"The Way Of All Flesh"

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Last Updated on June 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 208

Context: In Westward Ho! the expression "going the way of all flesh" is a joke. Monopoly, a nephew of the Earl, asks Mistress Birdlime, a procuress, if she has seen his uncle. She says she just saw him going the way of all flesh–into the kitchen. Although the inference here is that flesh is cooked in the kitchen, the expression usually means to die, as all flesh is mortal; for instance, Thomas Heywood in The Golden Age (1611) says: "If I go by land, and miscarry, then I go the way of all flesh"; in other words, he will die. So it is in Thomas Heywood's Second Part of the Fair Maid of the West (1631): "She by this is gone the way of all flesh." In his Sketches by Boz: "Mr. Watkins Tottle" (1835), Charles Dickens brings out the meaning in: "He . . . allowed us something to live on till he went the way of all flesh." When Samuel Butler names his novel The Way of All Flesh, he is referring to the frailties of humanity caused by the desires of the flesh. The passage in Westward Ho! is:


MONOPOLY
Saw you my uncle?
BIRDLIME
I saw him even now going the way of all flesh, that's to say, toward the kitchen. . . .

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