Thomas Henry Huxley.

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LIFE AND LETTERS OF
THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY

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Portrait after the Painting by the Hon. John Collier
in the National Portrait Gallery, 1883.

Frontispiece.



LIFE AND LETTERS

> OF

THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY



BY HIS SON

LEONARD HUXLEY



IN TWO VOLUMES



VOL. II




NEW YORK

D. APPLETON AND COMPANY

1900



COPYRIGHT, 1900,
BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY.




54806



CONTENTS



CHAPTER
I.

II.
III.
IV.

V.

VI.

VII.

VIII.

IX.

X.

XL

XII.

XIII.

XIV.

XV.

XVI.

XVII.

XVIII.

XIX.

XX.

XXI.

XXII.

XXIII.



(1879)

(1881)

(1882)

(1883)
(1884)
(1884-1885)
(1885)

(1886)
(1886)

(1887)
(1887)

(1888)
(1888)
(1889)

(1889)

(1890-1891)
(1890-1891)

(1892)
(1892)
(1892)

(1893)
(1894)
(1895)



PAGE
I

21
40

52

70

8 4

Ill

129

146

160
180
198

214
230

252

274
294



338
35i
365

393
418



v



vi LIFE OF PROFESSOR HUXLEY

CHAPTER PAGE

XXIV 427

XXV. (1895) 449

*

APPENDIX I 473

APPENDIX II 478

APPENDIX III 480

APPENDIX IV 499

INDEX 505



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



FACING
PAGE



Portrait after the Painting by the Hon. John Collier in the

National Portrait Gallery, 1883 . . . Frontispiece
Portrait from a Photograph by H. Huxley, about 1881 . . 18
Portrait from a Photograph by Downey, 1890 .... 270
Photogravure after a Photograph of the Residence of Thomas

H. Huxley, at Hodeslea, England 294

The Study at Hodeslea from a Water-colour by Reginald

Barrett 310

Portrait from a Photograph by Mayall, 1893 .... 374
Facsimile of a Sketch, Pithecanthropus credits . . . .417
Portrait with his Grandson, from a Photograph by Kent and

Lacey, 1895 460

vii



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CHAPTER I
1879

MUCH of the work noted down for 1878 reappears in
my father's list for 1879. He was still at work upon, or
meditating his Crayfish, his Introduction to Psychology, the
Spirula Memoir, and a new edition of the Elementary Physi-
ology. Professor H. N. Martin writes about the changes
necessary for adapting the " Practical Biology " to American
needs ; the article on Harvey was waiting to be put into
permanent form. Besides giving an address at the Working
Men's College, he lectured on Sensation and the Uniformity
of the Sensiferous Organs (Coll. Ess. vi.), at the Royal In-
stitution, Friday evening, March 7 ; and on Snakes, both at
the Zoological Gardens, June 5, and at the London Insti-
tution, December i. On February 3 he read a paper at the
Royal Society on The Characters of the Pelvis in the
Mammalia, and the Conclusions respecting the Origin of
Mammals which may be based on them " ; and published in
Nature for November 6 a paper on ' Certain Errors Re-
specting the Structure of the Heart, attributed to Aristotle."

Great interest attaches to this paper. He had always
wondered how Aristotle, in dissecting a heart, had come to
assert that it contained only three chambers ; and the desire
to see for himself what stood in the original, uncommented
on by translators who were not themselves anatomists, was
one of the chief reasons (I think the wish to read the Greek
Testament in the original was another) which operated in
making him take up the study of Greek late in middle life.
His practice was to read in his book until he had come to
ten new words ; these he looked out, parsed, and wrote
37 i



2 LIFE OF PROFESSOR HUXLEY CHAP, i

down together with their chief derivatives. This was his
daily portion.

When at last he grappled with the passage in question,
he found that Aristotle had correctly described what he saw
under the special conditions of his dissection, when the right
auricle actually appears as he described it, an enlargement
of the ' great vein." So that this, at least, ought to be
removed from the list of Aristotle's errors. The same is
shown to be the case with his statements about respiration.
His own estimate of Aristotle as a physiologist is between
the panegyric of Cuvier and the depreciation of Lewes, " he
carried science a step beyond the point at which he found it ;
a meritorious, but not a miraculous, achievement." And it
will interest scholars to know that from his own experience
as a lecturer, Huxley was inclined to favour the theory that
the original manuscripts of the Historia Animalium, with
their mingled accuracy and absurdity, were notes taken by
some of his students. This essay was reprinted in Science
and Culture, p. 180.

This year he brought out his second volume of essays on
various subjects, written from 1870 to 1878, under the title
of Critiques and Addresses, and later in the year, his long-
delayed and now entirely recast Introductory Primer in the
Science Primer Series.

6 BARNEPARK TERRACE, TEIGNMOUTH,
Sept, 12, 1879.

MY DEAR ROSCOE I send you by this post my long-promised
Primer, and a like set of sheets goes to Stewart.*

You will see that it is quite different from my first sketch,
Geikie's primer having cut me out of that line but / think it
much better.

You will see that the idea is to develop Science out of com-
mon observation, and to lead up to Physics, Chemistry, Biology,
and Psychology.

I want the thing to be good as far as it goes, so don't spare
criticism. Ever yours very faithfully, T. H. HUXLEY.

Best remembrances from us all, which we are jolly.

* Balfour Stewart, Professor of Natural Philosophy in Owens Col-
lege, Manchester.



1879 ASSOCIATION OF LIBERAL THINKERS 3

To his other duties he now added that of a Governor of
Eton College, a post which he held till 1888, when, after
doing what he could to advance progressive ideas of educa-
tion, and in particular, getting a scheme adopted for making
drawing part of the regular curriculum, ill-health compelled
him to resign.

As for other pressure of work (he writes to Dr. Dohrn,
February 16), with the exception of the Zoological Society, I
never have anything to do with the affairs of any society but
the Royal now I find the latter takes up all my disposable
time. . . . Take comfort from me. I find 53 to be a very youth-
ful period of existence. I have been better physically, and
worked harder mentally, this last twelvemonth than in any
year of my life. So a mere boy, not yet 40 like you, may look
to the future hopefully.

From about this time dates the inception of a short-lived
society, to be called the Association of Liberal Thinkers.
It had first taken shape in the course of a conversation at
Prof. W. K. Clifford's house ; the chief promoter and or-
ganiser being a well-known Theistic preacher, while on the
council were men of science, critics, and scholars in various
branches of learning. Huxley was chosen President, and
the first meeting of officers and council took place at his
house on January 25.

Professor G. J. Romanes was asked to join, but refused
on the ground that even if the negations which he supposed
the society would promulgate, were true, it was not expe-
dient to offer them to the multitude. To this Huxley wrote
the following reply (January 2, 1879) :

Many thanks for your letter. I think it is desirable to ex-
plain that our Society is by no means intended to constitute a
propaganda of negations, but rather to serve as a centre of free
thought.

Of course I have not a word to say in respect of your de-
cision. I quite appreciate your view of the matter, though it is
diametrically opposed to my own conviction that the more
rapidly truth is spread among mankind the better it will be
for them.

Only let us be sure that it is truth.



4 LIFE OF PROFESSOR HUXLEY CHAP, i

However, a course of action was proposed which by no
means commended itself to several members of the council.
Tyndall begs Huxley " not to commit us to a venture of the
kind unless you see clearly that it meets a public need, and
that it will be worked by able men," and on February 6 the
latter writes

After careful consideration of the whole circumstances of
the case, I have definitely arrived at the conclusion that it is not
expedient to go on with the undertaking.

I therefore resign my Presidency, and I will ask you to be
so good as to intimate my withdrawal from the association to
my colleagues.

In spite of having long ago ' burned his ships ' with
regard to both the great Universities, Huxley was agreeably
surprised by a new sign of the times from Cambridge. The
University now followed up its recognition of Darwin two
years before, by offering Huxley an honorary degree, an
event of which he wrote to Professor Baynes on June 9 :

I shall be glorious in a red gown at Cambridg'e to-morrow,
and hereafter look to be treated as a PERSON OF RESPECTABILITY.

I have done my best to avoid that misfortune, but it's of
no use.

A curious coincidence occurred here. Mr. Sandys, the
public orator,* in his speech presenting him for the degree,
picked out one of his characteristics for description in the

* The speech delivered by the public orator on this occasion (June
10, 1879) ran as follows : Academi inter silvas qui verum quaerunt,
non modo ipsi veritatis lumine vitam hanc umbratilem illustrare
conantur, sed illustrissimutn quemque veritatis investigatorem aliunde
delatum ea qua par est comitate excipiunt. Adest vir cui in veritate
exploranda ampla sane provincia contigit, qui sive in animantium
sive in arborum et herbarum genere quicquid vivit investigat, ipsum
illud vivere quid sit, quali ex origine natum sit ; qui exquirit quae
cognationis necessitudo inter priores illas viventium species et has
quae etiam nunc supersunt, intercedat. Olim in Oceano Australi, ubi
rectis " oculis monstra natantia" vidit, victoriam prope primam, velut
alter Perseus, a Medusa reportavit ; varias deinceps animantium
formas quasi ab ipsa Gorgone in saxum versas sagacitate singulari
explicavit ; vitae denique universae explorandae vitam suam totam
dedicavit. Physicorum inter principes diu honoratus, idem (ut verbum



1879 "TENAX PROPOSITI" 5

Horatian phrase, ! Propositi tenax." Now this was the
family motto ; and Huxley wrote to point out the coin-
cidence :

SCIENCE AND ART DEPARTMENT,
SOUTH KENSINGTON, June n, 1879.

MY DEAR MR. SANDYS I beg your acceptance of the inclosed
photograph, which is certainly the best ever executed of me.

And by way of a memento of the claim which you established
not only to the eloquence but also the insight of a prophet, I have
added an impression of the seal with " Tenax propositi ' writ
plain, if not large. As I mentioned to you, it belonged to my
eldest brother, who has been dead for many years. I trust that
the Heralds' College may be as well satisfied as he was about
his right to the coat of arms and crest.

My own genealogical inquiries have taken me so far back
that I confess the later stages do not interest me. Ever yours
very faithfully, T. H. HUXLEY.



The British Association met at Sheffield in 1879,
Huxley took this occasion to " eat the leek ' in the matter
of Bathybius (see vol. i. p. 318). It must be remembered
that his original interpretation of the phenomenon did not
involve any new theory of the origin of life, and was not
put forward because of its supposed harmony with Darwin's
speculations.*

mutuemur a Cartesio illo cujus laudes ipse in hac urbe quondam
praedicavit) etiam " metaphysica " honore debito prosecutus est.
Ilium demum liberaliter educatum esse existimat qui cum ceteris
animi et corporis dotibus instructus sit, turn praesertim quicquid turpe
sit oderit, quicquid sive in arte sive in rerum natura pulchrum sit
diligat ; neque tamen ipse (ut ait Aristoteles) " animalium parum
pulchrorum contemplationem fastidio puerili reformidat" ; sed in per-
petua animantium serie hominis vestigia perscrutari conatus, satis
ampla liberalitate in universa rerum natura " humani nihil a se alie-
num putat." Duco ad vos virum intrepidum, facundum, propositi
tenacem, Thomam Henricum Huxley.

* " That which interested me in the matter was the apparent anal-
ogy of Bathybius with other well-known forms of lower life, such as
the plasmodia of the Myxomycetes and the Rhizopods. Speculative
hopes or fears had nothing to do with the matter ; and if Bathybitis
were brought up alive from the bottom of the Atlantic to-morrow, the
fact would not have the slightest bearing, that I can discern, upon
Mr. Darwin's speculations, or upon any of the disputed problems of



6 LIFE OF PROFESSOR HUXLEY CHAP, i

In supporting a vote of thanks to Dr. Allman, the Presi-
dent, for his address, he said (see Nature, Aug. 28, 1879) :

I will ask you to allow me to say one word rather upon my
own account, in order to prevent a misconception which, I think,
might arise, and which I should regret if it did arise. I daresay
that no one in this room, who has attained middle life, has been
so fortunate as to reach that age without being obliged, now
and then, to look back upon some acquaintance, or, it may be,
intimate ally of his youth, who has not quite verified the
promises of that youth. Nay, let us suppose he has done quite
the reverse, and has become a very questionable sort of char-
acter, and a person whose acquaintance does not seem quite so
desirable as it was in those young days; his way and yours have
separated; you have not heard much about him; but eminently
trustworthy persons have assured you he has done this, that,
or the other; and is more or less of a black sheep, in fact. The
President, in an early part of his address, alluded to a certain
thing I hardly know whether I ought to call it a thing or not
of which he gave you the name Bathybius, and he stated, with
perfect justice, that I had brought that thing into notice; at any
rate, indeed, I christened it, and I am, in a certain sense, its
earliest friend. For some time after that interesting Bathybius
was launched into the world, a number of admirable persons
took the little thing by the hand, and made very much of it,
and as the President was good enough to tell you, I am glad
to be able to repeat and verify all the statements, as a matter
of fact, which I had ventured to make about it. And so things
went on, and I thought my young friend Bathybius would turn
out a credit to me. But I am sorry to say, as time has gone on,
he has not altogether verified the promise of his youth.

In the first place, as the President told you, he could not be
found when he was wanted; and in the second place, when he
was found, all sorts of things were said about him. Indeed,
I regret to be obliged to tell you that some persons of severe
minds went so far as to say that he was nothing but simply a
gelatinous precipitate of slime, which had carried down organic
matter. If that is so, I am very sorry for it, for whoever may
have joined in this error, I am undoubtedly primarily responsible
for it. But I do not know at the present time of my own know-
ledge how the matter stands. Nothing would please me more

biology. It would merely be one elementary organism the more
added to the thousands already known." (Coll. Ess. v. 154.)



1879 LETTER TO SKELTON 7

than to investigate the matter afresh in the way it ought to be
investigated, but that would require a voyage of some time,
and the investigation of this thing in its native haunts is a kind
of work for which, for many years past, I have had no oppor-
tunity, and which I do not think I am very likely to enjoy again.
Therefore my own judgment is in an absolute state of sus-
pension about it. I can only assure you what has been said
about this friend of mine, but I cannot say whether what is said
is justified or not. But I feel very happy about the matter.
There is one thing about us men of science, and that is, no one
who has the greatest prejudice against science can venture to
say that we ever endeavour to conceal each other's mistakes.
And, therefore, I rest in the most entire and complete confidence
that if this should happen to be a blunder of mine, some day or
other it will be carefully exposed by somebody. But pray let me
remind you whether all this story about Bathybius be right or
wrong, makes not the slightest difference to the general argu-
ment of the remarkable address put before you to-night. All the
statements your President has made are just as true, as pro-
foundly true, as if this little eccentric Bathybius did not exist
at all.

Several letters of miscellaneous interest may be quoted.

The following acknowledges the receipt of Essays in
Romance:

4 MARYBOROUGH PLACE, LONDON, N.W.,
January 1879.

MY DEAR SKELTON Being the most procrastinating letter-
writer in existence, I thought, or pretended to think, when I
received your Essays in Romance that it would not be decent
to thank you until I had read the book. And when I had done
myself that pleasure, I further pretended to think that it would
be much better to wait till I could send you my Hume book,
which, as it contains a biography, is the nearest approach to a
work of fiction of which I have yet been guilty.

The ' Hume ' : was sent, and I hope reached you a week
ago, and as my conscience just now inquired in a very sneering
and unpleasant tone whether I had any further pretence for
not writing on hand, I thought I might as well stop her mouth
at once.

You will see oddly enough that I have answered your ques-
tion about dreams in a sort of way on page 96.*

* Cp. Essays in Romance, p. 329 ; Huxley's Htwie, p. 96.



8 LIFE OF PROFESSOR HUXLEY CHAP, i

You will get nothing but praise for your book, and I shall be
vilipended for mine. Is that fact, or is it not an evidence of a
special Providence and Divine Government?

Pray remember me very kindly to Mrs. Skelton. I hope your
interrupted visit will yet become a fact. We have a clean bill
of health now. Ever yours very faithfully,

T. H. HUXLEY.

SCOTTISH UNIVERSITY COMMISSION,

31 QUEEN STREET, EDINBURGH, April 2, 1879.
MY DEAR SKELTON I shall be delighted to dine with you on
Wednesday, and take part in any discussion either moral or
immoral that may be started. Ever yours very faithfully,

T. H. HUXLEY.

March 15, 1879.

MY DEAR MRS. TYNDALL Your hearty letter is as good as a
bottle of the best sunshine. Yes, I will lunch with you on Friday
with pleasure, and Jess proposes to attend on the occasion. . . .
Her husband is in Gloucester, and so doesn't count. The absurd
creature declares she must go back to him on Saturday stuff
and sentiment. She has only been here six or seven weeks.
There is nothing said in Scripture about a wife cleaving to her
husband ! With all our loves, ever yours very sincerely,

T. H. HUXLEY.

The next is to his son, then at St. Andrews University,
on winning a scholarship tenable at Oxford.

SOUTH KENSINGTON, April 21, 1879.

MY DEAR BOY I was very glad to get your good news this

morning, and I need not tell you whether M was pleased or

not.

But the light of nature doth not inform us of the value and
duration of the " Guthrie " and from a low and material point
of view I should like to be informed on that subject. However,
this is " mere matter of detail " as the Irishman said when he
was asked how he had killed his landlord. The pleasure to us is
that you have made good use of your opportunities, and finished
this first stage of your journey so creditably.

I am about to write to the Master of Balliol for advice as to
your future proceedings. In the meanwhile, go in for the enjoy-
ment of your holiday with a light heart. You have earned it.
Ever your loving father, T. H. HUXLEY.



LETTERS g

The following, to Mrs. Clifford, was called forth by a
hitch in respect to the grant to her of a Civil List pension
after the death of her husband :

4 MARYBOROUGH PLACE, Jtily 19, 1879.

MY DEAR LUCY I am just off to Gloucester to fetch M

back, and I shall have a long talk with that sage little woman
over your letter.

In the meanwhile keep quiet and do nothing. I feel the force
of what you say very strongly so strongly, in fact, that I must
morally ice myself and get my judgment clear and cool before I
advise you what is to be done.

I am very sorry to hear you have been so ill. For the
present dismiss the matter from your thoughts and give your
mind to getting better. Leave it all to be turned over in the
mind of that cold-blooded, worldly, cynical old fellow, who signs
himself Your affectionate PATER.

The last is to Mr. Edward Clodd, on receiving his book
Jesus of Nazareth.

4 MARLBOROUGH PLACE, ABBEY ROAD, N.W.,
Dec. 21, 1879.

MY DEAR MR. CLODD I have been spending all this Sunday
afternoon over the book you have been kind enough to send me,
and being a swift reader, I have travelled honestly from cover
to cover.

It is the book I have been longing to see; in spirit, matter
and form it appears to me to be exactly what people like myself
have been wanting. For though for the last quarter of a century
I have done all that lay in my power to oppose and destroy the
idolatrous accretions of Judaism and Christianity, I have never
had the slightest sympathy with those who, as the Germans say,
would " throw the child away along with the bath " and when
I was a member of the London School Board I fought for the
retention of the Bible, to the great scandal of some of my
Liberal friends who can't make out to this day whether I was
a hypocrite, or simply a fool on that occasion.

But my meaning was that the mass of the people should not
be deprived of the one great literature which is open to them
not shut out from the perception of their relations with the
whole past history of civilised mankind not excluded from such
a view of Judaism and Jesus of Nazareth as that which at last
you have given us.



10 LIFE OF PROFESSOR HUXLEY CHAP, i

I cannot doubt that your work will have a great success not
only in the grosser, but the better sense of the word. I am
yours very faithfully, T. H. HUXLEY.

The winter of 1879-80 was memorable for its prolonged
spell of cold weather. One result of this may be traced in
a New Year's letter from Huxley to his eldest daughter.
4 I have had a capital holiday mostly in bed but I don't
feel so grateful for it as I might do." To be forced to avoid
the many interruptions and distractions of his life in London,
which claimed the greater part of his time, he would regard
as an unmixed blessing; as he once said feelingly to Pro-
fessor Marsh, " If I could only break my leg, what a lot of
scientific work I could do ! ' But he was less grateful for
having entire inaction forced upon him.

However, he was soon about again, and wrote as follows
in answer to a letter from Sir Thomas (afterwards Lord)
Farrer, which called his attention, as an old Fishery Com-
missioner, to a recent report on the sea-fisheries.

4 MARLBOROUGH PLACE, Jan. 9, 1880.

MY DEAR FARRER I shall be delighted to take a dive into the
unfathomable depths of official folly; but your promised docu-
ment 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.

A fresh chapter of research, the results of which he now
began to give to the public, \vas the history of the Dog.
On April 6 and 13 he lectured at the Royal Institution
' On Dogs and the Problems connected with them " their
relation to other animals, and the problem of the origin of
the domestic dog, and the dog-like animals in general. As



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