T. H. Huxley
Letters and Diary 1869

January 20, 1869

[To Haeckel]

You will be amused to hear that I went to the holy city, Edinburgh itself, the other day, for the purpose of giving the first of a series of Sunday lectures. I came back without being stoned; but Murchison (who is a Scotchman you know) told me he thought it was the boldest act of my life. The lecture will be published in February, and I shall send it to you, as it contains a criticism of materialism which I should like you to consider.

January 21, 1869

[To Haeckel]

Don't you think we did a right thing in awarding the Copley Medal to Baer last year? The old man was much pleased, and it was a comfort to me to think that we had not let him go to his grave without the highest honour we had to bestow.

I am over head and ears, as we say, in work, lecturing, giving addresses to the working men and (figurez vous!) to the clergy. [Sion House]

In scientific work the main thing just now about which I am engaged is a revision of the Dinosauria, with an eye to the "Descendenz Theorie." The road from Reptiles to Birds is by way of Dinosauria to the Ratitee. The bird "phylum" was struthious, and wings grew out of rudimentary forelimbs.

You-see that among other things I have been reading Ernst Haeckel's Morphologie.

March 17, 1869

My dear Darwin–After I had sent my letter to you the other day I thought how stupid I had been not to put in a slip of paper to say it was meant for ––'s edification.

I made sure you would understand that I wished it to be sent on, and wrote it (standing on the points of my toes and with my tail up very stiff) with that end in view.

[Sketch of two dogs bristling up.]

I am getting so weary of people writing to propose controversy to me upon one point or another, that I begin to wish the article had never been written. The fighting in itself is not particularly objectionable, but it's the waste of time.

I begin to understand your sufferings over the Origin. A good book is comparable to a piece of meat, and fools are as flies who swarm to it, each for the purpose of depositing and hatching his own particular maggot of an idea.–Ever yours, T. H. Huxley.

April 12, 1869

My dear Kingsley–Thanks for your hearty bottle-holding.

Congreve is no better than a donkey to take the line he does. I studied Comte, Philosophie, Politique, and all sixteen years ago, and having formed my judgment about him, put it into one of the pigeon holes of my brain (about the H. minor), and there let it rest till it was wanted.

You are perfectly right in saying that Comte knew nothing about physical science–it is one of the points I am going to put in evidence.

The law of the three states is mainly evolved from his own consciousness, and is onl a bad way of expressing that tendency to personification which is inherent in man.

The Classification of Sciences is bosh–as Spencer has already shown.

Nothing short of madness, however, can have dictated Congreve's challenge of my admiration of Comte as a man at the end of his article. Did you ever read Littré's, Life of Comte? I bought it when it came out a year or more ago, and I rose from its perusal with a feeling of sheer disgust and contempt for the man who could treat a noble-hearted woman who had saved his life and his reason, as Comte treated his wife.

As soon as I have time I will deal with Comte effectually, you may depend upon that. At the same time, I shall endeavour to be just to what there is (as I hold), really great and good in his clear conception of the necessity of reconstructing society from the top to the bottom "sans diu ni roi," if I may interpret that somewhat tall phrase as meaning "with our conceptions of religion and politics on a scientific basis."

Comte in his later days was an apostate from his own creed; his "nouveau grand Etre suprème," being as big a fetish as ever nigger first made and then worshipped. Ever yours faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

Letters of 1870
Letters of 1868

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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