4 Marlborough Place
[To George John Romanes]
My dear RomanesI feel it very difficult to offer any useful criticism on what you have written about Darwin, because, although it does not quite please me, I cannot exactly say how I think it might be improved. My own way is to write and rewrite things, until by some sort of instinctive process they acquire the condensation and symmetry which satisfies me. And I really could not say how my original drafts are improved until they somehow improve themselves.
Two things however strike me. I think there is too much of the letter about Henslow. I should be disposed to quote only the most characteristic passages.
The other point is that I think strength would be given to your panegyric by a little pruning here and there.
I am not likely to take a low view of Darwin's position in the history of science, but I am disposed to think that Buffon and Lamarck would run him hard in both genius and fertility. In breadth of view and in extent of knowledge these two men were giants, though we are apt to forget their services. Von Bär was another man of the same stamp; Cuvier, in a somewhat lower rank, another; and J. Müller another.
"Colossal" does not seem to me to be the right epithet for Darwin's intellect. He had a clear rapid intelligence, a great memory, a vivid imagination, and what made his greatness was the strict subordination of all these to his love of truth.
But you will be tired of my carping, and you had much better write what seems right and just to yourself.Ever yours very faithfully,
T. H. Huxley.
My dear LeonardBest thanks for your good wishes [For his birthday, May 4.]. Notwithstanding the disease of A. D., which always proves mortal sooner or later, I am in excellent case. . . .
I knew both Lord F. Cavendish and his wife and Mr. Burke. I have never been able to get poor Lady Frederick out of my head since the news arrived.
The public mind has been more stirred than by anything since the Indian Mutiny. But if the Government keep their heads cool, great good may come out of the evil, horrible as it is. The Fenians have reckoned on creating an irreparable breach between England and Ireland. It should be our business to disappoint them first and extirpate them afterwards. But the newspaper writers make me sick, especially the Times .Ever your affectionate father,
T. H. Huxley.
My dear SkeltonIf I may not thank you for the book you have been kind enough to send me, I may at any rate wish you and Mrs. Skelton a happy New Year and many on 'em.
I am going to read your vindication of Mary Stuart as soon as I can. Hitherto I am sorry to say I have classed her with Eve, Helen, Cleopatra, Delilah, and sundry other glorious s who have lured men to their destruction.
But I am open to conviction, and ready to believe that she blew up her husband only a little more thoroughly than other women do, by reason of her keen perception of logic.Ever yours very faithfully,
T. H. Huxley.