T. H. Huxley
Letters and Diary 1880

January 2, 1880

4 Marlborough Place

[To George Howell]

Dear Mr. Howell–Your letter is a welcome New Year's gift. There are two things I really care about–one is the progress of scientific thought, and the other is the bettering of the condition of the masses of the people by bettering them in the way of lifting themselves out of the misery which has hitherto been the lot of the majority of them. Posthumous fame is not particularly attractive to me, but, if I am to be remembered at all, I would rather it should be as "a man who did his best to help the people" than by other title. So you see it is no small pleasure and encouragement to me to find that I have been, and am, of any use in this direction.

Ever since my experience on the School Board, I have been convinced that I should lose rather than gain by entering directly into politics. . . . But I suppose I have some ten years of activity left in me, and you may depend upon it I shall lose no chance of striking a blow for the cause I have at heart. I thought the time had come the other day at the Society of Arts, and the event proves I was not mistaken. The animal is moving, and by a judicious exhibition of carrots in front and kicks behind, we shall get him into a fine trot presently. In the meantime do not let the matter rest. . . . The (City) companies should be constantly reminded that a storm is brewing. There are excellent men among them, who want to do what is right, and need help against the sluggards and reactionaries. It will be best for me to be quiet for a while, but you will understand that I am watching for the turn of events.–I am, your very faithfully, T. H. Huxley.

January 9, 1880

[To Sir Thomas Henry Farrer]

My dear Farrer–I shall be delighted to take a dive into the unfathomable depths of official folly; but your promised document has not reached me.

Your astonishment at the tenacity of life of fallacies, permit me to say, is shockingly unphysiological. They, like other low organisms, are independent of brains, and only wriggle the more, the more they are smitten on the place where the brains ought to be–I don't know B., but I am convinced that A. has nothing but a spinal cord, devoid of any cerebral development. Would Mr. Cross give him up for purposes of experiment? Lingen and you might perhaps be got to join in a memorial to that effect.–Ever yours very faithfully, T. H. Huxley.

February 3, 1880 [HP 92.82]

My dear Darwin–I read Butler's letter and your draft–and Litchfield's letter–last night; slept over them, and after lecturing about Dog-fish and Chimæra (subjects which have a distinct appropriateness to Butler) I have read them again–And I say without the least hesitation, burn your draft and take no notice whatever of Mr. Butler until the next edition of your book comes out–when the briefest possible note explanatory of the circumstances–will be all that is necessary. Litchfield ought hereafter to be called 'the judicious' as Hooker was (I don't mean Sir Joe but the Divine); to my mind nothing can be sounder than his advice and "I am a man of (sor)rows and acquainted with (coming to) grief."

I am astounded at Butler–who I thought was a gentleman though his last book appeared to me to be supremely foolish.

Has Mivart bitten him and given him Darwinophobia?

It's a horrid disease and I would kill any

I found running loose with it without mercy. But don't you worry with these things. Recollect what old Goethe said about his Butlers and Mivarts:

"Hat doch der Wallfisch seine Laus

Muss auch die Meine haben."

We are as jolly as people can be who have been living in the dark for a week and I hope you are all flourishing.

May 10, 1880

My dear Darwin–You are the cheeriest letter-writer I know, and always help a man to think the best of his doings.

I hope you do not imagine because I had nothing to say about "Natural Selection," that I am at all weak of faith on that article. On the contrary, I live in hope that as palæontologists work more and more in the manner of that "second Daniel come to judgment," that wise young man M. Filhal, we shall arrive at a crushing accumulation of evidence in that direction also. But the first thing seems to me to be to drive the fact of evolution into people's heads; when that is once safe, the rest will come easy.

I hear that ce cher X. is yelping about again; but in spite of your provocative messages (which Rachel retailed with great glee), I am not going to attack him nor anybody else. . . . .

I wish it were not such a long story that I could tell you all about the dogs. They will make out such a case for "Darwinismus" as never was. From the South American dogs at the bottom (C. vetulus, cancrivorus, etc.) to the wolves at the top, there is a regular gradual progression the range of variation of each "species" overlapping the ranges of those below and above. Moreover, as to the domestic dogs, I think I can prove that the small dogs are modified jackals, and the big dogs ditto wolves. I have been getting capital material from India, and working the whole affair out on the basis of measurements of skulls and teeth.

However, my paper for the Zoological Society is finished, and I hope soon to send you a copy of it....

November 14, 1880

My dear Skelton–When the Crooked Meg reached me I made up my mind that it would be a shame to send the empty acknowledgment which I give (or don't give) for most books that reach me.

But I am over head and ears in work–time utterly wasted in mere knowledge getting and giving–and for six weeks not an hour for real edification with a wholesome story.

But this Sunday afternoon being, by the blessing of God, as beastly a November day as you shall see, I have attended to my spiritual side and been visited by a blessing in the shape of some very pretty and unexpected words anent myself.

In truth, it is a right excellent story, though, distinctly in love with Eppie, I can only wonder how you had the heart to treat her so ill. A girl like that should have had two husbands–one "wisely ranged for show" and t'other de par amours.

Don't ruin me with Mrs. Skelton by repeating this, but please remember me very kindly to her.–Ever yours very faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

December 27, 1880

My dear Spencer–Your telegram which reached me on Friday evening caused me great perplexity, inasmuch as I had just been talking with Morley, and agreeing with him that the proposal for a funeral in Westminster Abbey had a very questionable look to us, who desired nothing so much as that peace and honour should attend George Eliot to her grave.

It can hardly be doubted that the proposal will be bitterly opposed, possibly (as happened in Mill's case with less provocation), with the raking up of past histories, about which the opinion even of those who have least the desire or the right to be pharisaical is strongly divided, and which had better be forgotten.

With respect to putting pressure on the Dean of Westminster, I have to consider that he has some confidence in me, and before asking him to do something for which he is pretty sure to be violently assailed, I have to ask myself whether I really think it a right thing for a man in his position to do.

Now I cannot say I do. However much I may lament the circumstance, Westminster Abbey is a Christian Church and not a Pantheon, and the Dean thereof is officially a Christian priest and we ask him to bestow exceptional Christian honours by this burial in the Abbey. George Eliot is known not only as a great writer, but as a person whose life and opinions were in notorious antagonism to Christian practice in regard to marriage, and Christian theory in regard to dogma. How am I to tell the Dean that I think he ought to read over the body of a person who did not repent of what the Church considers mortal sin, a service not one solitary proposition in which she would have accepted for truth while she was alive? How am I to urge him to do that which, if I were in his place, I should most emphatically refuse to do?

You tell me that Mrs. Cross wished for the funeral in the Abbey. While I desire to entertain the greatest respect for her wishes, I am very sorry to hear it. I do not understand the feeling which could create such a desire on any personal grounds, save those of affection, and the natural yearning to be near even in death to those whom we have loved. And on public grounds the wish is still less intelligible to me. One cannot eat one's cake and have it too. Those who elect to be free in thought and deed must not hanker after the rewards, if they are to be so called, which the world offers to those who put up with its fetters.

Thus, however I look at the proposal it seems to me to be a profound mistake, and I can have nothing to do with it.

I shall be deeply grieved if this resolution is ascribed to any other motives than those which I have set forth at more length than I intended.–Ever yours very faithfully, T. H. Huxley.

Letters of 1879
Letters of 1881

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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