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Samuel Butler: a sketch   By: (1851-1928)

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Upon reading Henry Festing Jones' biography, "Samuel Butler: A Sketch," I was instantly captivated by his meticulous and insightful portrayal of the renowned Victorian novelist and satirist, Samuel Butler. Jones, a close friend and literary executor of Butler, demonstrates his unparalleled expertise as he seamlessly weaves together personal anecdotes, correspondence, and thorough research to present a comprehensive understanding of Butler's life and work.

One of the most commendable aspects of this biography is Jones' ability to humanize Butler, simultaneously highlighting his brilliance as an author while shedding light on his personal struggles and insecurities. Through detailed accounts of Butler's upbringing, education, and love affairs, Jones crafts a narrative that vividly portrays the complex nature of his subject. By delving into the motivations behind Butler's works, such as "Erewhon" and "The Way of All Flesh," Jones provides invaluable insight into the underlying themes and messages within these seminal works.

Furthermore, Jones successfully places Butler's life within the broader cultural and intellectual context of the Victorian era, allowing readers to appreciate the profound impact he had on his contemporaries and subsequent generations of writers. He masterfully explores Butler's interactions with other literary figures, providing a tantalizing glimpse into the intellectual salons and debates that characterized the period. Readers are presented with a rich tapestry of the times, evoking a deep appreciation for the cultural milieu in which Butler thrived.

In addition, Jones' meticulous research shines through as he addresses the controversies and critical reception that surrounded Butler's works. By presenting a balanced view of both praise and criticism, Jones allows readers to form their understanding of Butler's work while offering valuable insights into the complexities of his public reception. Jones' dedication to accuracy and his inclusion of critical perspectives further enhances the authenticity of this biography.

While the book's title, "A Sketch," may lead some to assume a lack of depth, it becomes evident early on that Jones' use of the word is a modest gesture underselling the comprehensive nature of his work. Though concise, "Samuel Butler: A Sketch" is an intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging portrait of a fascinating literary figure. It is a testament to Jones' mastery as a biographer, deftly and poignantly capturing the essence of Samuel Butler's life and literary contribution, making this book a must-read for anyone interested in Victorian literature or the human complexities behind artistic genius.

First Page:

SAMUEL BUTLER: A Sketch, by Henry Festing Jones

Author of Samuel Butler : A Memoir

Jonathan Cape Eleven Gower Street London

First published in " The Humour of Homer & Other Essays " by Samuel Butler 1913. Reissued by Jonathan Cape 1921

Samuel Butler: A Sketch

Samuel Butler was born on the 4th December, 1835, at the Rectory, Langar, near Bingham, in Nottinghamshire. His father was the Rev. Thomas Butler, then Rector of Langar, afterwards one of the canons of Lincoln Cathedral, and his mother was Fanny Worsley, daughter of John Philip Worsley of Arno's Vale, Bristol, sugar refiner. His grandfather was Dr. Samuel Butler, the famous headmaster of Shrewsbury School, afterwards Bishop of Lichfield. The Butlers are not related either to the author of Hudibras , or to the author of the Analogy , or to the present Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Butler's father, after being at school at Shrewsbury under Dr. Butler, went up to St. John's College, Cambridge; he took his degree in 1829, being seventh classic and twentieth senior optime; he was ordained and returned to Shrewsbury, where he was for some time assistant master at the school under Dr. Butler. He married in 1832 and left Shrewsbury for Langar. He was a learned botanist, and made a collection of dried plants which he gave to the Town Museum of Shrewsbury... Continue reading book >>

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