Hotel de Grande Bretagne, Naples
My dear TyndallYour very welcome letter did not reach me until the 18th of March, when I returned to Cairo from my expedition to Assouan. Like Johnny Gilpin, I "little thought when I set out, of running such a rig"; but while at Cairo I fell in with Ossory of the Athenæum, and a very pleasant fellow, Charles Ellis, who had taken a dahabieh, and were about to start up the Nile. They invited me to take possession of a vacant third cabin, and I accepted their hospitality, with the intention of going as far as Thebes and returning on my own hook. But when we got to Thebes I found there was no getting away again without much more exposure and fatigue than I felt justified in facing just then, and as my friends showed no disposition to be rid of me, I stuck to the boat, and only left them on the return voyage at Rodu, which is the terminus of the railway, about 150 miles from Cairo.
We had an unusually quick journey, as I was little more than a month away from Cairo, and as my companions made themselves very agreeable, it was very pleasant. I was not particularly well at first, but by degrees the utter rest of this "always afternoon" sort of life did its work, and I am as well and vigorous now as ever I was in my life.
I should have been home within a fortnight of the time I had originally fixed. This would have been ample time to have enabled me to fulfil all the engagements I had made before starting; and Donnelly had given me to understand that "My Lords" would not trouble their heads about my stretching my official leave. Nevertheless I was very glad to find the official extension (which was the effect of my wife's and your and Bence Jones's friendly conspiracy) awaiting me at Cairo. A rapid journey home via Brindisi might have rattled my brains back into the colloid state in which they were when I left England. Looking back through the past six months I begin to see that I have had a narrow escape from a bad break-down, and I am full of good resolutions.
As the first-fruit of these you see that I have given up the schoolboard, and I mean to keep clear of all that semi-political work hereafter. I see that Sandon (whom I met at Alexandria) and Miller have followed my example, and that Lord Lawrence is likely to go. What a skedaddle!
It seems very hard to escape, however. Since my arrival here, on taking up the Times I saw a paragraph about the Lord Rectorship of St. Andrews. After enumerating a lot of candidates for that honour, the paragraph concluded, "But we understand that at present Professor Huxley has the best chance." It is really too bad if anyone has been making use of my name without my permission. But I don't know what to do about it. I had half a mind to write to Tulloch to tell him that I can't and won't take any such office, but I should look rather foolish if he replied that it was a mere newspaper report, and that nobody intended to put me up.
Egypt interested me profoundly, but I must reserve the tale of all I did and saw there for word of mouth. From Alexandria I went to Messina, and thence made an excursion along the lovely Sicilian coast to Catania and Etna. The old giant was half covered with snow, and this fact, which would have tempted you to go to the top, stopped me. But I went to the Val del Bove, whence all the great lava streams have flowed for the last two centuries, and feasted my eyes with its rugged grandeur. From Messina I came on here, and had the great good fortune to find Vesuvius in eruption. Before this fact the vision of good Bence Jones forbidding much exertion vanished into thin air, and on Thursday up I went in company with Ray Lankester and my friend Dohrn's father, Dohrn himself being unluckily away. We had a glorious day, and did not descend till late at night. The great crater was not very active, and contented itself with throwing out great clouds of steam and volleys of red-hot stones now and then. These were thrown towards the south-west side of the cone, so that it was practicable to walk all round the northern and eastern lip, and look down into the Hell Gate. I wished you were there to enjoy the sight as much as I did. No lava was issuing from the great crater, but on the north side of this, a little way below the top, an independent cone had established itself as the most charming little pocket-volcano imaginable. It could not have been more than 100 feet high, and at the top was a crater not more than six or seven feet across. Out of this, with a noise exactly resembling a blast furnace and a slowly-working high pressure steam engine combined, issued a violent torrent of steam and fragments of semi-fluid lava as big as one's fist, and sometimes bigger. These shot up sometimes as much as 100 feet, and then fell down on the sides of the little crater, which could be approached within fifty feet without any danger. As darkness set in, the spectacle was most strange. The fiery stream found a lurid reflection in the slowly-drifting steam cloud, which overhung it, while the red-hot stones which shot through the cloud shone strangely beside the quiet stars in a moonless sky.
Not from the top of this cinder cone, but from its side, a couple of hundred feet down, a stream of lava issued. At first it was not more than a couple of feet wide, but whether from receiving accessions or merely from the different form of slope, it got wider on its journey down to the Atrio del Cavallo, a thousand feet below. The slope immediately below the exit must have been near fifty, but the lava did not flow quicker than very thick treacle would do under like circumstances. And there were plenty of freshly cooled lava streams about, inclined at angles far greater than those which that learned Academician, Elie de Beaumont, declared to be possible. Naturally I was ashamed of these impertinent lava currents, and felt inclined to call them "Laves mousseuses."
Courage, my friend, behold land! I know you love my handwriting. I am off to Rome to-day, and this day-week, if all goes well, I shall be under my own roof-tree again. In fact I hope to reach London on Saturday evening. It will be jolly to see your face again.Ever yours faithfully,
T. H. Huxley.
My best remembrances to Hirst if you see him before I do.
My dear TyndallI must be at work on examination papers all day to-day, but to-morrow I am good to lunch with you (and abscond from the Royal Commission, which will get on very well without me) or to go with you and call on your friends, whichever may be most convenient.
Many thanks for all your kind and good advice about the lectures, but I really think they will not be too much for me, and it is of the utmost importance I should carry them on.
They are the commencement of a new system of teaching which, if I mistake not, will grow into a big thing and bear great fruit, and just at this present moment (nobody is necessary very long) I am the necessary man to carry it on. I could not get a suppléant if I would, and you are no more the man than I am to let a pet scheme fall through for the fear of a little risk of self. And really and truly I find that by taking care I pull along very well. Moreover, it isn't my brains that get wrong, but only my confounded stomach.
I have read your memorial which is very strong and striking, but a difficulty occurs to me about a good deal of it, and that is that it won't do to quote Hooker's official letters before they have been called for in Parliament, or otherwise made public. We should find ourself in the wrong officially, I am afraid, by doing so. However we can discuss this when we meet. I will be at the Athenæum at 4 o'clock.Ever yours faithfully,
T. H. Huxley.
[To Miss S. Jex Blake]
Dear MadamWhile I fully sympathise with the efforts made by yourself and others, to obtain for women the education requisite to qualify them for medical practice, and while I think that women who have the inclination and the capacity to follow the profession of medicine are most unjustly dealt with if any obstacles beyond those which are natural and inevitable are placed in their way, I must nevertheless add, that I as completely sympathise with those Professors of Anatomy, Physiology, and Obstetrics, who object to teach such subjects to mixed classes of young men and women brought together without any further evidence of moral and mental fitness for such association than the payment of their fees.
In fact, with rare exceptions, I have refused to admit women to my own Lectures on Comparative Anatomy for many years past. But I should not hesitate to teach anything I know to a class composed of women; and I find it hard to believe that any one should really wish to prevent women from obtaining efficient separate instruction, and from being admitted to Examination for degrees upon the same terms as men.
You will therefore understand that I should be most glad to help you if I couldand it is with great regret that I feel myself compelled to refuse your request to examine Mr. H.
In the first place I am in the midst of my own teaching, and with health not yet completely re-established I am obliged to keep clear of all unnecessary work. Secondly, such an examination must be practical, and I have neither dissecting-room available nor the anatomical license required for human dissection; and thirdly, it is not likely that the University authorities would attach much