T. H. Huxley
Letters and Diary 1862

January 13, 1862

Jermyn Street

My dear Darwin–In the first place a new year's greeting to you and yours. In the next, I enclose this slip (please return it when you have read it) to show you what I have been doing in the north.

Everyone prophesied that I should be stoned and cast out of the city gate, but, on the contrary, I met with unmitigated applause!! Three cheers for the progress of liberal opinion!!

The report is as good as any, but they have not put quite rightly what I said about your views, respecting which I took my old line about the infertility difficulty.

Furthermore, they have not reported my statement that whether you were right or wrong, some form of the progressive development theory is certainly true. Nor have they reported here my distinct statement that I believe man and the apes to have come from one stock.

Having got thus far, I find the lecture better reported in the Courant, so I send you that instead. I mean to publish the lecture in full by and by (about the time the orchids come out).–Ever yours faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

January 16, 1862

My dear Hooker–I wonder if we are ever to meet again in this world! At anyrate I send to the remote province of Kew, Greeting, and my best wishes for the new year to you and yours. I also inclose a slip from an Edinburgh paper containing a report of my lecture on the "Relation of Man," etc. As you will see, I went in for the entire animal more strongly, in fact, that they have reported me. I told them in so many words that I entertained no doubt of the origin of man from the same stock as the apes.

And to my great delight, in saintly Edinburgh itself the announcement met with nothing but applause. For myself I can't say that the praise or blame of my audience was much matter, but it is a grand indication of the general disintegration of old prejudices which is going on.

I shall see if I cannot make something more of my lectures by delivering them again in London, and then I shall publish them.

The report does not put nearly strongly enough what I said in favour of Darwin's views. I affirmed it to be the only scientific hypothesis of the origin of species in existence, and expressed my belief that one gap in the evidnece would be filled up, as I always do.–Ever yours faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

January 20, 1862

My dear Darwin–The inclosed article, which has been followed up by another more violent, more scurrilously personal, and more foolish, will prove to you that my labour has not been in vain, and that your views and mine are likely to be better ventilated in Scotland than they have been.

I was quite uneasy at getting no attack from the Witness, thinking I must have overestimated the impression that I had made, and the favourableness of the reception of what I said. But the raving of the Witness is clear testimony that my notion was correct.

I shall send a short reply to the Scotsman for the purpose of further advertising the question.

With regard to what are especially your doctrines, I spoke much more favourably than I am reported to have done. I expressed no doubt as to their ultimate establishment, but as I particularly wished not to be misrepresented as an advocate trying to soften or explain away real difficulties, I did not in speaking enter into the details of what is to be said in diminishing the weight of the hybrid difficulty. All this will be put fully when I print the Lecture.

The arguments put in your letter are those which I have urged to other people–of the opposite side–over and over again. I have told my students that I entertain no doubt that twenty years' experiments on pigeons conducted by a skilled physiologist, instead of by a mere breeder, would give us physiological species sterile inter se, from a common stock (and in this, if I mistake not, I go further than you do yourself), and I have told them that when these experiments have been performed I shall consider your views to have a complete physical basis, and to stand on as firm ground as any physiological theory whatever.

It was impossible for me, in the time I had, to lay all this down to my Edinburgh audience, and in default of full explanation it was far better to seem to do scanty justice to you. I am constitutionally slow of adopting any theory that I must needs tick by when I have gone in for it; but for these two years I have been gravitating towards your doctrines, and since the publication of your primula paper with accelerated velocity. By about this time next year I expect to have shot past you, and to find you pitching into me for being more Darwinian than yourself. However, you have set me going, and must just take the consequences, for I warn you I will stop at no point so long as clear reasoning will carry me further.

My wife and I were very grieved to hear you had had such a sick house, but I hope the change in the weather has done you all good. Anything is better than the damp warmth we had.

I will take great care of the three "Barriers." I wanted to cut it up in the Saturday , but how I am to fulfil my benevolent intentions–with five lectures a week–a lecture at the Royal Institution and heaps of other things on my hands, I don't know.–Ever yours faithfully, T. H. Huxley.

I am very glad to hear about Brown Séquard; he is a thoroughly good man, and told me it was worth while to come all the way to Oxford to hear the Bishop pummelled.

April 30, 1862

[To Hooker]

I would give you fifty guesses, and you should not find out the author of the Punch poem. I saw it in MS. three weeks ago, and was told the author was a friend of mine. But I remained hopelessly in the dark till yesterday. What do you say to Sir Philip Egerton coming out in that line? I am told he is the author, and the fact speaks volumes for Owen's perfect success in damning himself.

May 6, 1862

Jermyn Street

My dear Darwin–I was very glad to get your note about my address. I profess to be a great stoic, you know, but there are some people from whom I am glad to get a pat on the back. Still I am not quite content with that, and I want to know what you think of the argument–whether you agree with what I say about contemporaneity or not, and whether you are prepared to admit–as I think your views compel you to do–that the whole Geological Record is only the skimmings of the pot of life.

Furthermore, I want you to chuckle with me over the notion I find a great many people entertain–that the address is dead against your views. The fact being, as they will by and by wake up [to] see that yours is the only hypothesis which is not negatived by the facts,–one of its great merits being that it allows not only of indefinite standing still, but of indefinite retrogression.

I am going to try to work the whole argument into an intelligible form for the general public as a chapter in my forthcoming "Evidence" (one half of which I am happy to say is now written), so I shall be very glad of any criticisms or hints.

Since I saw you–indeed, from the following Tuesday onwards–I have amused myself by spending ten days or so in bed. I had an unaccountable prostration of strength which they called influenza, but which, I believe, was nothing but some obstruction in the liver.

Of course I can't persuade people of this, and they will have it that it is overwork. I have come to the conviction, however, that steady work hurts nobody, the real destroyer of hardworking men being not their work, but dinners, late hours, and the universal humbug and excitement of society.

I mean to get out of all that and keep out of it.–Ever yours faithfully, T. H. Huxley.

August 17, 1862

My dear Sir Charles – I take advantage of my first quiet day to reply to your letter of the 9th; and in the first place let me thank you very much for your critical remarks, as I shall find them of great service.

With regard to such matters as verbal mistakes, you must recollect that the greater part of the proof was wholly uncorrected. But the reader might certainly do his work better. I do not think you will find room to complain of any want of distinctness in my definition of Owen's position touching the Hippocampus question. I mean to give the whole history of the business in a note, so that the paraphrase of Sir Ph. Egerton's line "To which Huxley replies that Owen he lies," shall be unmistakable.

I will take care about the Cheiroptera, and I will look at Lamarck again. But I doubt if I shall improve my estimate of the latter. The notion of common descent was not his–still less that of modification by variation–and he was as far as De Maillet from seeing his way to any vera causa by which varieties might be intensified into species.

If Darwin is right about natural selection–the discovery of this vera causa sets him to my mind in a different region altogether from all his predecessors–and I should no more call his doctrine a modification of Lamarck's than I should call the Newtonian theory of the celestial motions a modification of the Ptolemaic system. Ptolemy imagined a mode of explaining those motions. Newton proved their necessity from the laws and a force demonstrably in operation. If he is only right Darwin will, I think, take his place with such men as Harvey, and even if he is wrong his sobriety and accuracy of thought will put him on a far different level from Lamarck. I want to make this clear to people.

I am disposed to agree with you about the "emasculate" and "uncircumcised"–partly for your reasons, partly because I believe it is an excellent rule always to erase anything that strikes one as particularly smart when writing it. But it is a great piece of self-denial to abstain from expressing my peculiar antipathy to the people indicated, and I hope I shall be rewarded for the virtue.

As to the secondary causes I only wished to guard myself from being understood to imply that I had any comprehension of the meaning of the term. If my phrase looks naughty I will alter it. What I want is to be read, and therefore to give no unnecessary handle to the enemy. There will be row enough whatever I do.

Our [Fisheries] Commission here implicates us in an inquiry of some difficulty, and which involves the interests of a great many poor people. I am afraid it will not leave me very much leisure. But we are in the midst of a charming country, and the work is not unpleasant or uninteresting. If the sun would only shine more than once a week it would be perfect.–With kind remembrances to Lady Lyell, believe me, faithfully yours,

T. H. Huxley.

We shall be here for the next ten days at least. But my wife will always know my whereabouts.

October 28, 1862

The Royal School of Mines Jermyn Street

[To Ernst Haeckel]

Sir–A copy of your exceedingly valuable and beautiful monograph, "Die Radiolarien," came into my hands two or three days ago, and I have been devoting the little leisure I possess just at present to a careful study of its contents, which are to me profoundly interesting and instructive.

Permit me to say this much by way of introduction to a request which I have to prefer, which is, that you will be good enough to let me have a copy of your Habitationsschrift, De Rhizopodum Finibus, if you have one to spare. If it is sent through Frommans of Jena to the care of Messrs. Williams and Norgate, London, it will reach me safely.

I observe that in your preface you state that you have no specimen of the famous Barbadoes deposit. As I happen to possess some from Schomburgk's own collection, I should be ashamed to allow you any longer to suffer from that want, and I beg your acceptance of the inclosed little packet. If this is not sufficient, pray let me know and I will send you as much more.

If you desire it, I can also send you some of the Oran earth, and as much as you like of the Atlantic deep-sea soundings, which are almost entirely made up of Globigerina and Polycistina. –I am, Sir, yours very faithfully, Thomas H. Huxley.

Letters of 1863
Letters of 1861

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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