Extract from Journal

by Anonymous (November 25, 1882)

In the evening we dined at the ––'s, chiefly a family party with the addition of Professor Huxley and his wife and ourselves. Much lively conversation, after dinner, begun among the ladies, but continued after the gentlemen appeared, on the subjects of Truth, Education, and Women's Rights, or, more strictly speaking, women's capabilities. Our hostess (Lady ––) was, if possible, more vehement and paradoxical than her wont, and vigorously maintained that truth was no virtue in itself, but must be inculcated for expediency's sake. The opposite view found a champion in Professor Huxley, who described himself as "almost a fanatic for the sanctity of truth." Lady –– urged that truth was often a very selfish virtue, and that a man of noble and unselfish character might lie for the sake of a friend, to which some one replies that after a course of this unselfish lying the noble character was pretty sure to deteriorate, while the Professor laughingly suggested that the owner had a good chance of finding himself landed ultimately in Botany Bay.

The celebrated instance of John Inglesant's perjury for the sake of Charles I. was then brought forward, and it was this which led Professor Huxley to say that in his judgment no one had the right passively to submit to a false accusation, and that "moral suicide" was as blameworthy as physical suicide. "He may refuse to commit another, but he ought not to allow himself to be believed worse than he actually is. It is a loss to the world of moral force, which cannot be afforded."

. . . Then as regards women's powers. The Professor said he did not believe in their ever succeeding in a competition with men. Then he went on;–"I can't help looking at women with something of the eye of a physiologist. Twenty years ago I thought the womanhood of England was going to the dogs," but now, he said, he observed a wonderful change for the better. We asked him to what he attributed it. Was it to lawn tennis and the greater variety of bodily exercises? "Partly," he answered, "but much more to their having more pursuits –more to interest them and to occupy their thoughts and time."


C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University