About Butler:

Samuel Butler (December 4, 1835 - June 18, 1902) was a British writer strongly influenced by his New Zealand experiences. He is best known for his utopian satire Erewhon and his posthumous novel The Way of All Flesh. Early life He was born in Langar Rectory, near Bingham, Nottinghamshire, England, into a long line of clerics, preordained as it were to a career in church in his father’s wish and expectation. His father was the Rev. Thomas Butler, Rector of Langar and his mother Fanny (née Worsley). He went to Shrewsbury School, where his grandfather, also called Samuel, former Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, had been headmaster before retiring. He then went up to his father’s alma mater, St John’s College, Cambridge, in 1854, taking a First in Classics in 1858. The graduate society of St. John’s is named the Samuel Butler Room (SBR) in his honour. Career Following graduation from Cambridge, he lived in a low-income parish in London during 1858 and 1859 as preparation for his ordination to the Anglican clergy; there he discovered that baptism made no apparent difference to the morals and behaviour of his peers and began questioning his faith. This experience would later serve as inspiration for his work The Fair Haven. Correspondence with his father about the issue failed to set his mind at peace, inciting instead his father’s wrath. As a result, in September 1859 he emigrated to New Zealand, regarded as a British colony since a fairly legal Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and many New Zealand Maori chiefs in 1840 enabled the commercial exploitation of that country. Butler went there like many early British settlers of privileged origins, in order to put as much distance as possible between himself and his family. He wrote about his arrival and his life as a sheep farmer on Mesopotamia Station in A First Year in Canterbury Settlement (1863), and made a handsome profit when he sold his farm, but the chief achievement of his time in New Zealand was the drafts and source material for much of his masterpiece Erewhon. He returned to England in 1864, settling in rooms in Clifford’s Inn (near Fleet Street), where he lived for the rest of his life. In 1872, the utopian novel Erewhon appeared anonymously, causing some speculation as to the identity of the author. When Butler revealed himself as the author, Erewhon made Butler a well-known figure, more because of this speculation than for its literary merits which are today undisputed. His father’s death in 1886 resolved his financial problems for the last six years of his own life. He indulged himself, holidaying in Italy every summer and producing while he was there his works on the Italian landscape and art. His close interest in the art of the Sacri Monti is reflected in Alps and Sanctuaries of Piedmont and the Canton Ticino (1881) and Ex Voto (1888). He wrote a number of other books, including a not so successful sequel, Erewhon Revisited. His semi-autobiographical novel The Way of All Flesh did not appear in print until after his death, as he considered its tone of attack on Victorian hypocrisy too contentious. Erewhon revealed Butler’s long interest in Darwin’s theories of biological evolution, and in fact Darwin had, like him, visited New Zealand. In 1863, four years after Darwin published On the Origin of Species, Butler published a letter to the editor of a New Zealand newspaper captioned Darwin Among The Machines, in which Butler compared human evolution to machine evolution, and prophesized (half in jest) that machines would eventually replace man in the supremacy of the earth: “In the course of ages we shall find ourselves the inferior race.” The letter raises many of the themes now being debated by proponents of the Technological Singularity, namely, that computers are evolving much faster than biological humans and that we are racing toward an unknowable future with explosive technological change. Butler also spent a great deal of time criticising Darwin, and this criticism was motivated partly because Butler (himself a man living in the shadow of a previous Samuel Butler) believed that Darwin had not sufficiently acknowledged his grandfather Erasmus Darwin’s contribution to the origins of his theory. George Bernard Shaw (who also visited New Zealand) and E.M. Forster (who got only as far as India) were great admirers of the latter Samuel Butler who brought a new tone into Victorian literature, and began the long tradition of New Zealand utopian literature that would culminate in the works of Jack Ross, Scott Hamilton and William Direen. [From Wikipedia.]

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