Quotes and Notes from The Way of All Flesh

I enjoyed Samuel Butler’s The Way of All Flesh due to the wit and wisdom imbued in Mr. Butler’s narrative style. He has quite a way with words as he traces four generations of the Pontifex family. The main focus is on the narrator’s godson, Ernest. Through that lens we are able to able to see how the decisions, values and attitudes of one generation affected the next generation, which in turn affected the next.

I was drawn into the story slowly but completely, and was on the edge of my seat near the end of the narrative when Ernest was to receive something that would be life-altering if it truly came to pass. I also enjoyed the bits of wisdom that Mr. Butler peppered the book with in the late 1800s and which are still relevant today. Here are some of my favorites:

Butler quote

On Father/Son Relationships

“His son had fairly distanced him, and in an inarticulate way the father knew it perfectly well.”

The Haves and the Have Nots

“But I suppose that a prig with more money than brains was much the same sixty or seventy years ago as he is now.”

“Money came pouring in upon him, and the faster it came the fonder he became of it.”

Self-Awareness

“He who does not consider himself fortunate is unfortunate.”

“Every man’s work, whether it be literature or music or pictures or architecture of anything else, is always a portrait of himself.”

“The utmost that can be said is that we are fairly happy as long as we are not distinctly aware of being miserable.”

“He has spent his life best who has enjoyed it most.” (using this one for my email signature while we’re reading this book)

Family

“Now he was getting a family, so that it became all the more necessary to put money by, and here was the baby hindering him.”

“His brother Theobald was no match or him, knew it, and accepted his fate.”

Dating

“What a really nice girl might have done with him I cannot tell, but fate had thrown none such in his way.”

“The result…was that he had come to dislike women, as mysterious beings whose ways were not his ways, nor their thoughts his thoughts.”

“The engagement had gone on so long that he had got into a groove, and the prospect of change was disconcerting.” (I just like that he used the word “groove”)

“Thus do we build castles in the air when flushed with wine and conquest.”

“To him she appeared a very angel dropped from the sky, and all the more easy to get on with for being a fallen one.”

Religion

“The gods which he deemed golden were in reality made of baser metal.”

“The difference between the faithful and the unbeliever consisted in the very fact that the former could see a miracle where the latter could not.”

“The clergyman is expected to be a kind of human Sunday.”

Writing/Books

“The walls were covered with book shelves from floor to ceiling, and on every shelf the books stood in double rows. It was horrible.” (Confession – my books are in double rows and he’s right, it’s not good.)

“He did not yet know that the very worst way of getting hold of ideas is to go hunting expressly after them.”

Youth

“Some people say that their school days were the happiest of their lives.  They may be right, but I always look with suspicion upon those whom I hear saying that.”

I’m looking forward to Andi’s commentary on this because she delves deeper into the major themes, such as religion, which is front and center in this book. In the meantime, I am going to queue up the next book –  George Orwell’s classic 1984. Can’t wait to dig into that one. Keep reading!!

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5 responses to “Quotes and Notes from The Way of All Flesh

  1. Greetings from Idaho! I’m bored at work so I decided to check out your blog on my iphone during lunch break. I really like the knowledge you provide here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home.
    I’m shocked at how fast your blog loaded on my phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .
    . Anyways, very good blog!

    • Hayley,

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Glad you like our blog. Come visit any time. Idaho? Cool. I only know one other person from Idaho. He brings me chocolate spuds love them!

  2. Pingback: Loved Way of All Flesh! | EMME Books

  3. I absolutely LOVED all the quotes…especially the prig. I believe I know him — all these years later.
    Petie

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