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Transcribed by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk

The Humour of Homer and Other Essays

By R. A. Streatfeild

The nucleus of this book is the collection of essays by Samuel
Butler, which was originally published by Mr. Grant Richards in 1904
under the title Essays on Life, Art and Science, and reissued by Mr.
Fifield in 1908. To these are now added another essay, entitled
"The Humour of Homer," a biographical sketch of the author kindly
contributed by Mr. Henry Festing Jones, which will add materially to
the value of the edition, and a portrait in photogravure from a
photograph taken in 1889--the period of the essays.

[Photograph of Samuel Butler. Caption reads: From a photograph
made by Pizzetta in Varallo in 1889. Emery Walker Ltd., ph. sc.

"The Humour of Homer" was originally delivered as a lecture at the
Working Men's College in Great Ormond Street on the 30th January,
1892, the day on which Butler first promulgated his theory of the
Trapanese origin of the Odyssey in a letter to the Athenaeum. Later
in the same year it was published with some additional matter by
Messrs. Metcalfe and Co. of Cambridge. For the next five years
Butler was engaged upon researches into the origin and authorship of
the Odyssey, the results of which are embodied in his book The
Authoress of the "Odyssey," originally published by Messrs. Longman
in 1897. Butler incorporated a good deal of "The Humour of Homer"
into The Authoress of the "Odyssey," but the section relating to the
Iliad naturally found no place in the later work. For the sake of
this alone "The Humour of Homer" deserves to be better known.
Written as it was for an artisan audience and professing to deal
only with one side of Homer's genius, "The Humour of Homer" must
not, of course, be taken as an exhaustive statement of Butler's
views upon Homeric questions. It touches but lightly on important
points, particularly regarding the origin and authorship of the
Odyssey, which are treated at much greater length in The Authoress
of the "Odyssey."

Nevertheless, "The Humour of Homer" appears to me to have a special
value as a kind of general introduction to Butler's more detailed
study of the Odyssey. His attitude towards the Homeric poems is
here expressed with extraordinary freshness and force. What that
attitude was is best explained by his own words: "If a person would
understand either the Odyssey or any other ancient work, he must
never look at the dead without seeing the living in them, nor at the
living without thinking of the dead. We are too fond of seeing the
ancients as one thing and the moderns as another." Butler did not
undervalue the philological and archaeological importance of the
Iliad and the Odyssey, but it was mainly as human documents that
they appealed to him. This, I am inclined to suspect, was the root
of the objection of academic critics to him and his theories. They
did not so much resent the suggestion that the author of the Odyssey
was a woman; they could not endure that he should be treated as a
human being.

Of the remaining essays two were originally delivered as lectures;
the others appeared first in The Universal Review in 1888, 1889 and
1890. I should perhaps explain why two other essays which also
appeared in The Universal Review are not included in this
collection. The first of these, entitled "L'Affaire Holbein-
Rippel," relates to a drawing of Holbein's "Danse des Paysans" in
the Basle Museum, which is usually described as a copy, but which
Butler believed to be the work of Holbein himself. This essay
requires to be illustrated in so elaborate a manner that it was
impossible to include it in a book of this size. The second essay,
which is a sketch of the career of the sculptor Tabachetti, was
published as the first section of an article, entitled "A Sculptor
and a Shrine," of which the second part is here given under the
title "The Sanctuary of Montrigone." The section devoted to the
sculptor contains all that Butler then knew about Tabachetti, but
since it was written various documents have come to light,
principally through the investigations of Cavaliere Francesco Negri,
of Casale Monferrato, which negative some of Butler's conclusions.
Had Butler lived, I do not doubt that he would have revised his
essay in the light of Cavaliere Negri's discoveries, the value of
which he fully recognized. As it stands the essay requires so much
revision that I have decided to omit it altogether and to postpone
giving English readers a full account of Tabachetti's career until a
second edition of Butler's "Ex Voto," in which Tabachetti's work is
discussed in detail, is required. Meanwhile I have given a brief
summary of the main facts of Tabachetti's life in a note (p. 195) to
the essay on "Art in the Valley of Saas." Anyone who desires
further details concerning the sculptor and his work will find them
in Cavaliere Negri's pamphlet "Il Santuario di Crea" (Alessandria,

The three essays grouped together under the title The Deadlock in
Darwinism may be regarded as a postscript to Butler's four books on
evolution, viz. Life and Habit, Evolution Old and New, Unconscious
Memory, and Luck or Cunning? When these essays were first published
in book form in 1904, I ventured to give a brief summary of Butler's
position with regard to the main problem of evolution. I need now
only refer readers to Mr. Festing Jones's biographical sketch and,
for fuller details, to the masterly introduction contributed by
Professor Marcus Hartog to the new edition of Unconscious Memory (A.
C. Fifield, 1910), and recently reprinted in his Problems of Life
and Reproduction (John Murray, 1913), in which Butler's work in the
field of biology and his share in the various controversies
connected with the study of evolution are discussed with the
authority of a specialist.

R. A. STREATFEILD. July, 1913.

Sketch of the Life of Samuel Butler
Author of Erewhon
by Henry Festing Jones


This sketch of Butler's life, together with the portrait which forms
the frontispiece to this volume, first appeared in December, 1902,
in The Eagle, the magazine of St. John's College, Cambridge. I
revised the sketch and read it before the British Homoeopathic
Association at 43 Russell Square, London, W.C., on the 9th February,
1910; some of Butler's music was performed by Miss Grainger Kerr,
Mr. R. A. Streatfeild, Mr. J. A. Fuller Maitland, and Mr. H. J. T.
Wood, the secretary of the Association. I again revised it and read
it before the Historical Society of St. John's College, Cambridge,
in the combination room of the college on the 16th November, 1910;
the Master (Mr. R. F. Scott), who was also Vice-Chancellor of the
University, was in the chair, and a vote of thanks was proposed by
Professor William Bateson, F.R.S.

As the full Memoir of Butler on which I am engaged is not yet ready
for publication, I have again revised the sketch, and it is here
published in response to many demands for some account of his life.

H. F. J.
August, 1913.

Sketch of the Life of Samuel Butler
Author of Erewhon (1835-1902)

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

Butler's childhood and early life were spent at Langar among the
surroundings of an English country rectory, and his education was
begun by his father. In 1843, when he was only eight years old, the
first great event in his life occurred; the family, consisting of
his father and mother, his two sisters, his brother and himself,
went to Italy. The South-Eastern Railway stopped at Ashford, whence
they travelled to Dover in their own carriage; the carriage was put
on board the steamboat, they crossed the Channel, and proceeded to
Cologne, up the Rhine to Basle and on through Switzerland into
Italy, through Parma, where Napoleon's widow was still reigning,
Modena, Bologna, Florence, and so to Rome. They had to drive where
there was no railway, and there was then none in all Italy except
between Naples and Castellamare. They seemed to pass a fresh
custom-house every day, but, by tipping the searchers, generally got
through without inconvenience. The bread was sour and the Italian
butter rank and cheesy--often uneatable. Beggars ran after the
carriage all day long and when they got nothing jeered at the
travellers and called them heretics. They spent half the winter in
Rome, and the children were taken up to the top of St. Peter's as a
treat to celebrate their father's birthday. In the Sistine Chapel
they saw the cardinals kiss the toe of Pope Gregory XVI, and in the
Corso, in broad daylight, they saw a monk come rolling down a
staircase like a sack of potatoes, bundled into the street by a man
and his wife. The second half of the winter was spent in Naples.
This early introduction to the land which he always thought of and
often referred to as his second country made an ineffaceable
impression upon him.

In January, 1846, he went to school at Allesley, near Coventry,
under the Rev. E. Gibson. He seldom referred to his life there,
though sometimes he would say something that showed he had not
forgotten all about it. For instance, in 1900 Mr. Sydney C.
Cockerell, now the Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge,
showed him a medieval missal, laboriously illuminated. He found
that it fatigued him to look at it, and said that such books ought
never to be made. Cockerell replied that such books relieved the
tedium of divine service, on which Butler made a note ending thus:

Give me rather a robin or a peripatetic cat like the one whose
loss the parishioners of St. Clement Danes are still deploring.
When I was at school at Allesley the boy who knelt opposite me at
morning prayers, with his face not more than a yard away from
mine, used to blow pretty little bubbles with his saliva which he
would send sailing off the tip of his tongue like miniature soap
bubbles; they very soon broke, but they had a career of a foot or
two. I never saw anyone else able to get saliva bubbles right
away from him and, though I have endeavoured for some fifty years
and more to acquire the art, I never yet could start the bubble
off my tongue without its bursting. Now things like this really
do relieve the tedium of church, but no missal that I have ever
seen will do anything except increase it.

In 1848 he left Allesley and went to Shrewsbury under the Rev. B. H.
Kennedy. Many of the recollections of his school life at Shrewsbury
are reproduced for the school life of Ernest Pontifex at
Roughborough in The Way of All Flesh, Dr. Skinner being Dr. Kennedy.

During these years he first heard the music of Handel; it went
straight to his heart and satisfied a longing which the music of
other composers had only awakened and intensified. He became as one
of the listening brethren who stood around "when Jubal struck the
chorded shell" in the Song for Saint Cecilia's Day:

Less than a god, they thought, there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell
That spoke so sweetly and so well.

This was the second great event in his life, and henceforward Italy
and Handel were always present at the bottom of his mind as a kind
of double pedal to every thought, word, and deed. Almost the last
thing he ever asked me to do for him, within a few days of his
death, was to bring Solomon that he might refresh his memory as to
the harmonies of "With thee th' unsheltered moor I'd trace." He
often tried to like the music of Bach and Beethoven, but found
himself compelled to give them up--they bored him too much. Nor was
he more successful with the other great composers; Haydn, for
instance, was a sort of Horace, an agreeable, facile man of the
world, while Mozart, who must have loved Handel, for he wrote
additional accompaniments to the Messiah, failed to move him. It
was not that he disputed the greatness of these composers, but he
was out of sympathy with them, and never could forgive the last two
for having led music astray from the Handel tradition and paved the
road from Bach to Beethoven. Everything connected with Handel
interested him. He remembered old Mr. Brooke, Rector of Gamston,
North Notts, who had been present at the Handel Commemoration in
1784, and his great-aunt, Miss Susannah Apthorp, of Cambridge, had
known a lady who had sat upon Handel's knee. He often regretted
that these were his only links with "the greatest of all composers."

Besides his love for Handel he had a strong liking for drawing, and,
during the winter of 1853-4, his family again took him to Italy,
where, being now eighteen, he looked on the works of the old masters
with intelligence.

In October, 1854, he went into residence at St. John's College,
Cambridge. He showed no aptitude for any particular branch of
academic study, nevertheless he impressed his friends as being
likely to make his mark. Just as he used reminiscences of his own
schooldays at Shrewsbury for Ernest's life at Roughborough, so he
used reminiscences of his own Cambridge days for those of Ernest.
When the Simeonites, in The Way of All Flesh, "distributed tracts,
dropping them at night in good men's letter boxes while they slept,
their tracts got burnt or met with even worse contumely." Ernest
Pontifex went so far as to parody one of these tracts and to get a
copy of the parody "dropped into each of the Simeonites' boxes."
Ernest did this in the novel because Butler had done it in real
life. Mr. A. T. Bartholomew, of the University Library, has found,
among the Cambridge papers of the late J. Willis Clark's collection,
three printed pieces belonging to the year 1855 bearing on the
subject. He speaks of them in an article headed "Samuel Butler and
the Simeonites," and signed A. T. B. in the Cambridge Magazine, 1st
March, 1913; the first is "a genuine Simeonite tract; the other two
are parodies. All three are anonymous. At the top of the second
parody is written 'By S. Butler, March 31.'" The article gives
extracts from the genuine tract and the whole of Butler's parody.

Besides parodying Simeonite tracts, Butler wrote various other
papers during his undergraduate days, some of which, preserved by
one of his contemporaries, who remained a lifelong friend, the Rev.
Canon Joseph M'Cormick, now Rector of St. James's, Piccadilly, are
reproduced in The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912).

He also steered the Lady Margaret first boat, and Canon M'Cormick
told me of a mishap that occurred on the last night of the races in
1857. Lady Margaret had been head of the river since 1854, Canon
M'Cormick was rowing 5, Philip Pennant Pearson (afterwards P.
Pennant) was 7, Canon Kynaston, of Durham (whose name formerly was
Snow), was stroke, and Butler was cox. When the cox let go of the
bung at starting, the rope caught in his rudder lines, and Lady
Margaret was nearly bumped by Second Trinity. They escaped,
however, and their pursuers were so much exhausted by their efforts
to catch them that they were themselves bumped by First Trinity at
the next corner. Butler wrote home about it:

11 March, 1857. Dear Mamma: My foreboding about steering was on
the last day nearly verified by an accident which was more
deplorable than culpable the effects of which would have been
ruinous had not the presence of mind of No. 7 in the boat rescued
us from the very jaws of defeat. The scene is one which never
can fade from my remembrance and will be connected always with
the gentlemanly conduct of the crew in neither using opprobrious
language nor gesture towards your unfortunate son but treating
him with the most graceful forbearance; for in most cases when an
accident happens which in itself is but slight, but is visited
with serious consequences, most people get carried away with the
impression created by the last so as to entirely forget the
accidental nature of the cause and if we had been quite bumped I
should have been ruined, as it is I get praise for coolness and
good steering as much as and more than blame for my accident and
the crew are so delighted at having rowed a race such as never
was seen before that they are satisfied completely. All the
spectators saw the race and were delighted; another inch and I
should never have held up my head again. One thing is safe, it
will never happen again.

The Eagle, "a magazine supported by members of St. John's College,"
issued its first number in the Lent term of 1858; it contains an
article by Butler "On English Composition and Other Matters," signed

Most readers will have anticipated me in admitting that a man
should be clear of his meaning before he endeavours to give it
any kind of utterance, and that, having made up his mind what to
say, the less thought he takes how to say it, more than briefly,
pointedly and plainly, the better.

From this it appears that, when only just over twenty-two, Butler
had already discovered and adopted those principles of writing from
which he never departed.

In the fifth number of the Eagle is an article, "Our Tour," also
signed "Cellarius"; it is an account of a tour made in June, 1857,
with a friend whose name he Italianized into Giuseppe Verdi, through
France into North Italy, and was written, so he says, to show how
they got so much into three weeks and spent only 25 pounds; they did
not, however, spend quite so much, for the article goes on, after
bringing them back to England, "Next day came safely home to dear
old St. John's, cash in hand 7d." {19}

Butler worked hard with Shilleto, an old pupil of his grandfather,
and was bracketed 12th in the Classical Tripos of 1858. Canon
M'Cormick told me that he would no doubt have been higher but for
the fact that he at first intended to go out in mathematics; it was
only during the last year of his time that he returned to the
classics, and his being so high as he was spoke well for the
classical education of Shrewsbury.

It had always been an understood thing that he was to follow in the
footsteps of his father and grandfather and become a clergyman;
accordingly, after taking his degree, he went to London and began to
prepare for ordination, living and working among the poor as lay
assistant under the Rev. Philip Perring, Curate of St. James's,
Piccadilly, an old pupil of Dr. Butler at Shrewsbury. {20} Placed
among such surroundings, he felt bound to think out for himself many
theological questions which at this time were first presented to
him, and, the conclusion being forced upon him that he could not
believe in the efficacy of infant baptism, he declined to be

It was now his desire to become an artist; this, however, did not
meet with the approval of his family, and he returned to Cambridge
to try for pupils and, if possible, to get a fellowship. He liked
being at Cambridge, but there were few pupils and, as there seemed
to be little chance of a fellowship, his father wished him to come
down and adopt some profession. A long correspondence took place in
the course of which many alternatives were considered. There are
letters about his becoming a farmer in England, a tutor, a
homoeopathic doctor, an artist, or a publisher, and the
possibilities of the army, the bar, and diplomacy. Finally it was
decided that he should emigrate to New Zealand. His passage was
paid, and he was to sail in the Burmah, but a cousin of his received
information about this vessel which caused him, much against his
will, to get back his passage money and take a berth in the Roman
Emperor, which sailed from Gravesend on one of the last days of
September, 1859. On that night, for the first time in his life, he
did not say his prayers. "I suppose the sense of change was so
great that it shook them quietly off. I was not then a sceptic; I
had got as far as disbelief in infant baptism, but no further. I
felt no compunction of conscience, however, about leaving off my
morning and evening prayers--simply I could no longer say them."

The Roman Emperor, after a voyage every incident of which interested
him deeply, arrived outside Port Lyttelton. The captain shouted to
the pilot who came to take them in:

"Has the Robert Small arrived?"

"No," replied the pilot, "nor yet the Burmah."

And Butler, writing home to his people, adds the comment: "You may
imagine what I felt."

The Burmah was never heard of again.

He spent some time looking round, considering what to do and how to
employ the money with which his father was ready to supply him, and
determined upon sheep-farming. He made several excursions looking
for country, and ultimately took up a run which is still called
Mesopotamia, the name he gave it because it is situated among the
head-waters of the Rangitata.

It was necessary to have a horse, and he bought one for 55 pounds,
which was not considered dear. He wrote home that the horse's name
was "Doctor": "I hope he is a Homoeopathist." From this, and from
the fact that he had already contemplated becoming a homoeopathic
doctor himself, I conclude that he had made the acquaintance of Dr.
Robert Ellis Dudgeon, the eminent homoeopathist, while he was doing
parish work in London. After his return to England Dr. Dudgeon was
his medical adviser, and remained one of his most intimate friends
until the end of his life. Doctor, the horse, is introduced into
Erewhon Revisited; the shepherd in Chapter XXVI tells John Higgs
that Doctor "would pick fords better than that gentleman could, I
know, and if the gentleman fell off him he would just stay stock

Butler carried on his run for about four and a half years, and the
open-air life agreed with him; he ascribed to this the good health
he afterwards enjoyed. The following, taken from a notebook he kept
in the colony and destroyed, gives a glimpse of one side of his life
there; he preserved the note because it recalled New Zealand so

April, 1861. It is Sunday. We rose later than usual. There are
five of us sleeping in the hut. I sleep in a bunk on one side of
the fire; Mr. Haast, {22} a German who is making a geological
survey of the province, sleeps upon the opposite one; my bullock-
driver and hut-keeper have two bunks at the far end of the hut,
along the wall, while my shepherd lies in the loft among the tea
and sugar and flour. It was a fine morning, and we turned out
about seven o'clock.

The usual mutton and bread for breakfast with a pudding made of
flour and water baked in the camp oven after a joint of meat--
Yorkshire pudding, but without eggs. While we were at breakfast
a robin perched on the table and sat there a good while pecking
at the sugar. We went on breakfasting with little heed to the
robin, and the robin went on pecking with little heed to us.
After breakfast Pey, my bullock-driver, went to fetch the horses
up from a spot about two miles down the river, where they often
run; we wanted to go pig-hunting.

I go into the garden and gather a few peascods for seed till the
horses should come up. Then Cook, the shepherd, says that a fire
has sprung up on the other side of the river. Who could have lit
it? Probably someone who had intended coming to my place on the
preceding evening and has missed his way, for there is no track
of any sort between here and Phillips's. In a quarter of an hour
he lit another fire lower down, and by that time, the horses
having come up, Haast and myself--remembering how Dr. Sinclair
had just been drowned so near the same spot--think it safer to
ride over to him and put him across the river. The river was
very low and so clear that we could see every stone. On getting
to the river-bed we lit a fire and did the same on leaving it;
our tracks would guide anyone over the intervening ground.

Besides his occupation with the sheep, he found time to play the
piano, to read and to write. In the library of St. John's College,
Cambridge, are two copies of the Greek Testament, very fully
annotated by him at the University and in the colony. He also read
the Origin of Species, which, as everyone knows, was published in
1859. He became "one of Mr. Darwin's many enthusiastic admirers,
and wrote a philosophic dialogue (the most offensive form, except
poetry and books of travel into supposed unknown countries, that
even literature can assume) upon the Origin of Species" (Unconscious
Memory, close of Chapter I). This dialogue, unsigned, was printed
in the Press, Canterbury, New Zealand, on 20th December, 1862. A
copy of the paper was sent to Charles Darwin, who forwarded it to a,
presumably, English editor with a letter, now in the Canterbury
Museum, New Zealand, speaking of the dialogue as "remarkable from
its spirit and from giving so clear and accurate an account of Mr.
D's theory." It is possible that Butler himself sent the newspaper
containing his dialogue to Mr. Darwin; if so he did not disclose his
name, for Darwin says in his letter that he does not know who the
author was. Butler was closely connected with the Press, which was
founded by James Edward FitzGerald, the first Superintendent of the
Province, in May, 1861; he frequently contributed to its pages, and
once, during FitzGerald's absence, had charge of it for a short
time, though he was never its actual editor. The Press reprinted
the dialogue and the correspondence which followed its original
appearance on 8th June, 1912.

On 13th June, 1863, the Press printed a letter by Butler signed
"Cellarius" and headed "Darwin among the Machines," reprinted in The
Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912). The letter begins:

"Sir: There are few things of which the present generation is more
justly proud than of the wonderful improvements which are daily
taking place in all sorts of mechanical appliances"; and goes on to
say that, as the vegetable kingdom was developed from the mineral,
and as the animal kingdom supervened upon the vegetable, "so now, in
the last few ages, an entirely new kingdom has sprung up of which we
as yet have only seen what will one day be considered the
antediluvian types of the race." He then speaks of the minute
members which compose the beautiful and intelligent little animal
which we call the watch, and of how it has gradually been evolved
from the clumsy brass clocks of the thirteenth century. Then comes
the question: Who will be man's successor? To which the answer is:
We are ourselves creating our own successors. Man will become to
the machine what the horse and the dog are to man; the conclusion
being that machines are, or are becoming, animate. In 1863 Butler's
family published in his name A First Year in Canterbury Settlement,
which, as the preface states, was compiled from his letters home,
his journal and extracts from two papers contributed to the Eagle.
These two papers had appeared in the Eagle as three articles
entitled "Our Emigrant" and signed "Cellarius." The proof sheets of
the book went out to New Zealand for correction and were sent back
in the Colombo, which was as unfortunate as the Burmah, for she was
wrecked. The proofs, however, were fished up, though so nearly
washed out as to be almost undecipherable. Butler would have been
just as well pleased if they had remained at the bottom of the
Indian Ocean, for he never liked the book and always spoke of it as
being full of youthful priggishness; but I think he was a little
hard upon it. Years afterwards, in one of his later books, after
quoting two passages from Mr. Grant Allen and pointing out why he
considered the second to be a recantation of the first, he wrote:
"When Mr. Allen does make stepping-stones of his dead selves he
jumps upon them to some tune." And he was perhaps a little inclined
to treat his own dead self too much in the same spirit.

Butler did very well with the sheep, sold out in 1864 and returned
via Callao to England. He travelled with three friends whose
acquaintance he had made in the colony; one was Charles Paine Pauli,
to whom he dedicated Life and Habit. He arrived in August, 1864, in
London, where he took chambers consisting of a sitting-room, a
bedroom, a painting-room and a pantry, at 15 Clifford's Inn, second
floor (north). The net financial result of the sheep-farming and
the selling out was that he practically doubled his capital, that is
to say he had about 8000 pounds. This he left in New Zealand,
invested on mortgage at 10 per cent, the then current rate in the
colony; it produced more than enough for him to live upon in the
very simple way that suited him best, and life in the Inns of Court
resembles life at Cambridge in that it reduces the cares of
housekeeping to a minimum; it suited him so well that he never
changed his rooms, remaining there thirty-eight years till his

He was now his own master and able at last to turn to painting. He
studied at the art school in Streatham Street, Bloomsbury, which had
formerly been managed by Henry Sass, but, in Butler's time, was
being carried on by Francis Stephen Gary, son of the Rev. Henry
Francis Gary, who had been a school-fellow of Dr. Butler at Rugby
and is well known as the translator of Dante and the friend of
Charles Lamb. Among his fellow-students was Mr. H. R. Robertson,
who told me that the young artists got hold of the legend, which is
in some of the books about Lamb, that when Francis Stephen Gary was
a boy and there was a talk at his father's house as to what
profession he should take up, Lamb, who was present, said:

"I should make him an apo-po-pothe-Cary."

They used to repeat this story freely among themselves, being, no
doubt, amused by the Lamb-like pun, but also enjoying the malicious
pleasure of hinting that it might have been as well for their art
education if the advice of the gentle humorist had been followed.
Anyone who wants to know what kind of an artist F. S. Cary was can
see his picture of Charles and Mary Lamb in the National Portrait
Gallery. In 1865 Butler sent from London to New Zealand an article
entitled "Lucubratio Ebria," which was published in the Press of
29th July, 1865. It treated machines from a point of view different
from that adopted in "Darwin among the Machines," and was one of the
steps that led to Erewhon and ultimately to Life and Habit. The
article is reproduced in The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912).

Butler also studied art at South Kensington, but by 1867 he had
begun to go to Heatherley's School of Art in Newman Street, where he
continued going for many years. He made a number of friends at
Heatherley's, and among them Miss Eliza Mary Anne Savage. There
also he first met Charles Gogin, who, in 1896, painted the portrait
of Butler which is now in the National Portrait Gallery. He
described himself as an artist in the Post Office Directory, and
between 1868 and 1876 exhibited at the Royal Academy about a dozen
pictures, of which the most important was "Mr. Heatherley's
Holiday," hung on the line in 1874. He left it by his will to his
college friend Jason Smith, whose representatives, after his death,
in 1910, gave it to the nation and it is now in the National Gallery
of British Art. Mr. Heatherley never went away for a holiday; he
once had to go out of town on business and did not return till the
next day; one of the students asked him how he had got on, saying no
doubt he had enjoyed the change and that he must have found it
refreshing to sleep for once out of London.

"No," said Heatherley, "I did not like it. Country air has no

The consequence was that, whenever there was a holiday and the
school was shut, Heatherley employed the time in mending the
skeleton; Butler's picture represents him so engaged in a corner of
the studio. In this way he got his model for nothing. Sometimes he
hung up a looking-glass near one of his windows and painted his own
portrait. Many of these he painted out, but after his death we
found a little store of them in his rooms, some of the early ones
very curious. Of the best of them one is now at Canterbury, New
Zealand, one at St. John's College, Cambridge, and one at the
Schools, Shrewsbury.

This is Butler's own account of himself, taken from a letter to Sir
Julius von Haast; although written in 1865 it is true of his mode of
life for many years:

I have been taking lessons in painting ever since I arrived, I
was always very fond of it and mean to stick to it; it suits me
and I am not without hopes that I shall do well at it. I live
almost the life of a recluse, seeing very few people and going
nowhere that I can help--I mean in the way of parties and so
forth; if my friends had their way they would fritter away my
time without any remorse; but I made a regular stand against it
from the beginning and so, having my time pretty much in my own
hands, work hard; I find, as I am sure you must find, that it is
next to impossible to combine what is commonly called society and

But the time saved from society was not all devoted to painting. He
modified his letter to the Press about "Darwin among the Machines"
and, so modified, it appeared in 1865 as "The Mechanical Creation"
in the Reasoner, a paper then published in London by Mr. G. J.
Holyoake. And his mind returned to the considerations which had
determined him to decline to be ordained. In 1865 he printed
anonymously a pamphlet which he had begun in New Zealand, the result
of his study of the Greek Testament, entitled The Evidence for the
Resurrection of Jesus Christ as given by the four Evangelists
critically examined. After weighing this evidence and comparing one
account with another, he came to the conclusion that Jesus Christ
did not die upon the cross. It is improbable that a man officially
executed should escape death, but the alternative, that a man
actually dead should return to life, seemed to Butler more
improbable still and unsupported by such evidence as he found in the
gospels. From this evidence he concluded that Christ swooned and
recovered consciousness after his body had passed into the keeping
of Joseph of Arimathaea. He did not suppose fraud on the part of
the first preachers of Christianity; they sincerely believed that
Christ died and rose again. Joseph and Nicodemus probably knew the
truth but kept silence. The idea of what might follow from belief
in one single supposed miracle was never hereafter absent from
Butler's mind.

In 1869, having been working too hard, he went abroad for a long
change. On his way back, at the Albergo La Luna, in Venice, he met
an elderly Russian lady in whose company he spent most of his time
there. She was no doubt impressed by his versatility and charmed,
as everyone always was, by his conversation and original views on
the many subjects that interested him. We may be sure he told her
all about himself and what he had done and was intending to do. At
the end of his stay, when he was taking leave of her, she said:

"Et maintenant, Monsieur, vous allez creer," meaning, as he
understood her, that he had been looking long enough at the work of
others and should now do something of his own.

This sank into him and pained him. He was nearly thirty-five, and
hitherto all had been admiration, vague aspiration and despair; he
had produced in painting nothing but a few sketches and studies, and
in literature only a few ephemeral articles, a collection of
youthful letters and a pamphlet on the Resurrection; moreover, to
none of his work had anyone paid the slightest attention. This was
a poor return for all the money which had been spent upon his
education, as Theobald would have said in The Way of All Flesh. He
returned home dejected, but resolved that things should be different
in the future. While in this frame of mind he received a visit from
one of his New Zealand friends, the late Sir F. Napier Broome,
afterwards Governor of Western Australia, who incidentally suggested
his rewriting his New Zealand articles. The idea pleased him; it
might not be creating, but at least it would be doing something. So
he set to work on Sundays and in the evenings, as relaxation from
his profession of painting, and, taking his New Zealand article,
"Darwin among the Machines," and another, "The World of the Unborn,"
as a starting point and helping himself with a few sentences from A
First Year in Canterbury Settlement, he gradually formed Erewhon.
He sent the MS. bit by bit, as it was written, to Miss Savage for
her criticism and approval. He had the usual difficulty about
finding a publisher. Chapman and Hall refused the book on the
advice of George Meredith, who was then their reader, and in the end
he published it at his own expense through Messrs. Trubner.

Mr. Sydney C. Cockerell told me that in 1912 Mr. Bertram Dobell,
second-hand bookseller of Charing Cross Road, offered a copy of
Erewhon for 1 pounds 10s.; it was thus described in his catalogue:
"Unique copy with the following note in the author's handwriting on
the half-title: 'To Miss E. M. A. Savage this first copy of Erewhon
with the author's best thanks for many invaluable suggestions and
corrections.'" When Mr. Cockerell inquired for the book it was
sold. After Miss Savage's death in 1885 all Butler's letters to her
were returned to him, including the letter he wrote when he sent her
this copy of Erewhon. He gave her the first copy issued of all his
books that were published in her lifetime, and, no doubt, wrote an
inscription in each. If the present possessors of any of them
should happen to read this sketch I hope they will communicate with
me, as I should like to see these books. I should also like to see
some numbers of the Drawing-Room Gazette, which about this time
belonged to or was edited by a Mrs. Briggs. Miss Savage wrote a
review of Erewhon, which appeared in the number for 8th June, 1872,
and Butler quoted a sentence from her review among the press notices
in the second edition. She persuaded him to write for Mrs. Briggs
notices of concerts at which Handel's music was performed. In 1901
he made a note on one of his letters that he was thankful there were
no copies of the Drawing-Room Gazette in the British Museum, meaning
that he did not want people to read his musical criticisms;
nevertheless, I hope some day to come across back numbers containing
his articles.

The opening of Erewhon is based upon Butler's colonial experiences;
some of the descriptions remind one of passages in A First Year in
Canterbury Settlement, where he speaks of the excursions he made
with Doctor when looking for sheep-country. The walk over the range
as far as the statues is taken from the Upper Rangitata district,
with some alterations; but the walk down from the statues into
Erewhon is reminiscent of the Leventina Valley in the Canton Ticino.
The great chords, which are like the music moaned by the statues,
are from the prelude to the first of Handel's Trois Lecons; he used
to say:

"One feels them in the diaphragm--they are, as it were, the groaning
and labouring of all creation travailing together until now."

There is a place in New Zealand named Erewhon, after the book; it is
marked on the large maps, a township about fifty miles west of
Napier in the Hawke Bay Province (North Island). I am told that
people in New Zealand sometimes call their houses Erewhon and
occasionally spell the word Erehwon which Butler did not intend; he
treated wh as a single letter, as one would treat th. Among other
traces of Erewhon now existing in real life are Butler's Stones on
the Hokitika Pass, so called because of a legend that they were in
his mind when he described the statues.

The book was translated into Dutch in 1873 and into German in 1897.

Butler wrote to Charles Darwin to explain what he meant by the "Book
of the Machines": "I am sincerely sorry that some of the critics
should have thought I was laughing at your theory, a thing which I
never meant to do and should be shocked at having done." Soon after
this Butler was invited to Down and paid two visits to Mr. Darwin
there; he thus became acquainted with all the family and for some
years was on intimate terms with Mr. (now Sir) Francis Darwin.

It is easy to see by the light of subsequent events that we should
probably have had something not unlike Erewhon sooner or later, even
without the Russian lady and Sir F. N. Broome, to whose promptings,
owing to a certain diffidence which never left him, he was perhaps
inclined to attribute too much importance. But he would not have
agreed with this view at the time; he looked upon himself as a
painter and upon Erewhon as an interruption. It had come, like one
of those creatures from the Land of the Unborn, pestering him and
refusing to leave him at peace until he consented to give it bodily
shape. It was only a little one, and he saw no likelihood of its
having any successors. So he satisfied its demands and then,
supposing that he had written himself out, looked forward to a
future in which nothing should interfere with the painting.
Nevertheless, when another of the unborn came teasing him he yielded
to its importunities and allowed himself to become the author of The
Fair Haven, which is his pamphlet on the Resurrection, enlarged and
preceded by a realistic memoir of the pseudonymous author, John
Pickard Owen. In the library of St. John's College, Cambridge, are
two copies of the pamphlet with pages cut out; he used these pages
in forming the MS. of The Fair Haven. To have published this book
as by the author of Erewhon would have been to give away the irony
and satire. And he had another reason for not disclosing his name;
he remembered that as soon as curiosity about the authorship of
Erewhon was satisfied, the weekly sales fell from fifty down to only
two or three. But, as he always talked openly of whatever was in
his mind, he soon let out the secret of the authorship of The Fair
Haven, and it became advisable to put his name to a second edition.

One result of his submitting the MS. of Erewhon to Miss Savage was
that she thought he ought to write a novel, and urged him to do so.
I have no doubt that he wrote the memoir of John Pickard Owen with
the idea of quieting Miss Savage and also as an experiment to
ascertain whether he was likely to succeed with a novel. The result
seems to have satisfied him, for, not long after The Fair Haven, he
began The Way of All Flesh, sending the MS. to Miss Savage, as he
did everything he wrote, for her approval and putting her into the
book as Ernest's Aunt Alethea. He continued writing it in the
intervals of other work until her death in February, 1885, after
which he did not touch it. It was published in 1903 by Mr. R. A.
Streatfeild, his literary executor.

Soon after The Fair Haven Butler began to be aware that his letter
in the Press, "Darwin among the Machines," was descending with
further modifications and developing in his mind into a theory about
evolution which took shape as Life and Habit; but the writing of
this very remarkable and suggestive book was delayed and the
painting interrupted by absence from England on business in Canada.
He had been persuaded by a college friend, a member of one of the
great banking families, to call in his colonial mortgages and to put
the money into several new companies. He was going to make thirty
or forty per cent instead of only ten. One of these companies was a
Canadian undertaking, of which he became a director; it was
necessary for someone to go to headquarters and investigate its
affairs; he went, and was much occupied by the business for two or
three years. By the beginning of 1876 he had returned finally to
London, but most of his money was lost and his financial position
for the next ten years caused him very serious anxiety. His
personal expenditure was already so low that it was hardly possible
to reduce it, and he set to work at his profession more
industriously than ever, hoping to paint something that he could
sell, his spare time being occupied with Life and Habit, which was
the subject that really interested him more deeply than any other.

Following his letter in the Press, wherein he had seen machines as
in process of becoming animate, he went on to regard them as living
organs and limbs which we had made outside ourselves. What would
follow if we reversed this and regarded our limbs and organs as
machines which we had manufactured as parts of our bodies? In the
first place, how did we come to make them without knowing anything
about it? But then, how comes anybody to do anything unconsciously?
The answer usually would be: By habit. But can a man be said to do
a thing by habit when he has never done it before? His ancestors
have done it, but not he. Can the habit have been acquired by them
for his benefit? Not unless he and his ancestors are the same
person. Perhaps, then, they are the same person.

In February, 1876, partly to clear his mind and partly to tell
someone, he wrote down his thoughts in a letter to his namesake,
Thomas William Gale Butler, a fellow art-student who was then in New
Zealand; so much of the letter as concerns the growth of his theory
is given in The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (1912) and a resume of
the theory will be found at the end of the last of the essays in
this volume, "The Deadlock in Darwinism." In September, 1877, when
Life and Habit was on the eve of publication, Mr. Francis Darwin
came to lunch with him in Clifford's Inn and, in course of
conversation, told him that Professor Ray Lankester had written
something in Nature about a lecture by Dr. Ewald Hering of Prague,
delivered so long ago as 1870, "On Memory as a Universal Function of
Organized Matter." This rather alarmed Butler, but he deferred
looking up the reference until after December, 1877, when his book
was out, and then, to his relief, he found that Hering's theory was
very similar to his own, so that, instead of having something sprung
upon him which would have caused him to want to alter his book, he
was supported. He at once wrote to the Athenaeum, calling attention
to Hering's lecture, and then pursued his studies in evolution.

Life and Habit was followed in 1879 by Evolution Old and New,
wherein he compared the teleological or purposive view of evolution
taken by Buffon, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, and Lamarck with the view taken
by Charles Darwin, and came to the conclusion that the old was
better. But while agreeing with the earlier writers in thinking
that the variations whose accumulation results in species were
originally due to intelligence, he could not take the view that the
intelligence resided in an external personal God. He had done with
all that when he gave up the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
dead. He proposed to place the intelligence inside the creature
("The Deadlock in Darwinism" post).

In 1880 he continued the subject by publishing Unconscious Memory.
Chapter IV of this book is concerned with a personal quarrel between
himself and Charles Darwin which arose out of the publication by
Charles Darwin of Dr. Krause's Life of Erasmus Darwin. We need not
enter into particulars here, the matter is fully dealt with in a
pamphlet, Charles Darwin and Samuel Butler: A Step towards
Reconciliation, which I wrote in 1911, the result of a
correspondence between Mr. Francis Darwin and myself. Before this
correspondence took place Mr. Francis Darwin had made several public
allusions to Life and Habit; and in September, 1908, in his
inaugural address to the British Association at Dublin, he did
Butler the posthumous honour of quoting from his translation of
Hering's lecture "On Memory," which is in Unconscious Memory, and of
mentioning Butler as having enunciated the theory contained in Life
and Habit.

In 1886 Butler published his last book on evolution, Luck or Cunning
as the Main Means of Organic Modification? His other contributions
to the subject are some essays, written for the Examiner in 1879,
"God the Known and God the Unknown," which were re-published by Mr.
Fifield in 1909, and the articles "The Deadlock in Darwinism" which
appeared in the Universal Review in 1890 and are contained in this
volume; some further notes on evolution will be found in The Note-
Books of Samuel Butler (1912).

It was while he was writing Life and Habit that I first met him.
For several years he had been in the habit of spending six or eight
weeks of the summer in Italy and the Canton Ticino, generally making
Faido his headquarters. Many a page of his books was written while
resting by the fountain of some subalpine village or waiting in the
shade of the chestnuts till the light came so that he could continue
a sketch. Every year he returned home by a different route, and
thus gradually became acquainted with every part of the Canton and
North Italy. There is scarcely a town or village, a point of view,
a building, statue or picture in all this country with which he was
not familiar. In 1878 he happened to be on the Sacro Monte above
Varese at the time I took my holiday; there I joined him, and nearly
every year afterwards we were in Italy together.

He was always a delightful companion, and perhaps at his gayest on
these occasions. "A man's holiday," he would say, "is his garden,"
and he set out to enjoy himself and to make everyone about him enjoy
themselves too. I told him the old schoolboy muddle about Sir
Walter Raleigh introducing tobacco and saying: "We shall this day
light up such a fire in England as I trust shall never be put out."
He had not heard it before and, though amused, appeared preoccupied,
and perhaps a little jealous, during the rest of the evening. Next
morning, while he was pouring out his coffee, his eyes twinkled and
he said, with assumed carelessness:

"By the by, do you remember?--wasn't it Columbus who bashed the egg
down on the table and said 'Eppur non si muove'?"

He was welcome wherever he went, full of fun and ready to play while
doing the honours of the country. Many of the peasants were old
friends, and every day we were sure to meet someone who remembered
him. Perhaps it would be an old woman labouring along under a
burden; she would smile and stop, take his hand and tell him how
happy she was to meet him again and repeat her thanks for the empty
wine bottle he had given her after an out-of-door luncheon in her
neighbourhood four or five years before. There was another who had
rowed him many times across the Lago di Orta and had never been in a
train but once in her life, when she went to Novara to her son's
wedding. He always remembered all about these people and asked how
the potatoes were doing this year and whether the grandchildren were
growing up into fine boys and girls, and he never forgot to inquire
after the son who had gone to be a waiter in New York. At Civiasco
there is a restaurant which used to be kept by a jolly old lady,
known for miles round as La Martina; we always lunched with her on
our way over the Colma to and from Varallo-Sesia. On one occasion
we were accompanied by two English ladies and, one being a
teetotaller, Butler maliciously instructed La Martina to make the
sabbaglione so that it should be forte and abbondante, and to say
that the Marsala, with which it was more than flavoured, was nothing
but vinegar. La Martina never forgot that when she looked in to see
how things were going, he was pretending to lick the dish clean.
These journeys provided the material for a book which he thought of
calling "Verdi Prati," after one of Handel's most beautiful songs;
but he changed his mind, and it appeared at the end of 1881 as Alps
and Sanctuaries of Piedmont and the Canton Ticino with more than
eighty illustrations, nearly all by Butler. Charles Gogin made an
etching for the frontispiece, drew some of the pictures, and put
figures into others; half a dozen are mine. They were all redrawn
in ink from sketches made on the spot, in oil, water-colour, and
pencil. There were also many illustrations of another kind--
extracts from Handel's music, each chosen because Butler thought it
suitable to the spirit of the scene he wished to bring before the
reader. The introduction concludes with these words: "I have
chosen Italy as my second country, and would dedicate this book to
her as a thank-offering for the happiness she has afforded me."

In the spring of 1883 he began to compose music, and in 1885 we
published together an album of minuets, gavottes, and fugues. This
led to our writing Narcissus, which is an Oratorio Buffo in the
Handelian manner--that is as nearly so as we could make it. It is a
mistake to suppose that all Handel's oratorios are upon sacred
subjects; some of them are secular. And not only so, but, whatever
the subject, Handel was never at a loss in treating anything that
came into his words by way of allusion or illustration. As Butler
puts it in one of his sonnets:

He who gave eyes to ears and showed in sound
All thoughts and things in earth or heaven above--
From fire and hailstones running along the ground
To Galatea grieving for her love--
He who could show to all unseeing eyes
Glad shepherds watching o'er their flocks by night,
Or Iphis angel-wafted to the skies,
Or Jordan standing as an heap upright--

And so on. But there is one subject which Handel never treated--I
mean the Money Market. Perhaps he avoided it intentionally; he was
twice bankrupt, and Mr. R. A. Streatfeild tells me that the British
Museum possesses a MS. letter from him giving instructions as to the
payment of the dividends on 500 pounds South Sea Stock. Let us hope
he sold out before the bubble burst; if so, he was more fortunate
than Butler, who was at this time of his life in great anxiety about
his own financial affairs. It seemed a pity that Dr. Morell had
never offered Handel some such words as these:

The steadfast funds maintain their wonted state
While all the other markets fluctuate.

Butler wondered whether Handel would have sent the steadfast funds
up above par and maintained them on an inverted pedal with all the
other markets fluctuating iniquitously round them like the sheep
that turn every one to his own way in the Messiah. He thought
something of the kind ought to have been done, and in the absence of
Handel and Dr. Morell we determined to write an oratorio that should
attempt to supply the want. In order to make our libretto as
plausible as possible, we adopted the dictum of Monsieur Jourdain's
Maitre a danser: "Lorsqu'on a des personnes a faire parler en
musique, il faut bien que, pour la vraisemblance, on donne dans la
bergerie." Narcissus is accordingly a shepherd in love with
Amaryllis; they come to London with other shepherds and lose their
money in imprudent speculations on the Stock Exchange. In the
second part the aunt and godmother of Narcissus, having died at an
advanced age worth one hundred thousand pounds, all of which she has
bequeathed to her nephew and godson, the obstacle to his union with
Amaryllis is removed. The money is invested in consols and all ends

In December, 1886, Butler's father died, and his financial
difficulties ceased. He engaged Alfred Emery Cathie as clerk, but
made no other change, except that he bought a pair of new hair
brushes and a larger wash-hand basin. Any change in his mode of
life was an event. When in London he got up at 6.30 in the summer
and 7.30 in the winter, went into his sitting-room, lighted the
fire, put the kettle on and returned to bed. In half an hour he got
up again, fetched the kettle of hot water, emptied it into the cold
water that was already in his bath, refilled the kettle and put it
back on the fire. After dressing, he came into his sitting-room,
made tea and cooked, in his Dutch oven, something he had bought the
day before. His laundress was an elderly woman, and he could not
trouble her to come to his rooms so early in the morning; on the
other hand, he could not stay in bed until he thought it right for
her to go out; so it ended in his doing a great deal for himself.
He then got his breakfast and read the Times. At 9.30 Alfred came,
with whom he discussed anything requiring attention, and soon
afterwards his laundress arrived. Then he started to walk to the
British Museum, where he arrived about 10.30, every alternate
morning calling at the butcher's in Fetter Lane to order his meat.
In the Reading Room at the Museum he sat at Block B ("B for Butler")
and spent an hour "posting his notes"--that is reconsidering,
rewriting, amplifying, shortening, and indexing the contents of the
little note-book he always carried in his pocket. After the notes
he went on till 1.30 with whatever book he happened to be writing.

On three days of the week he dined in a restaurant on his way home,
and on the other days he dined in his chambers where his laundress
had cooked his dinner. At two o'clock Alfred returned (having been
home to dinner with his wife and children) and got tea ready for
him. He then wrote letters and attended to his accounts till 3.45,
when he smoked his first cigarette. He used to smoke a great deal,
but, believing it to be bad for him, took to cigarettes instead of
pipes, and gradually smoked less and less, making it a rule not to
begin till some particular hour, and pushing this hour later and
later in the day, till it settled itself at 3.45. There was no
water laid on in his rooms, and every day he fetched one can full
from the tap in the court, Alfred fetching the rest. When anyone
expostulated with him about cooking his own breakfast and fetching
his own water, he replied that it was good for him to have a change
of occupation. This was partly the fact, but the real reason, which
he could not tell everyone, was that he shrank from inconveniencing
anybody; he always paid more than was necessary when anything was
done for him, and was not happy then unless he did some of the work

At 5.30 he got his evening meal, he called it his tea, and it was
little more than a facsimile of breakfast. Alfred left in time to
post the letters before six. Butler then wrote music till about 8,
when he came to see me in Staple Inn, returning to Clifford's Inn by
about 10. After a light supper, latterly not more than a piece of
toast and a glass of milk, he played one game of his own particular
kind of Patience, prepared his breakfast things and fire ready for
the next morning, smoked his seventh and last cigarette, and went to
bed at eleven o'clock.

He was fond of the theatre, but avoided serious pieces. He
preferred to take his Shakespeare from the book, finding that the
spirit of the plays rather evaporated under modern theatrical
treatment. In one of his books he brightens up the old illustration
of Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark by putting it thus: "If the
character of Hamlet be entirely omitted, the play must suffer, even
though Henry Irving himself be cast for the title-role." Anyone
going to the theatre in this spirit would be likely to be less
disappointed by performances that were comic or even frankly
farcical. Latterly, when he grew slightly deaf, listening to any
kind of piece became too much of an effort; nevertheless, he
continued to the last the habit of going to one pantomime every

There were about twenty houses where he visited, but he seldom
accepted an invitation to dinner--it upset the regularity of his
life; besides, he belonged to no club and had no means of returning
hospitality. When two colonial friends called unexpectedly about
noon one day, soon after he settled in London, he went to the
nearest cook-shop in Fetter Lane and returned carrying a dish of hot
roast pork and greens. This was all very well once in a way, but
not the sort of thing to be repeated indefinitely.

On Thursdays, instead of going to the Museum, he often took a day
off, going into the country sketching or walking, and on Sundays,
whatever the weather, he nearly always went into the country
walking; his map of the district for thirty miles round London is
covered all over with red lines showing where he had been. He
sometimes went out of town from Saturday to Monday, and for over
twenty years spent Christmas at Boulogne-sur-Mer.

There is a Sacro Monte at Varallo-Sesia with many chapels, each
containing life-sized statues and frescoes illustrating the life of
Christ. Butler had visited this sanctuary repeatedly, and was a
great favourite with the townspeople, who knew that he was studying
the statues and frescoes in the chapels, and who remembered that in
the preface to Alps and Sanctuaries he had declared his intention of
writing about them. In August, 1887, the Varallesi brought matters
to a head by giving him a civic dinner on the Mountain. Everyone
was present, there were several speeches and, when we were coming
down the slippery mountain path after it was all over, he said to

"You know, there's nothing for it now but to write that book about
the Sacro Monte at once. It must be the next thing I do."

Accordingly, on returning home, he took up photography and,
immediately after Christmas, went back to Varallo to photograph the
statues and collect material. Much research was necessary and many
visits to out-of-the-way sanctuaries which might have contained work
by the sculptor Tabachetti, whom he was rescuing from oblivion and
identifying with the Flemish Jean de Wespin. One of these visits,
made after his book was published, forms the subject of "The
Sanctuary of Montrigone," reproduced in this volume. Ex Voto, the
book about Varallo, appeared in 1888, and an Italian translation by
Cavaliere Angelo Rizzetti was published at Novara in 1894.

"Quis Desiderio . . .?" the second essay in this volume, was
developed in 1888 from something in a letter from Miss Savage nearly
ten years earlier. On the 15th of December, 1878, in acknowledging
this letter, Butler wrote:

I am sure that any tree or flower nursed by Miss Cobbe would be
the _very_ first to fade away and that her gazelles would die
long before they ever came to know her _well_. The sight of the
brass buttons on her pea-jacket would settle them out of hand.

There was an enclosure in Miss Savage's letter, but it is
unfortunately lost; I suppose it must have been a newspaper cutting
with an allusion to Moore's poem and perhaps a portrait of Miss
Frances Power Cobbe--pea-jacket, brass buttons, and all.

On the 10th November, 1879, Miss Savage, having been ill, wrote to

I have been dipping into the books of Moses, being sometimes at a
loss for something to read while shut up in my apartment. You
know that I have never read the Bible much, consequently there is
generally something of a novelty that I hit on. As you do know
your Bible well, perhaps you can tell me what became of Aaron.
The account given of his end in Numbers XX is extremely ambiguous
and unsatisfactory. Evidently he did not come by his death
fairly, but whether he was murdered secretly for the furtherance
of some private ends, or publicly in a State sacrifice, I can't
make out. I myself rather incline to the former opinion, but I
should like to know what the experts say about it. A very nice,
exciting little tale might be made out of it in the style of the
police stories in All the Year Round called "The Mystery of Mount
Hor or What became of Aaron?" Don't forget to write to me.

Butler's people had been suggesting that he should try to earn money
by writing in magazines, and Miss Savage was falling in with the
idea and offering a practical suggestion. I do not find that he had
anything to tell her about the death of Aaron. On 23rd March, 1880,
she wrote:

Dear Mr. Butler: Read the subjoined poem of Wordsworth and let
me know what you understand its meaning to be. Of course I have
my opinion, which I think of communicating to the Wordsworth
Society. You can belong to that Society for the small sum of 2/6
per annum. I think of joining because it is cheap.

"The subjoined poem" was the one beginning: "She dwelt among the
untrodden ways," and Butler made this note on the letter:

To the foregoing letter I answered that I concluded Miss Savage
meant to imply that Wordsworth had murdered Lucy in order to
escape a prosecution for breach of promise.

Miss Savage to Butler.

2nd April, 1880: My dear Mr. Butler: I don't think you see all
that I do in the poem, and I am afraid that the suggestion of a
DARK SECRET in the poet's life is not so very obvious after all.
I was hoping you would propose to devote yourself for a few
months to reading the Excursion, his letters, &c., with a view to
following up the clue, and I am disappointed though, to say the
truth, the idea of a _crime_ had not flashed upon me when I wrote
to you. How well the works of _great_ men repay attention and
study! But you, who know your Bible so well, how was it that you
did not detect the plagiarism in the last verse? Just refer to
the account of the disappearance of Aaron (I have not a Bible at
hand, we want one sadly in the club) but I am sure that the words
are identical [I cannot see what Miss Savage meant. 1901. S.
B.] Cassell's Magazine have offered a prize for setting the poem
to music, and I fell to thinking how it could be treated
musically, and so came to a right comprehension of it.

Although Butler, when editing Miss Savage's letters in 1901, could
not see the resemblance between Wordsworth's poem and Numbers XX.,
he at once saw a strong likeness between Lucy and Moore's heroine
whom he had been keeping in an accessible pigeon-hole of his memory
ever since his letter about Miss Frances Power Cobbe. He now sent
Lucy to keep her company and often spoke of the pair of them as
probably the two most disagreeable young women in English
literature--an opinion which he must have expressed to Miss Savage
and with which I have no doubt she agreed.

In the spring of 1888, on his return from photographing the statues
at Varallo, he found, to his disgust, that the authorities of the
British Museum had removed Frost's Lives of Eminent Christians from
its accustomed shelf in the Reading Room. Soon afterwards Harry
Quilter asked him to write for the Universal Review and he responded
with "Quis Desiderio . . .?" In this essay he compares himself to
Wordsworth and dwells on the points of resemblance between Lucy and
the book of whose assistance he had now been deprived in a passage
which echoes the opening of Chapter V of Ex Voto, where he points
out the resemblances between Varallo and Jerusalem.

Early in 1888 the leading members of the Shrewsbury Archaeological
Society asked Butler to write a memoir of his grandfather and of his
father for their Quarterly Journal. This he undertook to do when he
should have finished Ex Voto. In December, 1888, his sisters, with
the idea of helping him to write the memoir, gave him his
grandfather's correspondence, which extended from 1790 to 1839. On
looking over these very voluminous papers he became penetrated with
an almost Chinese reverence for his ancestor and, after getting the
Archaeological Society to absolve him from his promise to write the
memoir, set about a full life of Dr. Butler, which was not published
till 1896. The delay was caused partly by the immense quantity of
documents he had to sift and digest, the number of people he had to
consult and the many letters he had to write, and partly by
something that arose out of Narcissus, which we published in June,

Butler was not satisfied with having written only half of this work;
he wanted it to have a successor, so that by adding his two halves
together, he could say he had written a whole Handelian oratorio.
While staying with his sisters at Shrewsbury with this idea in his
mind, he casually took up a book by Alfred Ainger about Charles Lamb
and therein stumbled upon something about the Odyssey. It was years
since he had looked at the poem, but, from what he remembered, he
thought it might provide a suitable subject for musical treatment.
He did not, however, want to put Dr. Butler aside, so I undertook to
investigate. It is stated on the title-page of both Narcissus and
Ulysses that the words were written and the music composed by both
of us. As to the music, each piece bears the initials of the one
who actually composed it. As to the words, it was necessary first
to settle some general scheme and this, in the case of Narcissus,
grew in the course of conversation. The scheme of Ulysses was
constructed in a more formal way and Butler had perhaps rather less
to do with it. We were bound by the Odyssey, which is, of course,
too long to be treated fully, and I selected incidents that
attracted me and settled the order of the songs and choruses. For
this purpose, as I out-Shakespeare Shakespeare in the smallness of
my Greek, I used The Adventures of Ulysses by Charles Lamb, which we
should have known nothing about but for Ainger's book. Butler
acquiesced in my proposals, but, when it came to the words
themselves, he wrote practically all the libretto, as he had done in
the case of Narcissus; I did no more than suggest a few phrases and
a few lines here and there.

We had sent Narcissus for review to the papers, and, as a
consequence, about this time, made the acquaintance of Mr. J. A.
Fuller Maitland, then musical critic of the Times; he introduced us
to that learned musician William Smith Rockstro, under whom we
studied medieval counterpoint while composing Ulysses. We had
already made some progress with it when it occurred to Butler that
it would not take long and might, perhaps, be safer if he were to
look at the original poem, just to make sure that Lamb had not
misled me. Not having forgotten all his Greek, he bought a copy of
the Odyssey and was so fascinated by it that he could not put it
down. When he came to the Phoeacian episode of Ulysses at Scheria
he felt he must be reading the description of a real place and that
something in the personality of the author was eluding him. For
months he was puzzled, and, to help in clearing up the mystery, set
about translating the poem. In August, 1891, he had preceded me to
Chiavenna and on a letter I wrote him, telling him when to expect
me, he made this note:

It was during the few days I was at Chiavenna (at the Hotel
Grotta Crimee) that I hit upon the feminine authorship of the
Odyssey. I did not find out its having been written at Trapani
till January, 1892.

He suspected that the authoress in describing both Scheria and
Ithaca was drawing from her native country and searched on the
Admiralty charts for the features enumerated in the poem; this led
him to the conclusion that the country could only be Trapani, Mount
Eryx, and the AEgadean Islands. As soon as he could after this
discovery he went to Sicily to study the locality and found it in
all respects suitable for his theory; indeed, it was astonishing how
things kept turning up to support his view. It is all in his book
The Authoress of the Odyssey, published in 1897 and dedicated to his
friend Cavaliere Biagio Ingroja of Calatafimi.

His first visit to Sicily was in 1892, in August--a hot time of the
year, but it was his custom to go abroad in the autumn. He returned
to Sicily every year (except one), but latterly went in the spring.
He made many friends all over the island, and after his death the
people of Calatafimi called a street by his name, the Via Samuel
Butler, "thus," as Ingroja wrote when he announced the event to me,
"honouring a great man's memory, handing down his name to posterity,
and doing homage to the friendly English nation." Besides showing
that the Odyssey was written by a woman in Sicily and translating
the poem into English prose, he also translated the Iliad, and, in
March, 1895, went to Greece and the Troad to see the country therein
described, where he found nothing to cause him to disagree with the
received theories.

It has been said of him in a general way that the fact of an opinion
being commonly held was enough to make him profess the opposite. It
was enough to make him examine the opinion for himself, when it
affected any of the many subjects which interested him, and if,
after giving it his best attention, he found it did not hold water,
then no weight of authority could make him say that it did. This
matter of the geography of the Iliad is only one among many commonly
received opinions which he examined for himself and found no reason
to dispute; on these he considered it unnecessary to write.

It is characteristic of his passion for doing things thoroughly that
he learnt nearly the whole of the Odyssey and the Iliad by heart.
He had a Pickering copy of each poem, which he carried in his pocket
and referred to in railway trains, both in England and Italy, when
saying the poems over to himself. These two little books are now in
the library of St. John's College, Cambridge. He was, however,
disappointed to find that he could not retain more than a book or
two at a time and that, on learning more, he forgot what he had
learnt first; but he was about sixty at the time. Shakespeare's
Sonnets, on which he published a book in 1899, gave him less trouble
in this respect; he knew them all by heart, and also their order,
and one consequence of this was that he wrote some sonnets in the
Shakespearian form. He found this intimate knowledge of the poet's
work more useful for his purpose than reading commentaries by those
who were less familiar with it. "A commentary on a poem," he would
say, "may be useful as material on which to form an estimate of the
commentator, but the poem itself is the most important document you
can consult, and it is impossible to know it too intimately if you
want to form an opinion about it and its author."

It was always the author, the work of God, that interested him more
than the book--the work of man; the painter more than the picture;
the composer more than the music. "If a writer, a painter, or a
musician makes me feel that he held those things to be lovable which
I myself hold to be lovable I am satisfied; art is only interesting
in so far as it reveals the personality of the artist." Handel was,
of course, "the greatest of all musicians." Among the painters he
chiefly loved Giovanni Bellini, Carpaccio, Gaudenzio Ferrari,
Rembrandt, Holbein, Velasquez, and De Hooghe; in poetry Shakespeare,
Homer, and the Authoress of the Odyssey; and in architecture the
man, whoever he was, who designed the Temple of Neptune at Paestum.
Life being short, he did not see why he should waste any of it in
the company of inferior people when he had these. And he treated
those he met in daily life in the same spirit: it was what he found
them to be that attracted or repelled him; what others thought about
them was of little or no consequence.

And now, at the end of his life, his thoughts reverted to the two
subjects which had occupied him more than thirty years previously--
namely, Erewhon and the evidence for the death and resurrection of
Jesus Christ. The idea of what might follow from belief in one
single supposed miracle had been slumbering during all those years
and at last rose again in the form of a sequel to Erewhon. In
Erewhon Revisited Mr. Higgs returns to find that the Erewhonians now
believe in him as a god in consequence of the supposed miracle of
his going up in a balloon to induce his heavenly father to send the
rain. Mr. Higgs and the reader know that there was no miracle in
the case, but Butler wanted to show that whether it was a miracle or
not did not signify provided that the people believed it to be one.
And so Mr. Higgs is present in the temple which is being dedicated
to him and his worship.

The existence of his son George was an after-thought and gave
occasion for the second leading idea of the book--the story of a
father trying to win the love of a hitherto unknown son by risking
his life in order to show himself worthy of it--and succeeding.

Butler's health had already begun to fail, and when he started for
Sicily on Good Friday, 1902, it was for the last time: he knew he
was unfit to travel, but was determined to go, and was looking
forward to meeting Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Fuller Maitland, whom he was
to accompany over the Odyssean scenes at Trapani and Mount Eryx.
But he did not get beyond Palermo; there he was so much worse that
he could not leave his room. In a few weeks he was well enough to
be removed to Naples, and Alfred went out and brought him home to
London. He was taken to a nursing home in St. John's Wood where he
lay for a month, attended by his old friend Dr. Dudgeon, and where
he died on the 18th June, 1902.

There was a great deal he still wanted to do. He had intended to
revise The Way of All Flesh, to write a book about Tabachetti, and
to publish a new edition of Ex Voto with the mistakes corrected.
Also he wished to reconsider the articles reprinted in this volume
and was looking forward to painting more sketches and composing more
music. While lying ill and very feeble within a few days of the
end, and not knowing whether it was to be the end or not, he said to

"I am much better to-day. I don't feel at all as though I were
going to die. Of course, it will be all wrong if I do get well, for
there is my literary position to be considered. First I write
Erewhon--that is my opening subject; then, after modulating freely
through all my other books and the music and so on, I return
gracefully to my original key and write Erewhon Revisited.
Obviously, now is the proper moment to come to a full close, make my
bow and retire; but I believe I am getting well after all. It's
very inartistic, but I cannot help it."

Some of his readers complain that they often do not know whether he
is serious or jesting. He wrote of Lord Beaconsfield: "Earnestness
was his greatest danger, but if he did not quite overcome it (as
indeed who can? it is the last enemy that shall be subdued), he
managed to veil it with a fair amount of success." To veil his own
earnestness he turned most naturally to humour, employing it in a
spirit of reverence, as all the great humorists have done, to
express his deepest and most serious convictions. He was aware that
he ran the risk of being misunderstood by some, but he also knew
that it is useless to try to please all, and, like Mozart, he wrote
to please himself and a few intimate friends.

I cannot speak at length of his kindness, consideration, and
sympathy; nor of his generosity, the extent of which was very great
and can never be known--it was sometimes exercised in unexpected
ways, as when he gave my laundress a shilling because it was "such a
beastly foggy morning"; nor of his slightly archaic courtliness--
unless among people he knew well he usually left the room backwards,
bowing to the company; nor of his punctiliousness, industry, and
painstaking attention to detail--he kept accurate accounts not only
of all his property by double entry but also of his daily
expenditure, which he balanced to a halfpenny every evening, and his
handwriting, always beautiful and legible, was more so at sixty-six
than at twenty-six; nor of his patience and cheerfulness during
years of anxiety when he had few to sympathize with him; nor of the
strange mixture of simplicity and shrewdness that caused one who
knew him well to say: "II sait tout; il ne sait rien; il est

Epitaphs always fascinated him, and formerly he used to say he
should like to be buried at Langar and to have on his tombstone the
subject of the last of Handel's Six Great Fugues. He called this
"The Old Man Fugue," and said it was like an epitaph composed for
himself by one who was very old and tired and sorry for things; and
he made young Ernest Pontifex in The Way of all Flesh offer it to
Edward Overton as an epitaph for his Aunt Alethea. Butler, however,
left off wanting any tombstone long before he died. In accordance
with his wish his body was cremated, and a week later Alfred and I
returned to Woking and buried his ashes under the shrubs in the
garden of the crematorium, with nothing to mark the spot.

The Humour of Homer {59}

The first of the two great poems commonly ascribed to Homer is
called the Iliad--a title which we may be sure was not given it by
the author. It professes to treat of a quarrel between Agamemnon
and Achilles that broke out while the Greeks were besieging the city
of Troy, and it does, indeed, deal largely with the consequences of
this quarrel; whether, however, the ostensible subject did not
conceal another that was nearer the poet's heart--I mean the last
days, death, and burial of Hector--is a point that I cannot
determine. Nor yet can I determine how much of the Iliad as we now
have it is by Homer, and how much by a later writer or writers.
This is a very vexed question, but I myself believe the Iliad to be
entirely by a single poet.

The second poem commonly ascribed to the same author is called the
Odyssey. It deals with the adventures of Ulysses during his ten
years of wandering after Troy had fallen. These two works have of
late years been believed to be by different authors. The Iliad is
now generally held to be the older work by some one or two hundred

The leading ideas of the Iliad are love, war, and plunder, though
this last is less insisted on than the other two. The key-note is
struck with a woman's charms, and a quarrel among men for their
possession. It is a woman who is at the bottom of the Trojan war
itself. Woman throughout the Iliad is a being to be loved, teased,
laughed at, and if necessary carried off. We are told in one place
of a fine bronze cauldron for heating water which was worth twenty
oxen, whereas a few lines lower down a good serviceable maid-of-all-
work is valued at four oxen. I think there is a spice of malicious
humour in this valuation, and am confirmed in this opinion by noting
that though woman in the Iliad is on one occasion depicted as a wife
so faithful and affectionate that nothing more perfect can be found
either in real life or fiction, yet as a general rule she is drawn
as teasing, scolding, thwarting, contradicting, and hoodwinking the
sex that has the effrontery to deem itself her lord and master.
Whether or no this view may have arisen from any domestic
difficulties between Homer and his wife is a point which again I
find it impossible to determine.

We cannot refrain from contemplating such possibilities. If we are
to be at home with Homer there must be no sitting on the edge of
one's chair dazzled by the splendour of his reputation. He was
after all only a literary man, and those who occupy themselves with
letters must approach him as a very honoured member of their own
fraternity, but still as one who must have felt, thought, and acted
much as themselves. He struck oil, while we for the most part
succeed in boring only; still we are his literary brethren, and if
we would read his lines intelligently we must also read between
them. That one so shrewd, and yet a dreamer of such dreams as have
been vouchsafed to few indeed besides himself--that one so genially
sceptical, and so given to looking into the heart of a matter,
should have been in such perfect harmony with his surroundings as to
think himself in the best of all possible worlds--this is not
believable. The world is always more or less out of joint to the
poet--generally more so; and unfortunately he always thinks it more
or less his business to set it right--generally more so. We are all
of us more or less poets--generally, indeed, less so; still we feel
and think, and to think at all is to be out of harmony with much
that we think about. We may be sure, then, that Homer had his full
share of troubles, and also that traces of these abound up and down
his work if we could only identify them, for everything that
everyone does is in some measure a portrait of himself; but here
comes the difficulty--not to read between the lines, not to try and
detect the hidden features of the writer--this is to be a dull,
unsympathetic, incurious reader; and on the other hand to try and
read between them is to be in danger of running after every Will o'
the Wisp that conceit may raise for our delusion.

I believe it will help you better to understand the broad humour of
the Iliad, which we shall presently reach, if you will allow me to
say a little more about the general characteristics of the poem.
Over and above the love and war that are his main themes, there is
another which the author never loses sight of--I mean distrust and
dislike of the ideas of his time as regards the gods and omens. No
poet ever made gods in his own image more defiantly than the author
of the Iliad. In the likeness of man created he them, and the only
excuse for him is that he obviously desired his readers not to take
them seriously. This at least is the impression he leaves upon his
reader, and when so great a man as Homer leaves an impression it
must be presumed that he does so intentionally. It may be almost
said that he has made the gods take the worse, not the better, side
of man's nature upon them, and to be in all respects as we
ourselves--yet without virtue. It should be noted, however, that
the gods on the Trojan side are treated far more leniently than
those who help the Greeks.

The chief gods on the Grecian side are Juno, Minerva, and Neptune.
Juno, as you will shortly see, is a scolding wife, who in spite of
all Jove's bluster wears the breeches, or tries exceedingly hard to
do so. Minerva is an angry termagant--mean, mischief-making, and
vindictive. She begins by pulling Achilles' hair, and later on she
knocks the helmet from off the head of Mars. She hates Venus, and
tells the Grecian hero Diomede that he had better not wound any of
the other gods, but that he is to hit Venus if he can, which he
presently does 'because he sees that she is feeble and not like
Minerva or Bellona.' Neptune is a bitter hater.

Apollo, Mars, Venus, Diana, and Jove, so far as his wife will let
him, are on the Trojan side. These, as I have said, meet with
better, though still somewhat contemptuous, treatment at the poet's
hand. Jove, however, is being mocked and laughed at from first to
last, and if one moral can be drawn from the Iliad more clearly than
another, it is that he is only to be trusted to a very limited
extent. Homer's position, in fact, as regards divine interference
is the very opposite of David's. David writes, "Put not your trust
in princes nor in any child of man; there is no sure help but from
the Lord." With Homer it is, "Put not your trust in Jove neither in
any omen from heaven; there is but one good omen--to fight for one's
country. Fortune favours the brave; heaven helps those who help

The god who comes off best is Vulcan, the lame, hobbling, old
blacksmith, who is the laughing-stock of all the others, and whose
exquisitely graceful skilful workmanship forms such an effective
contrast to the uncouth exterior of the workman. Him, as a man of
genius and an artist, and furthermore as a somewhat despised artist,
Homer treats, if with playfulness, still with respect, in spite of
the fact that circumstances have thrown him more on the side of the
Greeks than of the Trojans, with whom I understand Homer's
sympathies mainly to lie.

The poet either dislikes music or is at best insensible to it.
Great poets very commonly are so. Achilles, indeed, does on one
occasion sing to his own accompaniment on the lyre, but we are not
told that it was any pleasure to hear him, and Patroclus, who was in
the tent at the time, was not enjoying it; he was only waiting for
Achilles to leave off. But though not fond of music, Homer has a
very keen sense of the beauties of nature, and is constantly
referring both in and out of season to all manner of homely
incidents that are as familiar to us as to himself. Sparks in the
train of a shooting-star; a cloud of dust upon a high road;
foresters going out to cut wood in a forest; the shrill cry of the
cicale; children making walls of sand on the sea-shore, or teasing
wasps when they have found a wasps' nest; a poor but very honest
woman who gains a pittance for her children by selling wool, and
weighs it very carefully; a child clinging to its mother's dress and
crying to be taken up and carried--none of these things escape him.
Neither in the Iliad nor the Odyssey do we ever receive so much as a
hint as to the time of year at which any of the events described are
happening; but on one occasion the author of the Iliad really has
told us that it was a very fine day, and this not from a business
point of view, but out of pure regard to the weather for its own

With one more observation I will conclude my preliminary remarks
about the Iliad. I cannot find its author within the four corners
of the work itself. I believe the writer of the Odyssey to appear
in the poem as a prominent and very fascinating character whom we
shall presently meet, but there is no one in the Iliad on whom I can
put my finger with even a passing idea that he may be the author.
Still, if under some severe penalty I were compelled to find him, I
should say it was just possible that he might consider his own lot
to have been more or less like that which he forecasts for Astyanax,
the infant son of Hector. At any rate his intimate acquaintance
with the topography of Troy, which is now well ascertained, and
still more his obvious attempt to excuse the non-existence of a
great wall which, according to his story, ought to be there and
which he knew had never existed, so that no trace could remain,
while there were abundant traces of all the other features he
describes--these facts convince me that he was in all probability a
native of the Troad, or country round Troy. His plausibly concealed
Trojan sympathies, and more particularly the aggravated exaggeration
with which the flight of Hector is described, suggest to me, coming
as they do from an astute and humorous writer, that he may have been
a Trojan, at any rate by the mother's side, made captive, enslaved,
compelled to sing the glories of his captors, and determined so to
overdo them that if his masters cannot see through the irony others
sooner or later shall. This, however, is highly speculative, and
there are other views that are perhaps more true, but which I cannot
now consider.

I will now ask you to form your own opinions as to whether Homer is
or is not a shrewd and humorous writer.

Achilles, whose quarrel with Agamemnon is the ostensible subject of
the poem, is son to a marine goddess named Thetis, who had rendered
Jove an important service at a time when he was in great
difficulties. Achilles, therefore, begs his mother Thetis to go up
to Jove and ask him to let the Trojans discomfit the Greeks for a
time, so that Agamemnon may find he cannot get on without Achilles'
help, and may thus be brought to reason.

Thetis tells her son that for the moment there is nothing to be
done, inasmuch as the gods are all of them away from home. They are
gone to pay a visit to Oceanus in Central Africa, and will not be
back for another ten or twelve days; she will see what can be done,
however, as soon as ever they return. This in due course she does,
going up to Olympus and laying hold of Jove by the knee and by the
chin. I may say in passing that it is still a common Italian form
of salutation to catch people by the chin. Twice during the last
summer I have been so seized in token of affectionate greeting, once
by a lady and once by a gentleman.

Thetis tells her tale to Jove, and concludes by saying that he is to
say straight out 'yes' or 'no' whether he will do what she asks. Of
course he can please himself, but she should like to know how she

"It will be a plaguy business," answers Jove, "for me to offend Juno
and put up with all the bitter tongue she will give me. As it is,
she is always nagging at me and saying I help the Trojans, still, go
away now at once before she finds out that you have been here, and
leave the rest to me. See, I nod my head to you, and this is the
most solemn form of covenant into which I can enter. I never go
back upon it, nor shilly-shally with anybody when I have once nodded
my head." Which, by the way, amounts to an admission that he does
shilly-shally sometimes.

Then he frowns and nods, shaking the hair on his immortal head till
Olympus rocks again. Thetis goes off under the sea and Jove returns
to his own palace. All the other gods stand up when they see him
coming, for they do not dare to remain sitting while he passes, but
Juno knows he has been hatching mischief against the Greeks with
Thetis, so she attacks him in the following words:

"You traitorous scoundrel," she exclaims, "which of the gods have
you been taking into your counsel now? You are always trying to
settle matters behind my back, and never tell me, if you can help
it, a single word about your designs."

"'Juno,' replied the father of gods and men, 'you must not expect to
be told everything that I am thinking about: you are my wife, it is
true, but you might not be able always to understand my meaning; in
so far as it is proper for you to know of my intentions you are the
first person to whom I communicate them either among the gods or
among mankind, but there are certain points which I reserve entirely
for myself, and the less you try to pry into these, or meddle with
them, the better for you.'"

"'Dread son of Saturn,' answered Juno, 'what in the world are you
talking about? I meddle and pry? No one, I am sure, can have his
own way in everything more absolutely than you have. Still I have a
strong misgiving that the old merman's daughter Thetis has been
talking you over. I saw her hugging your knees this very self-same
morning, and I suspect you have been promising her to kill any
number of people down at the Grecian ships, in order to gratify

"'Wife,' replied Jove, 'I can do nothing but you suspect me. You
will not do yourself any good, for the more you go on like that the
more I dislike you, and it may fare badly with you. If I mean to
have it so, I mean to have it so, you had better therefore sit still
and hold your tongue as I tell you, for if I once begin to lay my
hands about you, there is not a god in heaven who will be of the
smallest use to you.'

"When Juno heard this she thought it better to submit, so she sat
down without a word, but all the gods throughout Jove's mansion were
very much perturbed. Presently the cunning workman Vulcan tried to
pacify his mother Juno, and said, 'It will never do for you two to
go on quarrelling and setting heaven in an uproar about a pack of
mortals. The thing will not bear talking about. If such counsels
are to prevail a god will not be able to get his dinner in peace.
Let me then advise my mother (and I am sure it is her own opinion)
to make her peace with my dear father, lest he should scold her
still further, and spoil our banquet; for if he does wish to turn us
all out there can be no question about his being perfectly able to
do so. Say something civil to him, therefore, and then perhaps he
will not hurt us.'

"As he spoke he took a large cup of nectar and put it into his
mother's hands, saying, 'Bear it, my dear mother, and make the best
of it. I love you dearly and should be very sorry to see you get a
thrashing. I should not be able to help you, for my father Jove is
not a safe person to differ from. You know once before when I was
trying to help you he caught me by the foot and chucked me from the
heavenly threshold. I was all day long falling from morn to eve,
but at sunset I came to ground on the island of Lemnos, and there
was very little life left in me, till the Sintians came and tended

"On this Juno smiled, and with a laugh took the cup from her son's
hand. Then Vulcan went about among all other gods drawing nectar
for them from his goblet, and they laughed immoderately as they saw
him bustling about the heavenly mansion."

Then presently the gods go home to bed, each one in his own house
that Vulcan had cunningly built for him or her. Finally Jove
himself went to the bed which he generally occupied; and Jove his
wife went with him.

There is another quarrel between Jove and Juno at the beginning of
the fourth book.

The gods are sitting on the golden floor of Jove's palace and
drinking one another's health in the nectar with which Hebe from
time to time supplies them. Jove begins to tease Juno, and to
provoke her with some sarcastic remarks that are pointed at her
though not addressed to her directly.

"'Menelaus,' he exclaimed, 'has two good friends among the
goddesses, Juno and Minerva, but they only sit still and look on,
while Venus on the other hand takes much better care of Paris, and
defends him when he is in danger. She has only just this moment
been rescuing him when he made sure he was at death's door, for the
victory really did lie with Menelaus. We must think what we are to
do about all this. Shall we renew strife between the combatants or
shall we make them friends again? I think the best plan would be
for the City of Priam to remain unpillaged, but for Menelaus to have
his wife Helen sent back to him.'

"Minerva and Juno groaned in spirit when they heard this. They were
sitting side by side, and thinking what mischief they could do to
the Trojans. Minerva for her part said not one word, but sat
scowling at her father, for she was in a furious passion with him,
but Juno could not contain herself, so she said--

"'What, pray, son of Saturn, is all this about? Is my trouble then
to go for nothing, and all the pains that I have taken, to say
nothing of my horses, and the way we have sweated and toiled to get
the people together against Priam and his children? You can do as
you please, but you must not expect all of us to agree with you.'

"And Jove answered, 'Wife, what harm have Priam and Priam's children
done you that you rage so furiously against them, and want to sack
their city? Will nothing do for you but you must eat Priam with his
sons and all the Trojans into the bargain? Have it your own way
then, for I will not quarrel with you--only remember what I tell
you: if at any time I want to sack a city that belongs to any
friend of yours, it will be no use your trying to hinder me, you
will have to let me do it, for I only yield to you now with the
greatest reluctance. If there was one city under the sun which I
respected more than another it was Troy with its king and people.
My altars there have never been without the savour of fat or of
burnt sacrifice and all my dues were paid.'

"'My own favourite cities,' answered Juno, 'are Argos, Sparta, and
Mycenae. Sack them whenever you may be displeased with them. I
shall not make the smallest protest against your doing so. It would
be no use if I did, for you are much stronger than I am, only I will
not submit to seeing my own work wasted. I am a goddess of the same
race as yourself. I am Saturn's eldest daughter and am not only
nearly related to you in blood, but I am wife to yourself, and you
are king over the gods. Let it be a case, then, of give and take
between us, and the other gods will follow our lead. Tell Minerva,
therefore, to go down at once and set the Greeks and Trojans by the
ears again, and let her so manage it that the Trojans shall break
their oaths and be the aggressors.'"

This is the very thing to suit Minerva, so she goes at once and
persuades the Trojans to break their oath.

In a later book we are told that Jove has positively forbidden the
gods to interfere further in the struggle. Juno therefore
determines to hoodwink him. First she bolted herself inside her own
room on the top of Mount Ida and had a thorough good wash. Then she
scented herself, brushed her golden hair, put on her very best dress
and all her jewels. When she had done this, she went to Venus and
besought her for the loan of her charms.

"'You must not be angry with me, Venus,' she began, 'for being on
the Grecian side while you are yourself on the Trojan; but you know
every one falls in love with you at once, and I want you to lend me
some of your attractions. I have to pay a visit at the world's end
to Oceanus and Mother Tethys. They took me in and were very good to
me when Jove turned Saturn out of heaven and shut him up under the
sea. They have been quarrelling this long time past and will not
speak to one another. So I must go and see them, for if I can only
make them friends again I am sure that they will be grateful to me
for ever afterwards.'"

Venus thought this reasonable, so she took off her girdle and lent
it to Juno, an act by the way which argues more good nature than
prudence on her part. Then Juno goes down to Thrace, and in search
of Sleep the brother of Death. She finds him and shakes hands with
him. Then she tells him she is going up to Olympus to make love to
Jove, and that while she is occupying his attention Sleep is to send
him off into a deep slumber.

Sleep says he dares not do it. He would lull any of the other gods,
but Juno must remember that she had got him into a great scrape once
before in this way, and Jove hurled the gods about all over the
palace, and would have made an end of him once for all, if he had
not fled under the protection of Night, whom Jove did not venture to

Juno bribes him, however, with a promise that if he will consent she
will marry him to the youngest of the Graces, Pasithea. On this he
yields; the pair then go up to the top of Mount Ida, and Sleep gets
into a high pine tree just in front of Jove.

As soon as Jove sees Juno, armed as she for the moment was with all
the attractions of Venus, he falls desperately in love with her, and
says she is the only goddess he ever really loved. True, there had
been the wife of Ixion and Danae, and Europa and Semele, and
Alcmena, and Latona, not to mention herself in days gone by, but he
never loved any of these as he now loved her, in spite of his having
been married to her for so many years. What then does she want?

Juno tells him the same rigmarole about Oceanus and Mother Tethys
that she had told Venus, and when she has done Jove tries to embrace

"What," exclaims Juno, "kiss me in such a public place as the top of
Mount Ida! Impossible! I could never show my face in Olympus
again, but I have a private room of my own and"--"What nonsense, my
love!" exclaims the sire of gods and men as he catches her in his
arms. On this Sleep sends him into a deep slumber, and Juno then
sends Sleep to bid Neptune go off to help the Greeks at once.

When Jove awakes and finds the trick that has been played upon him,
he is very angry and blusters a good deal as usual, but somehow or
another it turns out that he has got to stand it and make the best
of it.

In an earlier book he has said that he is not surprised at anything
Juno may do, for she always has crossed him and always will; but he
cannot put up with such disobedience from his own daughter Minerva.
Somehow or another, however, here too as usual it turns out that he
has got to stand it. "And then," Minerva exclaims in yet another
place (VIII. 373), "I suppose he will be calling me his grey-eyed
darling again, presently."

Towards the end of the poem the gods have a set-to among themselves.
Minerva sends Mars sprawling, Venus comes to his assistance, but
Minerva knocks her down and leaves her. Neptune challenges Apollo,
but Apollo says it is not proper for a god to fight his own uncle,
and declines the contest. His sister Diana taunts him with
cowardice, so Juno grips her by the wrist and boxes her ears till
she writhes again. Latona, the mother of Apollo and Diana, then
challenges Mercury, but Mercury says that he is not going to fight
with any of Jove's wives, so if she chooses to say she has beaten
him she is welcome to do so. Then Latona picks up poor Diana's bow
and arrows that have fallen from her during her encounter with Juno,
and Diana meanwhile flies up to the knees of her father Jove,
sobbing and sighing till her ambrosial robe trembles all around her.

"Jove drew her towards him, and smiling pleasantly exclaimed, 'My
dear child, which of the heavenly beings has been wicked enough to
behave in this way to you, as though you had been doing something

"'Your wife, Juno,' answered Diana, 'has been ill-treating me; all
our quarrels always begin with her.'"

* * * * *

The above extracts must suffice as examples of the kind of divine
comedy in which Homer brings the gods and goddesses upon the scene.
Among mortals the humour, what there is of it, is confined mainly to
the grim taunts which the heroes fling at one another when they are
fighting, and more especially to crowing over a fallen foe. The
most subtle passage is the one in which Briseis, the captive woman
about whom Achilles and Agamemnon have quarrelled, is restored by
Agamemnon to Achilles. Briseis on her return to the tent of
Achilles finds that while she has been with Agamemnon, Patroclus has
been killed by Hector, and his dead body is now lying in state. She
flings herself upon the corpse and exclaims--

"How one misfortune does keep falling upon me after another! I saw
the man to whom my father and mother had married me killed before my
eyes, and my three own dear brothers perished along with him; but
you, Patroclus, even when Achilles was sacking our city and killing
my husband, told me that I was not to cry; for you said that
Achilles himself should marry me, and take me back with him to
Phthia, where we should have a wedding feast among the Myrmidons.
You were always kind to me, and I should never cease to grieve for

This may of course be seriously intended, but Homer was an acute
writer, and if we had met with such a passage in Thackeray we should
have taken him to mean that so long as a woman can get a new
husband, she does not much care about losing the old one--a
sentiment which I hope no one will imagine that I for one moment
endorse or approve of, and which I can only explain as a piece of
sarcasm aimed possibly at Mrs. Homer.

* * * * *

And now let us turn to the Odyssey, a work which I myself think of
as the Iliad's better half or wife. Here we have a poem of more
varied interest, instinct with not less genius, and on the whole I
should say, if less robust, nevertheless of still greater
fascination--one, moreover, the irony of which is pointed neither at
gods nor woman, but with one single and perhaps intercalated
exception, at man. Gods and women may sometimes do wrong things,
but, except as regards the intrigue between Mars and Venus just
referred to, they are never laughed at. The scepticism of the Iliad
is that of Hume or Gibbon; that of the Odyssey (if any) is like the
occasional mild irreverence of the Vicar's daughter. When Jove says
he will do a thing, there is no uncertainty about his doing it.
Juno hardly appears at all, and when she does she never quarrels
with her husband. Minerva has more to do than any of the other gods
or goddesses, but she has nothing in common with the Minerva whom we
have already seen in the Iliad. In the Odyssey she is the fairy
god-mother who seems to have no object in life but to protect
Ulysses and Telemachus, and keep them straight at any touch and turn
of difficulty. If she has any other function, it is to be patroness
of the arts and of all intellectual development. The Minerva of the
Odyssey may indeed sit on a rafter like a swallow and hold up her
aegis to strike panic into the suitors while Ulysses kills them; but
she is a perfect lady, and would no more knock Mars and Venus down
one after the other than she would stand on her head. She is, in
fact, a distinct person in all respects from the Minerva of the
Iliad. Of the remaining gods Neptune, as the persecutor of the
hero, comes worst off; but even he is treated as though he were a
very important person.

In the Odyssey the gods no longer live in houses and sleep in four-
post bedsteads, but the conception of their abode, like that of
their existence altogether, is far more spiritual. Nobody knows
exactly where they live, but they say it is in Olympus, where there
is neither rain nor hail nor snow, and the wind never beats roughly;
but it abides in everlasting sunshine, and in great peacefulness of
light wherein the blessed gods are illumined for ever and ever. It
is hardly possible to conceive anything more different from the
Olympus of the Iliad.

Another very material point of difference between the Iliad and the
Odyssey lies in the fact that the Homer of the Iliad always knows
what he is talking about, while the supposed Homer of the Odyssey
often makes mistakes that betray an almost incredible ignorance of
detail. Thus the giant Polyphemus drives in his ewes home from
their pasture, and milks them. The lambs of course have not been
running with them; they have been left in the yards, so they have
had nothing to eat. When he has milked the ewes, the giant lets
each one of them have her lamb--to get, I suppose, what strippings
it can, and beyond this what milk the ewe may yield during the
night. In the morning, however, Polyphemus milks the ewes again.
Hence it is plain either that he expected his lambs to thrive on one
pull per diem at a milked ewe, and to be kind enough not to suck
their mothers, though left with them all night through, or else that
the writer of the Odyssey had very hazy notions about the relations
between lambs and ewes, and of the ordinary methods of procedure on
an upland dairy-farm.

In nautical matters the same inexperience is betrayed. The writer
knows all about the corn and wine that must be put on board; the
store-room in which these are kept and the getting of them are
described inimitably, but there the knowledge ends; the other things
put on board are "the things that are generally taken on board
ships." So on a voyage we are told that the sailors do whatever is
wanted doing, but we have no details. There is a shipwreck, which
does duty more than once without the alteration of a word. I have
seen such a shipwreck at Drury Lane. Anyone, moreover, who reads
any authentic account of actual adventures will perceive at once
that those of the Odyssey are the creation of one who has had no
history. Ulysses has to make a raft; he makes it about as broad as
they generally make a good big ship, but we do not seem to have been
at the pains to measure a good big ship.

I will add no more however on this head. The leading
characteristics of the Iliad, as we saw, were love, war, and
plunder. The leading idea of the Odyssey is the infatuation of man,
and the key-note is struck in the opening paragraph, where we are
told how the sailors of Ulysses must needs, in spite of every
warning, kill and eat the cattle of the sun-god, and perished

A few lines lower down the same note is struck with even greater
emphasis. The gods have met in council, and Jove happens at the
moment to be thinking of AEgisthus, who had met his death at the
hand of Agamemnon's son Orestes, in spite of the solemn warning that
Jove had sent him through the mouth of Mercury. It does not seem
necessary for Jove to turn his attention to Clytemnestra, the
partner of AEgisthus's guilt. Of this lady we are presently told
that she was naturally of an excellent disposition, and would never
have gone wrong but for the loss of the protector in whose charge
Agamemnon had left her. When she was left alone without an adviser--

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