T. H. Huxley
Letters and Diary 1858

March 27, 1858

My dearest Lizzie – It is a month since your very welcome letter reached me. I had every inclination and every intention to answer it at once, but the wear and tear of incessant occupation (for your letter arrived in the midst of my busiest time) has, I will not say deprived me of the leisure, but of that tone of mind which one wants for writing a long letter. I fully understand–no one should be better able to comprehend–how the same causes may operate on you, but do not be silent so long again; it is bad for both of us. I have loved but few people in my life, and am not likely to care for any more unless it be my children. I desire therefore rather to knit more firmly than to loosen the old ties, and of these which is older or stronger than ours? Don't let us drift asunder again.

Your letter came just after the birth of my second child, a little girl. I registered her to-day in the style and title of Jessie Oriana Huxley. The second name is a family name of my wife's and not, as you might suppose, taken from Tennyson. You will know why my wife and I chose the first. We could not make you a godmother, as my wife's mother is one, and a friend of ours had long since applied for the other vacancy, but perhaps this is a better tie than that meaningless formality. My little son is fifteen months old; a fair-haired, blue-eyed, stout little Trojan, very like his mother. He looks out on the world with bold confident eyes and open brow, as if he were its master. We shall try to make him a better man than his father. As for the little one, I am told she is pretty, and slavishly admit the fact in the presence of mother and nurse, but between ourselves I don't see it. To my carnal eyes her nose is the image of mine, and you know what that means. For though wandering up and down the world and work have begun to sow a little silver in my hair, they have by no means softened the outlines of that remarkable feature.

You want to know what I am and where I am–well, here's a list of titles. T. H. H., Professor of Natural History, Government School of Mines, Jermyn Street; Naturalist to the Geological Survey; Curator of the Paleontological collections (non-official maid-of-all-work in Natural Science to the Government); Examiner in Physiology and Comparative Anatomy to the University of London; Fullerian Professor of Physiology to the Royal Institution (but that's just over); F.R.S., F.G.S., etc. Member of a lot of Societies and Clubs, all of which cost him a mint of money. Considered a rising man and not a bad fellow by his friends–per contra greatly over-estimated and a bitter savage critic by his enemies. Perhaps they are both right. I have a high standard of excellence and am no respecter of persons, and I am afraid I show the latter peculiarity rather too much. An internecine feud rages between Owen and myself (more's the pity) partly on this account, partly from other causes.

This is the account any third person would give you of what I am and of what I am doing. He would probably add that I was very ambitious and desirous of occupying a high place in the world's estimation. Therein, however, he would be mistaken. An income sufficient to place me above care and anxiety, and free scope to work, are the only things I have ever wished for or striven for. But one is obliged to toil long and hard for these, and it is only now that they are coming within my grasp. I gave up the idea of going to Edinburgh because I doubted whether leaving London was wise. Recently I have been tempted to put up for a good physiological chair which is to be established at Oxford; but the Government propose to improve my position at the School of Mines, and there is every probability that I shall now permanently remain in London. Indeed, it is high time that I should settle down to one line of work. Hitherto, as you see by the somewhat varied list of my duties, etc., above, I have been ranging over different parts of a very wide field. But this apparent desultoriness has been necessary, for I knew not for what branch of science I should eventually have to declare myself. There are very few appointments open to men of science in this country, and one must take what one can get and be thankful.

My health was very bad some years ago, and I had great fear of becoming a confirmed dyspeptic, but thanks to the pedestrian tours in the Alps I have taken for the past two years, I am wonderfully better this session, and feel capable of any amount of work. It was in the course of one of these trips that I went, as you have rightly heard, half way up Mont Blanc. But I was not in training and stuck at the Grands Mulets, while my three companions went on. I spent seventeen hours alone on that grand pinnacle, the latter part of the time in great anxiety, for I feared my friends were lost; and as I had no guide my own neck would have been in considerable jeopardy in endeavouring to return amidst the maze of crevasses of the Glacier des Bois. But it was glorious weather and the grandest scenery in the world. In the previous year I saw much of the Bernese and Monte Rosa country, journeying with a great friend of mine well known as a natural philosopher, Tyndall, and partly seeking health and partly exploring the glaciers. You will find an article of mine on that subject in the Westminster Review for 1857.

I used at one time to write a good deal for that Review, principally the Quarterly notice of scientific books. But I never write for the Reviews now, as original work is much more to my taste. The articles you refer to are not mine, as, indeed, you rightly divined. The only considerable book I have translated is Kölliker's Histology –in conjunction with Mr. Busk, an old friend of mine. All translation and article writing is weary work, and I never do it except for filthy lucre. Lecturing I do not like much better; though one way or another I have to give about sixty or seventy a year.

Now then, I think that is enough about my "Ich." You shall have a photographic image of him and my wife and child as soon as I can find time to have them done. . . .

September 5, 1858

My dear Hooker–I am glad Mrs. Hooker has found rest for the sole of her foot. I returned her Tyndall's letter yesterday.

Wallace's impetus seems to have set Darwin going in earnest, and I am rejoiced to hear we shall learn his view in full, at last. I look forward to a great revolution being effected. Depend upon it, in natural history, as in everything else, when the English mind fully determines to work a thing out, it will do it better than any other.

I firmly believe in the advent of an English epoch in science and art, which will lick the Augustan (which, by the bye, had neither science nor art in our sense, but you know what I mean) into fits. So hooray, in the first place, for the Genera plantarum. I can quite understand the need of a new one, and I am right glad you have undertaken it. It seems to me to be in all respects the sort of work for you, and exactly adapted to your environment at Kew. I remember you mentioned to me some time ago that you were thinking of it.

I wish I could even hope that such a thing would be even attempted in the course of this generation for animals.

But with animal morphology in the state in which it is now, we have no terminology that will stand, and consequently concise and comparable definitions are in many cases impossible.

If old Dom. Gray were but an intelligent activity instead of being a sort of zoological whirlwind, what a deal he might do. And I am hopeless of Owen's comprehending what classification means since the publication of the wonderful scheme which adorns the last edition of his lectures.

As you may say, I have found this a great place for "work of price." I have finished the "Oceanic Hydrozoa" all but the bookwork, for which I must have access to the B.M. Library–but another week will do him. My notes are from eight to twelve years old, and really I often have felt like the editor of somebody else's posthumous work.

Just now I am busy over the "Croonian," which must be done before I return. I have been pulling at all the arguments as a spider does at his threads, and I think they are all strong. If so the thing will do some good.

I am perplexed about the N.H. Collection. The best thing, I firmly believe, would be for the Economic Zoology and a set of well selected types to go to Kensington, but I should be sorry to see the scientific collection placed under any such auspices as those which govern the "Bilers." I don't believe the clay soil of the Regent's Park would matter a fraction–and to have a grand scientific zoological and paleontological collection for working purposes close to the Gardens where the living beasts are, would be a grand thing. I should not wonder if the affair is greatly discussed at the B.A. at Leeds, and then, perhaps, light will arise.

Have you seen that madcap Tyndall's letter in the Times? He'll break his blessed neck some day, and that will be a great hole in the efficiency of my scientific young England. We mean to return next Saturday, and somewhere about the 16th of 17th I shall go down to York, where I want to study Plesiosaurs. I shall return after the British Association. The interesting question arises, Shall I have a row with the Great O. there? What a capital title that is they give him of the British Cuvier. He stands in exactly the same relation to the French as British brandy to cognac.–

Ever yours faithfully,

T. H.Huxley.

Am I to send the Gardener's Chronicle on, and where? please. I have mislaid the address.

December 8, 1858 [Elgin Museum]

[To Charles Gordon]

Thanks for your welcome announcement of more bones from Lossiemouth. It is from these that I hope for most.

The evidence comes out and changes & changes in favour of the Crocodilian nature of Stagonolepis (Agassiz spelt the word this way though I suspect it is wrong & should be Stegonolepis ) and I only cry now, 'A tooth! A tooth! my kingdom for a tooth!' If I could only make sure that this cast of a jaw you just sent me belonged to our reptile it would be something. But as you say in the North there is something 'uncanny' in the look of it.

Accept my best apologies, my dear sir, for having unconsciously unfrocked you. I ought to have remembered what 'Manse' means.

Letters of 1859
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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