T. H. Huxley
Letters and Diary 1893

January 8, 1893

Hodeslea, Eastbourne

[To Ethel]

I wish you would write seriously to M––. She is not behaving well to Oliver. I have seen handsomer kittens, but few more lively, and energetically destructive. Just now he scratched away at something that M–– says cost 13s. 6d. a yard–and reduced more or less of it to combins.

M–– therefore excludes him from the dining-room, and all those opportunities of higher education which he would naturally have in my house.

I have argued that it is as immoral to place 13s. 6d. a yard-nesses within reach of kittens as to hang bracelets and diamond rings in the front garden. But in vain. Oliver is banished–and the protector (not Oliver) is sat upon.–In truth and justice aid your Pa.

[This letter is embellished with fancy portraits of

Oliver when most quiescent (tail up; ready for action).

January 22, 1893

My dear Hooker–. . . What queer corners one gets into if one only lives long enough! The grim humour of the situation when I was seconding the proposal for a statue to Owen yesterday tickled me a good deal. I do not know how they will report me in the Times, but if they do it properly I think you will see that I said no word upon which I could not stand cross-examination.

I chose the office of seconder in order that I might clearly define my position and stop the mouths of blasphemers–who would have ascribed silence or absence to all sorts of bad motives.

Whatever the man might be, he did a lot of first-rate work, and now that he can do no more mischief he has a right to his wages for it.

If I only live another ten years I expect to be made a saint of myself. "Many a better man has been made a saint of," as old David Hume said to his housekeeper when they chalked up "St. David's Street" on his wall.

We have been jogging along pretty well, but wife has been creaky and I got done up in a brutal London fog struggling with the worse fog of the New University.

I am very glad you like my poetical adventure.–Ever yours affectionately, T. H. Huxley.

April 12, 1893


[To Mr. J. G. Kitton]

A long series of cats has reigned over my household for the last forty years, or thereabouts, but I am sorry to say that I have no pictorial or other record of their physical and moral excellencies.

The present occupant of the throne is a large, young, grey Tabby–Oliver by name. Not that he is in any sense a protector, for I doubt whether he has the heart to kill a mouse. However, I saw him catch and eat the first butterfly of the season, and trust that this germ of courage, thus manifested, may develop with age into efficient mousing.

As to sagacity, I should say that his judgment respecting the warmest place and the softest cushion in a room is infallible–his punctuality at meal times is admirable; and his pertinacity in jumping on people's shoulders, till they give him some of the best of what is going, indicates great firmness.

April 28, 1893

Hodeslea, Eastbourne

My dear Romanes–My mind is made easy by such a handsome acquittal from you and the Lady Abbess, your coadjutor in the Holy Office.

My wife, who is my inquisitor and confessor in ordinary, has gone over the lecture twice, without scenting a heresy, and if she and Mrs. Romanes fail–a fico for a mere male don's nose!

From the point of view of the complete argument, I agree with you about note 19. But the dangers of open collision with orthodoxy on the one hand and Spencer on the other, increased with the square of the enlargement of the final pages, and I was most anxious for giving no handle to anyone who might like to say I had used the lecture for purposes of attack. Moreover, in spite of all reduction, the lecture is too long already.

But I think it not improbable that in spite of my meekness and peacefulness, neither the one side nor the other will let me alone. And then you see, I shall have an opportunity of making things plain, under no restriction. You will not be responsible for anything said in the second edition, nor can the Donniest of Dons grumble.–Ever yours very faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

The double negative is Shakspearian. See Hamlet, act ii. sc. 2.

May 9, 1893

Hodeslea, Eastbourne

[To John Collier]

My dear Jack–... M– is better, and I am getting my voice back. But may St. Ernulphus' curse descend on influenza microbes! They tried to work their way out at my nose, and converted me into a disreputable Captain Costigan-looking person ten days ago. Now they are working at my lips.

For the credit of the family I hope I shall be more reputable by the 18th.

I hope you will appreciate my dexterity. The lecture is a regular egg-dance. That I should discourse on Ethics to the University of Oxford and say all I want to say, without a word anybody can quarrel with, is decidedly the most piquant occurrence in my career. . . .–Ever yours affectionately,

T. H. Huxley.

May 15, 1893


My dear Tyndall–There are not many apples (and those mostly of the crab sort) left upon the old tree, but I send you the product of the last shaking. Please keep it out of any hands but your wife's and yours till Thursday, when I am to "stand and deliver" it, if I have voice enough, which is doubtful. The sequelæ of influenza in my case have been mostly pimples and procrastination, the former largely on my nose, so that I have been a spectacle. Besides these, loss of voice. The pimples are mostly gone and the procrastination is not much above normal, but what will happen when I try to fill the Sheldonian Theatre is very doubtful.

Who would have thought thirty-three years ago, when the great "Sammy" fight came off, that the next time I should speak at Oxford would be in succession to Gladstone, on "Evolution and Ethics" as an invited lecturer?

There was something so quaint about the affair that I really could not resist, though the wisdom of putting so much strain on my creaky timbers is very questionable. Mind you wish me well through it at 2.30 on Thursday.

I wish we could have better news of you. As to dying by inches, that is what we are all doing, my dear old fellow; the only thing is to establish a proper ratio between inch and time. Eight years ago I had good reason to say the same thing of myself, but my inch has lengthened out in a most extraordinary way. Still I confess we are getting older; and my dear wife has been greatly shaken by repeated attacks of violent pain which seizes her quite unexpectedly. I am always glad, both on her account and my own, to get back into the quiet and good air here as fast as possible, and in another year or two, if I live so long, I shall clear out of all engagements that take me away. . .T. H. Huxley.

May 26, 1893


My dear Foster–Your letter has been following me about. I had not got rid of my influenza at Oxford, so the exertion and the dinner parties together played the deuce with me.

We had got so far as the Great Northern Hotel on our way to some connections in Lincolnshire, when I had to give up and retreat here to begin convalescing again.

I do not feel sure of coming to the Harvey affair after all. But if I do, it will be alone, and I think I had better accept the hospitality of the college; which will by no means be so jolly as Shelford, but probably more prudent, considering the necessity of dining out.

The fact is, my dear friend, I am getting old.

I am very sorry to hear you have been doing your influenza also. It's a beastly thing, as I have it, no symptoms except going flop.–Ever yours,

T. H. Huxley.

Nobody sees that the lecture is a very orthodox production on the text (if there is such a one), "Satan the Prince of this world."

I think the remnant of influenza microbes must have held a meeting in my corpus after the lecture, and resolved to reconquer the territory. But I mean to beat the brutes.

May 30, 1893

[To Romanes]

Many thanks for the Oxford Magazine. The writer of the article is about the only critic I have met with yet who understands my drift. My wife says it is a "sensible" article, but her classification is a very simple one–sensible articles are those that contain praise, "stupid" those that show insensibility to my merits!

Really I thought it very sensible, without regard to the plums in the pudding.

June 5, 1893


[To Lord Farrer]

Ci devant Citoyen Pétion (autrefois le vertueux)–You have lost all chance of leading the forces of the County Council to the attack of the Horse-Guards.

You will become an émigré, and John Burns will have to content himself with the heads of the likes of me. As the Jacobins said of Lavoisier, the Republic has no need of men of science.

But this prospect need not interfere with sending our hearty congratulations to Lady Farrer and yourself.

As for your criticisms, don't you know that I am become a reactionary and secret friend of the clerics?

My lecture is really an effort to put the Christian doctrine that Satan is the Prince of the world upon a scientific foundation.

Just consider it in this light, and you will understand why I was so warmly welcomed in Oxford. (N.B.–The only time I spoke before was in 1860, when the great row with Samuel came off!!)–Ever yours very faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

July 15, 1893&

Hodeslea, Eastbourne

My dear Skelton–I fear I must admit that even a Gladstonian paper occasionally tells the truth. They never mean to, but we all have our lapses from the rule of life we have laid down for ourselves, and must be charitable.

The fact is, I got influenza in the spring, and have never managed to shake right again, any tendency that way being well counteracted by the Romanes lecture and its accompaniments.

So we are off to the Maloja to-morrow. It mended up the shaky old heart-pump five years ago, and I hope will again..

I have been in Orkney, and believe in the air, but I cannot say quite so much for the scenery. I thought it just a wee little bit, shall I say, bare? But then I have a passion for mountains.

I shall be right glad to know what your H.O.M. [The "Old Man of Hoy," a pseudonym under which Sir J. Skelton wrote.] has to say about Ethics and Evolution. You must remember that my lecture was kind of an egg-dance. Good manners bound me over to say nothing offensive to the Christians in the amphitheatre (I was in the arena), and truthfulness, on the other hand, bound me to say nothing that I did not fully mean. Under these circumstances one has to leave a great many i's undotted and t's uncrossed.

Pray remember me very kindlly to Mrs. Skelton,and believe me–Yours ever, T. H. Huxley.

October 1, 1893

Hodeslea, Easbourne My dear Hooker–I am no better than a Gadarene swine for not writing to you from the Maloja, but I was too procrastinatingly lazy to expend even that amount of energy. I found I could walk as well as ever, but unless I was walking I was everlastingly seedy, and the wife was unwell almost all the time. I am inclined to think that it is coming home which is the most beneficial part of going abroad, for I am remarkably well now, and my wife is very much better.

I trust the impaled and injudicious Richard is none the worse. It is wonderful what boys go through (also what goes through them).

You will get all the volumes of my screeds. I was horrified to find what a lot of stuff there was–but don't acknowledge them unless the spirit moves you. . . . I think that on Natural Inequality of Man will be to your taste.

Three, or thirty, guesses and you shall not guess what I am about to tell you.

Rev. Richard Owen has written to me to ask me to write a concluding chapter for the biography of his grandfather–containing a "critical" estimate of him and his work! ! ! Says he is moved thereto by my speech at the meeting for a memorial.

There seemed nothing for me to do but to accept as far as the scientific work goes. I declined any personal estimate on the ground that we had met in private society half a dozen times.

If you don't mind being bothered I should like to send you what I write and have your opinion about it.

You see Jowett is going or gone. I am very sorry we were obliged to give up our annual visit to him this year. But I was quite unable to stand the exertion, even if Hames had not packed me off. How one's old friends are dropping!

Romanes gave me a pitiable account of himself in a letter the other day. He has had an attack of hemiplegic paralysis and tells me he is a mere wreck. That means that the worst anticipations of his case are being verified. It is lamentable.

Take care of yourself, my dear old friend, and with our love to you both, believe me, ever yours,

T. H. Huxley

October 12, 1893


Dear Professor Pelseneer–I am very glad to hear from you that the homology of the cephalopod arms with the gasteropod foot is now generally admitted. When I advocated that opinion in my memoir on the "Morphology of the Cephalous Mollusca," some forty years ago, it was thought a great heresy.

As to publication; I am quite willing to agree to whatever arrangement you think desirable, so long as you are kind enough to take all trouble (but that of "consulting physician") off my shoulders. Perhaps putting both names to the memoir, as you suggest, will be the best way. I cannot undertake to write anything, but if you think I can be of any use as an adviser or critic, do not hesitate to demand my services.–Ever yours very faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

October 27, 1893

Dear Professor Seth–A report of your lecture on "Man and Nature" has just reached me. Accept my cordial thanks for defending me, and still more for understanding me.

I really have been unable to understand what my critics have been dreaming of when they raise the objection that the ethical process being part of the cosmic process cannot be opposed to it.

They might as well say that artifice does not oppose nature because it is a part of nature in the broadest sense.

However, it is one of the conditions of the "Romanes Lecture" that no allusion shall be made to religion or politics. I had to make my omelette without breaking any of those eggs, and the task was not easy.

The prince of scientific expositors, Faraday, was once asked, "How much may a popular lecturer suppose his audience knows?" He replied emphatically, "Nothing." Mine was not exactly a popular audience, but I ought not to have forgotten Faraday's rule.–Yours very faithfully,

T. H. Huxley.

December 1, 1893

My dear Knowles–Your telegram gave me a great shock this morning, as it reached me a quarter of an hour before the "Times," and I sent you a dazed sort of reply.

I am telegraphing now to say that I will write something and send you, and asking how much time you can give me.

Poor dear old fellow! I wish I had seen him again. Few people knew him as well as I; and you know how I stood up for him against all comers.

I do not understand the need for an inquest, unless there is more than appears on the face of the "Times" statement.

Letters of 1892
Letters of 1894

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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