T. H. Huxley
Letters and Diary 1878

July 6, 1878

[To John Morley]

My dear Morley–Very many thanks for Diderot. I have made a plung into the first volume and found it very interesting. I wish you had put a portrait of him as a frontispiece. I have seen one–a wonderful face, something like Goethe's.

I am picking at Hume at odd times. It seems to me that I had better make an analysis and criticism of the "Inquiry," the backbone of the essay–as it touches all the problems which interest us most just now. I have already sketched out a chapter on Miracles, which will, I hope, be very edifying in consequence of its entire agreement with the orthodox arguments against Hume's a priori reasonings against miracles.

Hume wasn't half a sceptic after all. And so long as he got deep enough to worry Orthodoxy, he did not care to go to the bottom of things.

He failed to see the importance of suggestions already made both by Locke and Berkeley.–Ever yours very faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

September 25, 1878

My dear Parker–As far as I recollect Amniocœtes is a vertebrated animal–and I ignore it.

The paper you refer to was written by my best friend–a carefulish kind of man–and I am sure that he saw what he says he saw, as if I had seen it myself.

But what the fact may mean and whether it is temporary or permanent–is thy servant a dog that he should worry himself about other things with backbones? Not if I know it.

Churchill has got over a whole batch of the American edition of the Vertebrata, so I have a respite. Mollusks are far more interesting–bugs sweeter–while the dinner crayfish hath no parallel for intense and absorbing interest in the three kingdoms of Nature.

What saith the Scripture? "Go to the Ant thou sluggard." In other words, study the Invertebrata.–Ever yours very faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

[Sketch of a vast winged ant advancing on a midget, and saying, as it looks through a pair of eyeglasses, "well, really, what an absurd creature!!"]

September 30, 1878

My dear Morley–Praise me! I have been hard at work at Hume at Penmaenmawr, and I have got the hard part of the business–the account of his philosophy–blocked out in the bodily shape of about 180 pages foolscap MS.

But I find the job as tough as it is interesting. Hume's diamonds, before the public can see them properly, wand a proper setting in a methodical and consistent shape–and that implies writing a small psychological treatise of one's own, and then cutting it down into as unobtrusive a form as possible.

So I am working away at my draught–from the point of view of an æsthetic jeweller.

As soon as I get it into such a condition as will need only verbal trimming, I should like to have it set up in type. For it is a defect of mine that I can never judge properly of any composition of my own in manuscript.

Moreover (don't swear at this wish) I should very much like to send it to you in that shape for criticism.

The Life will be an easy business. I should like to get the book out of hand before Christmas, and will do so if possible. But my lectures begin on Tuesday, and I cannot promise.–Ever yours very faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

December 7, 1878

Science Schools, South Kensington

Dearest Jess–You are a badly used young person–you are; and nothing short of that conviction would get a letter out of your still worse used Pater the bête noire of whose existence is letter-writing.

Catch me discussing the Afghan question with you, you little pepper pot. No, not if I know it. Read Fitzjames Stephen letter in the Times, also Bartle Frere's memorandum, also Napier of Magdala's memo. Them's my sentiments.

Also read the speech of Lord Hartington on the address. He is a man of sense like his father, and you will observe that he declares that the Government were perfectly within their right in declaring war without calling Parliament together. . . .

If you had lived as long as I have and seen as much of men you would cease to be surprised at the reputations men of essentially commonplace powers–aided by circumstances and some amount of cleverness–obtain.

I am as strong for justice as any one can be, but it is real justice, not sham conventional justice which the sentimentalists howl for.

At this present time real justice requires that the power of England should be used to maintain order and introduce civilisation wherever that power extends.

The Afghans are a pack of disorderly treacherous bloodthirsty thieves and caterans who should never have been allowed to escape from the heavy hand we laid upon them, after the massacre of twenty thousand of our men, women (and) children in the Khoord Cabul Pass thirty years ago.

We have let them be, and the consequence is they now lend themselves to the Russians, and are ready to stir up disorder and undo all the good we have been doing in India for the last generation.

They are to India exactly what the Highlanders of Scotland were to the Lowlanders before 1745; and we have just as much right to deal with them in the same way.

I am of opinion that our Indian Empire is a curse to us. But so long as we make up our minds to hold it, we must also make up our minds to do those things which are needful to hold it effectually, and in the long-run it will be found that so doing is real justice both for ourselves, our subject population, and the Afghans themselves.

There, you plague.–Ever your affec. Daddy,

T. H. Huxley.

December 25, 1878

Dearest Jess–We have just finished the mid-day Christmas dinner, at which function you were badly wanted. The inflammation of the pudding was highly successful–in fact Vesuvian not to say Ætnaic–and I have never yet attained so high a pitch in piggygenesis as on this occasion.

The specimen I enclose, wrapped in a golden cerecloth, and with the remains of his last dinner in the proper region, will prove to you the heights to which the creative power of the true artist may soar. I call it a "Piggurne, or a Harmony in Orange and White."

Preserve it, my dear child, as evidence that the paternal genius, when those light and fugitive productions which are buried in the philosophical transactions and elsewhere are forgotten.

My best wishes to Fred and you, and may you succeed better than I do in keeping warm.–Ever your loving father–

T. H. Huxley.

December 31, 1878

My dear Tyndall–I would sooner have your Boyle, however long we may have to wait for it, than anybody else's d–d simmer. (Now that's a "goak," and you must ask Mrs. Tyndall to explain it to you.)

Two years will I give you from this blessed New Year's eve 1878, and if it isn't done on New Year's Day 1881 you shall not be admitted to the company of the blessed, but your dinner shall be sent to you between two plates to the most pestiferous corner of the laboratory of the Royal Institution. I am very glad you will undertake the job, and feel that I have a proper New Year's gift.

By the way, you ought to have had Hume ere this. Macmillan sent me two or three copies, just to keep his word, on Christmas Day, and I thought I should have a lot more at once.

But there is no sign–not even an advertisement–and I don't know what has become of the edition. Perhaps the bishops have bought it up.–With all good wishes, Ever yours, T. H. Huxley.

Letters of 1877
Letters of 1879

Letter Index



1.   THH Publications
2.   Victorian Commentary
3.   20th Century Commentary

1.   Letter Index
2.   Illustration Index

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