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248 11. A Definitive Edition of Ernest Pont i fex Samuel Butler. ERNEST PONTIFEX OR THE WAY OF ALL FLESH. Ed. Daniel F. Howard. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1964. Riverside Editions. $1.50. Daniel F. Howard's new edition of THE WAY OF ALL FLESH is an important and exciting event and should receive more attention in book reviews and journals than it probably will. It is unusual for a publisher to issue a scholarly edition of a novel in paper covers, priced at $1.50, as part of a series designed primarily for the use of college students. But this is what Houghton Mifflin has done. Professor Howard's edition of Samuel Butler's novel presents the most definitive version of THE WAY OF ALL FLEST ever published. Butler left the manuscript ready for publication at the time of his death. Yet, "For sixty years," states Professor Howard, "readers have seen not what Butler left but [R. A.] StreatfeiId's version of what he left." The text of this new edition "is taken directly from the manuscript in the British Museum; nothing lias been silently omitted or added except an occasional mark of punctuation which the sense demands." Butler, as is well known, worked over ERNEST PONTIFEX for many years. He revised passages, cutting up the pages of the manuscript, adding and changing chapters, The result was far from being a fair copy at the time of his death, and StreafëiId, Butler's first literary executor, revised Butler's work for publication according to some strange Victorian canon of taste and propriety. The changes made by StreatfeiId include the refining of Butler's colloquialisms in order to retouch Butler's informal style; the omission of any hint of impropriety between Overton and Alethaea, Mrs. Jupp's comments on Pryer, and the mention of Ernest's illegitimate son. Streatfeild ran chapters together, rewrote one of Butler's scenes, and from some unknown source reproduced two chapters that no longer exist in manuscript. Professor Howard's introduction to ERNEST PONTIFEX is an admirable study of Butler's novel. He begins with the briefest of biographical material, then comments on Butler's actual composition and revision of ERNEST PONTIFEX and its posthumous publication. He examines Butler's use of paired- and allegorical figures, noting: "When Butler began the novel his imagination was dominated by four looming figures: himself, his father, . . . Charles Paine Pauli, and his mother, and he represented the tensions and contradictions these people produced in real life by means of paired characters: in the center is Butler himself, split into the mature Overton and the naive Ernest, and around him is a galaxy of obvious allegorical pairs— Miss Snow and Miss Maitland (whore and virgin), Pryer and Mr. Hawke (High Church and Low Church), Towneley and Mr. Shaw the tinker (high class and low class)— pairs of minor characters supporting the more pervasive contrasts created out of the people in his own life who affected him most deeply." Professor Howard also examines, in his introduction, the character of Ernest and his forbears, the purpose and meaning of Overton, and contrasts briefly the different ways in which Shaw and Butler saw the world. He concludes by considering the use of irony in the novel and states that Butler's final delineation of Ernest at the end of the novel ¡s weak because "Butler's artistic difficulty in presenting Ernest's final state as the apotheosis of individual—as opposed to social—life proceeded from the absence of traditional narrative forms for expressing it. He had created a new kind of hero in a situation that was to become common in the twentieth-century novel, and he had succeeded up to the very end, until Ernest's non-tragic disengagement from and involvement with his society could no longer be expressed by an ironic plot, and yet the alternatives, the violence and death of the romantic hero, or the marriage and new life of the social hero, were inappropriate." 249 This introduction is followed by "A Note on the Text," explaining in detail how Streatfeiid multilated Butler's work, and by "A Bibliographical Note," listing biographical, critical and brief bibliographical materials on...


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pp. 248-249
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Will Be Archived 2021
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