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Samuel Butler

    Samuel Butler was born on Dec. 4, 1835, in Nottinghamshire, England. At the age of 15 he attended St. Johns College of Cambridge, where he studied Music Theory, Drawing, and Poetry. His father, a Reverend, wished for him to become a clergyman, but Butler was opposed to the church and his father’s way of life, so he continued his studies. After an altercation with his family, he moved to New Zealand to run a sheep farm. It was here where he discovered Darwin’s Origin of Species. Instantly, he was drawn to Darwin's theory of evolution, as it was without the “God” he was so opposed to. The next 25 years or so of his life would be devoted to the topic of evolution and religions, writing various papers for the New Zealand Press including “Darwin Among the Machines” (1863) and “Lucubratio Ebria” (1862.)

     Having doubled his wealth in New Zealand, Butler returned to England in 1864 and took the apartment in Clifford’s Inn, London, which was to be his home for the rest of his life. In 1865 he wrote  Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ . . . Critically Examined, having discovered his own God and welcomed religion into his life once more. For a few years he studied painting at Heatherley’s art school and tried to convince himself that this was his vocation, exhibiting occasionally at the Royal Academy. Later he tried his hand at musical composition, publishing Gavottes, Minuets, Fugues, and Other Short Pieces for the Piano (1885). During this time he also published many poems, including his “In Memoriam H.R.F” (1895).

    In 1872 he published his first novel, Erewhon, which was received by many as a fantastic satire on contemporary life and thought. He would go on to write Evolution, Old and New (1879), Unconscious Memory (1880), and Luck or Cunning (1887), which all centered around his idea that Darwin had not really explained evolution at all because he had not accounted for the variations that occur within natural selection. Butler believed creatures acquired necessary habits and organs, and transmitted these to their offspring as unconscious memories. His last book, The Way of All Flesh (1903), is widely regarded as his masterpiece. It tells the story of Butler’s escape from the suffocating moral and religious atmosphere of his youth. The book was influential at the beginning of the anti-Victorian reaction and helped turn the tide against excessive parental dominance and religious rigidity.

    Samuel Butler would eventually die in late 1903, having little success with his work. It would only be twenty years later when his works were finally noticed on a large scale, gaining the fame they have today. Below is one of his poems:

In Memoriam H.R.F

Out, out, out into the night,

With the wind bitter north-east and the sea rough;

You have a racking cough and your lungs are weak,

But out, out into the night you go,

So guide you and guard you, Heaven, and fare you well!

 

We have been three lights to one another, and now we are two,

For you go far and alone into the darkness;

But the light in you was clearer and stronger than ours,

For you came straighter from God, and, whereas we had learned, 

You had never forgotten. Three minutes more and then—

Out, out into the night you go:

So guide you and guard you, Heaven, and fare you well! 

 

Never a cross look, never a thought,

Never a word that had better been left unspoken;

We gave you the best we had, such as it was,

It pleased you well, for you smiled and nodded your head; 

And now, out, out into the night you go,

So guide you and guard you, Heaven, and fare you well!

 

A monumental moment 

Awaits on the horizon with 

A celebration of age 

rising like the sun. 

I place her delicate gems

In my ears, 

Wondering if she would’ve 

Done this a year ago. 

Her silver studs— 

Locked behind my ear,

Small yet heavy 

With the weight 

Of a grandmother’s love. 

I reflect 

Like the golden beams on my skin— 

My importance and what I hold 

In my hands.

Her sun had set

Yet I carry her golden light within me, 

In my blood and between my skin.

The Legacy

   Brianna White

 

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