BUTLER, Samuel

Born: December 4, 1835, in Langar Rectory, near Bingham, Nottinghamshire, England

Died: June 18, 1902, in London, England

Samuel Butler's conservative early upbringing was succeeded by a life of challenging the conventional wisdom of the day and today he is characterized as an independent thinker and significant part of the anti-Victorian period. He was born to Fanny Worsley Butler and Reverend Thomas Butler, and attended Shrewsbury School where his grandfather was headmaster. In 1858 he graduated from St. John's College, Cambridge with a first class degree. He soon departed from convention and family tradition, however, by refusing his father's wishes for him to join the clergy. Instead he emigrated to New Zealand in 1860 where he successfully farmed sheep for four years. During the first night of his voyage he symbolically stopped saying his prayers and never resumed.

Upon his return to England in 1864, he found accomodations at Clifford's Inn which was to remain his home for the rest of his life. He continued to travel, however, most notably to Italy and to Montreal, Canada, where he invested in an unsuccessful tanning factory.

Throughout his life Butler also continued the interest in the arts which had begun before his emigration. Having studied at Heatherley's art school, he exhibited ocasionally at the Royal Academy between 1868 and 1876. While in New Zealand he had a piano imported and entertained his neighbours with the works of Handel, his favourite composer. He also composed music himself, including Ulysses: An Oratorio.

His reputation for challenging the prevailing views of the time, however, was attained primarily through his written work. Although he wrote several treatises on Darwin's theory of evolution, he is little known for his role in the advancement of this field of study, or for his work on the Homeric legends. Erewhon, a satirical novel written in the form of a travelogue in an imaginary land, and published in 1872, was the only book from which Butler made a profit. Ironically, the work for which he is best remembered, The Way of All Flesh, was written between 1873 and 1885 but published only posthumously in 1903. Like Erewhon<\i>, this text attacked the values espoused by his father and is an important example of the type of work which influenced young writers of the period, including E.M. Forester and George Bernard Shaw.