Erewhon Revisited by Samuel Butler


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The Project Gutenberg eBook, Erewhon Revisited, by Samuel Butler

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at

Title: Erewhon Revisited

Author: Samuel Butler

Release Date: March 20, 2005 [eBook #1971]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


Transcribed from the 1916 A. C. Fifield edition by David Price, email

Both by the Original Discoverer of the Country and by his Son

I forget when, but not very long after I had published "Erewhon" in 1872,
it occurred to me to ask myself what course events in Erewhon would
probably take after Mr. Higgs, as I suppose I may now call him, had made
his escape in the balloon with Arowhena. Given a people in the
conditions supposed to exist in Erewhon, and given the apparently
miraculous ascent of a remarkable stranger into the heavens with an
earthly bride--what would be the effect on the people generally?

There was no use in trying to solve this problem before, say, twenty
years should have given time for Erewhonian developments to assume
something like permanent shape, and in 1892 I was too busy with books now
published to be able to attend to Erewhon. It was not till the early
winter of 1900, i.e. as nearly as may be thirty years after the date of
Higgs's escape, that I found time to deal with the question above stated,
and to answer it, according to my lights, in the book which I now lay
before the public.

I have concluded, I believe rightly, that the events described in Chapter
XXIV. of "Erewhon" would give rise to such a cataclysmic change in the
old Erewhonian opinions as would result in the development of a new
religion. Now the development of all new religions follows much the same
general course. In all cases the times are more or less out of
joint--older faiths are losing their hold upon the masses. At such
times, let a personality appear, strong in itself, and made to seem still
stronger by association with some supposed transcendent miracle, and it
will be easy to raise a Lo here! that will attract many followers. If
there be a single great, and apparently well-authenticated, miracle,
others will accrete round it; then, in all religions that have so
originated, there will follow temples, priests, rites, sincere believers,
and unscrupulous exploiters of public credulity. To chronicle the events
that followed Higgs's balloon ascent without shewing that they were much
as they have been under like conditions in other places, would be to hold
the mirror up to something very wide of nature.

Analogy, however, between courses of events is one thing--historic
parallelisms abound; analogy between the main actors in events is a very
different one, and one, moreover, of which few examples can be found. The
development of the new ideas in Erewhon is a familiar one, but there is
no more likeness between Higgs and the founder of any other religion,
than there is between Jesus Christ and Mahomet. He is a typical middle-
class Englishman, deeply tainted with priggishness in his earlier years,
but in great part freed from it by the sweet uses of adversity.

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