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The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler

The Way of All Flesh (1903)

by Samuel Butler

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2,549282,364 (3.56)82
  1. 00
    As Good as God, as Clever as the Devil: The Impossible Life of Mary Benson by Rodney Bolt (nessreader)
    nessreader: Way of all flesh is a novel about monster victorian sanctimonious paterfamilias; Life of Mary Benson is about a real one, her husband the archbishop of canterbury. Both books are hilarity-propelled rants that are in the end touching.

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I didn't like the whole chapters devoted to moralizing on the actions and thoughts of the characters. Butler seems to like to hit us over the head with his values, as if we can't figure them out for ourselves. Otherwise this wasn't a bad book. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
This is becoming a lost classic. It is very specific, very English novel that surprisingly captures enduring human feeling, from politicians that are too good to how it feels when you can no longer return to a place where you lived. ( )
1 vote linenandprint | Feb 22, 2015 |
The narrator tells the story of three generations of the Pontifex-family, a supposedly typical Victorian family, with all that comes with it. The emphasis is on the youngest generation and we follow Ernest from infancy into adulthood. Because the reader receives flashes-forward, you already know that he will be fine in the end, so it's not nearly half as interesting to follow his adventures as it might have been without knowing the end. The storyline itself was quite simple, even simplistic and I don't think the author did much with it. He lets the narrator, Ernest's godfather, go on and on and on about theological and philosophical themes. Or he lets Ernest travel or get ill, without doing much else with it. Although the strength of this novel should have been the characters, I thought they were little more than cardboard puppets. All in all I thought this was a rather clumsy, tedious book. You might wonder why I continued reading, but after 100 pages, I had high hopes this was going somewhere and after 200 pages, I thought it too late to stop. Unfortunately, imo, the next 200+ pages were more of the same. I have read better books from that era than this one. Or did I miss something? ( )
1 vote MGovers | Nov 18, 2013 |
I did not appreciate the author's sneering attitude to things, as I recall ( )
  Schmerguls | Jun 12, 2013 |
At first I was really enjoying this book, for I like the prolixity of Victorian novels and their comments on society. However, as the story of Ernest Pontifex wore on, and on and on, I found too much philosophizing with only occasional bits of dialogue, action and humor to break it up. The book was not published until 1903, years after the author's death, and is a good argument for the editor's blue pencil, which might have improved it. It was a book that was supposed to blow the lid off the Victorian family, not to mention the Church and society in general. Anyone who's read Anne Perry's Victorian historical mysteries will have come across far worse things happening to children in perfectly respectable families than anything that happens to Ernest. The narrator's voice grates more and more as he allows himself to give way to his desire to philosophize. I'd much rather be reading Trollope. ( )
1 vote auntieknickers | Apr 14, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (28 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Butler, SamuelAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arnett, Curtis JamesIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cochrane, JamesEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoggart, RichardIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Streatfeild, R. A.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weber, J. SherwoodAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zabel, Morton DauwenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.

—Rom. viii.28
First words
When I was a small boy at the beginning of the century I remember an old man who wore knee-breeches and worsted stockings, and who used to hobble about the street of our village with the help of a stick. He must have been getting on for eighty in the year 1807, earlier than which date I suppose I can hardly remember him, for I was born in 1802.
It is better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all.
it seems to me that youth is like spring, an overpraised season - delightful if it happen to be a favourable one, but in practice rarely favoured and more remarkable, as a general rule, for biting east winds than genial breezes. Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers, we more than gain in fruits. (Chapter VI)
A pair of lovers are like sunset and sunrise: there are such things every day but we very seldom see them.  (Chapter XI)
The devil, in fact, when he dresses himself in angel's clothes, can only be detected by experts of exceptional skill, and so often does he adopt this disguise that it is hardly safe to be seen talking to an angel at all. (Chapter XIX)
those who are happy in this world are better and more lovable people than those who are not   (Chapter XXVI)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140430121, Paperback)

'I am the enfant terrible of literature and science. If I cannot, and I know I cannot, get the literary and scientific big-wigs to give me a shilling, I can, and I know I can, heave bricks into the middle of them.' With "The Way of All Flesh", Samuel Butler threw a subversive brick at the smug face of Victorian domesticity. Published in 1903, a year after Butler's death, the novel is a thinly disguised account of his own childhood and youth 'in the bosom of a Christian family'. With irony, wit and sometimes rancour, he savaged contemporary values and beliefs, turning inside-out the conventional novel of a family's life through several generations.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:34 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

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."… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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