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Samuel Butler Biography
The first Samuel Butler (1612-1680) was born in or near the town of Upton upon Severn in Worcestershire: he is remembered now for a satirical poem on Puritanism entitled "Hudibras". There is a memorial plaque to him in the small village church of Strensham, Worcestershire.

The figure of Hudibras is a "true blew Englishman," a perfect Puritain knight of the Cromwellian stamp (see the entry on Oliver Cromwell for more). Butler pretends to write a fawning, heroic poem in praise of Hudibras and his exploits, but the poem is a mock heroic or parody.

"Hudibras" was written in an iambic tetrameter in closed couplets, with surprising feminine rhymes. This verse form is now referred to as "Hudibrastic." Consider the following from the opening of the poem, where the English Civil War is described thus:

"When civil dudgeon first grew high,
And men fell out they knew not why?
When hard words, jealousies, and fears,
Set folks together by the ears,
And made them fight, like mad or drunk,
For Dame Religion, as for punk;
Whose honesty they all durst swear for,
Though not a man of them knew wherefore...."

Samuel "Erewhon" Butler
Samuel Butler (1835-1902), author

The second Samuel Butler was born on December 4, 1835, in Langar Rectory, near Bingham, Nottinghamshire, England. He went to Shrewsbury School and St John's College, Cambridge, then emigrated to New Zealand (a British colony since 1840), and wrote about his arrival and his life as a sheep farmer in A First Year in Canterbury Settlement (1863). He returned to England in 1864, settling in rooms in Clifford's Inn (not far from Fleet Street), where he lived for the rest of his life. In 1872 his satirical novel Erewhon was published anonymously, causing some speculation as to the identity of the author; when Butler revealed himself as the author, there was some disappointment that it was not any of the more famous personages speculated about.

Erewhon made Butler a well-known figure, and he wrote a number of other books, including a not so successful sequel, Erewhon Revisited. His semi-autobiographical novel The Way of All Flesh was not published until after his death, as he considered its tone of attack on Victorian hypocrisy would be too contentious.

Erewhon revealed Butler's long interest in Darwin's theories of biological evolution, though Butler spent a great deal of time criticising Darwin, not least because he believed that Charles had not sufficiently acknowledged his grandfather Erasmus Darwin's contribution to the origins of the theory.

He developed a theory that the Odyssey was written by a young Sicilian woman, and that the scenes of the poem were based on the coast of Sicily and its nearby islands. He described the evidence for this theory in his The Authoress of the Odyssey (1897) and in the introduction and footnotes to his prose translation of the Odyssey. Butler also translated the Iliad. His other works include Shakespeare's Sonnets Reconsidered (1899), a theory that the Bard's sonnets, if rearranged, tell a story about a homosexual affair.

Samuel Butler died on June 18, 1902, in London, England.

A first year..., Erewhon, Erewhon Revisited, The Way of All Flesh and several other of his works are available for free download from Project Gutenberg at [2] (http://www.gutenberg.net). The Authoress of the Odyssey is apparently out of print and not online; however, Butler's translations of the Odyssey and Iliad are available from Project Gutenberg.

The most authoritative biography of Samuel Butler was written by his friend Henry Festing Jones, the two-volume Samuel Butler, Author of Erewhon (1835-1902): A Memoir (commonly known as Jones's Memoir), published in 1919 and now only available from antiquarian booksellers. A shorter "Sketch" by Jones is available from Project Gutenberg: [3] (http://www.gutenberg.net). The most recent life is Samuel Butler A Biography by Peter Raby (Hogarth Press, 1991).

In the 1920s Butler's collected works were published (by Jonathan Cape) in twenty volumes as The Shrewsbury Edition of the Works of Samuel Butler, but only 750 copies were printed and a complete set (if it can be found at all) is unaffordable for the common reader. More easily available are the editions published by A.C. Fifield in 1908-1914. Erewhon and The Way of All Flesh are still in print as paperbacks.
 
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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Samuel Butler.