T. H. Huxley
Letters and Diary 1851

January 17, 1851

41 North Bank, Regent's Park

[To Dr. Thomson]

My dear Doctor,

Old Yule has written to me (as he does not know your address) to forward the enclosed. He has asked me to read it and give my opinion. My answer is "Scott is not going to Hospital–acted entirely upon his own discretion and is responsible for his own acts.

"The probabilities were, when we were paid off, that he would be well in a few days and Dr. Thomson, of course, advised him in accordance with the probabilities.

"He took the doctor's advice, but had he persisted in going to Hospital, of course he could have done so."

The old man is in a funk for fear he should be called upon to give some explanation–though what he has to do with it I don't very clearly see.

I can't forebear sending a sketch of the old gentleman as he will probably appear when called upon for an explanation.

Suckling dined with us yesterday. He is in fine feather and looks as if he meant to live to ninety.

Dayman is going out to the Cape of Good Hope–there to take charge of certain surveying operations. I suppose they will give him his step when he has been out some time.

I dined with Brady and his lady-love the other day–she seems a nice quiet person.

Did you ever hear anything so ridiculous as the attempts what have been made to make him out a Don Juan? I hear you bore testimony to his having never left the moral pedestal. ...

... Simpson I hear nothing of. McGillivray is in town working at his book. I see him occasionally–on business only.

April 14, 1851

[To Miss Heathorn]

To-day, I saw Forbes at the Museum of Practical Geology, where I often drop in on him. "Well," he said, "I am glad to be able to tell you you are all right for the Royal Society; the selection was made on Friday night, and I hear that you are one of the selected. I have not seen the list, but my authority is so good that you make yourself easy about it." I confess to having felt a little proud, though I believe I spoke and looked as cool as a cucumber. There were thirty-eight candidates, out of whom only fifteen could be selected, and I fear that they have left behind much better men than. I shall not feel certain about the matter until I receive some official annoucement. I almost wish that until then I had heard nothing about it. Notwithstanding all my cucumbery appearance, I will confess to you that I could not sit down and read to-day after the news. I wandered hither and thither restlessly half over London. . . . Whether I have it or not, I can say one thing, that I have left my case to stand on its own strength; I have not asked for a single vote, and there are not on my certificate half the names that there might be. If it be mine, it is by no intrigue.

May 4, 1851

[To Miss Heathorn]

I am twenty-six to-day . . . and it reminds me that I have left you now a whole year. It is perfectly frightful to think how the time is slipping by, and yet seems to bring us no nearer.

What have I done with my twenty-sixth year? Six months were spent at sea, and therefore may be considered as so much lost; and six months I have had in England. That, I may say, has not been thrown away altogether without fruit. I have read a good deal and I have written a good deal. I have made some valuable friends, and have found my work more highly estimated than I had ventured to hope. I must tell you something, because it will please you, even if you think me vain for doing so.

I was talking to Professor Owen yesterday, and said that I imagined I had to thank him in great measure for the honour of the F.R.S. "No" he said, "you have nothing to thank but the goodness of your own work." For about ten minutes I felt rather proud of that speech, and shall keep it by me whenever I feel inclined to think myself a fool, and that I have a most mistaken notion of my own capacities. The only use of honours is as an antidote to such fits of the "blue devils." Of one thing, however, which is by no means so agreeable, my opportunities for seeing the scientific world in England force upon me every day a stronger and stronger conviction. It is that there is no chance of living by science. I have been loth to believe it, but it is so, There are not more than four or five offices in London which a Zoologist or Comparative Anatomist can hold and live by. Owen, who has a European reputation, second only to that of Cuvier, gets as Hunterian Professor 300 a year! which is less than the salary of many a bank clerk. My friend Forbes, who is a highly distinguished and a very able man, gets the same from his office of Paleontologist to the Geological Survey of Great Britain. Now, these are first-rate men–men who have been at work for years laboriously toiling upward–men whose abilities had they turned them into the many channels of money-making must have made large fortunes. But the beauty of Nature and the pursuit of Truth allured them into a nobler life–and this is the result.... In literature a man may write for magazines and reviews, and so support himself; but not so in science. I could get anything I write into any of the journals or any of the Transactions, but I know no means of thereby earning five shillings. A man who chooses a life of science chooses not a life of poverty, but, so far as I can see, a life of nothing, and the art of living upon nothing at all has yet to be discovered. You will naturally think, then, "Why persevere in so hopeless a course?" At present I cannot help myself. For my own credit, for the sake of gratifying those who have hitherto helped me on–nay, for the sake of truth and science itself, I must work out fairly and fully complete what I have begun. And when that is done, I will courageously and cheerfully turn my back upon all my old aspirations. The world is wide, and there is everywhere room for honesty of purpose and earnest endeavour. Had I failed in attaining my wishes from an overweening self-confidence,–had I found that the obstacles after all lay within myself–I should have bitterly despised myself, and, worst of all, I should have felt that you had just ground of complaint.

So far as the acknowledgment of the value of what I have done is concerned, I have succeeded beyond my expectations, and if I have failed on the other side of the question, I cannot blame myself. It is the world's fault and not mine.

May 20,1851

[To Mrs. Elizabeth Scott]

. . . Owen has been amazingly civil to me, and it was through his writing to the First Lord that I got my present appointment. He is a queer fish, more odd in appearance than ever . . . and more bland in manner. He is so frightfully polite that I never feel thoroughly at home with him. He got me to furnish him with some notes for the second edition of the Admiralty Manual of Scientific Inquiry, and I find that in it Darwin and I (comparisons are odorous) figure as joint authorities on some microscopic matters!!

Professor Forbes, however, is my great ally, a first-rate man, thoroughly in earnest and disinterested, and ready to give his time and influence–which is great–to help any man who is working for the cause. To him I am indebted for the supervision of papers.that were published in my absence, for many introductions, and most valuable information and assistance, and all done in such a way as not to opprese one or give one any feeling of patronage, which you know (so much do I retain of my old self) would not suit me. My notions are diametrically opposed to his in some matters, and he helps me to oppose him. The other night, or rather nights, for it took three, I had a long paper read at the Royal Society which opposed some of his views, and he got up and spoke in the highest terms of it afterwards. This is all as it should be. I can reverence such a man and yet respect myself.

I have been aspiring to great honours sirice I wrote to you last, to wit the F.R.S., and found no little to my astonishment that I had a chance of it, and so went in. I must tell you that they have made the admission more difficult than it used to be. Candidates are not elected by the Society alone, but fifteen only a year are selected by a committee, and then elected as a matter of course by the Society. This year there were thirty-eight candidates. I did not expect to come in till next year, but I find I am one of the selected. I fancy I shall be the junior Fellow by some years. Singularly enough, among the non-selected candidates were Ward, the man who conducted the Botanical Honours Examination of Apothecaries' Hall nine years ago, and Bryson, the surgeon of the Fisguard, i.e. nominally my immediate superior, and who, as he frequently acts as Sit Wm. Burnett's deputy, will very likely examine me when I pass for Surgeon R.N.!! That is awkward and must be annoying to him, but it is not my fault. I did not ask for a single name that appeared upon my certificate. Owen's name and Carpenter's, which were to have been appended, were not added. Forbes, my recommender, told me beforehand not to expect to get in this year, and did not use his influence, and so I have no intriguing to reproach myself with or to be reproached with. The only drawback is that it will cost me 14, which is more than I can very well afford.

By the way, I have not told you that after staying for about five months with George, I found that if I meant to work in earnest his home was not the place, so, much to my regret,– for they made me very happy there,–I summoned resolution and The Boy's Own Book and took a den of my own, whence I write at present. You had better, however, direct to George, as I am going to move and don't know how long I may remain at my next habitation. At present I am living in the Park Road, but I find it too noisy and am going to St. Anne's Gardens, St. John's Wood, close to my mother's, against whose forays I shall have to fortify myself.

July 12, 1851

[To Miss Heathorn]

The interval between my letters has been a little longer than usual, as I have been very busy attending the meeting of the British Association at Ipswich. The last time I attended one was at Southampton five years ago, when I went merely as a spectator, and looked at the people who read papers as if they were somebodies. This time I have been behind the scenes myself and have played out my little part on the boards. I know all about the scenery and decorations, and no longer think the manager a wizard.

Any one who conceives that I went down from any especial interest in the progress of science makes a great mistake. My journey was altogether a matter of policy, partly for the purpose of doing a little necessary trumpeting, and partly to get the assistance of the Association in influencing the Government.

On the journey down, my opposite in the railway carriage turned out to be Sir James Ross, the Antarctic disoverer. We had some very pleasant talk together. I knew all about him, as Dayman [one of the lieutenants of the Rattlesnake] had sailed under his command; oddly enough we afterwards went to lodge at the same house, but as we were attending our respective sections all day we did not see much of one another.

When we arrived at Ipswich there was a good deal of trouble about getting lodgings. My companions located themselves about a mile out of the town, but that was too far for my "indolent habits"; I sought and at last found a room in the town a little bigger than my cabin on board ship for which I had the satisfaction of paying 30s. a week.

You know what the British Association is. It is a meeting of the savans of England and the Continent, under the presidency of some big-wig or other,–this year of the Astronomer Royal,–for the purpose of exchanging information. To this end they arrange themselves into different sections, each with its own president and committee, and indicated by letters. For instance, Section A is for Mathematics and Physics; Section B for Chemistry, etc.; my own section, that of Natural History, was D, under the presidency of Professor Henslow of Cambridge. I was on the committee, and therefore saw the working of the whole affair.

On the first day there was a dearth of matter in our section. People had not arrived with their papers. So by way of finding out whether I could speak in public or not, I got up and talked to them for about twenty minutes. I was considerably surprised to find that when once I had made the plunge, my tongue went glibly enough.

On the following day I read a long paper, which I had prepared and illustrated with a lot of big diagrams, to an audience of about twenty people! The rest were all away after Prince Albert, who had been unfortunately induced to visit the meeting, and fairly turned the heads of the good people of Ipswich. On Saturday a very pleasant excursion on scientific presences, but in fact a most jolly and unscientific picnic, took place. Several hundred people went down the Orwell in a steamer. The majority returned, but I and two others, considering Sunday in Ipswich an impossibility, stopped at a little seaside village, Felixstowe, and idled away our time there very pleasantly. Babington the botanist and myself walked in to Ipswich on Sunday night. It is about eleven miles, and we did it comfortably in two hours and three quarters, which was not bad walking.

On Monday at Section D again. Forbes brought forward the subject of my application to Government in committee, and it was unanimously agreed to forward a resolution on the subject to the Committee of Recommendations. I made a speechification of some length in the Section about a new animal.

On Thursday morning I attended a meeting of the Ray Society, and to my infinite astonishment, the secretary, Dr. Lankester, gave me the second motion to make. The Prince of Casino moved the first, so I was in good company. The great absurdity of it was that not being a member of the Society I had properly no right to speak at all. However, it was only a vote of thanks, and I got up and did the "neat and appropriate" in style.

After this a party of us went out dredging in the Orwell in a small boat. We were away all day, and it rained hard coming back, so that I got wet through, and had to pull five miles to keep off my enemy, the rheumatics.

Then came the President's dinner, to which I did not go, as I preferred making myself comfortable with a few friends elsewhere. And after that, the final evening meeting, when all the final determinations are announced.

Among them I had the satisfaction to hear that it was resolved–that the President and Council of the British Association should co-operate with the Royal Society in representing the value and importance, etc., of Mr. T. H. Huxley's zoological researches to Her Majesty's Government for the purpose of obtaining a grant towards their publication. Subsequently I was introduced to Colonel Sabine, the President of the Association in 1852, and a man of very high standing and considerable influence. He had previously been civil enough to sign my certificate at the Royal Society, unsolicited, and therefore knew me by reputation–I only mean that as a very small word. He was very civil and promised me every assistance in his power.

It is a curious thing that out of the four applications to Government to be made by the Association, two were for Naval Assistant-Surgeons, viz. one for Dr. Hooker, who had just returned from the Himalaya Mountains, and one for me. How I envied Hooker; he has long been engaged to a daughter of Professor Henslow's, and at this very meeting he sat by her side. He is going to be married in a day or two. His father is director of the Kew Gardens, and there is little doubt of his succeeding him.

Whether the Government accede to the demand that will be made upon them or not, I can now rest satisfied that no means of influencing them has been left unused by me. If they will not listen to the conjoint recommendations of the Royal Society and the British Association, they will listen to nothing. . . .

July 16, 1851

[To Miss Heathorn]

I went yesterday to dine with Colonel Sabine. We had a long discourse about the prospects and probable means of existence of young men trying to make their way to an existence in the scientific world. I took, as indeed what I have seen has forced me to take, rather the despairing side of the question, and said that as it seemed to me England did not afford even the means of existence to young men who were willing to devote themselves to science. However, he spoke cheeringly, and advised me by no means to be hasty, but to wait, and he doubted not that I should succeed. He cited his own case as an instance of waiting, eventually successful. Altogether I felt the better for what he said. . . .

There has been a notice of me in the Literary Gazette for last week, much more laudatory than I deserve, from the pen of my friend Forbes.* [An appreciation of his papers on the Physophoridae and Sagitta, speaking highly both of his observations and philosophic power, in the report of the proceedings in Section D.] . . .

In the same number is a rich song from the same fertile and versatile pen, which was sung at one of our Red Lion meetings. That is why I want you to look at it, not that you will understand it, because it is full of allusions to occurrences known only in the scientific circles. At Ipswich we had a grand Red Lion meeting; about forty members were present, and among them some of the most distinguished members of the Association. Some foreigners were invited (the Prince of Casino, Buonaparte's nephew, among others), and were not a little astonished to see the grave professors, whose English solemnity and gravity they had doubtless commented on elsewhere, giving themselves up to all sorts of fun. Among the Red Lions we have a custom (instead of cheering) of waving and wagging one coat-tail (one Lion's tail) when we applaud. This seemed to strike the Prince's fancy amazingly, and when he got up to return thanks for his health being drunk, he told us that as he was rather out of practice in speaking English, he would return thanks in our fashion, and therewith he gave three mighty roars and wags, to the no small amusement of every one. He is singularly like the portraits of his uncle, and seems a very jolly, good-humoured old fellow. I believe, however, he is a bit of a rip. It was remarkable how proud the Quakers were of being noticed by him.

July 19, 1851

1 Edward Street, St. John's Wood Terrace

My dear Henfrey–I have been detained in town, or I hope we should long since have had our projected excursion.

What do you think of my looking out for a Professorship of Natural History at Toronto? Pay 350, with chances of extra fees. I think that out there one might live comfortably upon that sum–possibly even do the domestic and cultivate the Loves and Graces as well as the Muses.

Seriously, however, I should like to know what you think of it. The choice of getting anything over here without devoting one's self wholly to Mammon, seems to me very small. At least it involves years of waiting.

Toronto is not very much out of the way, and the pay is decent and would enable me to devote myself wholly to my favourite pursuits. Were it in England, I could wish nothing better; and, as it is is, I think it would answer my purpose very well for some years at any rate.

If they go fairly to work I think I shall have a very good chance of being elected; but I am told that these matters are often determined by petty intrigue.

Francis and I loøked for you everywhere at the Botanic Gardens, and finding you were too wise to come, came here, grieving your absence, and had an aesthetic "Bier."

November 7, 1851

[To Miss Heathorn]

I have at last tasted what it is to mingle with my fellows–to take my place in that society for which nature has fitted me, and whether the draught has been a poison which has heated my veins or true nectar from the gods, life—giving, I know not, but I can no longer rest where I once could have rested. If I could find within myself that mere personal ambition, the desire of fame, present or posthumous, had anything to do with this restlessness, I would root it out. But in those moments of self—questioning, when one does not lie even to oneself, I feel that I can say it is not so–that the real pleasure, the true sphere, lies in the feeling of self—development–in the sense of power and of growing oneness with the great spirit of abstract truth.

Do you understand this? I know you do; our old oneness of feeling will not desert us here . . .

To-day a most unexpected occurrence came to my knowledge. I must tell you that the Queen places at the disposal of the Royal Society once a year a valuable gold medal to be given to the author of the best paper upon either a physical, chemical, or anatomical or physiological subject. One of these branches of science is chosen by the Royal Society for each year, and therefore for any given subject–say anatomy and physiology, it becomes a triennial prize, and is given to the best memoir in the Transactions for three years.

It happens that the Royal Medal, as it is called, is this year given in Anatomy and Physiology. I had no idea that I had the least chance of getting it, and made no effort to do so. But I heard this morning from a member of the Council that the award was made yesterday, and that I was within an ace of getting it. Newport, a man of high standing in the scientific world, and myself were the two between whom the choice rested, and eventually it was given to him, on account of his having a greater bulk of matter in his papers, so evenly did the balance swing. Had I only had the least idea that I should be selected they should have had enough and to spare from me. However, I do not grudge Newport his medal; he is a good sort and a worthy competitor, old enough to be my father, and has long had a high reputation. Except for its practical value as a means of getting a position I care little enough for the medal. What I do care for is the justification which the being marked in this position gives to the course I have taken. Obstinate and self-willed as I am . . . there are times when grave doubts overshadow my mind, and then such testimony as this restores my self-confidence.

To let you know the full force of what I have been saying, I must tell you that this "Royal Medal" is what such men as Owen and Faraday are glad to get, and is indeed one of the highest honours in England.

To-day I had the great pleasure of meeting my old friend Sir John Richardson (to whom I was mainly indebed for my appointment in the Rattlesnake). Since I left England he has married a third wife, and has taken a hand in joining in search of Franklin (which was more dreadful?), like an old hero as he is; but not a feather of him is altered, and he is as grey, as really kind, and as seemingly abrupt and grim, as ever he was. Such a fine old polar bear!

November 9, 1851

41 North Bank, Regent's Park

[To William Sharp Macleay]

My dear Sir–It is a year to-day since the old Rattlesnake was paid off, and that reminds me among other things that I have hardly kept my promise of giving you information now and then upon the state of matters scientific in England. My last letter is, I am afraid, nine or ten months old, but here in England the fighting and scratching to keep your place in the crowd exclude almost all other thoughts. When I last wrote I was but at the edge of the crush at the pit-door of this great fools' theatre–now I have worked my way into it and through it, and I am, I hope, not far from the check-takers. I have learnt a good deal in my passage ...

Rumours there are scattered abroad of a favourable cast, and I am told on all hands that something will certainly be done. I only asked for 300, something less than the cost of a parliamentary blue-book which nobody ever hears of. They take care to obliterate any spark of gratitude that might perchance arise for what they do, by keeping one so long in suspense that the event becomes almost a matter of indifference. Had I known they would keep me so long, I would have published my work as a series of papers in the Philosophical Transactions.

In the meanwhile I have not been idle, as I hope to show you by the various papers enclosed with this. You will recollect that on the Salpae. No one here knew anything about them, and I thought that all my results were absolutely new–until, me miserum ! I found them in a little paper of Krohn's in the Annales des Sciences for 1846, without any figures to draw anybody's attention.

The memoir on the Medusæ (which I sent to you) has, I hear, just escaped a high honour–to wit, the Royal Medal. The award has been made to Newport for his paper on "Impregnation." I had no idea that anything I had done was likely to have the slightest claim to such distinction, but I was informed yesterday by one of the Council that the balance hung pretty evenly, and was only decided by their thinking my memoir was too small and short.

I have been working in all things with a reference to wide views of zoological philosophy, and the report upon the Echinoderms is intended in common with the mem. on the Salpae to explain my views of individuality among the lower animals–views which I mean to illlustrate still further and enuciate still more clearly in my book that is to be. They have met with approval from Carpenter, as you will see by the last edition of his Principles of Physiology , and I think that Forbes and some others will be very likely eventually to come round to them, but everything that relates to abstract thought is at a low ebb among the mass of naturalists in this country.

In the paper upon "Thalassicolla," and in that which I read before the British Association, as also in one upon the organisation of the Rotifera, which I am going to have published in the Microscopical Society's Transactions, I have been driving in a series of wedges into Cuvier's Radiata, and showing how selon moi they ought to be distributed.

I am every day becoming more and more certain that you were on the right track thirty years ago in your views of the order and symmetry to be traced in the true natural system.

During the next session I mean to send in a paper to the R.S. upon the "Homologies of the Mollusca," which shall astonish them. I want to get done for the Mollusca what Savigny did for the Articulata, viz., to show how they all–Cephalopoda, Gasteropoda, Pteropoda, Heteropoda, etc.–are organised on one type, and how the homologous organs are modified in each. What with this and the book, I shall have enough to do for the next six months.

You will doubtless ask what is the practical outlook of all this? whether it leads anywhere in the direction of bread and cheese? To this also I can give a tolerably satisfactory answer.

As you won't have a Professor of Natural History at Sydney–to my great sorrow–I have gone in as a candidate for a Professorial chair at the other end of the world, Toronto in Canada. In England there is nothing to be done–it is the most hopeless prospect I know of; of course the Service offer nothing for me except irretrievable waste of time, and the scientific appointments are so few and so poor they are not tempting. . . .

Had the Sydney University been carried out as orginally proposed, I should certainly have become a candidate for the Natural History Chair. I know no finer field for exertion for any naturalist than Sydney Harbour itself. Should such a Professorship be hereafter established, I trust you will jog the memory of my Australian friends in my behalf. I have finally decided that my vocation is science, and I have made up my mind to the comparative poverty which is its necessary adjunct, and to the no less certain seclusion from the ordinary pleasures and rewards of men. I say this without the slightest idea that there is anything to be enthusiastic about in either science or its professors. A year behind the scenes is quite enough to disabuse one of all rose-pink illusions.

But it is equally clear to me that for a man of my temperament, at any rate, the sole secret of getting through this life with anything like contentment is to have full scope for the development of one's faculties. Science alone seems to me to afford this scope–Law, Divinity, Physic, and Politics being in a state of chaotic vibration between utter humbug and utter scepticism.

There is a great stir in the scientific world at present about who is to occupy Konig's place at the British Museum, and whether the whole establishment had better not, quoad Zoology, be remodelled and placed under Owen's superintendence. The heart-burnings and jealousies about this matter are beyond all conception. Owen is both feared and hated, and it is predicted that if Gray and he come to be officers of the same institution, in a year or two the total result will be a caudal vertebra of each remaining after the manner of the Kilkenny cats.

However, I heard yesterday, upon what professed to be very good authority, that Owen would not leave the College under any circumstances.

It is astonishing with what an intense feeling of hatred Owen is regarded by the majority of his contemporaries, with Mantell as arch-hater. The truth is, he is the superior of most, and does not conceal that he knows it, and it must be confessed that he does some very ill-natured tricks now and then. A striking specimen of one is to be found in his article on Lyell in the last Quarterly, where he pillories poor Quekett–a most inoffensive man and his own immediate subordinate–in a manner not more remarkable for its severity than for its bad taste. That review has done him much harm in the estimation of thinking men–and curiously enough, since it was written, reptiles have been found in the old red sandstone, and insectivorous mammals in the Trias! Owen is an able man, but to my mind not so great as he thinks himself. He can only work in the concrete from bone to bone, in abstract reasoning he becomes lost–witness "Parthenogenesis" which he told me he considered one of the best things he had done!

He has, however, been very civil to me, and I am as grateful as it is possible to be towards a man with whom I feel it necessary to be always on my guard.

Quite another being is the other leader of Zoological Science in this country–I mean Edward Forbes, Paleontologist to the Geological Survey. More especially a Zoologist and a Geologist than a Comparative Anatomist, he has more claims to the title of a Philosophical Naturalist than any man I know of in England. A man of letters and an artist, he has not merged the man in the man of science–he has sympathies for all, and an earnest, truth-seeking, thoroughly genial disposition which win for him your affection as well as your respect. Forbes has more influence by his personal weight and example upon the rising generation of scientific naturalists than Owen will have if he write from now till Doomsday.

Personally I am greatly indebted to him (though the opinion I have just expressed is that of the world in general). During my absence he superintended the publication of my paper, and from the moment of my arrival until now he has given me all the help one man can give another. Why he should have done so I do not know, as when I left England I had only spoken to him once.

The rest of the naturalists stand far below these two in learning, originality, and grasp of mind. Goodsir of Edinburgh should I suppose come next, but he can't write intelligibly. Darwin might be anything if he had good health. Bell is a good man in all the senses of the word, but wants qualities 2 and 3. Newport is a laborious man, but wants 1 and 3. Grant and Rymer Jones–arcades ambo–have mistaken their vocation.

My old chief Richardson is a man of men, but troubles himself little with anything but detail zoology. What think you of his getting married for the third time just before his last expedition? I hardly know by which step he approved himself the bolder man.

I think I have now fulfilled my promise of supplying you with a little scientific scandal–and if this long epistle has repaid your trouble in getting through it, I am content.

Believe me, I have not forgotten nor ever shall forget, your kindness to me at a time when a little appreciation and encouragement were more grateful to me and of more service than they will perhaps ever be again. I have done my best to justify you.

I send copies of all the papers I have published with one exception, of which I have none separate. Of the Royal Society papers I send a double set. Will you be kind enough to give one with my kind regards and remembrances to Dr. Nicholson? I feel I ought to have written to him before leaving Sydney, but I trust he will excuse my not having done so.

I shall be very glad if you can find time to write–Ever yours faithfully, T. H. Huxley

P. S. Müller has just made a most extraordinary discovery, no less than the generation of Mollusca from Holothuriae!!! You will find a translation of his paper by me in the Annals for January 1852.

December 1, 1851

[To Professor Edward Forbes]

My dear Forbes–You will, I know, like to learn how I got on yesterday. The President's address to me had been drawn up by Bell. It was, of course, too flattering, but he had taken hold of the right points in my work–at least I thought so.

Bunsen spoke very well for Humboldt.

There was a capital congregation at the dinner–sixty or seventy Fellows there. . . .

When it came to my turn to return thanks, I believe I made a very tolerable speech)fication, at least everybody says so. Lord Rosse had alluded to "science having to take care of itself in this country," and in winding up I gave them a small screed upon that text. That you may see I kept your caution in mind I will tell you as nearly as may be what I said. I told them that I could not conceive that anything I had hitherto done merited the honour of that day (I looked so preciously meek over

this), but that I was glad to be able to say that I had so much published material as to make me hopeful of one day diminishing the debt. I then said, "The Government of this country, of this great country, has been two years debating whether it should grant the three hundred pounds necessary for the pubcation of these researches. I have been too long used to strict discipline to venture to criticise any act of my superiors, but I venture to hope that before long, in consequence of the exertions of Lord Rosse, of the President of the British Association, and the goodwill, which I gratefully acknowledge, of the present Lord of the Admiralty, I shall be able to lay before you something more worthy of to-day's award."

I had my doubts how the notes would take it, but both Lord Rosse and Sabine warmly commended my speech and regretted I had not said even more upon the subject.

December 4, 1851

4 Upper York Place, St. John's Wood

[To John Tyndall]

My dear Sir–I was greatly rejoiced to find I could be of service to you in any way, and I only regret, for your sake, that my name is not a more weighty one. Your election, I should think, can be a matter of no doubt.

As to Toronto, I confess I am not very anxious about it. Sydney would have been far more to my taste and I confess I envy you what as I hear is the very good chance you have of going there.

It used to be our head quarters in the Rattlesnake and my home for three months in the year. Should you go, I should be very happy, if you like, to give you letters to some of my friends.

Greatly as I wish we had been destined to do our work together, I cannot but offer you the most hearty wishes for your success in Sydney–Ever yours very faithfully, Thomas H. Huxley

December 1851

[To Miss Heathorn]

Among my scientific friends the monition I get on all sides is that of Dante's great ancestor to him–

A te sequi la tua stella.

If this were from personal friends only, I should disregard it; but it comes from men to whose approbation it would be foolish affectation to deny the highest value. I find myself treated on a footing of equality ("my proud self," as you may suppose, would not put up with any other) by men whose names and works have been long before the world. My opinions are treated with a respect altogether unaccountable to me, and what I have done is quoted as having full authority. Without canvassing a soul or making use of any influence, I have been elected into the Royal Society at a time when that election is more difficult that it has ever been in the history of the Society. Without my knowledge I was within an ace of getting the Royal Society medal this year, and if I go on I shall very probably get it next time.

Letters of 1852
Letters of 1850

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