T. H. Huxley
Letters and Diary 1854

June 4, 1854

[To Miss Heathorn]

I have often spoken to you of my friend Edward Forbes. He has quite recently been suddenly appointed to a Professorial Chair in Edinburgh, vacated by the death of old Jamieson. He was obliged to go down there at once and lecture, and as he had just commenced his course at the Government School of Mines in Jermyn Street, it was necessary to obtain a substitute. He had spoken to me of the possibility of his being called away long ago, and had asked if I would take his place, to which, of course, I assented, but the whole affair was so uncertain that I never in any way reckoned upon it. Even at last I did not know on the Monday whether I was to go on for him on the Friday or not. However, he did go after giving two lectures, and on Friday the 25th May I took his lecture, and I have been going on ever since, twice a week on Mondays and Fridays. Called upon so very suddenly to give a course of some six and twenty lectures, I find it very hard work, but I like it and I never was in better health.

October 10, 1854

[To Frederick Dyster]

. . . –I am rejoiced you liked my speechment. It was written hastily and is, like its speaker, I fear, more forcible than eloquent, but it can lay claim to the merit of being sincere.

My intention on p. 28 was by no means to express any satisfaction at the worms being as badly off as ourselves, but to show that pain being everywhere is inevitable, and therefore like all other inevitable things to be borne. The rest of it is the product of my scientific Calvinism, which fell like a shell at your feet when we were talking over the fire.

I doubt, or at least I have no confidence in, the doctrine of ultimate happiness, and I am more inclined to look the opposite possibility fully in the face, and if that also be inevitable, make up my mind to bear it also.

You will tell me there are better consolations than Stoicism; that may be, but I do not possess them, and I have found my "grin and bear it" philosophy stand me in such good stead in my course through oceans of disgust and chagrin, that I should be loth to give it up.

October 29, 1854 [HP 8.20]

Tenby 4 Rock House

My dear Tyndall–I rejoice in having got you to put your head under my yoke – and feel ready to break into a hand gallop on the strength of it.

I have written to Chapman to tell him you only make an experiment on your cerebral substance–whose continuance depends on tenacity thereof.

I didn't suspect you of being seduced by the magnitude of the emolument – you Cincinnatus of the laboratory – I only suggested that as pay sweetens labour à - fortiori it will sweeten what will be to you no labour.

I'm not a miserable mortal now – quite the contrary – I never am when I have too much to do – and my sage reflexion was not provoked by envy of the more idle. Only I do sometimes wish I could ascertain the exact juste milieu of work which will suit – not my head or will – them can't have too much; but, my absurd stomach.

Towards that organ of feeling is the costermonger's towards his donkey–

"I give him hay, I gives him corn,
As much as he can chump off,
And then – if he don't cut along,
Vy! I cuts his precious rump off."

Now I give him hay and corn of the quality he likes – but he won't always cut along in proportion – and you know I can't 'cut his rump off' that would be suicidal.

Excuse this abominable nonsense – the offspring of an extra cup of tea –

and believe me

Yours very faithfully

T. H. Huxley.

I shall be home on the 1st – and right glad to see you.

November 26, 1854

My dearest Lizzie–I feel I have been silent very long–a great deal too long–but you would understand if you knew how much I have to do; why, with every disposition to do otherwise, I now write hardly any but business letters. Even Nettie comes off badly I am afraid. When a man embarks as I have done, with nothing but his brains to back him, on the great sea of life in London, with the determination to make the influence and the position and the money which he hasn't got, you may depend upon it that the fierce wants and interests of his present and immediate circle leave him little time to think of anything else, whatever old loves and old memories may be smouldering as warmly as ever below the surface. So, sister mine, you must not imagine because I do not write that therefore I do not think of you or care to know about you, but only that I am eaten up with the zeal of my own house, and doing with all my heart the thing that the moment calls for.

The last year has been eventful for me. There is always a Cape Horn in one's life that one either weathers or wrecks one's self on. Thank God I think I may say I have weathered mine–not without a good deal of damage to spars and rigging though, for it blew deuced hard on the other side.

At the commencement of this year my affairs came to a crisis. The Government, notwithstanding all the representations which were made to them, would neither give nor refuse the grant for the publication of my work, and by way of cutting short all further discussion the Admiralty called upon me to serve. A correspondence ensued, in which, as commonly happens in these cases, they got the worst of it in logic and words, and I in reality and "tin." They answered my syllogism by the irrelevant and absurd threat of stopping my pay if I did not serve at once. Here was a pretty business! However, it was no use turning back when so much had been sacrificed for one's end, so I put their Lordships' letter up on my mantelpiece and betook myself to scribbling for my bread. They, on the other hand, removed my name from the List. So there was an interregnum when I was no longer in Her Majesty's service. I had already joined the Westminster Review, and had inured myself to the labour of translation–and I could get any amount of scientific work I wanted–so there was a living, though a scanty one, and amazingly hard work for it. My pen is not a very facile one, and what I write costs me a good deal of trouble.

In the spring of the year, however, a door opened. My poor lost friend Professor Forbes–whose steady attachment and aid had always been of the utmost service to me–was called to fill the chair of Natural History in Edinburgh at a moment's notice. It is a very valuable appointment, and he was obliged to fill it at once. Of course he left a number of vacancies behind, among them one at the Government School of Mines in Jermyn Street, where he lectured on Natural History. I was called upon to take up his lectures where he left off, in the same sudden way, and the upshot of it all was that I became permanently attached–with 200 a year pay. In other ways I can make a couple of hundred a year more even now, and I hope by-and-by to do better. In fact, a married man, as I hope soon to be, cannot live at all in the position which I ought to occupy under less than six hundred a year. If I keep my health, however, I have ever hope of being able to do this–but, as the jockeys say, the pace is severe. Nettie is coming over in the spring, and if I have any luck at all, I mean to have paid off my debts and to be married by this time next year.

In the meanwhile, strangely enough–and very painfuly for me–new possibilities have sprung up. My poor friend Forbes died only a week ago, just as he was beginning his course and entering upon as brilliant a career as ever was opened to any scientific man in this country.

I cannot tell you how deeply this has shocked me. I owe him so much, I loved him so well, and I have so very very few friends in the true sense of the word, that it has been perhaps a greater loss to me than to any one–although there never was a man so widely lamented. One could trust him so thoroughly! However, he has gone, poor fellow, and there is nothing for it but to shut one's self up again–and I was only going to say that his death leaves his post vacant, and I have been strongly urged to become a candidate for it by several of the most influential Edinburgh Professors. I am greatly puzzled what to do. I do not want to leave London, nor do I think much of my own chances of success if I become a candidate–though others do. On the other hand, a stipend which varies between 800 and 1200 a year is not to be pooh-poohed.

We shall see. If I can carry out some arrangments which are pending with the Government to increase my pay to 400 a year, I shall be strongly tempted to stop in London. It is the place, the centre of the world.

In the meanwhile, as things always do come in heaps, I obtained my long-fought-for Grant–though indirectly–from the Government, which is, I think, a great triumph and vindication of the family motto–tenax propositi. Like many long-sought-for blessings, however, it is rather a bore now that I have it, as I don't see how I am to find time to write the book. But things "do themselves" in a wonderful way. I'll tell you how many irons I have in the fire at this present moment–(1) a manual of Comparative Anatomy for Churchill; (2) my "Grant" book; (3) a book for the British Museum people (half done); (4) an article for Todd's Cyclopædia (half done); (5) sundry memoirs on Science; (6) a regular Quarterly article in the Westminster; (7) lectures at Jermyn Street in the School of Mines; (8) lectures at the School of Art, Marlborough House; (9) lectures at the London Institution, and odds and ends. Now, my dearest Lizzie, whenever you feel inclined to think it unkind I don't write, just look at that list, and remember that all these things require strenuous attention and concentration of the faculties, and leave one not very fit for anything else. You will say that it is bad to be so entirely absorbed in these things, and to that I heartily say Amen!–but you might as well argue with a man who has just mounted the favourite for the "Oaks" that it is a bad thing to ride fast. He admits that, and is off like a shot when the bell rings nevertheless. My bell has rung some time, and thank God the winning post is in sight.

Give my kindest regards to the doctor and special love to all the children. I send a trifle for my godson and some odds and ends in the book line, among other things a Shakespeare for yourself, dear Liz.–Believe me, ever your affec. brother,

T. H. Huxley.


Letters of 1855
Letters of 1853

Letter Index


PREVIEW

TABLE of CONTENTS

BIBLIOGRAPHIES
1.   THH Publications
2.   Victorian Commentary
3.   20th Century Commentary

INDICES
1.   Letter Index
2.   Illustration Index

TIMELINE
FAMILY TREE
Gratitude and Permissions


C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University
1998
THE HUXLEY FILE



GUIDES
§ 1. THH: His Mark
§ 2. Voyage of the Rattlesnake
§ 3. A Sort of Firm
§ 4. Darwin's Bulldog
§ 5. Hidden Bond: Evolution
§ 6. Frankensteinosaurus
§ 7. Bobbing Angels: Human Evolution
§ 8. Matter of Life: Protoplasm
§ 9. Medusa
§ 10. Liberal Education
§ 11. Scientific Education
§ 12. Unity in Diversity
§ 13. Agnosticism
§ 14. New Reformation
§ 15. Verbal Delusions: The Bible
§ 16. Miltonic Hypothesis: Genesis
§ 17. Extremely Wonderful Events: Resurrection and Demons
§ 18. Emancipation: Gender and Race
§ 19. Aryans et al.: Ethnology
§ 20. The Good of Mankind
§ 21.  Jungle Versus Garden