T. H. Huxley
Letters and Diary 1892

January 11, 1892

Hodeslea, Eastbourne

My dear Hooker–We have been in the middle of snow for the last four days. I shall not venture to London, and if you deserve the family title of the "judicious," I don't think you will either.

I send you by this post a volume of the French translation of a collection of my essays about Darwinism and Evolution, 1860-76, for which I have written a brief preface. I was really proud of myself when I discovered on re-reading them that I had nothing to alter.

What times those days were! Fuimus!–Ever yours affectionately,

T. H. Huxley.

February 3, 1892


Sir–I regret that you have had to wait so long for a reply to your letter of the 27th. Your question required careful consideration, and I have been much occupied with other matters.

You ask (1), whether the sacramental bread is or is not "voided like other meats"? That depends on what you mean, firstly by "voided," and, secondly, by "other meats." Suppose any "meat" (I take the word to include drink) to contain no indigestible residuum, there need not be anything "voided" at all–if by "voiding" is meant expulsion from the lower intestine.

Such a meat might be "completely absorbed for the sustenance of the body." Nevertheless, its elements, in fresh combinations, would be eventually "voided" through other channels, e.g. the lungs and kidneys. Thus I should say that under normal circumstances all "meats" (that is to say, the material substance of them) are voided sooner or later.

Now, as to the particular case of the sacramental wafer and wine. Taking their composition and the circumstances of administration to be as you state them, it is my opinion that a small residuum will be left undigested, and will be voided by the intestine, while by far the greater part will be absorbed and eventually "voided" by the lungs, skin, and kidneys.

If anyone asserts that the wafer and wine are voided by the intestine as such, that the "pure flour and water" of which the wafer consists pass out unchanged, I am of opinion he is in error.

On the other hand, if anyone maintains that the material substance of the wafer persists, while its accidents change, within the body, and that this identical substance is sooner or later voided, I do not see how he is to be driven out of that position by any scientific reasoning. On the contrary, there is every reason to believe that the elementary particles of the wafer and of the wine which enter the body never lose their identity, or even alter their mass. If one could see one of the atoms of carbon which enter into the composition of the wafer, I conceive it could be followed the whole way–from the mouth to the organ by which it escapes–just as a bit of floating charcoal might be followed into, through, and out of a whirlpool.

March 24, 1892

My dear Julian

I never could make out about that Water Baby. I have seen Babies in water and Babies in bottles; but the Baby in the water was not in a bottle and the Baby in the bottle was not in water.

My friend who wrote the story of the Water Baby, was a very kind man and very clever. Perhaps he thought I could see as much in the water as he did–There are some people who see a great deal and some who see very little in the same things.

When you grow up I dare say you will be one of the great-deal seers and see things more wonderful than Water Babies where other folks can see nothing.

Give my best love to Daddy & Mammy and Trevenen–Grandmoo is a little better but not up yet.

Your loving

T.H.H. and Julian Huxley

Photograph taken by Kent and Lacey 1895

April 1892

[To Mrs. Humphrey Ward]

My dear M.–Thanks for your very pleasant letter. I do not know whether I like the praise or the scolding better. They, like pastry, need to be done with a light hand–especially praise–and I have swallowed all yours, and feel it thoroughly agree with me.

As to the scolding I am going to defend myself tooth and nail. In the first place, by all my Gods and No Gods, neither Green, nor Martineau, nor the Cairds were in my mind when I talked of "Sentimental Deism," but the "Vicaire Savoyard," and Channing, and such as Voysey. There are two chapters of "Rousseauism" I have not touched yet–Rousseausim in Theology, and Rousseauism in Education. When I write the former I shall try to shew that the people of whom I speak as "sentimental deists" are the lineal descendants of the Vicaire Savoyard. I was a great reader of Channing in my boyhood, and was much taken in by his theosophic confectionery. At present I have as much (intellectual) antipathy to him as St. John had to the Nicolaitans.

. . . Green I know only from his Introduction to Hume–which reminds me of nothing so much as a man with a hammer and chisel knocking out bits of bad stone in the Great Pyramid, with the view of bringing it down. . . . As to Caird's "Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion," I will get it and study it. But as a rule, "Philosophies of Religion" in my experience, turn out to be only "Religions of Philosophers"–quite another business, as you will admit.

And if you please, Ma'am, I wish to add that I think I am not without sympathy for Christian feeling–or rather for what you mean by it. Beneath the cooled logical upper strata of my microcosm, there is a fused mass of prophetism and mysticism, and the Lord knows what might happen to me, in case a moral earthquake cracked the superincumbent deposit, and permitted an eruption of the demonic element below. . . . Luckily I am near 70, and not a G.O.M.–so the danger is slight.

One must stick to one's trade. It is my business to the best of my ability to fight for scientific clearness–that is what the world lacks. Feeling, Christian or otherwise, is superabundant. . . .

Ever yours affectionately, T. H. Huxley.

April 11, 1892

Hodeslea, Eastbourne

[To E. Ray Lankester]

My dear Lankester–We have been having ten days of sunshine, and I have been correspondingly lazy, especially about letter-writing. This, however, is my notion; that unless people clearly understand that the university of the future is to be a very different thing from the university of the past, they had better put off meddling for another generation.

The mediæval university looked backwards: it professed to be a storehouse of old knowledge, and except in the way of dialectic cobweb-spinning, its professors had nothing to do with novelties. Of the historical and physical (natural) sciences, of criticism and laboratory practice it knew nothing. Oral teaching was of supreme importance on account of the cost and rarity of manuscripts.

The modern university looks forward, and is a factory of new knowledge: its professors have to be at the top of the wave of progress. Research and criticism must be the breath of their nostrils; laboratory work the main business of the scientific student; books his main helpers.

The lecture, however, in the hands of an able man will still have the utmost importance in stimulating and giving facts and principles their proper relative prominence.

I think we should get pretty nearly what is wanted by grafting a Collége de France on to the University of London, subsidising University College and King's College (if it will get rid of its tests, not otherwise), and setting up two or three more such bodies in other parts of London. (Scotland, with a smaller population than London, has four complete universities!)

I should hand over the whole business of medical education and graduation to a medical universitas to be constituted by the royal colleges and medical schools, whose doings, of course, would be checked by the Medical Council.

Our side has been too apt to look upon medical schools as feeders for Science. They have been so, but to their detriment as medical schools. And now that so many opportunities for purely scientific training are afforded, there is no reason they should remain so.

The problem of the Medical University is to make an average man into a good practical doctor before he is twenty-two, and with not more expense than can be afforded by the class from which doctors are recruited, or than will be rewarded by the prospect of an income of 400 to 500 a year.

It is not right to sacrifice such men, and the public on whom they practise, for the prospect of making 1 per cent of medical students into men of science.–Ever yours very faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

April 29, 1892

[To Romanes]

In a review of Darwin's Origin of Species published in the Westminster for 1860 (Lay Sermons, pp. 323-24), you will see that I insisted on the logical incompleteness of the theory so long as it was not backed by experimental proof that the cause assumed was competent to produce all the effects required. (See also Lectures to Working Men, 1865, pp. 146, 147.) In fact, Darwin used to reproach me sometimes for my pertinacious insistence on the need of experimental verification.

But I hope you are going to choose some other title than "Institut transformiste," which implies that that the Institute is pledged to a foregone conclusion, that it is a workshop devoted to the production of a particular kind of article. Moreover, I should say that as a matter of prudence, you had better keep clear of the word "experimental." Would not "Biological Observatory" serve the turn? Of course it does not exclude experiment any more than "Astronomical Observatory" excludes spectrum analysis.

Please think over this. My objection to "Transformist" is very strong.

May 22, 1892

Dear Sir–I regret that I am unable to comply with the wish of your committee. For one thing, I am engaged in work which I do not care to interrupt, and for another, I always make it a rule in these matters to "fight for my own hand." I do not desire that anyone should share my responsibility for what I think fit to say, and I do not wish to be responsible for the opinions and modes of expression of other persons.

I do not say this with any reference to Mr.––, who is a sober and careful writer. But both as a matter of principle and one of policy, I strongly demur to a great deal of what appears as "free thought " literature, and I object to be in any way connected with it. Heterodox ribaldry disgusts me, I confess, rather more than orthodox fanaticism. It is at once so easy; so stupid; such a complete anachronism in England, and so thoroughly calculated to disgust and repel the very thoughtful and serious people whom it ought to be the great aim to attract. Old Noll knew what he was about when he said that it was of no use to try to fight the gentlemen of England with tapsters and serving-men. It is quite as hopeless to fight Christianity with scurrility. We want a regiment of Ironsides.

June 10, 1892


[To Briton Riviere]

My dear Riviere–Touching the training of your boy who wants to go in for science, I expect you will have to make a compromise between that which is theoretically desirable and that which is practically most advantageous, things being as they are.

Though I say it that shouldn't, I don't believe there is so good a training in physical science to be got anywhere as in our College at South Kensington. But Bernard could hardly with advantage take this up until he is seventeen at least. What he would profit by most as a preliminary, is training in the habit of expressing himself well and clearly in English; training in mathematics and the elements of physical science; in French and German, so as to read those languages easily–especially German; in drawing–not in hifaluting art, of which he will probably have enough in the blood–but accurate dry reproduction of form–one of the best disciplines of the powers of observation extant.

On the other hand, in the way of practical advantage in any career, there is a great deal to be said for sending a clever boy to Oxford or Cambridge. There are not only the exhibitions and scholarships, but there is the rubbing shoulders with his contemporaries as hardly anything else can do. A very good scientific education is to be had at both Cambridge and Oxford, especially Cambridge now.

In the case of sending to the university, putting through the Latin and Greek mill will be indispensable. And if he is not going to make the classics a serious study, there will be a serious waste of time and energy.

So much in all these matters depends on the x contained in the boy himself. If he has the physical and mental energy to make a mark in science, I should drive him straight at science, taking care that he got a literary training through English, French, and German. An average capacity, on the other hand, may be immensely helped by university means of flotation.

But who in the world is to say how the x will turn out, before the real strain begins? One might as well prophesy the effect of a glass of "hot-with" when the relative quantities of brandy, water, and sugar are unknown. I am sure the large quantity of brandy and the very small quantity of sugar in my composition were suspected neither by myself, nor any one else, until the rows into which wicked men persisted in involving me began!

And that reminds me that I forgot to tell the publishers to send you a copy of my last peace-offering, and that one will be sent you by to-morrow's post. There is nothing new except the prologue, the sweat reasonableness of which will, I hope, meet your approbation.

It is not my fault if you have had to toil through this frightfully long screed; Mrs. Riviere, to whom our love, said you wanted it. "Tu l'as voulu, Georges Dandin." –Ever yours very faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

July 10, 1892 [HP 8.279]


My dear Tyndall–If you are going with the permission of your doctors, and not breaking out of bounds, like a naughty boy, I rejoice in your being able to undertake the journey to the Alps. I trust it may renovate you as my last trip set me up. We shall have to be content with easy journeys and always within reach of a good doctor hereafter–for I never know when my wife may be attacked. She is wonderfully better again now, I am glad to say, and I hope for a long respite for her.

Dupes are mostly knaves. The secret of Gladstone lies in the fact that everyone with a fad or foolery, or personal interest, that he is knavish enough to prefer to the general good, knows that if only he can get the support of a lot of other such voters, Gladstone may be driven in his direction.

If a mob of people (voters that is) took up the notion that 2 x 2 = 5 Gladstone would tell them his mind was open on the subject; and if there were enough of them he would, in a week, discover windy sophisms their ingenuity had never dreamed of in support of their doctrine.

I am in hope that if not the best thing, then the second-best thing, will happen. He will come in with a small majority and while obliged to show his hand, be powerless to carry anything. If the devil that is in him could be transferred, there would be enough to send 2,000,000 pigs headlong instead of 2000!

With our best love and good wishes to you both–Ever yours affectionately, T. H. Huxley.

Send us a postcard when you're safe out.

August 20, 1892

Con-y-Gedal Hotel, Barmouth

My dear Donnelly–I began to think that Lord Salisbury had thought better of it–(I should not have been surprised at all if he had) and was going to leave me a P.P.C. instead of a P.C. when the announcement appeared yesterday.

This morning, however, I received his own letter (dated the 16th), which had been following me about. A very nice letter it is too–he does the thing handsomely while he is about it.

Well, I think the thing is good for science; I am not such a self humbug as to pretend that my vanity is not pleasantly tickled; but I do not think there is any aspect of the affair more pleasant to me, than the evidence it affords of the strength of our old friendship. Because with all respect for my noble friends, deuce a one would ever have thought of it, unless you had not only put it–but rubbed it–into their heads.

I have not forgotten that private and confidential document that you were so disgusted to find had been delivered to me! You have tried it on before–so don't deny it.

But bless my soul, how profound is old Cole's remark about the humour of public affairs. To think of a Conservative Government–pride of the Church–going out of its way to honour one not only of the wicked, but of the notoriousest and plainspoken wickedness. My wife and I drove over to Dolgelly yesterday–do you know it? one of the loveliest things in the three kingdoms–and every now and then had a laugh over this very quaint aspect of the affair.

Can you tell me what I shall have to do in the dim and distant future? I suppose I shall have to go and swear somewhere (I am always ready to do that on occasion). Is admission to the awful presence of H.M. involved? Shall I have to rig up again in that Court suit, which I hoped was permanently laid up in lavender? Resolve me these things.

We shall be here I expect at least another week; and bring up at Gloucester about the 3rd September. Hope to get back to Hodeslea latter part of September.–Yours very faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

August 20, 1892'

[To Hooker]

You will have seen that I have been made a P.C. If I had been offered to be made a police constable I could not have been more flabbergasted than I was when the proposition came to me a few weeks ago. I will tell you the story of how it all came about when we meet. The Archbishopric of Canterbury is the only object of ambition that remains to me. Come and be Suffragan; there is plenty of room at Lambeth and a capital garden!

August 22, 1892

Con-y-Gedal Hotel, Barmouth

Dearest Babs–If Lord Salisbury had known my address, M–– and I should have had our little joke out before leaving Saundersfoot, as the letter was dated 16th. It must be a month since Lord Cranbrook desired Donnelly to find out if I would accept the P.C., and as I heard no more about it up to the time of dissolution, I imagined there was a hitch somewhere. And really, the more I think of it the queerer does it seem, that a Tory and Church Government should have delighted to honour the worst-famed heretic in the three kingdoms.

I am sure Donnelly has been at the bottom of it, as he is the only person to whom I ever spoke of the fitness of the P.C. for men of science and letters.

The queer thing is that his chief and Lord Salisbury listened to the suggestion.

Tell Jack he is simply snuffed out–younger sons of peers go with the herd of Barts. and knights I believe. But a table of precedence is not to be had for love or money–and my anxiety is wearing.

This place is as perfectly delightful as Aberystwith was t'other. . . . With best love to you all–Ever your


August 22, 1892'

Con-y-Gedal Hotel, Barmouth

[To Mrs. Sophia Lucy Lane Clifford]

My dear Lucy–I am glad to think that it is the honours that blush and not the recipient, for I am past that form of vascular congestion.

It was known that the only peerage I would accept was a spiritual one; and as H.M. shares the not unnatural prejudice which led her illustrious predecessor (now some time dead) to object to give a bishopric to Dean Swift, it was thought she could not stand the promotion of Dean Huxley; would see him in fact . . . .

Lord S. apologised for not pressing the matter, but pointed out that, as Evolutionism is rapidly gaining ground among the people who have votes, it was probable, if not certain, that his eminent successor (whose mind is always open) would become a hot evolutionist before the expiration of the eight months' office which Lord S. (who needs rest) means to allow him. And when eminent successor goes out, my bishopric will be among the Dissolution Honours. If H.M. objects she will be threatened with the immediate abolition of the H. of Lords, and the institution of a social democratic federation of counties, each with an army, navy, and diplomatic service of its own.

I know you like to have the latest accurate intelligence, but this really must be considered confidential. As a P.C. I might lose my head for letting out State secrets.–Ever your affectionate


August 23, 1892

Con-y-Gedal House, Barmouth

My dear Foster–I am very glad you think I have done rightly about the P.C.; but in fact I could hardly held myself.

Years and years ago I was talking to Donnelly about these things, and told him that so far as myself was concerned, I would have nothing to do with official decorations–didn't object to other people having them, especially heads of offices, like Hooker and Flower–but preferred to keep clear myself. But I added that there was one thing I did not mind telling him, because no English Government would ever act upon my opinion–and that was that the P.C. was a fit and proper recognition for science and letters. I have no doubt that he has kept this in mind ever since–in fact Lord Salisbury's letter (which was very handsome) showed he had been told of my obiter dictum. Donnelly was the first channel of inquiry whether I would accept, and was very strong that I should.

So you see if I had wished to refuse it, it would have been difficult and ungracious. But, on the whole, I thought the precedent good. Playfair tells me he tried to get it done in the case of Faraday and Babbage thirty years ago, and the thing broke down. Moreover a wicked sense of the comedy of advancing such a pernicious heretic, helped a good deal.

The worst of it is, I have just had a summons to go to Osborne on Thursday and it is as much as I shall be able to do.

We have been in Sputh Wales, in the neighbourhood of the Colliers, and are on our way to the Wallers for the Festival week at Gloucester. We hope to get back to Easbourne in the latter half of September and find the house clean swept and garnished. After that, by the way, it is not nice to say that we shall hope to have a visit from Mrs. Foster and you.

With our love to you both.–Ever yours, T. H. Huxley.

I am glad you are resting, but oh, why another Congress?

August 25, 1892

Great Western Hotel

[To Henrietta Huxley]

I have just got back from Osborne, and I find there are a few minutes to send you a letter–by the help of the extra halfpenny. First-rate weather there and back, a special train, carriage with postillions at the Osborne landing-place, and a grand procession of officers of the new household and P.C.'s therein. Then waiting about while the various "sticks" were delivered.

Then we were shown into the presence chamber where the Queen sat at a table. We knelt as if we were going to say our prayers, holding a testament between two, while the Clerk of the Council read an oath of which I heard not a word. We each advanced to the Queen, knelt and kissed her hand, retired backwards, and got sworn over again (Lord knows what I promised and vowed this time also). Then we shook hands with all the P.C.'s present, including Lord Lorne, and so exit backwards. It was all very curious....

After that a capital lunch and back we came. Ribblesdale and several other people I knew were of the party, and I found it very pleasant talking with him and Jesse Collings, who is a very interesting man.

"Oh," he said, "how I wish my poor mother, who was a labouring woman–a great noble woman–and brought us nine all up in right ways, could have been alive." Very human and good and dignified too, I thought.

August 31, 1892

Con-y-Gedal Hotel, Barmouth

My dear Prestwich–Best thanks for your congratulations. As I have certainly got more than my temporal deserts, the other "half" you speak of can be nothing less than a bishopric! May you live to see that dignity conferred; and go on writing such capital papers as the last you sent me, until I write myself your Right Revd. as well as Right Honble. old friend, T. H. Huxley.

August 31, 1892'

Con-y-Gedal Hotel, Barmouth

[To Mr. W. F. Collier]

Accept my wife's and my hearty thanks for your kind congratulations. When I was a mere boy I took for motto of an essay, "What is honour? Who hath it? He that died o' Wednesday," and although I have my full share of ambition and vanity, I doubt not, yet Falstaff's philosophical observation has dominated my mind and acted as a sort of perpetual refrigerator to these passions. So I have gone my own way, sought for none of these things and expected none–and it would seem that the deepest schemer's policy could not have answered better. We must have a new Beatitude, "Blessed is the man who expecteth nothing," without its ordinary appendix.

I tell Jack I have worked hard for a dignity which will enable me to put down his aristocratic swaggering.

October 1, 1892

Hodeslea, Eastbourne

My dear Donnelly–Best thanks for sending on my letter. I do not suppose it will do much good, but, at any rate, I thought I ought to try to prevent their making a mess of medical education.

I like what I have seen of Acland. He seemed to have both intelligence and volition.

As to intermediate education I have never favoured the notion of State intervention in this direction.

I think there are only two valid grounds for State meddling with education: the one the danger to the community which arises from dense ignorance; the other, the advantage to the community of giving capable men the chance of utilising their capacity.

The first furnishes the justification for compulsory elementary education. If a child is taught reading, writing, drawing, and handiwork of some kind; the elements of mathematics, physics, and history, and I should add of political economy and geography; books will furnish him with everything he can possibly need to make him a competent citizen in any rank of life.

If with such a start, he has not the capacity to get all he needs out of books, let him stop where he is. Blow him up with intermediate education as much as you like, you will only do the fellow a mischief and lift him into a place for which he has no real qualification. People never will recollect, that mere learning and mere cleverness are of next to no value in life, while energy and intellectual grip, the things that are inborn and cannot be taught, are everything.

The technical education act goes a long way to meet the second claim of the State; so far as scientific and industrial capacities are concerned. In a few years there will be no reason why any potential Whitworth or Faraday, in the three kingdoms, should not readily obtain the best education that is to be had, scientific or technical. The same will hold good for Art. So the question that arises seems to me to be whether the State ought or ought not to do something of the same kind for Literature, Philosophy, History, and Philology.

I am inclined to think not, on the ground that the universities and public schools ought to do this very work, and that as soon as they cease to be clericalised seminaries they probably will do it.

If the present government would only give up their Irish fad–and bring in a bill to make it penal for any parson to hold any office in a public school or university or to presume to teach outside the pulpit–they should have my valuable support!

I should not wonder if Gladstone's mind is open on the subject. Pity I am not sufficiently a persona grata with him to offer to go to Hawarden and discuss it.

I quite agree with you, therefore, that it will play the deuce if intermediate education is fossilised as it would be by any Act prepared under present influences. The most I should like to see done, would be to help the youth of special literary, linguistic and so forth, capacity, to get the best training in their special line.

It was lucky we did not go to you. My wife got an awful dose of neuralgia and general upset, and was laid up at the Hotel. The house was not quite finished inside, but we came in on Tuesday, and she has been getting better ever since in spite of the gale.

I am sorry to hear of the recurrence of influenza. It is a beastly thing. Lord Justice Bowen told me he has had it every time it has been in the country. You must come and try Eastbourne air as soon as we are settled. With our love to you and Mrs. Donnelly–Ever yours, T. H. Huxley.

Better be careful, I return all letters on which R.H. is not in full.

October 15, 1892


My dear Tyndall–I think you will like to hear that the funeral yesterday lacked nothing to make it worthy of the dead or the living.

Bright sunshine streamed through the windows of the nave, while the choir was in half gloom, and as each shaft of light illuminated the flower-covered bier as it slowly travelled on, one thought of the bright successionof his works between the darkness before and the darkness after. I am glad to say that the Royal Society was represented by four of its chief officers, and nine of the commonalty, including myself. Tennyson has a right to that, as the first poet since Lucretius who has understood the drift of science.

We have heard nothing of you and your wife for ages. Ask her to give us news, good news I hope, of both.

My wife is better than she was, and joins with me in love.–Ever yours affectionately,

T. H. Huxley.

November 3, 1892


My dear Romanes–I must send you a line to thank you very much for your volume of poems. A swift glance shows me much that has my strong sympathy–notably "Pater loquitur," which I shall read to my wife as soon as I get her back. Against all troubles (and I have had my share) I weigh a wife-comrade "treu und fest" in all emergencies.

I have a great respect for the Nazarenism of Jesus–very little for later "Christianity." But the only religion that appeals to me is prophetic Judaism. Add to it something from the best Stoics and something from Spinoza and something from Goethe, and there is a religion for men. Some of these days I think I will make a cento out of the works of these people.

I find it hard enough to write decent prose and have usually stuck to that. The "Gib diesen Todten" I am hardly responsible for, as it did itself coming down here in the train after Tennyson's funeral. The notion came into my head in the Abbey.–Ever yours very faithfully, T. H. Huxley.

November 5, 1892 [HP 12.226]

[To John Simon]

. . . No one who has lived in the world as long as you and I have, can entertain the pious delusion that it is engineered upon principles of benevolence . . . .

November 5, 1892'

[To W. P. Clayton]

Dear Sir–I well remember the interview to which you refer, and I should have replied to your letter sooner, but during the last few weeks I have been very busy.

Moral duty consists in the observance of those rules of conduct which contribute to the welfare of society, and by implication, of the individuals who compose it.

The end of society is peace and mutual protection, so that the individual may reach the fullest and highest life attainable by man. The rules of conduct by which this end is to be attained are discoverable–like the other so-called laws of Nature–by observation and experiment, and only in that way.

Some thousands of years of such experience have led to the generalizations, that stealing and murder, for example, are inconsistent with the ends of society. There is no more doubt that they are so than that unsupported stones tend to fall. The man who steals or murders, breaks his implied contract with society, and forfeits all protection. He becomes an outlaw, to be dealt with as any other feral creature. Criminal law indicates the ways which have proved most convenient for dealing with him.

All this would be true if men had no "moral sense" at all, just as there are rules of perspective which must be strictly observed by a draughtsman, and are quite independent of his having any artistic sense.

The moral sense is a very complex affair–dependent in part upon associations of pleasure and pain, approbation and disapprobation formed by education in early youth, but in part also on an innate sense of moral beauty and ugliness (how originated need not be discussed), which is possessed by some people in great strength, while some are totally devoid of it–just as some children draw, or are enchanted by music while mere infants, while others do not know "Cherry Ripe" from "Rule Britannia," nor can represent the form of the simplest thing to the end of their lives.

Now for this last sort of people there is no reason why they should discharge any moral duty, except from fear of punishment in all its grades, from mere disapprobation to hanging and the duty of society is to see that they live under wholesome fear of such punishment short, sharp, and decisive.

For the people with a keen innate sense of moral beauty there is no need of any other motive. What they want is knowledge of the things they may do and must leave undone, if the welfare of society is to be attained. Good people so often forget this that some of them occasionally require hanging almost as much as the bad.

If you ask why the moral inner sense is to be (under due limitations) obeyed; why the few who are steered by it move the mass in whom it is weak? I can only reply by putting another question–Why do the few in whom the sense of beauty is strong–Shakespere, Raffaele, Beethoven, carry the less endowed multitude away? But they do, and always will. People who overlook that fact attend neither to history nor to what goes on about them.

Benjamin Franklin was a shrewd, excellent, kindly man. I have a great respect for him. The force of genial commonsense respectability could no further go. George Fox was the very antipodes of all this, and yet one understands how he came to move the world of his day, and Franklin did not.

As to whether we can all fulfil the moral law, I should say, hardly any of us. Some of us are utterly incapable of fulfilling its plainest dictates. As there are men born physically cripples and intellectually idiots, so there are some who are moral cripples and idiots, and can be kept straight not even by punishment. For these people there is nothing but shutting up, or extirpation.–I am, yours faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

November 18, 1892

Hodeslea, Eastbourne

[To Edward Clodd]

I was looking through Man's Place in Nature the other day. I do not think there is a word I need delete, nor anything I need add except in confirmation and extension of the doctrine there laid down. That is great good fortune for a book thirty years old, and one that a very shrewd friend of mine implored me not to publish, as it would certainly ruin all my prospects. I said, like the French fox-hunter in Punch, "I shall try."


Letters of 1891
Letters of 1893

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