T. H. Huxley
Letters and Diary 1861

January 6, 1861

My dear Hooker–My wife and I were very pleased to get your hearty and kind acceptance of Godfathership. We shall not call upon you for some time, I fancy, as the mistress doesn't get strong very fast. However, I am only glad she is well as she is. She came down yesterday for the first time.

It is very pleasant to get such expressions of opinion as I have had from you, Lyell, and Darwin about the Review . They make me quite hopeful about its prosperity, as I am sure we shall be able to do better than our first number.

I am glad you liked what I said in the opening of my article. I wish not to be in any way confounded with the cynics who delight in degrading man, or with the common run of materialists, who think mind is any the lower for being a function of matter. I dislike them even more than I do the pietists.

Some of these days I shall look up the ape question again, and go over the rest of the organisation in the same way. But in order to get a thorough grip of the question, I must examine into a good many points for myself. The results, when they do come out will, I foresee, astonish thenatives.

I am cold-proof, and all the better for the Welsh trip. To say truth, I was just on the edge of breaking down when I went. Did I ever send you a letter of mine on the teaching of Natural History? It was published while you were away, and I forget whether I sent it or not. However, a copy accompanies this note. . . .

Of coure there will be room for your review and welcome. I have put it down and reckon on it.–Ever yours faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

March 22, 1861

[To Henrietta]

My working men stick by me wonderfully, the house being fuller than ever last night. By next Friday evening they will all be convinced that they are monkeys. ... Said lecture, let me inform ;you, was very good. Lyell came and was rather astonished at the magnitude and attentiveness of the audience.

April 16, 1861

[To Henrietta]

People are talking a good deal about the "Man and the Apes" question, and I hear that somebody, I suspect Monckton-Milnes, has set afloat a poetical squib on the subject. . . .Some think my winding-up too strong, but I trust the day will never come when I shall abstain from expressing my contempt for those who prostitute Science to the Service of Error. At anyrate I am not old enough for that yet. Darwin came in just now. I get no scoldings for pitching into the common enemy now!

April 16, 1861'

[To Hooker]

A controvery between Owen and myself, which I can only call absurd (as there is no doubt whatever about the facts), has been going on in the Athenaeum, and I would it up in disgust last week.

April 27, 1861

[To Hooker]

Owen occupied an entirely untenable position–but I am nevertheless surprised he did not try "abusing plaintiff's attorney." The fact is he made a prodigious blunder in commencing the attack, and now his only chance is to be silent and let people forget the exposure. I do not believe that in the whole history of science there is a case of any man of reputation getting himself into such a contemptible position. He will be the laughing-stock of allthe continental anatomists.

Rolleston has a great deal of Oxford slough to shed, but on that very ground his testimony has been of most especial service. Fancy that man –– telling Maskelyne that Rollestone's observations were entirely confirmatory of Owen.

August 3, 1861

Jermyn Street

My dear Spencer–I have been absent on a journey to Dublin and elsewhere nearly all this week, and hence your note and proof did not reach me till yesterday. I have but just had time to glance through the latter, and I need hardly say how heartily I concur in its general tenor. I have, however, marked one or two passages which I think require some qualification. Then, at p. 272, the fact that the vital manifestations of plants depend as entirely as those of animals upon the fall towards stable equilibrium of the elements of a complex protein compound is not sufficiently prominent. It is not so much that plants are deoxidisers and animals oxidisers, as that plants are manufacturers and animals consumers. It is true that plants manufacture a good deal of non-nitrogenous produce in proportion to the nitrogenous, but it is the latter whjch is chiefly useful to the animal consumer and not the former. This point is a very important one, which I have never seen clearly and distinctly put–the prettiness of Dumas' circulation of the elements having seduced everybody.

Of course this in no way affects the principle of what you say. The statements which I have marked at p. 276 and 278 should have their authorities given, I think. I should hardly like to commit myself to them absolutely.

You will, if my memory does not mislead me, find authority for my note at p. 283 in Stephenson's life. I think old Geo. Stephenson brought out his views at breakfast at Sir R. Peel's when Buclcland was there.

These are all the points that strike me, and I do not keep your proof any longer (I send it by the same post as this note) because I fear you may be inconvenienced by the delay.

Tyndall is unfortunately gone to Switzerland, so that I cannot get you his comments. Whether he might have picked holes in any detail or not I do dot know, but I know his opinions sufficiently well to make sure in his agreement with the general argument. In fact a favourite problem of his is– Given the molecular forces in a muttop chop, deduce Hamlet or Faust therefrom. He is confident that the Physics of the Future will solve this easiIy.

I am grieved to hear such a poor account of your health; I believe you will have to come at last to the heroic remedy of matrimony, and if "gynopathy" were a mode of treatment that could be left off if it did not suit the constitution, I shouid decidedly recommend it.

But it's worse than opium-eating–once begun and you must go on, and so, though I ascribe my own good condition mainly to the care my wife takes of me, I dare not recommend it to you, lest perchance you should get hold of the wrong medicine.

Beyond spending a night awake now and then I am in very good order, and I am going to spend my vacation in a spasmodic effort to lick the Manual into shape and work off some other arrears.

My wife is vety fairly well, and, I trust, finally freed from all the symptoms which alarmed me so much. I dread the coming round of September for her again, but it must be faced.

Thc babbles are flourishing; and beyond the facts that we have a lunatic neighbour on one side and an empty house on the other, that it has cost me about twice as much to get into my house as I expected, that the cistern began to leak and spoil a ceiling, and such other small drawbacks, the new house is a decided success.

I forget whether I gave you the address, which is–

You had bettet direct to me there, as after the 10th of this month I shall not be here for six weeks.–Ever yours faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

September 4, 1861

My dear Hooker–Yesterday being the first day I went to the Athenæum after reading your note, I had a look at, and a good laugh over, the Quarterly article. Who can be the writer?

I have been so busy studying chicken development, a difficult subject to which I had long ago made up my mind to devote my first spare time, that I have written you no word about your article in the Gardener's Chronicle. I quite agree with the general tendency of your argument, though it seems to me that you put your view rather too strongly when you seem to question the postiion "that, as a rule, resemblances prevail over differences" between parent and offspring. Surely, as a rule, resemblances do prevail over differences, though I quite agree with you that the latter have been far too much overlooked. The great desideratum for the species question at present seems to me to be the determination of the law of variation. Because no law has yet been made out, Darwin is obliged to speak of variation as if it were spontaneous or a matter of chance, so that the bishops and superior clergy generally (the only real atheists and believers in chance left in the world) gird at him as if he were another Lucretius.

It is [in] the recognition of a tendency to variation apart from the variation of what are ordinarily understood as external conditions that Darwin's view is such an advance on Lamarck. Why does not somebody go to work experimentally and get at the law of variation for some one species of plant?

What a capital article that was in the Athenæum the other day apud the Schlagintweits. Don Roderigo is very wroth at being made responsible with Sabine, and indeed I think he had little enough to do with it.

You will see a letter from him in this week's Athenæum.–Ever yours faithfully, T. H. Huxley.

November 17, 1861

Jermyn Street

My dear Hooker–My wife wrote to yours yesterday, the enclosed note explaining the kitchen-revolution which, it seems, must delay our meeting. When she had done, however, she did not know where to direct it, and I am no wiser, so I send it to you.

It's a horrid nuisance and I have sworn a few, but that will not cook the dinner, however much it may prepare me for being cooked elsewhere. To complete my disgust at things in general, my wife is regularly knocked up with dining out twice this week, though it was only in the quietest way. I shall have to lock her up altogether.

X–– has made a horrid mess of it, and I am sorry to say, from what I know of him, that I cannot doubt where the fault lies. The worst of it is that he has a wife and three children over here, left without a penny or any means of support. The poor woman wrote to me the other day, and when I went to see her I found her at the last shilling and contemplating the workhouse as her next step. She has brothers in Australia, and it appeared to me that the only way to do her any good was to get her out. She cannot starve there, and there will be more hope for her children than an English poor-house. I am going to see if the Emigration Commissioners will do anything for her, as of course it is desirable to cut down the cost of exportation to the smallest amount.

It is most lamentable that a man of so much ability should have so utterly damned himself as X has, but he is hopelessly Celtic.

I shall be at the Phil. Club next Thursday.–Ever yours faithfully, T. H. Huxley.

November 1861

14 Waverley Place

My dear Hooker–The obstinate manner in which Mrs. Hooker and you go on refusing to give any address leads us to believe that you are dwelling peripatetically in a "Wan" with green door and brass knocker somewhere on Wormwood Scrubbs, and that "Kew" is only a blind. So you see I am obliged to inclose Mrs. Hooker's epistle to you.

You shall have your own way about the dinner, though we shall have triumphed over all domestic difficultles by that time, and the first lieutenant scorns the idea of being "worrited" about anything. I only grieve it is such a mortal long way for you to come.

I could find it in my heart to scold you well for your generous aid to my poor client. I assure you I told you all about the case because it was fresh in my mind, and without the least notion of going to you for that kind of aid. May it come back to you in some good shape or other.

I find it is no use to look for help from the emigration people, but I have no fear of being able to get the 50 which will send them out by the Walter Hood.

Would it be fair to apply to Bell in such a case? I will have a talk to you about it at the Phil. Club.–Ever, my dear Hooker, yours faithfully, T. H. Huxley.

Letters of 1862
Letters of 1860

Letter Index



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Gratitude and Permissions

C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University

§ 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