The Way of All Flesh


By Samuel Butler

cover image of The Way of All Flesh

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Samuel Butler (4th December 1835 – 18th June 1902) had both a father and grandfather in the church and was being groomed by his father to be a priest. However, after a first at Cambridge, he decided he wanted to be an artist. His father could not and would not consider such a thing and by mutual consent Samuel went to New Zealand to be a sheep farmer. Here he started writing which he continued on his return to London as well as taking up painting. Whilst he did have several paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy, his talent undoubtably was in his writing but the extent of which was only really apparent after his death. This was due entirely to his great work, "The Way of All Flesh" published the year after he died to tumultuous acclaim which is well illustrated by George Bernard Shaw describing it as "one of the summits of human achievement." "The Way of All Flesh" is a thinly disguised autobiographical account of his own harsh Christian upbringing as it traces the life and loves of Ernest Pontifex and his family. Along the way, it satires Victorian values and beliefs and with brilliant wit and irony offers a powerful indictment of most 19th-century institutions in England. Each generation has found that despite the book savaging Victorian hypocrisy, it still speaks to every era as ultimately the theme of young people growing up wanting a greater degree of personal freedom than their parents is very much alive and kicking in most families around the world.

The Way of All Flesh