London: Grant Richards, 1903. 8vo. v, [i], 424 pp., plus 12 pages publisher’s advertisements. FIRST EDITION. Original red cloth with title in gilt on front board and spine, top edge gilt; minor soiling to bottom edge, otherwise an excellent copy preserved in a slipcase. Item #16138
First edition, first issue with the half-title and publisher’s ads. This semi-autobiographical tale is regarded by some as the first twentieth century novel, and features a forcefully satirical indictment of Victorian-era England’s chief institutions. Recounting his troubled upbringing and subsequent adult life, Butler’s tale shines a light onto the deceptiveness of Victorian domestic life. Foreshadowing the destruction of nineteenth century middle class ideals in the fallout of the Great War, we’re reminded of the ways in which successive generations have continued to question conventional values. Written over nearly eleven years, this text was published posthumously, Butler believing his writing style too contentious. It has remained continuously in print since its publication.
Butler (1835-1902) is most well-known for his classically utopian satire Erewhon. He is regarded as a forerunner of the New Zealand utopian/dystopian tradition of literature. Despite his antagonistic writing style, Butler’s work played a crucial role in the early twentieth century reaction against Victorianism.