T. H. Huxley
Letters and Diary 1866

April 12, 1866

Jermyn Street

My dear Kingsley–I shall certainly do myself the pleasure of listening to you when you preach at the Royal Institution. I wonder if you are going to take the line of showing up the superstitions of men of science. Their name is legion, and the exploit would be a telling one. I would do it myself only I think I am already sufficiently isolated and unpopular.

However, whatever you are going to do I am sure you will speak honestly and well, and I shall come and be assistant bottleholder.

I am glad you like the working men's lectures. I suspect they are about the best things of that line that I have done, and I only wish I had had the sense to anticipate the run they have had here and abroad, and I would have revised them properly.

As they stand they are terribly in the rough, from a literary point of view.

No doubt crib-biting, nurse-biting and original sin in general are all strictly reducible from Darwinian principles; but don't by misadventure run against any academical facts.

Some whales have all the cerebral vertebrae free now, and every one of them has the full number, seven, whether they are free or fixed. No doubt whales had hind legs once upon a time. If when you come up to town you go to the College of Surgeons, my friend Flower the Conservator (a good man whom you should know), will show you the whalebone whale's thigh bones in the grand skeleton they have recently set up. The legs, to be sure, and the feet are gone, the battle of life having left private Cetacea in the condition of a Chelsea pensioner.–Ever yours faithfully, T. H. Huxley.

June 14, 1866

[To Sir Joseph Fayrer]

My dear Fayrer–I lose no time in replying to your second letter, and my first business is to apologise for not having answered the first, but it reached me in the thick of my lectures, and like a great many other things which ought to have been done I put off replying to a more convenient season. I have been terribly hard worked this year, and thought I was going to break down a few weeks ago but luckily I have pulled through.

I heartily wish that there were the smallest chance of my being able to accept your kind invitation and take part in your great scheme at Calcutta. But it is impossible for me to leave England for more than six weeks or two months, and that only in the autumn, a time of year when I imagine Calcutta is not likely to be the scene of anything but cholera patients.

As to your plan itself, I think it a most grand and useful one if it can be properly carried out. But you do things on so grand a scale in India that I suppose all the practical difficulties which suggest themselves to me may be overcome.

It strikes me that it will not do to be content with a single representative of each tribe. At least four or five will be needed to eliminate the chances of accident, and even then much will depend upon the discretion and judgment of the local agent who makes the suggestion. This difficulty, however, applies chiefly if not solely to physical ethnology. To the philologer the opportunities for comparing dialects and checking pronunciation will be splendid, however [few] the individual speakers of each dialect may be. The most difficult task of all will be to prevent the assembled Savans from massacring the "specimens" at the end of the exhibition for the sake of their skulls and pelves!

I am really afraid that my own virtue might yield if so tempted!

Jesting apart, I heartily wish your plans success, and if there are any more definite ways in which I can help, let me know, and I will do my best. You will want, I should think, a physical and a philological committee to organise schemes: (1) for systematic measuring, weighing, and portraiture, with observation and recording of all physical characters; and (2) for uniform registering of sounds by Roman letters and collection of vocabularies and grammatical forms upon an uniform system.

I should advise you to look into the Museum of the Société d'Anthropologie of Paris, and to put yourself in communication with M. Paul Broca, one of its most active members, who has lately been organising a scheme of general anthropological instructions. But don't have anything to do with the quacks who are at the head of the "Anthropological Society" over here. If they catch scent of what you are about they will certainly want to hook on to you.

Once more I wish I had the chance of being able to visit your congress. I have been lecturing on Ethnology this year, and shall be again this year, and I would give a good deal to be able to look at the complex facts of Indian Ethnology with my own eyes.

But as the sage observed, "what's impossible can't be," and what with short holidays–a wife and seven children–and miles of work in arrear, India is an impossibility for me.

You say nothing about yourself, so I trust you are well and hearty, and all your belongings flourishing.–Ever yours faithfully, T. H.Huxley.

November 8, 1866

My dear Kingsley–The letter of which you have heard, containing my reasons for becoming a member of the Jamaica Committee was addressed to the Pall Mall Gazette in reply to some editorial speculations as to my reasons for so doing.

I forget the date of the number in which my letter appeared, but I will find it out and send you a copy of the paper.

Mr. Eyre's personality in this matter is nothing to me; I know nothing about him, and, if he is a friend of yours, I am very sorry to be obliged to join in a movement which must be excessively unpleasant to him.

Furthermore, when the verdict of the jury which will try him is once given, all hostility towards him on my part will cease. So far from wishing to see him vindictively punished, I would much rather, if it were practicable, indict his official hat and his coat than himself.

I desire to see Mr. Eyre indicted and a verdict of guilty in a criminal court obtained, because I have, from its commencement, carefully watched the Gordon case; and because a new study of all the evidence which has now been collected has confirmed my first conviction that Gordon's execution was as bad a specimen as we have had since Jeffries' time of political murder.

Don't suppose that I have any particular admiration for Gordon. He belongs to a sufficiently poor type of small political agitator–and very likely was a great nuisance to the Governor and other respectable persons.

But that is no reason why he should be condemned, by an absurd tribunal and with a brutal mockery of the forms of justice, for offences with which impartial judges, after a full investigation, declare there is no evidence to show that he was connected.

Ex-Governor Eyre seized the man, put him in the hands of the preposterous subalterns, who pretended to try him–saw the evidence and approved of the sentence. He is as much responsible for Gordon's death as if he had shot him through the head with his own hand. I daresay he did all this with the best of motives, and in a heroic vein. But if English law will not declare that heroes have no more right to kill people in this fashion than other folk, I shall take an early opportunity of migrating to Texas or some other quiet place where there is less hero-worship and more respect for justice, which is to my mind of much more importance than hero-worship.

In point of fact, men take sides on this question, not so much by looking at the mere facts of the case, but rather as their deepest political convictions lead them. And the great use of the prosecution, and one of my reasons for joining it, is that it will help a great many people to find out what their profoundest political beliefs are.

The hero-worshippers who believe that the world is to be governed by its great men, who are to lead the little ones, justly if they can; but if not, unjustly drive or kick them the right way, will sympathise with Mr. Eyre.

The other sect (to which I belong) who look upon hero worship as no better than any other idolatry, and upon the attitude of mind of the hero-worshipper as essentially immoral; who think it is better for a man to go wrong in freedom than to go right in chains; who look upon the observance of inflexible justice as between man and man as of far greater importance than even the preservation of social order, will believe that Mr. Eyre has committed one of the greatest crimes of which a person in authority can be guilty, and will strain every nerve to obtain a declaration that their belief is in accordance with the law of England.

People who differ on fundamentals are not likely to convert one another. To you, as to my dear friend Tyndall, with whom I almost always act, but who in this matter is as much opposed to me as you are, I can only say, let us be strong enough and wise enough to fight the question out as a matter of principle and without bitterness.–Ever yours faithfully, T. H. Huxley.

November 9, 1866

My dear Tyndall–Many thanks for the kind note which accompanied your letter to the Jamaica Committee

When I presented myself at Rogers' dinner last night I had not heard of the letter, and Gassiot began poking fun at me, and declaring that your absence was due to a quarrel between us on the unhappy subject.

I replied to the jest earnestly enough, that I hoped and believed our old friendship was strong enough to stand any strain that might be put on it, much as I grieved that we should be ranged in opposite camps in this or any other cause.

That you and I have fundamentally different political principles must, I think, have become obvious to both of us during the progress of the American War. The fact is made still more plain by your printed letter, the tone and spirit of which I greatly admired without being able to recognise in it any important fact or argument which had not passed through my mind before I joined the Jamaica Committee.

Thus there is nothing for it but for us to agree to differ, each supporting his own side to the best of his ability, and respecting his friend's freedom as he would his own, and doing his best to remove all petty bitterness from that which is at bottom one of the most important constitutional battles in which Englishmen have for many years been engaged.

If you and I are strong enough and wise enough, we shall be able to do this, and yet preserve that love for one another which I value as one of the good things of my life.

If not, we shall come to grief. I mean to do all my best.–Ever yours faithfully, T. H. Huxley.

November 22, 1866 [Elgin Museum]

[To Gordon]

I am sure you will be glad to hear that the Telerpeton has turned out to be a regular jewel. I have been working it out very carefully in such spare time as a host of lectures & examinations would permlit–and I have made out almost as much of it as if it were a recent skeleton.

I have episcapated (I know that is a good Scotch word) the forefoot and the entire hind foot, with a good deal more of the tail than was visible when it reached me, & the entire lower jaw with two tusks in front of it. My work went on in fear & trembling, but I am happy to say I have had no mishaps. The beauty of the whole affair is that Telerpeton is a lizard of an altogether modern type & much more like some that run about now, than it is to the extinct mesozoic or palaeozic Saurians. Is Mr. Grant open to an offer for the specimen?

The fragments of Stagonolepis promise to be most instructive, but I have not taken a good look at them yet.

November 1866 [Marchant II: 187-88]

[To Alfred Russel Wallace]

Dear Wallace,–I am neither shocked nor disposed to issue a Commission of Lunacy against you. It may be all true, for anything I know to the contrary, but really I cannot get up any interest in the subject. I never cared for gossip in my life, and disembodied gossip, such as these worthy ghosts supply their friends with, is not more interesting to me than any other. As for investigating the matter, I have half-a-dozen investigations of infinitely greater interest to me to which any spre time I may have will be devoted. I give it up for the same reason I abstain from chess–it's to amusing to be fair work, and too hard work to be amusing.– Ever yours faithfully, T. H. Huxley

Letters of 1867
Letters of 1865

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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