Samuel Butler.

Erewhon revisited twenty years later, both by the original discoverer of the country and by his son online

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"It is not wonderful that such a man as
Butler should be the author of 'Erewhon,'
a shrewd and biting satire on modern life
and thought — the best of its kind since
'Gulliver's Travels.' ... To lash the
age, to ridicule vain pretensions, to expose
hypocrisy, to deride humbug in education,
politics, and religion, are tasks beyond
most men's powers; but occasionally,
very occasionally, a bit of genuine satire
secures for itself more than a passing nod
of recognition. 'Erewhon,' I think, is
such a satire."

— Augustine Birrell, in The Speaker


Samuel Butler at Twenty-Three Years of Age
fFrom a Photograph taken in 1858)

Erewhon Revisited






"life and habit," etc., etc.





Copyright, 1920,

JU Rights RistTvid 'T^l^-f 3 ^ 9


The Portrait of Samuel Butler, which forms the Frontispiece
of this volume, is reproduced from Mr. Henry Festing Jones*
"Samuel Butler, Author of Erewhon," by special permission
of The Macmillan Company, New. York, Publishers,

Printed In the United States of America



I FORGET when, but not very long after I had published
"Erewhon" in 1872, it occurred to me to ask myself
what course events in Erewhon would probably take
after Mr. Higgs, as I suppose I may now call him, had
made his escape in the balloon zvith Arowhena. Given
a people in the conditions supposed to exist in Erewhon,
and given the apparently miraculous ascent of a re-
markable stranger into the heavens with an earthly
bride — what would be the effect on the people gen-

There was no use in trying to solve this problem
before, say, twenty years shoidd have given time for
Erezvhonian developments to assume something like
permanent shape, and in 1892 / was too busy with
books now published to be able to attend to Ereivhon.
It was not till the early tvintcr of 1900, i.e., as nearly
as may be thirty years after the date of Higgs's
escape, that I found time to deal ivith the question
above stated, and to anszvcr it, according to my lights,
in the book which I now lay before the public.

I have concluded, I believe rightly, that the events
described in Chapter XXIV. of "Erewhon" would give
rise to such a cataclysmic change in the old Erewhoniun
opinions as 7vould result in the development of a nciv
religion. Now the development of all nc7V religions
follows much the same general course. In all cases the

vi Author's Preface

times are more or less out of joint — older faiths are
losing their hold upon the masses. At such times, let a
personality appear, strong in itself, and made to seem
still stronger by association with some supposed tran-
scendent miracle, and it will he easy to raise a Lo here!
that will attract many followers. If there be a single
great, and apparently well-authenticated, miracle,
others will accrete round it; then, in ail religions that
have so originated, there will follow temples, priests,
rites, sincere believers, and imscrupulous exploiters of
public credulity. To chronicle the events that followed
Higgs's balloon ascent without shewing that they were
much as they have been under like conditions in other
places, wotdd be to hold the mirror up to something
very wide of nature.

Analogy, however, between courses of events is one
thing — historic parallelisms abound; analogy between
the main actors in events is a very diiferent one, and
one, moreover, of which few examples can be found.
The development of the new ideas in Ercwhon is ai
familiar one, but there is no more likeness between
Higgs and the founder of any other religion, than there
is between Jesus Christ and Mahomet. He is a typical
jniddle-class Englishman, deeply tainted utith priggish-
ness in his earlier years, but in great part freed from
it by the siveet uses of adversity.

If I may be allowed for a moment to speak about
myself, I would say that I have never ceased to profess
myself a member of the more adzranced wing of the
English Broad Church. What those who belong to this
wing believe, I believe. What they reject, I reject. No
two people think absolutely alike on any subject, but
when I converse with advanced Broad Churchmen I

Author's Preface vii

find myself in substantial harmony with them. I be-
lieve — and should be very sorry if I did not believe —
that, mutatis mutandis, such men mill find the advice
given on pp. 250253 and 259-263 of this book much
what, under the supposed circumstances, they would
themselves give.

Lastly, I should express my great obligations to Mr.
R. A. Streatfeild of the British Museum, who, in the
absence from England of my friend Mr. H. Festing
Jones, has kindly snpcnnscd the corrections of my book
as it passed through tJie press.

May I, 1901



Introduction by Moreby Acklom .... xiii


I. Ups and downs of Fortune — My father starts for

Erewhon i

II. To the foot of the pass into Erewhon .... x6

III. My father while camping is accosted by Professors

Hanky and Panky 22

IV. My father overhears more of Hanky and Panky' s

conversation 35

V. My father meets a son, of whose existence he was

ignorant, and strikes a bargain with him . . 49

VI. Further conversation between father and son — The

Professor^s hoard 61

VII. Signs of the new order of things catch my father's

eye on every side 69

VIII. Yram, now Mayoress, gives a dinner-party, in the
course of which she is disquieted by what she
learns from Professor Hanky: she sends for her

son George and questions him 79

IX. Interview between Yram and her son .... 92

X. My father, fearing recognition at Sunch'ston, be-
takes himself to the neighbourittg town of Fair-
mead 102

XI. President Gurgoyle's pamphlet ''On the Physics

of Vicarious Existence" "3


X Contents


XII. George fails to find my father, whereon Yram

cautions the Professors 125

XIII. A visit to the Provincial Deformatory at Fair-

mead 136

XIV. My father makes the acquaintance of Mr. Balmy,

and walks with him next day to Sunch'ston . 146

XV. The temple is dedicated to my father, and certain

extracts are read from his supposed sayings . 161

XVI. Professor Hanky preaches a sermon, in the course
of which my father declares himself to be the
Sunchild 175

XVII. George takes his father to prison, and there obtains

some useful information 190

XVIII. Yram invites Dr. Downie and Mrs. Humdrum to
luncheon — A passage at arms between her and
Hanky is amicably arranged 199

XIX. A council is held at the Mayor^s, in the course of

which George turns the tables on the Professors . 204

XX. Mrs. Humdrum and Dr. Downie propose a com-
promise, which, after an amendmefit by George,
is carried nem. con 214

XXI. Yram, on getting rid of her guests, goes to the

prison to see my father 221

XXII. Mainly occupied with a veracious extract from a

Sunch'stonian journal 230

XXIII. My father is escorted to the Mayor's house,
and is introduced to a future daughter-in-
law 241

Contents xi


XXIV. After dinner, Dr. Downie and the Professors
would be glad to know what is to be done about
Sunchildism 248

XXV. George escorts my father to the statues; the two then

part 257

XXVI. My father reaches home, and dies not long after-
wards 267

XXVII. I m£et my brother George at the statues, on the top

of the pass into Erewhon 274

XXVIII. George and I spend a few hours together at the
statues, and then part — / reach home — Post-
script 288


For all admirers of Samuel Butler special interest
attaches to Erewhon Revisited. It is the last book that
he wrote, though not the latest published. Not only
this, but being a sequel to one of his own books written
some thirty years before, and being concerned with
substantially the same locality and the same people, it
affords us a parallax, as it were, by means of which we
may appraise the evolution of Butler's mind and style
during the mature years of his life and thought.

There are great differences between Erewhon and
Erewhon Revisited. The former is very little of a
story and very much of a satirical comment on the ais-
toms and ideals of late-Victorian England. In fact,
with the exception of the description of Higgs' dis-
covery of the lost country Erewhon, and of his escape
from it about a year later in an amateur balloon with
his stolen Erewhonian bride, there is practically no
action and no story. In Erewhon Revisited, on the
other hand, we have an exceedingly clever and interest-
ing story with a good deal of ingenious action which
suggests that if Butler had not been so exclusively con-
cemed with matters of larger importance, he might
have written good detective yarns. Erewhon Reins-
ited is also a satire, but in this case the satire is nar-
rowed down to two principal matters instead of em-
bracing the whole of modern social conduct. The


xiv Introduction

objects of attack are the professorial class and the
dogmas of the Christian Church.

Butler's antipathy for college professors as a class is
heartily reciprocated by the professors. Witness Pro-
fessor Lyon Phelps' characterization of The Way of
All Flesh as a "diabolical novel," and Professor
Stewart P. Sherman's recent vitriolic attack on But-
ler's whole life and character in the columns of The
Evening Post. Yet it is rather amusing to contem-
plate that Butler himself stood for the Slade Profes-
sorship of Fine Arts in Cambridge University in 1886,
and apparently almost succeeded in capturing the
appointment. It is an interesting speculation to pic-
ture what would have been the mutual reaction of
Butler as a professor on Cambridge, and of a Cam-
bridge professorship on Butler. There is no doubt,
however, that Butler's views on professors had evolved
considerably in the thirty years which lay between
Erewhon and Erewhon Revisited. In Erewhon,
though he certainly says that they

seemed to devote themselves to the avoidance of
every opinion with which they were not perfectly
familiar and regarded their own brains as a sort
of sanctuary to which if an opinion had once re-
sorted, none other was to attack it.

Erewhon (Chapter xxii).

he does speak of them as kindly, hospitable gentlemen,
whereas in Erewhon Revisited he represents Hanky
and Panky, the professors, respectively, of Worldly
Wisdom and Unworldly Wisdom in the University of
Bridgeford, as despicable hypocrites who begin by
attempting to swindle Higgs, whom they suppose to

Introduction xv

be a poverty stricken under-keeper of the royal for-
ests, out of a nugget of gold. And this sort of con-
temptuous depreciation of the honour and moral recti-
tude of the professorial class runs throughout the vol-

When we come to consider Butler's attack on Chris-
tian dogma in Ercwhon Revisited, we have to deal with
a matter very much older and more fundamental in
his character than his distrust and dislike of profes-
sors, and we have to allow for the fact that in spite of
Butler's multifarious interests in other directions, in
art, in science, in music, and in general literature, his
basic interest was theology. This idea may seem a
strange one at first sight, but it will be confirmed by a
study of Butler's work in its entirety.

Butler, moreover, was the son of a Canon and the
grandson of a Bishop, and was brought up in an at-
mosphere of theological narrowness such as is almost
ificonceivable today; and it was as impossible for him
to escape Ijcing permanently interested in theology as
it was for his questioning, doubting soul to stay within
the fold of comfortable conformity.

The story of his lapse from orthodoxy, while he
was preparing for ordination in the Anglican (Episco-
pal) Church has often been told and need not be re-
peated here. The fact is that though by 1863 Butler
supposed that he had given up lx.'lief in the credibility
of Christianity, and the authority of its entire ecclesi-
astical system, theology remained his really dominant
preoccupation until the end of his life. The reason
that so little of it appeared in Erczvhon is probably
that he was at that time relieving his mind on the
subject for a time by writing The Pair Ilaz'cn, an

xvi Introduction

apparent defense of the accuracy of the gospel accounts
of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, but
in reaHty a searching and ingenious attack upon the
veracity and mental equipment of the Evangelists.
The Fair Haven was published the year after Ere-
zvhon, under a pseudonym, and to Butler's great joy
was hailed by the Low Church journals of Great
Britain as a serious work in defense of Christianity.
It was the revelation of its true authorship and its true
meaning that did more than anything else to create the
suspicion and dislike of Butler which the orthodox
abundantly showed him from that time on.

In his own preface to Erezvhon Revisited (see page
v) Butler himself says that it was soon after the pub-
lication of Erewhon that it suggested itself to him to
ask what effect a supposed miracle, such as the ascen-
sion of the mysterious visitor, Higgs, into the sky in
his secretly manufactured balloon, would have on the
religious beliefs and system of a simple, credulous and
imperfectly civilised people such as the Erewhonians.
However, it appears that this idea, which Mr. Henry
Festing Jones in his monumental biography, Samuel
Butler, Author of Erewhon, calls "the chief motive of
Erewhon Revisited," struck Butler before Erewhon
was written, for we find it in the concluding paragraph
of his pamphlet, The Evidence for the Resurrection of
Jesus Christ as contained in the Four Gospels critically
examined. This suggestion which is elaborated in The
Fair Haven (Chapter viii) is as follows:

To me it appears that if they (the Apostles)'
be taken simply as honest but uneducated men,
subjected to a very unusual course of exciting

Introduction xvii

incidents in an enthusiastic age and country, we
shall find that nothing less than the foundation of
Christianity could well have come about ... if I
have realized to myself rightly the effect which a
well proved miracle would have upon such men
as the Apostles, in such times as those they lived
in, I think I may be justified in saying that the
single supposed miracle of the Resurrection is suf-
ficient to account for all that followed.

Some criticism may be made of Butler for the exact
manner in which he carries out his representation of
the incidents following on such a supposed miracle in
Erewhon Revisited. The illegitimate birth of Higgs'
son of a mother whose name, Yram, is an obvious
travesty of "Mary," was fiercely assailed by Sir Arthur
Quiller Couch in the London Daily Nezvs as a scan-
dalous parallel to the nuptials of Mary and Joseph,
"offensive by inadvertence almost incredible" ; but But-
ler absolutely denied any intention of satirising Christ,
both privately in a letter to Mrs. J. A. Fuller Maitland
(Feb. TO, 1901) and publicly in a protest against
Quiller Couch's criticism which caused the latter
to apologise and admit that he was mistaken. It is
interesting to note that it is in this protest of his to
the editor of the Daily News that Butler reveals "the
second leading idea of the book," that of a father try-
ing to win the love of a hitherto unknown son by self-
sacrifice, and succeeding — a pathetic commentary on
his recognition of the failure of his own filial relation.
The obvious parodies of creeds, commandments, scrip-
tures and other portions of the Church's ritual, such

xviii Introduction

"When the righteous man tumeth away from
the righteousness that he hath committed, and
doeth that which is a Httle naughty and wrong,
he Avill generally be found to have gained in
amiability what he has lost in righteousness." —
Sunchild Sayings, Chapter xiii, v. 15.

may also be considered in bad taste, though Butler
supposed himself to have removed from the book all
obvious causes of offense on the suggestion of Mrs.
J. A. F. Maitland, mentioned above; but it is hardly
possible for any man to satirise the birth and growth
of a new religion without more or less parodying the
religious formularies of his own generation, and Ere-
whon Remsited is no exception to this.

The story in the book is simplicity itself. Higgs,
the discoverer of Erewhon, twenty years after his mys-
terious evasion, returns to see what the country is now
like ; and discovers that he himself has become the cen-
tral figure of a new religion, owing to his unexplained
disappearance sky-ward and from the garbled recollec-
tion of his claims that he had a father in Heaven. He
also discovers that he left behind him an unsuspected
son who has now become a person of some importance
in the community. He is just in time to attend the
dedication of the great temple to himself as the Sun-
child, and endeavors to interrupt the service and reveal
himself as an ordinary human being. His efforts are
defeated and he is hustled secretly out of the country
to prevent an upheaval.

Although, as has already been explained, the under-
lying idea in the story is the exploitation of a theolog-

Introduction xlx

ical conception, no intending reader may fear reading
the book on that account. Butler's humour is as lively
as ever, his character-drawing is as satirical, and his
eye for social defects and absurdities as acute. For
instance, in his description of the professors at the
mayoress' reception :

There was Dr. Downie,* Professor of Logo-
machy, and perhaps the most subtle dialectician in
Erewhon. He could say nothing in more words
than any man of his generation. His text-book
on The Art of Obscuring Issues had passed
through ten or twelve editions, and was in the
hands of all aspirants for academic distinction.
He had earned a high reputation for sobriety of
judgment by resolutely refusing to have definite
views on any subject; so safe a man was he con-
sidered, that while still quite young he had been
appointed to the lucrative post of Thinker in Or-
dinary to the Royal Family. There was Mr.
Principal Crank, with his sister Mrs. Quack; Pro-
fessors Gabl) and Bawl, with their wnves and two
or three erudite daughters. (Chapter viii.);

in his attack on our reformatory system when he de-
scril)es the "Deformatory" at Fairmead ; in his gibing
at our fashirmable girls' boarding-schools, in his picture
of Madame Lafrime's school, where the successful
marriages of the pupils are recorded on the panels of
the school hall, and in his parody of our up-to-date
journalism in the report of the temple dedication as
given in The Suncli'sfon Journal, his pen .shews no
sign of having lost its force or point. He deals very

* "Downy," some thirty years ago, was English semi-slang
for i>ly or sophisticated.

XX Introduction

trenchantly, moreover, with the ethical value of ideas of
eternal punishment and eternal bliss in comparing them
humorously with the classic myths of Sisyphus, the
Danaids and Tantalus, while his burlesque of the dif-
ferences of High Church and Low Church in the two
schools of the Sunchild followers, who wore their
clothes respectively wrong side and right side fore-
most, through a dispute as to Higgs' original method
of dressing, will be found delightful by all except the
parties ridiculed.

More than this, he has put his finger on the fatal
flaw in the whole mystical basis of religion in the con-
versations of Higgs with Mr. Balmy * in Chapter
xiv, the epitome of the matter being where Mr.
Balmy expresses his belief in the efficacy of spiritual
enlightenment when the latter is contradicted by facts
of actual experience:

"A spiritual enlightenment from within," re-
turned Mr. Balmy, "is more to be relied on than
any merely physical affluence from external ob-
jects. Now, when I shut my eyes, I see the bal-
loon ascend a little way, but almost immediately
the heavens open, the horses descend, the balloon
is transformed, and the glorious pageant careers
onward till it vanishes into the heaven of heavens.
Hundreds with whom I have conversed assure
me that their experience has been the same as
mine. . . ." (Chapter xiv.)

Butler seems somewhat more constructive in Ere^
whon Revisited than he is in ErewJwn. In the lesson

* Another Victorian slang word signifying much the same
as our "dippy."

Introduction xxi

read at the dedication of the temple to the Sunchild,
and in Dr. Gurgoyle's book, The Physics of Vicarious
Existence, we find outlined a definite theory of the na-
ture of God which corresponds closely to the theory
already given by Butler in a series of articles in The
Examiner, of London, and after his death pub-
lished in a small volume entitled God the Known
and God the Unknown. This latter is a peculiar
piece of work, and shows that Butler was very much
more alive to absurdities and inconsistencies in
other people's ideas than he was to those in his own;
but it is evidence that Butler is speaking largely in his
own person in this instance in Erewhon Revisited.
There is also (in Chapter xxiv) some sensible advice
given to the propagators of Sunchildism, which by his
own confession in the Preface (page vii) is intended
for the authorities of the Christian Church.

Apart from this we find a certain amount of worldly
wisdom which lifts the book to a higher philosophical
plane than its predecessor. For instance:

In our spiritual and intellectual world tjwo
parties more or less antagonistic are equally
necessary. Those who are at the head of science
provide us with the one party; those whom we
call our churchmen are the other. Both are cor-
rupt, but we can spare neither, for each checks as
far as it can the corruptions of the other.
(Chapter xxv.)

And is there not another place in which it is
said, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of
wisdom," as though it were not the last word
upon the subject? Tf a man should not do evil

xxii Introduction

that good may come, so neither should he do good
that evil may come. (Chapter vii.)

Not the least important duty of posterity
towards itself lies in passing righteous judgment
on the forebears who stand up before it. They
should be allowed the benefit of a doubt, and pec-
cadilloes should be ignored ; but when no doubt
exists that a man was ingrainedly mean and cow-
ardly, his reputation must remain in the Purga-
tory of Time for a term varying from, say, a
hundred to two thousand years. After a hundred
years it may generally come down, though it will
still be under a cloud. After two thousand years
it may be mentioned in any society without hold-
ing up hands in horror. Our sense of moral guilt
varies inversely as the squares of its distance in
time and space from ourselves.

Not so with heroism ; this loses no lustre
through time and distance. Good is gold ; it is
rare, but it will not tarnish. Evil is like dirty
water — plentiful and foul, but it will run itself
clear of taint. (Chapter xi.)

Passages such as these show that Butler had evolved
considerably since the writing of Erewhon, but there
is even more difference in the tone of the two books.
Erewhon Reznsited is less genial and less playful, the
satire is sharper, the parody more pointed than in the
earlier volume. He had felt that the literary, scientific,
and religious worlds had agreed to defeat him by a
conspiracy of silence, and unquestionably the belief
had embittered him. It will be noted that the impres-
sion he gives of Erewhon in the first book is that it is a
sort of Arcadia. He says of its people that they were :

Introduction xxiii

of a physical beauty which was simply amazing,
the women were vigorous and had a most majes-
tic gait, their expression was divine. The men
were as handsome as the women beautiful. . .

agam :

they are the very best bred people that ever I fell
in with. . .

and again:

men and women who delight me entirely by their
simplicity, unconsciousness of self and kindly,
genial manners!

There is nothing of this in Erewhon Revisited. The
Erewhonians are here presented to us precisely as an

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Online LibrarySamuel ButlerErewhon revisited twenty years later, both by the original discoverer of the country and by his son → online text (page 1 of 21)