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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

Soapy Sams
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steepholm
"You should read The Werewolf Flesh," my mother said to me when I was a teenager; "It's just your sort of thing." I wasn't sure about that - horror has never been my bag. It wasn't until some while later that I realised she was actually talking about Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh. I read it then, though I still wasn't particularly struck. Today I remember the book mostly because of the mondegreen it gave rise to. But that name - Samuel Butler. He was a writer, he had a somewhat unconventional take on the world while still being very much "of his time". Could he be a relative? That would be kind of cool, I vaguely thought, but as I hadn't liked the book that much I didn't dwell on it. (I still haven't read Erewhon.)

I liked Hudibras and "The Elephant in the Moon", though, and at university I wondered much the same about the seventeenth-century Samuel Butler. He did seem tantalizingly close to being a relation. At the time he was born, my own branch of the Butlers was based in Claines near Worcester. They were solicitors, public notaries and things of that sort. Samuel Butler's family were just twenty miles away in Strensham, and he spent much of his life employed as a secretary. It all seems very comparable, and a bit of coincidence, but I found no genealogical smoking gun. Also, it turns out that the same possibility had occurred to others before me. Some two centuries ago George Butler (see below) had gone looking for the same connection and come up empty. Which isn't to say it doesn't exist. Old Samuel's brand of satire feels so simpatico.

Then, the other week I saw this at a May fete.

P200513_13.13

It was only £3.50 and full of interesting coloured maps, so I had to buy it, right? It turns out to be by Samuel Butler, the grandfather of the Erewhon guy. Now, I've no reason to suppose he's a relation, but when you set him next to my great*4 uncle George, their careers seem eerily similar:

Name:...............................George Butler.........................................Samuel Butler
Born:.................................July 1774...............................................Jan 1774
Education:..........................Sidney Sussex, Camb.............................St Johns, Camb
Elected Fellow:...................1794 (I think)........................................1797
Educational Career:.............Headmaster of Harrow (1805-29)............Headmaster of Shrewsbury (1798-1836)
Ecclesiastical highlight:.......Dean of Peterborough (1842)..................Bishop of Lichfield (1836)
Died:.................................1853.....................................................1839

Can they really not be related? It's like there's a shadow family of Butlers, all called Samuel, hovering just out of reach. Taunting me with their Sam-ness. And their diff-rence.

This must be resolved.