The Way of All Flesh

The Way of All Flesh


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The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler







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The Way of All Flesh


(1 Review)
A semi-autobiographical novel that attacks Victorian era hypocrisy as it traces four generations of the Pontifex family. Butler dared not publish it during his lifetime, but when it was published, it was accepted as part of the general revulsion against Victorianism.

Book Excerpt

o my mother a year or two before she died, but we could never make it as she did. When we were children she used sometimes to send her respects to my mother, and ask leave for us to come and take tea with her. Right well she used to ply us. As for her temper, we never met such a delightful old lady in our lives; whatever Mr Pontifex may have had to put up with, we had no cause for complaint, and then Mr Pontifex would play to us upon the organ, and we would stand round him open-mouthed and think him the most wonderfully clever man that ever was born, except of course our papa.

Mrs Pontifex had no sense of humour, at least I can call to mind no signs of this, but her husband had plenty of fun in him, though few would have guessed it from his appearance. I remember my father once sent me down to his workship to get some glue, and I happened to come when old Pontifex was in the act of scolding his boy. He had got the lad--a pudding-headed fellow--by the ear and was saying, "What? Lost again--smothered o

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I came to this because Christopher Morley -- who is awesome -- mentions it in "The Haunted Bookshop." I was a bit apprehensive, what with "The Way of All Flesh" praised to great heights and all.

Let me tell you, I enjoyed this book like no other.

On the one hand, it's a Bildungroman, with all that entails: changes, mistakes, rosy retrospection. And there are some formulaic or at least unsurprising elements of the story.

But what is most impressive is the sheer rebellion of the author. Samuel Butler was a man who one by one tore down and took apart the received truths of his time, in a way that still rings true today. He was more truly rebellious than just about any author I've read.

Add to this a fine prose style and story that never grows dull, you have a great novel. Excellent.