- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Modern Library; New edition edition (Sept. 14 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0375752498
- ISBN-13: 978-0375752490
- Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.3 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 417 g
- Average Customer Review: 26 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #917,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Way of All Flesh Paperback – Sep 14 1998
|New from||Used from|
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
From the Inside Flap
The Way of All Flesh is one of the time-bombs of literature," said V. S. Pritchett. "One thinks of it lying in Samuel Butler's desk for thirty years, waiting to blow up the Victorian family and with it the whole great pillared and balustraded edifice of the Victorian novel."
Written between 1873 and 1884 but not published until 1903, a year after Butler's death, his marvelously uninhibited satire savages Victorian bourgeois values as personified by multiple generations of the Pontifex family. A thinly veiled account of his own upbringing in the bosom of a God-fearing Christian family, Butler's scathingly funny depiction of the self-righteous hypocrisy underlying nineteenth-century domestic life was hailed by George Bernard Shaw as "one of the summits of human achievement."
"If the house caught on fire, the Victorian novel I would rescue from the flames would be The Way of All Flesh," wrote William Maxwell in The New Yorker. "It is read, I believe, mostly by the young, bent on making out a case against their elders, but Butler was fifty when he stopped working on it, and no reader much under that age is likely to appreciate the full beauty of its horrors. . . . Every contemporary novelist with a developed sense of irony is probably in some measure, directly or indirectly, indebted to Butler, who had the misfortune to be a twentieth-century man born in the year 1835."
From the Back Cover
'The Way of All Flesh' 'exploded like a bomb' in Edwardian England. Based on Samuel Butler's own life and published posthumously, it indicts Victorian bourgeois values as personified in five generations of the Pontifex family. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.See all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
There is a specific edition of this book which I love, and which can be found easily among used-book dealers. This edition was issued by The Heritage Press, and contains a remarkable introduction by Theodore Dreiser. The introduction is something which I have re-read many times. As a beginning, Dreiser recounts his interaction with an intelligent American engineer, aged about 40, who was looking for a book "with some meat to it." After long hesitation, and after compiling a list of some dozen books, Dreiser finally decided to recommend "The Way of All Flesh."
Six months later, he met the engineer by chance while strolling along a street in San Francisco, and the engineer immediately started praising the novel. "Now there is a book which is honest! I can't think of another book from its time which contains more honesty, and more direct dealing!"
And indeed, this may be the main thing working in favor of "The Way of All Flesh." Samuel Butler read Darwin, and became a believer in the theory of evolution. He was a penetrating observer of the cruelties of Victorian society, and of its hypocrisies. Few people will read this book without being able to remember this startlingly honest portrayal of a man who has just lost his wife, whom he did not love in the slightest:
"Theobald buried his face in his hands to conceal his want of emotion."
But other themes are extremely interesting: the idea of taking up a Christian vocation and going into the slums to dedicate your life to serving the poor -- it might work, but it might be a dreadful idea if you don't know what you're doing.
And how about the narrator's bald statement:
"I know of no better thing for a young man than an independent income." (!!) That sentiment is not going to sit well with the people who believe that only a lifetime of wage-slavery is worth living! But Samuel Butler spoke from experience: when he was in his twenties, he escaped to New Zealand and took up sheep-farming, of all things. But... he did WELL as a sheep-farmer, sold out five years later at a very nice profit, and cleared eight thousand pounds. He invested it at ten percent and therefore had an independent income of eight hundred pounds per year. He returned to London, rented an apartment, and devoted the rest of his life to his intellectual life: writing, painting, and music. He is well-known as the author of "Erewhon," as well as "The Way of All Flesh."
You should really take a look at this book. In some ways, it has shaped my life, in ways that sometimes surprise me. There's a lot of good, honest meat in this book -- and that's probably why it has been continuously in print for over a century, despite the fact that the academics pass over it in silence.
Extremely high recommendation!
In fact, the novel is brilliant and has endured surprisingly well. To see its relevance, all you need do is move its setting 3.000 miles to the West.