Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Way of All Flesh


The Way of All Flesh
The Way of All Flesh (1903) is a semi-autobiographical novel by Samuel Butler which attacks Victorian-era hypocrisy. Written between 1873 and 1884, it traces four generations of the Pontifex family. Butler dared not publish it during his lifetime, but when it was published it was accepted as part of the general reaction against Victorianism.

In 1998, the Modern Library ranked The Way of All Flesh twelfth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century

Main characters

Pontifex family. First generation

* "Old" John Pontifex (16 August 1727-8 February 1812)
* Ruth Pontifex (13 October 1727-10 January 1811; wife of Old Pontifex; married 1750).

Second generation

* George Pontifex (c.1765-1838; son of Old John and Ruth Pontifex; married c.1792 to unnamed woman who died 1805).

Third generation

* Eliza (179?-18??; George Pontifex's eldest child; never marries)
* Maria (179?-18??; George Pontifex's second child; never marries)
* John (ca.1800-18??; George Pontifex's third child; marries & has unnamed son early 1837)
* Theobald (1802-1881; George Pontifex's fourth child; marries Christina Allaby July 1831; has 3 children)
* Alethea Pontifex (1805-1850; George Pontifex's fifth child; loves Overton but never marries him).
* Christina Pontifex (nee Allaby; wife of Theobald Pontifex; married July 1831; died ca.1863-65).

Fourth generation

* Ernest Pontifex, the central character (born 6 September 1835; eldest child of Theobald and Christina Pontifex).
* Ellen Pontifex (born ca.1831; housemaid of Theobald and Christina; pregnant by John the coachman & married him 15 August 1851; separated; married bigamously to Ernest late 1850s; annulled 1862).
* Joseph (born 1836; second child of Theobald & Christina; married between 1875 & 1876).
* Charlotte (born 1837; third child of Theobald & Christina; married between 1876 & 1882).

Fifth generation

* Alice (born September 1860; illegitimate daughter of Ellen and Ernest; married Jack Rowlings (born 1855))
* Georgie (born late 1861; illegitimate son of Ernest and Ellen)
* Ted (born 1870s; son of Ernest and an unnamed mistress. Mention of Ted in the final chapter of the manuscript was removed by the editor in the posthumous published edition).

Others

* Dr Skinner (Ernest's teacher).
* John (Theobald & Christina's family coachman. Gets Ellen pregnant; marries her 15 August 1851. Later separated due to her drunkenness).
* Mr Overton, the narrator (born 1802, friend of Alethea Pontifex but does not return her love; trustee of her estate; godfather to Ernest).

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