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145 SAMUEL BUTLER AND CHARLES PAINE PAULI: A FRIENDSHIP RECONSIDERED By Ross Stuart (Faculty of Letters, Fes, Morocco) Charles Paine Pauli was the most intimate friend that Samuel Butler, author of Erewhon, ever had. Apart from his father, no one influenced Butler so profoundly. Pauli died in 1897, five years before Butler. Living by then for posthumous fame, Butler drew up an account of his relations with Pauli for posterity.1 In his biography of Butler, published in 1919, Henry Festing Jones made use of Butler's notes, but the memoir itself did not appear in print until 1932. In the memoir Butler revealed that he had made Pauli an allowance for thirty years, even though for the last twenty-five years they had been keeping up the merest appearance of friendship ^ He also revealed that Pauli had continued to accept the stipend while earning a handsome income, that others apparently had supported Pauli on the same terms, and that Pauli had amassed a fortune of £ 9000 by the time he died (Butleriana, pp. 92-94). Moreover, in supporting Pauli, Butler had ignored the advice of a friend in New Zealand as early as 1863 and his father's account of Pauli's finances in 1879 (Butleriana, p. 62).3 shocked and hurt by Pauli's apparent deception, Butler hypothecised that Pauli must have come into a legacy a few years before his death when he was too weakened morally by a lifetime of sponging and chicanery and constitutionally by a pulmonary disease to refuse his customary stipend or to offer to repay his long-standing debt (pp. 93-94). When Jones's biography appeared, two friends of Pauli, who could not have hoped to profit from their gallantry twenty years after his death, came forward to defend his name and to suggest, all appearances to the contrary, that there must be an explanation for his conduct other than dishonesty .4 Their testimony suggests either that Pauli was a consummate deceiver or that Butler's memoir is false or misleading . Scholars have condemned Pauli universally as a swindler who "battened meanly" on Butler,5 but he remains an enigma: Butler provides no adequate explanation of why he kept on paying Pauli when they met so irregularly and bored and annoyed each other. Homosexuality offers one explanation.6 Butler interrupted his study of Shakespeare's sonnets to write the memoir. He was arguing that the sonnets tell the story of Shakespeare's infatuation with a Mr. W. H., who is the image of Pauli in the memoir. Unaccountably, he adduces the lover's complaints in the sonnets as proof that Mr. W. H. had compromised Shakespeare and humiliated him publicly. One biographer concludes that Pauli must have been blackmailing 146 Butler for a similar, sordid incident in his past (Muggeridge, The Earnest Atheist, p. 120). Like Butler's own theory, this is pure conjecture. We cannot ascertain whether Butler's friendship with Pauli was platonic or sexual. We can assert that Butler loved Pauli and that Pauli awakened his creative genius as he believed Mr. W. H. had inspired Shakespeare's. Love, not blackmail, accounts for Butler's prolonged devotion to Pauli, even after he had ceased to like the man. Recognition of this love ought to have mitigated biographers ' contempt for Pauli and fostered a more critical reading of the memoir: under its surface lies an intimate relation of this friendship to which Butler himself was blind. We may see how Pauli acted as an intellectual catalyst for Butler and how he became in Butler's psyche an unwitting pawn in the struggle with his parents. If Pauli wounded Butler, so too did Pauli suffer on account of his friend. To interpret the memoir with critical objectivity does justice to Butler's sceptical and protean character. It also takes into account the characteristic ambiguity and indeterminacy of Butler's prose, which reflects his perennial uncertainty, even about facts and events. My purpose is not to absolve Pauli of blame or to indict Butler; rather it is to reconstruct a true model of their relations from the evidence at hand. I am less concerned with the actual relationship between Butler and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 145-161
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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