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The Way of All Flesh (1903)

by Samuel Butler

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,339393,347 (3.55)114
"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 rancor, he savaged contemporary values and beliefs, turning inside-out the conventional novel of a family's life through several generations.The Way of All Flesh tells the story of Ernest Pontifex and his struggles with Victorian mores, his restrictive, highly religious family, and Victorian society itself. Butler is remembered as one of the greatest of the anti-Victorians, whose ideas reflected accurately the new, more liberal society that was to come following the death of England's great Queen, and the beginning of a new era.… (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 114 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
I don't know what I thought this book would be about from the title; I thought it could have been about the will being weaker than the flesh. It's not about that --it's about a boy whose father was a clergyman in England, and who of course shoved all his hypocritical beliefs down his throat, along with his mother. The boy, because of a family friend and his aunt Alethea, ends up having his eyes opened to reality as to his father and mother, and to the teachings of his religion. I loved that Butler shows the Bible's story of Jesus' resurrection to be malarkey. if you are like me and was brainwashed by the (Catholic) Church, you know what a battle it is to unbrainwashed yourself and open your eyes. I could have used well this book years ago, but maybe it will do it's good work to other minds that need enlightening. ( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
A hellscreen in the form of a bildungsroman, flecked throughout with wonderful humanist musings on religion, literature, education, economics, and ethics. Samuel Butler is a truly great thinker. ( )
  schumacherrr | Feb 21, 2022 |
Fiction
  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 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (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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Epigraph
We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.

—Rom. viii.28
Dedication
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.
Quotations
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"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 rancor, he savaged contemporary values and beliefs, turning inside-out the conventional novel of a family's life through several generations.The Way of All Flesh tells the story of Ernest Pontifex and his struggles with Victorian mores, his restrictive, highly religious family, and Victorian society itself. Butler is remembered as one of the greatest of the anti-Victorians, whose ideas reflected accurately the new, more liberal society that was to come following the death of England's great Queen, and the beginning of a new era.

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Average: (3.55)
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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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