expressed disappointment
that none of the more famous personages speculated about had written
made Butler a well-known figure, and he wrote a number of other
books, including a not so successful sequel, Erewhon Revisited.
His semi-autobiographical novel The Way of All Flesh did not appear
in print until after his death, as he considered its tone of attack
on Victorian hypocrisy too contentious.
revealed Butler's long interest in Darwin's theories of biological
evolution, though Butler spent a great deal of time criticising
Darwin, not least because he believed that Charles had not sufficiently
acknowledged his grandfather Erasmus Darwin's contribution to
the origins of the theory.
Butler developed a theory that the Odyssey came from the pen of
a young Sicilian woman, and that the scenes of the poem reflected
the coast of Sicily and its nearby islands. He described the evidence
for this theory in his The Authoress of the Odyssey (1897) and
in the introduction and footnotes to his prose translation of
the Odyssey. Robert Graves elaborated on this hypothesis in his
novel Homer's Daughter. Butler also translated the Iliad. His
other works include Shakespeare's Sonnets Reconsidered (1899),
a theory that the Bard's sonnets, if rearranged, tell a story
about a homosexual affair.
English satirist Aldous Huxley openly admitted the influence of
Erewhon on his novel Brave New World.
Project Gutenberg has available A first year..., Erewhon, Erewhon
Revisited, The Way of All Flesh and several other of his works
for free download at . The Authoress of the Odyssey is apparently
not online; however, Project Gutenberg also has available Butler's
translations of the Odyssey and of the Iliad.
the 1920s Jonathan Cape published Butler's collected works in
twenty volumes as The Shrewsbury Edition of the Works of Samuel
Butler, but printed only 750 copies, making a complete set (if
it can be found at all) unaffordable for the common reader. More
easily available are the editions published by A.C. Fifield in
1908-1914. Erewhon and The Way of All Flesh remain in print as
Samuel's friend Henry Festing Jones wrote the authoritative biography:
the two-volume Samuel Butler, Author of Erewhon (1835-1902): A
Memoir (commonly known as Jones's Memoir), published in 1919 and
now only available from antiquarian booksellers. Project Gutenberg
 hosts a shorter "Sketch" by Jones. More recently,
Peter Raby has written a life: Samuel Butler: A Biography (Hogarth
Press, 1991). The best edition of The Way of All Flesh, sadly
out of print, is edited by Daniel F. Howard as Ernest Pontifex,
or The Way of All Flesh (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1964). An enterprising
publisher should reprint this. For a critical study, mostly about
The Way of All Flesh, see Thomas L. Jeffers, Samuel Butler Revalued
(University Park: Penn State Press, 1981).
honest God's the noblest work of man."
is no such source of error as the pursuit of absolute truth."
the righteous man turneth away from his righteousness that he
hath committed and doeth that which is neither lawful nor quite
right, he will generally be found to have gained in amiability
what he has lost in holiness."
is faith but a kind of betting or speculation after all? It should
be, "I bet that my Redeemer liveth.""
like any other moving body follows the path of least resistance."
more unpopular an opinion is, the more necessary it is that the
holder should be somewhat punctilious in his observance of conventionalities
clergyman can hardly ever allow himself to look facts fairly in
the face. It is his profession to support one side; it is impossible,
therefore, for him to make an unbiased examination of the other."
is in the uncompromisingness with which dogma is held and not
in the dogma, or want of dogma, that the danger lies."
God wants us to do a thing, he should make his wishes sufficiently
clear. Sensible people will wait till he has done this before
paying much attention to him."
in general are equally horrified at hearing the Christian religion
doubted, and at seeing it practised."
are to men as dolls are to children. They are not without use
and comfort, but it is not easy to take them seriously."
is the medical sacrament corresponding to baptism."
holy people look when they are sea-sick!"
apology for the Devil -- it must be remembered that we have only
heard one side of the case. God has written all the books."
himself every one is an immortal. He may know that he is going
to die, but he can never know that he is dead."