T. H. Huxley
Letters and Diary 1889

January 24, 1889

4 Marlborough Place

[To Mrs. W. F. Collier]

Many thanks for your kind letter. I have as strong an affection for Jack as if he were my own son, and I have felt very keenly the ruin we involuntarily brought upon him–by our poor darling's terrible illness and death. So tht if I had not already done my best to aid and abet other people in disregarding the disabilities imposed by the present monstrous state of the law, I should have felt bound to go as far as I could towards mending his life. Ethel is just suited to him . . . . Of course I could have wished that she should be spared the petty annoyances which she must occasionally expect. But I know of no one less likely to care for them.

Your Shakespeare parable is charming–but I am afraid it must be put among the endless things that are read in to the "divine Williams" as the Frenchman called him.

There was no knowledge of the sexes of plants in Shakespeare's time, barring some vague suggestion about figs and dates. Even in the 18th century, after Linnæus, the observations of Sprengel, who was a man of genius, and first properly explained the actions of insects, were set aside and forgotten.

I take it that Shakespeare [in Midsummer Night's Dream] is really alluding to the "enforced chastity" of Dian (the moon). The poets ignore that little Endymion business when they like!

I have recovered in such an extraordinary fashion that I can plume myself on being an "interesting case," though I am not going to compete with you in that line. And if you look at the February Nineteenth I hope you will think that my brains are none the worse. But perhaps that conceited speech is evidence that they are.

We came to town to make the acquaintance of Nettie's fiancé, and I am happy to say the family takes to him. When it does not take to anybody, it is the worse for that anybody.

So, before long, my house will be empty, and as my wife and I cannot live in London, I think we shall pitch our tent in Eastbourne. Good Jack offers to give us a pied â terre when we come to town. To-day we are off to Eastbourne again. Carry off Harry, who is done up from too zealous Hospital work. However, it is nothing series.

February 1889

My dear Mr. Engel–You really are the most pertinaciously persuasive of men. When you first wrote to me, I said I would have nothing whatever to do with anything you might please to say about me, that I had a profound objection to write about myself, and that I could not see what business the public had with my private life. I think I even expressed to you my complete sympathy with Dr. Johnson's desire to take Boswell's life when he heard of the latter's occupation with his biography.

Undeterred by all this, you put before me the alternative of issuing something that may be all wrong, unless I furnish you with something authoritative; I do not say all right, because autobiographies are essentially works of fiction, whatever biographies may be. So I yield, and send you what follows, in the hope that those who find it to be mere egotistical gossip will blame you and not me.

I am Yours faithfully, T. H. Huxley.

February 19, 1889

3 Jevington Gardens, Eastbourne

My dear Mr. Clodd–I am very much obliged to you for your cheery and appreciative letter. If I do not empty all Harrison's vials of wrath I shall be astonished! But of all the sickening humbugs in the world, the sham pietism of the Positivists is to me the most offensive.

I have long been wanting to say my say about these questions, but my hands were too full. This time last year I was so ill that I thought to myself, with Hamlet, "the rest is silence." But my wiry constitution has unexpectedly weathered the storm and I have every reason to believe that with renunciation of the devil and all his works (i.e. public speaking, dining and being dined, etc.) my faculties may be unimpaired for a good spell yet. And whether my lease is long or short, I mean to devote them to the work I began in the paper on the Evolution of Theology.

You will see in the next Nineteenth a paper on the Evidence Of Miracles, which I think will be to your mind.

Hutton is beginning to drivel. There really is no other word for it.––Ever yours very faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

February 28, 1889

3 Jevington Gardens, Eastbourne

My dear Knowles–I have just been delighted with Mrs. Ward's article. She has swept away the greater part of Wace's sophistries as a dexterous and strong-wristed housemaid sweeps away cobwebs with her broom, and saved me a lot of time.

What in the world does the Bishop mean by saying that I have called Christianity "sorry stuff" (p. 370)? To my knowledge I never as much as thought anything of the kind, let alone saying it.

I shall challenge him very sharply about this, and if, as I believe, he has no justification for his statement, my opinion of him will be very considerably lowered.

Wace has given me a lovely opening by his profession of belief in the devils going into the swine. I rather hoped I should get this out of him.

I find people are watching the game with great interest, and if it should be possible for me to give a little shove to the "New Reformation," I shall think the fag end of my life well spent.

After all, the reproach made to the English people that "they care for nothing but religion and politics" is rather to their credit. In the long run these are the two things that ought to interest a man more than any others.

I have been much bothered with ear-ache lately; but if all goes well, I will send you a screed by the middle of March.

Snowing hard! They have had more snow within the last month than they have known for ten years here.–Ever yours faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

March 10, 1889

3 Jevington Gardens, Eastbourne

My dear Knowles–There's a Divinity that shapes the ends (of envelopes!) rough-hew them how we will. This time I went and bought the strongest to be had and sealed him up with wax in the shop. I put no note inside, meaning to write to you afterwards, and then I forgot to do so.

I can't understand Peterborough nohow. However, so far as the weakness of the flesh would permit me to abstain from smiting him and his brother Amalekite, I have tried to turn the tide of battle to matters of more importance.

The pith of my article is that Christ was not a Christian. I have not ventured to state my thesis in that form–fearing the Editor–but, in a mild and proper way, I flatter myself that I have demonstrated it. Really, when I come to think of the claims made by orthodox Christianity on the one hand, and of the total absence of foundation for them on the other, I find it hard to abstain from using a phrase which shocked me very much when Strauss first applied it to the Resurrection, "Welthistorischer Humbug!"

I don't think I have ever seen the portrait you speak of. I remember the artist–a clever fellow, whose name, of course, I forget–but I do not think I saw his finished work. Some of these days I will ask to see it.

I was pretty well finished after the weding, and bolted here the next day. I am sorry to say I could not get my wife to come with me. If she does not knock up I shall be pleasantly surprised. The young couple are flourishing in Paris. I like what I have seen of him very much.

What is the "Cloister scheme"? [It referred to a plan for using the cloisters of Westminster Abbey to receive the monuments of distinguished men, so as to avoid the necessity of enlarging the Abbey itself.] Recollect how far away I am from the world, the flesh, and the d––.

Are you and Mrs. Knowles going to imitate the example of Eginhard and Emma? What good pictures you will have in your monastery church!–Ever yours very faithfully, T. H. Huxley.

March 15, 1889

3 Jevington Gardens, Eastbourne

My dear Knowles–I am sending my proof back to Spottiswoode's. I did not think the MS. would make so much, and I am afraid it has lengthened in the process of correction.

You have a reader in your printer's office who provides me with jokes. Last time he corrected, where my MS. spoke of the pigs as unwilling "porters" of the devils, into "porkers." And this time, when I, writing about the Lord's Prayer, say "current formula," he has it "canting formula." If only Peterborough had got hold of that! And I am capable of overlooking anything in a proof.

You see we have got to big questions now, and if these are once fairly before the general mind all the King's horses and all the King's men won't put the orthodox Humpty Dumpty where he was before.–Ever yours very faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

March 1889

[To his daughter Nettie, Mrs. Roller]

I think you are quite right about French women. They are like French dishes, uncommonly well cooked and sent up, but what the dickens they are made of is a mystery. Not but what all womankind are mysteries, but there are mysteries of godliness and mysteries of iniquity.

Have you been to see the sculptures at the Louvre?–dear me, I forgot the Louevre's [Tuileries'] fate. I wonder where the sculpture is? I used to think it the best thing in the way of art in Paris. There was a youthful Bacchus who was the main support of my thesis as to the greater beauty of the male figure!

Probably I had better conclude.

April 14, 1889

4 Marlborough Place, Abbey Road, N. W.

My dear Knowles–I am going to try to stop here, desolate as the house is now all the chicks have flown, for the next fortnight. Your talk of the inclemancy of Torquay is delightfully consoling. London has been vile.

I am glad you are going to let Wace have another "go." My object, as you know, in the whole business has been to rouse people to think. For Wace himself I do not care a 'twopenny d-.'

Considering that I got named in the House of Commons last night as an example of a temperate and well-behaved blasphemer, I think I am attaining my object.

Of course I go for a last word, and I am inclined to think that, whatever Wace may say, it may be best to get out of the region of controversy as far as possible, and hammer in two big nails–(1) That the demonology of Christianity shows that its founders knew no more about the spiritual world than anybody else, and (2) that Newman's doctrine of "Development" is true to an extent of which the Cardinal did not dream.

I have been reading some of his works lately, and I understand now why Kingsley accused him of growing dishonesty.

After an hour or two of him I begin to lose sight of the distinction between truth and falsehood.–

If you are home any day next week, I will look in for a chat.–Ever yours, T. H. Huxley.

April 15, 1889

2 Jevington Gardens, Eastbourne

My dear Mr. Clodd–The adventurous Mr. C. wrote to me some time ago. I expressed my regret that I could do nothing for the evolution of tent-pegs. What wonderful people there are in the world!

Many thanks for calling my attention to "Antiqua Mater." I will look it up. I have such a rooted objection to returning books, that I never borrow one or allow anybody to lend me one if I can help it.

I hear that Wace is to have another innings, and I am very glad of it, as it will give me the opportunity of putting the case once more as a connected argument.

It is Baur's great merit to have seen that the key to the problem of Christianity lies in the Epistle to the Galatians. No doubt he and his followers rather overdid the thing, but that is always the way with those who take up a new idea.

I have had for some time the notion of dealing with the "Three great myths"–1. Creation; 2. Fall; 3. Deluge; but I suspect I am getting to the end of my tether physically, and shall have to start for the Engadine in another month's time.

Many thanks for your congratulations about my daughter's marriage. No two people could be better suited for one another, and there is a charming little grand-daughter of the first marriage to be cared for.–Ever yours very faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

May 4, 1889

My dear Knowles–I am at the end of my London tether, and we go to Eastbourne (3 Jevington Gardens again) on Monday.

I have been working hard to finish my paper, and shall send it to you before I go.

I am astonished at its meekness. Being reviled, I revile not; not an exception, I believe, can be taken to the wording of one of the most venomous paragraphs in which the paper abounds. And I perceive the truth of a profound reflection I have often made, that reviling is often morally superior to not reviling.

I give up Peterborough. His "Explanation" is neither straightforward, nor courteous, nor prudent. Of which last fact, it may be, he will be convinced when he reads my acknowledgement of his favours, which is soft, not with the softness of the answer which turneth away wrath, but with that of the pillow which smothered Desdemona.––Ever yours very faithfully, T. H. Huxley.

I shall try to stand an hour or two of the Academy dinner, and hope it won't knock me up.

May 22, 1889

3 Jevington Gardens, Eastbourne

My dear Knowles–I sent back my proof last evening. I shall be in town Friday afternoon to Monday morning next, having a lot of things to see to. But you may as well let me see a revise of the whole. Did you not say to me, "sitting by a sea-coal fire" (I say nothing about a "parcel gilt goblet"), that this screed was to be the "last word"? I don't mind how long it goes on so long as I have the last word. But you must expect nothing from me for the next three or four months. We shall be off abroad not later than the 8th June, and among the everlasting hills a fico for your controversies! Wace's paper shall be waste paper for me. Oh! This is a "goak" which Peterborough would not understand.

I think you are right about the wine and water business–I had my doubts, but it was too tempting. All the teetotallers would have been on my side.

There is no more curious example of the influence of education than the respect with which this poor bit of conjuring is regarded. Your genuine pietist would find a mystical sense in thimblerig. I trust you have properly enjoyed the extracts from Newman. That a man of his intellect should be brought down to the utterance of such drivel–by Papistry, is one of the strongest arguments against that damnable perverter of mankind, I know of.–Ever yours very faithfully, T. H. Huxley.

May 22, 1889'

3 Jevington Gardens, Eastbourne

[To Hooker]

... As to the Assistant Secretaryship of the British Association, I have turned it over a great deal in my mind since your letter reached me, and I really cannot convince myself that you would suit it or it would suit you. I have not heard who are candidates or anything about it, and I am not going to take any part in the election. But looking at the thing solely from the point of view of your interests, I should strongly advise you against taking it, even if it were offered.

My pet aphorism "suffer fools gladly" should be the guide of the Assistant Secretary, who, during the fortnight of his activity, has more little vanities and rivalries to smooth over and conciliate than other people meet with in a lifetime. Now you do not "suffer fools gladly"; on the contrary, you "gladly make fools suffer." I do not say you are wrong–No tu quoque–but that is where the danger of the explosion lies–not in regard to the larger business of the Association

The risk is great and the 300 a year is not worth it. Foster knows all about the place; ask him if I am not right.

Many thanks for the suggestion about Spirula. But the matter is in a state in which no one can be of any use but myself. At present I am at the end of my tether and I mean to be off to the Engadine a fortnight hence–most likely not to return before October.

Not even the sweet voice of – will lure me from my retirement. The Academy dinner knocked me up for three days, though I drank no wine, ate very little, and vanished after the Prince of Wales' speech. The truth is I have very little margin of strength to go upon even now, though I am marvellously better than I was.

I am very glad that you see the importance of doing battle with the clericals. I am astounded at the narrowness of view of many of our colleagues on this point. The shut their eyes to the obstacles which clericalism raises in every direction against scientific ways of thinking, which are even more important than scientific discoveries.

I desire that the next generation may be less fettered by the gross and stupid superstitions of orthodoxy than mine has been. And I shall be well satisfied if I can succeed to however small an extent in bringing about that result.–I am, yours very faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

May 25, 1889

4 Marlborough Place

My dear Lankester–I cannot attend the Council meeting on the 29th. I have a meeting of the Trustees of the British Museum to-day, and to be examined by a Committee on Monday, and as the sudden heat half kills me I shall be fit for nothing but to slink off to Eastbourne again.

However, I do hope the Council will be very careful what they say or do about the immature fish question. The thing has been discussed over and over again ad nauseam , and I doubt if there is anything to be added to the evidence in the blue-books.

The idée fixe of the British public, fishmen, M.P.'s and ignorant persons generally is that all small fish, if you do not catch them, grow up into big fish. They cannot be got to understand that the wholesale destruction of the immature is the necessary part of the general order of things, from codfish to men.

You seem to have some very interesting things to talk about at the Royal Institution.

Do you see any chance of educating the white corpuscles of the human race to destroy the theological bacteria which are bred in parsons?–Ever yours very faithfully, T. H. Huxley.

May 30, 1889 [HP 2.344]

[To Hooker]

By the way, I want you to enjoy my wind-up with Wace in this month's Nineteenth in the reading as much as I have in the writing. It's as full of malice as an egg is full of meat, and my satisfaction in making Newman my accomplice has been unutterable. That man is the slipperiest sophist I have ever met with. Kingsley was entirely right about him.

Now for peace and quietness till after the next Church Congress!

June 3, 1889

[To Mr. Robert Taylor]

Sir–In looking through a mass of papers, before I leave England for some months among the mountains in search of health, I have come upon your letter of 7th March. As a rule I find that out of the innumerable letters addressed to me, the only ones I wish to answer are those the writers of which are considerate enough to ask that they may receive no reply, and yours is no exception.

The question you put is very much to the purpose: a proper and full answer would take up many pages; but it will suffice to furnish the heads to be filled up by your own knowledge.

1. The Church founded by Jesus has not made its way; has not permeated the world–but did become extinct in the country of its birth–as Nazarenism and Ebionism

2. The Church that did make its way and coalesced with the State in the 4th century had no more to do with the Church founded by Jesus than Ultramontanism has with Quakerism. It is Alexandrian Judaism and Neoplatonistic mystagogy, and as much of the old idolatry and demonology as could be got in under new or old names.

3. Paul has said that the Law was schoolmaster to Christ with more truth than he knew. Throughout the Empire the synagogues had their cloud of Gentile hangers-on–those who "feared God"–and who were fully prepared to accept a Christianity, which was merely an expurgated Judaism and the belief in Jesus as the Messiah.

4. The Christian "Sodalitia" were not merely religious bodies, but friendly societies, burial societies, and guilds. They hung together for all purposes–the mob hated them as it now hates the Jews in Eastern Europe, because they were more frugal, more industrious, and lived better lives than their neighbours, while they stuck together like Scotchmen.

If these things are so–and I appeal to your knowledge of history that they are so–what has the success of Christianity to do with the truth or falsehood of the story of Jesus?–I am, yours very faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

June 25, 1889

Monte Generoso, Switzerland

My Lord Mayor–I greatly regret my inability to be present at the meeting which is to be held, under your Lordship's auspices, in reference to M. Pasteur and his Institute. The unremitting labours of that eminent Frenchman during the last half-century have yielded rich harvests of new truths, and are models of exact and refined research. As such they deserve, and have received, all the honours which those who are the best judges of their purely scientific merits are able to bestow. But it so happens that these subtle and patient searchings out of the ways of the infinitely little–of the swarming life where the creature that measures one-thousandth part of an inch is a giant–have also yielded results of supreme practical importance. The path of M. Pasteur's investigations is strewed with gifts of vast monetary value to the silk trades, the brewer, and the wine merchant. And this being so, it might well be a proper and graceful act on the part of the representatives of trade and commerce in its greatest centre to make some public recognition of M. Pasteur's services, even if there were nothing further to be said about them. But there is much more to be said. M. Pasteur's direct and indirect contributions to our knowledge of the causes of diseased states, and of the means of preventing their recurrence, are not measurable by money values, but by those of healthy life and diminished suffering to men. Medicine, surgery, and hygiene have all been powerfully affected by M. Pasteur's work, which has culminated in his method of treating hydrophobia. I cannot conceive that any competently instructed person can consider M. Pasteur's labours in this direction without arriving at the conclusion that, if any man has earned the praise and honour of his fellows, he has. I find it no less difficult to imagine that our wealthy country should be other than ashamed to continue to allow its citizens to profit by the treatment freely given at the Institute without contributing to its support. Opposition to the proposals which your Lordship sanctions would be equally inconceivable if it arose out of nothing but the facts of the case thus presented. But the opposition which, as I see from the English papers, is threatened has really for the most part nothing to do either with M. Pasteur's merits or with the efficacy of his method of treating hydrophobia. It proceeds partly from the fanatics of laissez faire, who think it better to rot and die than to be kept whole and lively by State interference, partly from the blind opponents of properly conducted physiological experimentation, who prefer that men should suffer than rabbits or dogs, and partly from those who for other but not less powerful motives hate everything which contributes to prove the value of strictly scientific methods of enquiry in all those questions which affect the welfare of society. I sincerely trust that the good sense of the meeting over which your Lordship will preside will preserve it from being influenced by those unworthy antagonisms, and that the just and benevolent enterprise you have undertaken may have a happy issue.–I am, my Lord Mayor, your obedient servant, T. H. Huxley.

December 14, 1889

3 Jevington Gardens, Eastbourne

My dear Knowles–I am very glad you think the article will go. It is longer than I intended, but I cannot accuse myself of having wasted words, and I have left out several things that might have been said, but which can come in by and by.

As to title do what you like, but that you propose does not seem to me quite to hit the mark. "Political Humbug: Liberty and Equality" struck me as adequate, but my wife declares it improper. "Political Fictions" might be supposed to refer to Dizzie's novels! How about "The Politics of the Imagination: Liberty and Equality"?

I should like to have some general title that would do for the "letters" which I see I shall have to write. I think I will make six of them after the fashion of my "Working Men's Lectures," as thus: (1) Liberty and Equality; (2) Rights of Man; (3) Property; (4) Malthus; (5) Government: the province of the State; (6) Lawmaking and Lawbreaking.

I understand you will let me republish them, as soon as the last is out, in a cheap form. I am not sure I will not put them in the form of "Lectures" rather than "Letters."

Did you ever read Henry George's book "Progress and Poverty"? It is more damneder nonsense than poor Rousseau's blether. And to think of the popularity of the book! But I ought to be grateful, as I can cut and come again at this wonderful dish.

The mischief of it is I do not see how I am to finish the introduction to my Essays, unless I put off sending you a second dose until March.

I will send back the revise as quickly as possible.––Ever yours very truly, T. H. Huxley.

You do not tell me that there is anything to which Spencer can object, so I suppose there is nothing.

December 26, 1889

My dear Tennyson–Accept my best thanks for your very kind present of "Demeter." I have not had a Christmas Box I valued so much for many a long year. I envy your vigour, and am ashamed of myself beside you for being turned out to grass. I kick up my heels now and then, and have a gallop round the paddock, but it does not come to much.

With best wishes to you, and, if Lady Tennyson has not forgotten me altogether, to her also–Believe me, yours very faithfully, T. H. Huxley.

December 1889

[To Hooker]

I am glad you think well of the "Human Inequality" paper. My wife has persuaded me to follow it up with a view to making a sort of "Primer of Politics" for the masses–by and by. "There's no telling what you may come to, my boy," said the Bishop who reproved his son for staring at John Kemble, and I may be a pamphleteer yet! But really it is time that somebody should treat the people to common sense.

Letters of 1888
Letters of 1890

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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