Samuel Butler was a rebellious and innovative writer whose works proved to be far ahead of their time. Educated at Cambridge to be a clergyman, he ran away to the south island of New Zealand, where he lived the life of a shepherd for five years. He then returned to England and tried his hand at writing. His first book, Erewhon, a political fantasy about a country where customs are the opposite of those typical of Western culture, was an immediate success and is widely read today. The Authoress of the Odyssey presents the gender-bending theory that Homer’s Odyssey was actually written by a woman. The Way of All Flesh, Butler’s final novel, is a stark depiction of middle-class English life.
By the mid-1870s, Butler had a companion, Henry Festing Jones (1851–1928), who gave up his law practice to devote himself to Butler. The two men traveled the world together, at one point “adopting” a Swiss boy named Hans. Jones later wrote a biography of Butler, who died in 1902, which includes several discreet references to Butler’s homosexuality.