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The Way of All Flesh (1903)

by Samuel Butler

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3,193353,217 (3.55)112
Hailed by George Bernard Shaw as "one of the summits of human achievement," Butler's autobiographical account of a harsh upbringing and troubled adulthood satirizes Victorian hypocrisy in its chronicle of the life and loves of Ernest Pontifex. Along the way, it offers a powerful indictment of 19th-century England's major institutions.… (more)
  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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» See also 112 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
  hpryor | Aug 8, 2021 |
A huge book following lots of people leading boring lives; almost redeemed by its historical flavor but unfortunately let down by its self-righteous, intrusive narrator.

Just like the Bible, and just as (un)interesting. ( )
  HellCold | May 13, 2021 |
Reading a book written over a century ago is a very different experience than reading our modern, high-impact, explicit stories of today. This book is a bit wordy. It is filled with the author's philosophy on life, morals, and religion. However, the characters are wonderful and full of life, and the message that men and women are mere mortals and full of flaws remains the same no matter how the text is worded. Poor Ernest Pontifex lives a interesting, eventful , and sometimes tragic life. Raised by parents who seemed to care more for money than their children, he suffers from poor self-esteem and a loss of identity. After enduring incarceration, an alcoholic wife, and many years of searching, he finally finds peace in following his heart. ( )
  PaulaGalvan | Jan 20, 2021 |
I find it quite hard to read and understand, with its theological and philosophical themes. The characters are quite tedious too like Ernest and his parents. And the most likable character, Ernest's aunt, had to die young. However, I did learn one thing from the book - compound interest works. Ernest's godfather had invested the money from his aunt for him and the money grew over the years, thus leaving more money for Ernest to inherit. ( )
  siok | Jan 25, 2020 |
Witty, sarcastic attack on the institutions of Victorian England published in 1903 (but written decades earlier). Most of the humor still holds up, and I really enjoyed most of the book. I don't seek out novels of that period as a rule, because I generally dislike their prolixity and find their themes dated and uninteresting. This is an exception. It's on the 5 side of 4 stars.


I found the description of how alcohol destroys one poverty-stricken female character to be annoying, but perhaps Butler was just trying to avoid being overly politically correct (i.e., because opponents of religion, say, also had to believe that the poor were more virtuous than the wealthy). ( )
  Robert_Musil | Dec 15, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Samuel Butlerprimary authorall editionscalculated
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
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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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Hailed by George Bernard Shaw as "one of the summits of human achievement," Butler's autobiographical account of a harsh upbringing and troubled adulthood satirizes Victorian hypocrisy in its chronicle of the life and loves of Ernest Pontifex. Along the way, it offers a powerful indictment of 19th-century England's major institutions.

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Average: (3.55)
1 11
1.5 1
2 29
2.5 9
3 84
3.5 30
4 82
4.5 9
5 59

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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