T. H. Huxley
Letters and Diary 1855

January 5, 1855

[To Frederick Dyster]

[He begins by confessing "a considerable liberty" he had been taking with Dyster's name, in calling a joint discovery of this, which he described in the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, Protula Dysteri.]

Are you very savage? If so, you must go and take a walk along the sands and see the slant rays of the sunset tipping the rollers as they break on the beach; that always made even me at peace with all the world, and a fortiori it will you.

Truly, I wish I had any such source of consolation. Chimney pots are highly injurious to my morals, and my temper is usually in proportion to the extent of my horizon.

I have been swallowing oceans of disgust lately. All sorts of squabbles, some made by my own folly and others by the malice of other people, and no great sea and sky to go out under, and be alone and forget it all.

You may have seen my name advertised by Reeve as about to write a memoir of poor Forbes, to be prefixed to a collection of his essays. I found that to be a mere bookseller's dodge on Reeve's part, and when I made the discovery, of course we had a battle-royal, and I have now wholly withdrawn from it.

I find, however, that one's kind and generous friends imagine it was an electioneering manœuvre

on my part for Edinburgh. Imagine how satisfactory. I forget whether I told you that I had been asked to stand for Edinburgh and have done so. Whether I shall be appointed or not I do not know. So far as my own wishes go, I am in a curiously balanced state of mind about it. Many things make it a desirable post, but I dread leaving London and its freedom–its Bedouin sort of life–for Edinburgh and no whistling on Sundays. Besides, if I go there, I shall have to give up all my coast-survey plans, and all their pleasant concomitants.

Apropos of Edinburgh I feel much like the Irish hod-man who betted his fellow he could not carry him up to the top of a house in his hod. The man did it, but Pat turning round as he was set down on the roof, said, "Ye've done it, sure enough, but, bedad, I'd great hopes ye'd let me fall about three rounds from the top." Bedad, I'm nearly at the top of the Scotch ladder, but I've hopes.

It is finally settled that the chair will not be divided. I told them frankly I would not go if it were.

Has Highly sent your books yet?–Ever yours faithfully, T. H. Huxley.

February 27, 1855

[To Frederick Dyster]

I enclose a prospectus of some People's Lectures (Popular Lectures I hold to be an abomination unto the Lord) I am about to give here. I want the working-classes to understand that Science and her ways are great facts for them–that physical virtue is the base of all other, and that they are to be clean and temperate and all the rest–not because fellows in black with white tie tell them so, but because there are plain and patent laws of nature which they must obey "under penalties."

I am sick of the dilettante middle class, and mean to try what I can do with these hard-headed fellows who live among facts. You will be with me, I know.

April 1, 1855

My dear Dyster–By all that's good, your last note, which lies before me, has date a month ago. I looked at it just now, and became an April fool on the instant.

All the winds of March, however, took their course through my thorax and eventuated in lectures. At least that is all the account I can give to myself of the time, and an improfitble amount it is, for everything but one's exchequer.

So far as knowledge goes it is mere prodigality spending one's capital and adding nothing, for I find the physical exertion of lecturing quite unfits me for much else. Fancy how last Friday was spent. I went to Jermyn Street in the morning with the intention of preparing for my afternoon's lecture. People came talking to me up to within a quarter of an hour of the time, so I had to make a dash without preparation. Then I had to go home to prepare for a second lecture in the evening, and after that I went to a soirèe, and got home about one o'clock in the morning.

I go on telling myself this won't do, but to no purpose.

You will be glad to hear that my affairs here are finally settled, and I am regularly appointed an officer of the survey with the commission to work out the natural history of the coast.

Edinburgh has been tempting me again, and in fact I believe I was within an ace of going there, but the Government definitely offering me this position, I was too glad to stop where I am.

I can make six hundred a year here, and that being the case, I conceive I have a right to consult my own inclinations and the interest of my scientific reputation. The coast survey puts in my hands the finest opportunities that ever a man had, and it is a pity if I do not make myself something better than a Caledonian pedagogue.

The great first scheme I have in connection with my new post is to work out the Marine Natural History of Britain, and to have every species of sea beast properly figured and described in the reports which I mean from time to time to issue. I can get all the engravings and all the printing I want done, of course I am not so absurd as to suppose I can work out all these things myself. Therefore my notion is to seek in all highways and byways for fellow labourers. Busk will, I hope, supply me with figures and descriptions ofthe British Polyzoa and Hydrozoa, and I have confidence in my friend, Mr. Dyster of Tenby (are you presumptuous enough to say you know him?) for the Annelids, if he won't object to that mode of publishing his work. The Mollusks, the Crustaceans, and the Fishes, the Echinoderms and the Worms, will give plenty of occupation to the other people, myself included, to say nothing of distribution and of the recent geological changes, all of which come within my programme.

Did I not tell you it was a fine field, and could the land o' cakes give me any scope like this?

April 9, 1855

My dear Dyster–I didn't by any means mean to be so sphinx-like in my letter, though you have turned out an Œdipus of the first water. True it is that I mean to "range myself, " "live cleanly and leave off sack," within the next few months–that is to say, if nothing happens to the good ship which is at present bearing my fiancée homewards.

So far as a restless mortal–more or less aweary of most things–like myself can be made happy by any other human being, I believe your good wishes are safe of realisation; at any rate, it will be my fault if they are not, and I beg you never to imagine that I could confound the piety of friendship with the "efflorescent" variety.

I hope to marry in July, and make my way down to Tenby shortly afterwards, and I am ready to lay you a wager that your ratiocinations touching the amount of work that won't be done don't come true.

So much for wives–now for worms–( I could not for the life of me help the alliteration). I, as right reverend father in worms and Bishop of Annelidæ, do not think I ought to interfere with my most promising son, when a channel opens itself for the publication of his labours. So do what you will apropos of J––. If he does not do the worms any better than he did the zoophytes, he won't interfere with my plans.

I shall be glad to see Mrs. Buckland's Echinoderm. I think it must be a novelty by what you say. She is a very jolly person, but I have an unutterable fear of scientific women.–

Ever yours,

T. H. Huxley.

July 6, 1855

Jermyn Street

My dear Hooker–I ought long since to have thanked you in Thomson's name as well as my own for your Flora Indica. Some day I promise myself much pleasure and profit from the digestion of the Introductory Essay, which is probably as much as my gizzard is competent to convert into nutrition.

I terminate my Baccalaureate and take my degree of M.A.-trimony (isn't that atrocious?) on Saturday, July 21. After the unhappy criminals have been turned off, there will be refreshments provided for the sheriffs, chaplain, and spectators. Will you come? Don't if it is a bore, but I should much like to have you there.


Hal and Nettie on Honeymoon 1855

August 16, 1855

15 St. Julian's Terrace, Tenby

My dear Hooker–I am so near the end of the honeymoon that I think it can hardly be immodest if I emerge from private Iife and write you a letter, more particularly as I want to know something. I went yesterday on an expedition to see the remains of a forest which exists between tidemarks at a place called Amroth, near here.

So far as I can judge there can be no doubt that this really is a case of downward movement. The stools of the trees are in their normal position, and their roots are embedded and interwoven in a layer of stiff blue clay, which lies immediately beneath the superficial mud of the shore. Layers of leaves, too, are mixed up with the clay in other parts, and the bark of some of the trees is in perfect preservation. The condition of the wood is very curious. It is like very hard cheese, so that you can readily cut slices with a spade, and yet where more of the trunk has been preserved some parts are very hard. The trees are, I fancy, Beech and Oak. Could you identify slices if I were to send you some ?

Now it seems to me that here is an opportunity one does not often have of getting some information about the action of sea water on wood, and on the mode in which these vegetable remains may become embedded, etc. etc., and I want to get you to tell me where I can find information on submerged forests in general, so as to see to what points one can best direct one's attention, and to suggest any inquiries that may strike yoursel£

I do not see how the stumps can occur in this position without direct sinking of the land, and that such a sinking should have occurred tallies very well with some other facts which I have observed as to the nature of the bottom at considerable depths here.

We had the jolliest cruise in the world by Oxford, Warwick, Kenilworth, Stratford, Malvern, Ross, and the Wye though it was a little rainy, and though my wife's strength sadly failed at times.

Still she was on the whole much better and stronger than I had any right to expect, and although I get frightened every now and then, yet there can be no doubt that she is steadily though slowly improving. I have no fears for the ultimate result, but her amendment will be a work of time. We have really quite settled down into Darby and Joan, and I begin to regard matrimony as the normal state of man. It's wonderful how light the house looks when I come back weary with a day's boating to what it used to do.

I hope Mrs. Hooker is well and about again. Pray give het our very kind regqrds, and believe me, my dear Hooker, ever yours,

T. H. Huxley.

Letters of 1856
Letters of 1854

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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