Erewhon by Samuel Butler


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Page 1

I regret that reviewers have in some cases been inclined to treat the
chapters on Machines as an attempt to reduce Mr. Darwin's theory to an
absurdity. Nothing could be further from my intention, and few things
would be more distasteful to me than any attempt to laugh at Mr. Darwin;
but I must own that I have myself to thank for the misconception, for I
felt sure that my intention would be missed, but preferred not to weaken
the chapters by explanation, and knew very well that Mr. Darwin's theory
would take no harm. The only question in my mind was how far I could
afford to be misrepresented as laughing at that for which I have the most
profound admiration. I am surprised, however, that the book at which
such an example of the specious misuse of analogy would seem most
naturally levelled should have occurred to no reviewer; neither shall I
mention the name of the book here, though I should fancy that the hint
given will suffice.

I have been held by some whose opinions I respect to have denied men's
responsibility for their actions. He who does this is an enemy who
deserves no quarter. I should have imagined that I had been sufficiently
explicit, but have made a few additions to the chapter on Malcontents,
which will, I think, serve to render further mistake impossible.

An anonymous correspondent (by the hand-writing presumably a clergyman)
tells me that in quoting from the Latin grammar I should at any rate have
done so correctly, and that I should have written "agricolas" instead of
"agricolae". He added something about any boy in the fourth form, &c.,
&c., which I shall not quote, but which made me very uncomfortable. It
may be said that I must have misquoted from design, from ignorance, or by
a slip of the pen; but surely in these days it will be recognised as
harsh to assign limits to the all-embracing boundlessness of truth, and
it will be more reasonably assumed that each of the three possible causes
of misquotation must have had its share in the apparent blunder. The art
of writing things that shall sound right and yet be wrong has made so
many reputations, and affords comfort to such a large number of readers,
that I could not venture to neglect it; the Latin grammar, however, is a
subject on which some of the younger members of the community feel
strongly, so I have now written "agricolas". I have also parted with the
word "infortuniam" (though not without regret), but have not dared to
meddle with other similar inaccuracies.

For the inconsistencies in the book, and I am aware that there are not a
few, I must ask the indulgence of the reader. The blame, however, lies
chiefly with the Erewhonians themselves, for they were really a very
difficult people to understand. The most glaring anomalies seemed to
afford them no intellectual inconvenience; neither, provided they did not
actually see the money dropping out of their pockets, nor suffer
immediate physical pain, would they listen to any arguments as to the
waste of money and happiness which their folly caused them. But this had
an effect of which I have little reason to complain, for I was allowed
almost to call them life-long self-deceivers to their faces, and they
said it was quite true, but that it did not matter.

I must not conclude without expressing my most sincere thanks to my
critics and to the public for the leniency and consideration with which
they have treated my adventures.

June 9, 1872


My publisher wishes me to say a few words about the genesis of the work,
a revised and enlarged edition of which he is herewith laying before the
public. I therefore place on record as much as I can remember on this
head after a lapse of more than thirty years.

The first part of "Erewhon" written was an article headed "Darwin among
the Machines," and signed Cellarius. It was written in the Upper
Rangitata district of the Canterbury Province (as it then was) of New
Zealand, and appeared at Christchurch in the Press Newspaper, June 13,
1863. A copy of this article is indexed under my books in the British
Museum catalogue. In passing, I may say that the opening chapters of
"Erewhon" were also drawn from the Upper Rangitata district, with such
modifications as I found convenient.

A second article on the same subject as the one just referred to appeared
in the Press shortly after the first, but I have no copy. It treated
Machines from a different point of view, and was the basis of pp. 270-274
of the present edition of "Erewhon." {1} This view ultimately led me to
the theory I put forward in "Life and Habit," published in November 1877.
I have put a bare outline of this theory (which I believe to be quite
sound) into the mouth of an Erewhonian philosopher in Chapter XXVII. of
this book.

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