is remembered today for his novels Erewhon
, Erewhon Revisited
, and The Way of All Flesh
. Erewhon, his most important work, is a fictional land ('nowhere' spelled backwards) that serves as the backdrop for his satirical
look at Victorian
society and values.
Butler's father had him educated at Cambridge and wanted his son to be ordained. As part of this training, Butler spent time working among the poor in London. There he found little difference among the morality of those baptized as opposed to those not. Doubts about his faith persuaded him to rebel against his father's wishes and seek a different career.
In his mid-twenties he set sail for New Zealand where he made a living as a sheep farmer. During this time he read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Both would influence him greatly. Though he was at first a great admirer of Darwin, in later years he would criticise Darwin mercilessly.
Butler returned to England in 1864 and lived off of his New Zealand earnings. He took painting classes, but - despite having several paintings hung in the Royal Academy - is regarded as an amateurish painter. In 1872 he published Erewhon and it was a huge success. It would be nearly thirty years before another of his books made money.
Writings of Samuel Butler
First Year in Canterbury Settlement (1863)
Erewhon ( 1872 )
The Fair Haven ( 1873 )
Life and Habit ( 1877 )
Evolution, Old and New ( 1879 )
Alps and Sanctuaries ( 1881 )
Luck or Cunning ( 1887 )
Ex Voto ( 1888 )
The Authoress of the Odyssey ( 1897 )
The Iliad Rendered into English Prose ( 1898 )
The Odyssey ( 1900 )Translation
Erewhon Revisited ( 1901 )
The Way of All Flesh ( 1903 )
Note Books ( 1912 )