Thomas Henry Huxley.

Life and letters of Thomas Henry Huxley online

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puts me in a funk.

I wish I could get out of the chair of the M.B.A. also. . . .
I know that you and Evans and Dyer will do your best, but you
are all eaten up with other occupations.

Just turn it over in your mind there's a dear good fellow
just as if you hadn't any other occupations.

With which eminently reasonable and unselfish request be-
lieve me Ever yours, T. H. H.


MY DEAR FOSTER I send by this post the last I hope for

your sake and for that of the recording angei of .* I

agree to all Brady's suggestions.

With all our tinkering I feel inclined to wind up the affair
after the manner of Mr. Shandy's summing [up] of the discus-
sion about Tristram's breeches " And when he has got 'em
he'll look a beast in 'em." Ever yours, T. H. H.

April 12. To the same:

I am quite willing to remain at the M.B.A. till the opening.
If Evans will be President I shall be happy.

is a very good man, but you must not expect too much

of the " wild-cat " element, w 7 hich is so useful in the world, in

I am disgusted with myself for letting everything go by the
run, but there is no help for it. The least thing bowls me over
just now.


MY DEAR HOOKER I plead not guilty.f It was agreed at the
last meeting that there should be none in April I suppose by
reason of Easter, so I sent no notice. This is what Frankland
told me in his letter of the 2nd. However, I see you were
present, so I can't make it out.

My continual absence makes me a shocking bad Treasurer,

* The " Heathen Deutscheree " of p. 201. A paper of his, contrib-
uted to the Royal Society, had been under revision.

f In the matter of sending out no notices for a meeting of the x



and I am sorry to say that things will be worse instead of better.
Ever since this last pleuritic business I have been troubled with
praecordial uneasiness. [After an account of his symptoms he
continues] So I am off (with my wife) to Switzerland at the
end of this month, and shall be away all the summer. We have
not seen the Engadine and Tyrol yet, so we shall probably make
a long circuit. It is a horrid nuisance to be exiled in this
fashion. I have hardly been at home one month in the last ten.
But it is of no use to growl.

Under these circumstances, would you mind looking after
the x while I am away? There is nothing to do but to send the
notices on Saturday previous to the meeting.

I am very grieved to hear about Hirst though to say truth,
the way he has held out for so long has been a marvel to me.
The last news I had of Spencer was not satisfactory.

Eheu ! the " Table Round " is breaking up. It's a great pity;
we were such pleasant fellows, weren't we? Ever yours,



MY DEAR FOSTER I am cheered by your liking of the notice
of Darwin. I read the " Life and Letters," and the " Origin,"
Krause's " Life," and some other things over again in order to
do it. But I have not much go in me, and I was a scandalous
long time pottering over the writing.

I have sent the proof back with a variety of interpolations.
I would have brought the " Spirula " notes down here to see
what I could do, but I felt pretty sure that if I brought two
things I should not do one. Nobody could do anything with it
but myself. I will try what I can do when I go to town. How
much time is there before the wind-up of the Challenger?

We go up to town Monday next, and I am thinking of being
off the Monday following (Ap. 30). I have come to the same
conclusion as yourself, that Glion would be better than Grindel-
wald. I should like very much to see you. Just drop me a line
to say when you are likely to turn up.

Poor Arnold's death * has been a great shock rather for his
wife than himself I mean on her account than his. I have
always thought sudden death to be the best of all for oneself,
but under such circumstances it is terrible for those who are

* Matthew Arnold died suddenly of heart disease at Liverpool,
where he had gone to meet his daughter on her return from America.


left. Arnold told me years ago that he had heart disease. I do
not suppose there is any likelihood of an immediate catastrophe
in my own case. I should not go abroad if there were. Imagine
the horror of leaving one's wife to fight all the difficulties of
sudden Euthanasia in a Swiss hotel ! I saw enough of that

two years ago at Arolla. Ever yours,

1. rl. HUXLEY.

4 MARLBOROUGH PLACE, April 25, 1888.

MY DEAR HOOKER All my beautiful Swiss plans are knocked
on the head at any rate for the present in favour of hori-
zontality and Digitalis here. The journey up on Monday demon-
strated that travelling, at present, was impracticable.

Hames is sanguine I shall get right with rest, and I am quite
satisfied with his opinion, but for the sake of my belongings he
thinks it right to have Clark's opinion to fortify him.

It is a bore to be converted into a troublesome invalid even
for a few weeks, but I comfort myself with my usual reflection
on the chances of life, " Lucky it is no worse." Any impatience
would have been checked by what I heard about Moseley this
morning that he has sunk into hopeless idiocy. A man in the
prime of life ! Ever yours,



MY DEAR HOOKER Best thanks for your note and queries.

I remember hearing what you say about Darwin's father
long ago, I am not sure from what source. But if you look at
p. 20 of the Life and Letters you will see that D. himself says his
father's mind " was not scientific." I have altered the passage
so as to 'use these exact words.

I used " malice " rather in the French sense, which is more
innocent than ours, but " irony " would be better if " malice " in
any way suggests malignity. " Chaff " is unfortunately beneath
the dignity of an R.S. obituary.

I am going to add a short note about Erasmus Darwin's

It is a great comfort to me that you like the thing. I am
getting nervous over possible senility 63 to-day, and nothing
of your evergreen ways about me.

I am decidedly mending, chiefly to all appearance by allow-
ing myself to be stuffed with meat and drink like a Strasburg
goose. I am also very much afraid that abolishing tobacco has
had something to do with my amendment.

1888 LETTERS 211

But I am mindful of your maxim keep a tight hold over
your doctor. Ever yours very faithfully,


PS. i. Can't say I have sacrificed anything to penmanship,
and am not at all sure about lucidity !

PS. 2. It is " Friday " there is a dot over the i reopened
my letter to crow !

The following letter to Mr. Spencer is in answer to a
note of condolence on his illness, in which the following
passage occurs :

I was grieved to hear of so serious an evil as that which
[Hirst] named. It is very depressing to find one's friends as
well as one's self passing more and more into invalid life.

Well, we always have one consolation, such as it is, that we
have made our lives of some service in the world, and that, in
fact, we are suffering from doing too much for our fellows.
Such thoughts do not go far in the way of mitigation, but they
are better than nothing.


MY DEAR SPENCER I have been on the point of writing to
you, but put it off for lack of anything cheerful to say.

After I had recovered from my pleurisy, I could not think
why my strength did not come back. It turns out that there is
some weakness and dilatation of the heart, but luckily no valvu-
lar mischief. I am condemned to the life of a prize pig physical
and mental idleness, and corporeal stuffing with meat and drink,
and I am certainly improving under the regimen.

I am told I have a fair chance of getting all right again.
But I take it as a pretty broad hint to be quiet for the rest of
my days. At present I have to be very quiet, and I spend most
of my time on my back.

You and I, my dear friend, have had our innings, and carry
our bats out while our side is winning. One could not reason-
ably ask for more. And considering the infinite possibilities of
physical and moral suffering which beset us, I, for my part, am
well pleased that things are no worse. Ever yours very faith-
fully, T. H. HUXLEY.

4 MARLBOROUGH PLACE, N.W.,y>/;/^ i, 1888.
MY DEAR KNOWLES I have been living the life of a prize
pig for the last six weeks no exercise, much meat and drink,


and as few manifestations of intelligence as possible, for the
purpose of persuading my heart to return to its duty.

I am astonished to find that there is a kick left in me even
when your friend Krapotkin pitches into me without the smallest
justification. Vide XIX., June, p. 820.

Just look at XIX., February, p. 168. I say, "At the present
time, the produce of the soil does not suffice," etc.

I did not say a word about the capabilities of the soil if, as
part and parcel of a political and social revolution on the grand-
est scale, we all took to spade husbandry.

As a matter of fact, I did try to find out a year or two ago,
whether the soil of these islands could, under any circumstances,
feed its present population with wheat. I could not get any
definite information, but I understood Caird to think that it

In my argument, however, the question is of no moment.
There must be some limit to the production of food by a given
area, and there is none to population.

What a stimulus vanity is ! nothing but the vain dislike of
being thought in the wrong would have induced me to trouble
myself or bore you with this letter. Bother Krapotkin !

I think his article very interesting and important never-

I am getting better, but very slowly. Ever yours very truly,


In reply, Mr. Knowles begged him to come to lunch
and a quiet talk, and further suggested, "as an entirely un-
biassed person," that he ought to answer Krapotkin's errors
in the Nineteenth Century, and not only in a private letter
behind his back.

The answer is as follows :

4 MARLBOROUGH PLACE, N.W.,y*m^ 3, 1888.

MY DEAR KNOWLES Your invitation is tantalising. I wish
I could accept it. But it is now some six weeks that my ex-
cursions have been limited to a daily drive. The rest of my
time I spend on the flat of my back, eating, drinking, and doing
absolutely nothing besides, except taking iron and digitalis.

I meant to have gone abroad a month ago, but it turned out
that my heart was out of order, and though I am getting better,
progress is slow, and I do not suppose 1 shall get away for some
weeks yet.



I have neither brains nor nerves, and the very thought of
controversy puts me in a blue funk !

My doctors prophesy good things, as there is no valvular
disease, only dilatation. But for the present I must subscribe
myself (from an editorial point of view) Your worthless and
useless and bad-hearted friend, T. H. HUXLEY.


The British Association was to meet at Plymouth this
year; and Mr. W. F. Collier (an uncle of John Collier, his
son-in-law) invited Huxley and any friend of his to be his
guest at Horrabridge.


MY DEAR MR. COLLIER It would have been a great pleasure
to me to be your guest once more, but the Fates won't have it
this time.

Dame Nature has given me a broad hint that I have had my
innings, and, for the rest of my time, must be content to look on
at the players.

It is not given- to all of us to defy the doctors and go in for
a new lease, as I am glad to hear you are doing. I declare that
your open invitation to any friend of mine is the most touching
mark of confidence I ever received. I am going to send it to
my great ally Michael Foster, Secretary of the Royal Society.
I do not know whether he has made any other arrangements,
and I am not quite sure whether he and his wife are going to
Plymouth. But I hope they may be able to accept, for you \vill
certainly like them, and they will certainly like you. I \vill ask
him to write directly to you to save time.

With very kind remembrances to Mrs. Collier Ever yours
very faithfully, T. H. HUXLEY.

I forgot to say that I am mending as fast as I can expect
to do.


IT was not till June 23 that Huxley was patched up
sufficiently by the doctors for him to start for the Engadine.
His first stage was to Lugano ; the second by Menaggio
and Colico to Chiavenna ; the third to the Maloja. The
summer visitors who saw him arrive so feeble that he could
scarcely walk a hundred yards on the level, murmured that
it was a shame to send out an old man to die there. Their
surprise was the greater when, after a couple of months,
they saw him walking his ten miles and going up two
thousand feet without difficulty. As far as his heart was
concerned, the experiment of sending him to the mountains
was perfectly justified. With returning strength he threw
himself once more into the pursuit of gentians, being es-
pecially interested in their distribution and hybridism, and
the possibility of natural hybrids explaining the apparent
connecting links between species. No doubt, too, he felt
some gratification in learning from his friend Mr. (now
Sir W.) Thiselton Dyer, that the results he had already
obtained in pursuing this hobby had been of real value :

Your important paper " On Alpine Gentians ' : (writes the
latter) has begun to attract the attention of botanists. It has
led Baillon, who is the most acute of the French people, to
make some observations of his own.

At the Maloja he stayed twelve weeks, but it was not
until nearly two months had elapsed that he could write
of any decided improvement, although even then his an-
ticipations for the future were of the gloomiest. The


"secret" alluded to in the following letter is tire destined
award to him of the Copley medal :

OBER ENGADINE, Aug. 17, 1888.

MY DEAR FOSTER I know you will be glad to hear that, at
last, I can report favourably of my progress. The first six weeks
of our stay here the weather was cold, foggy, wet, and windy
in short, everything that it should not be. If the hotel had not
been as it is, about the most comfortable in Switzerland, I do
not know what I should have done. As it was, I got a very
bad attack of " liver," which laid me up for ten days or so. A
Brighton doctor Bluett by name, and well up to his work
kindly looked after me.

With the early days of August the weather changed for the
better, and for the last fortnight we have had perfect summer
day after day. I soon picked up my walking power, and one day
got up to Lake Longhin, about 2000 feet up. That was by way
of an experiment, and I was none the worse for it, but usually
my walks are of a more modest description. To-day we are all
clouds and rain, and my courage is down to zero, with praecordial
discomfort. It seems to me that my heart is quite strong enough
to do all that can reasonably be required of it if all the rest
of the machinery is in good order, and the outside conditions
are favourable. But the poor old pump cannot contend with
grit or want of oil anywhere.

I mean to stay here as long as I can ; they say it is often
very fine up to the middle of September. Then we shall migrate
lower, probably on the Italian side, and get home most likely in
October. But I really am very much puzzled to know what
to do.

My wife has not been very well lately, and Ethel has con-
trived to sprain her ankle at lawn-tennis. Collier has had to go
to Naples, but we expect him back in a few days.

With our united love to Mrs. Foster and yourself Ever
yours, T. H. HUXLEY.

I was very pleased to hear of a secret my wife communicated
to me. So long as I was of any use, I did not care much about
having the fact recognised, but now that I am used up I like the
feather in my cap. " Fuimus." Let us have some news of you.

Sir M. Foster, who was kept in England by the British
Association till September 10, wrote that he was going


abroad for the rest of September, and proposed to spend
some time at Menaggio, whence he hoped to effect a meet-
ing. He winds up with a jest at his recent unusual occu-
pation : " I have had no end of righteousness accounted
to me for helping to entertain Bishops at Cambridge,"
Hence the postscript in reply :


MY DEAR FOSTER A sharp fall of snow has settled our
minds, which have been long wavering about future plans, and
we leave this for Menaggio, Hotel Vittoria, on Thursday next,

All the wiseacres tell us that there are fresher breezes (vento
di Lecco) at Menaggio than anywhere else in the Como country,
and at anyrate we are going to try whether we can exist there.
If it does not answer, we will leave a note for you there to say
where we are gone. It would be very jolly to forgather.

I am sorry to leave this most comfortable of hotels, but I
do not think that cold would suit either of us. I am marvellously
well so long as I am taking sharp exercise, and I do my nine
or ten miles without fatigue. It is only when I am quiet that
I know that I have a heart.

I do not feel at all sure how matters may be 4000 feet
lower, but what I have gained is all to the good in the way of
general health. In spite of all the bad weather we have had,
I have nothing but praise for this place the air is splendid,
excellent walks for invalids, capital drainage, and the easiest
to reach of all places 6000 feet up.

My wife sends her love, and thanks Mrs. Foster for her
letter, and looks forward to meeting her. Ever yours,


Wash yourself clean of all that episcopal contamination or
you may infect me !

But adverse circumstances prevented the meeting.

HOTEL KURSAAL, MALOJA, Sept. 24, 1888.

MY DEAR FOSTER As ill luck would have it, we went over
to Pont Resina to-day (for the first time), and have only just
got back (5.30). I have just telegraphed to you.

All our plans have been upset by the Fohn wind, which gave
us four days' continuous downpour here upset the roads, and

* He did not ultimately leave till the 22nd.


flooded the Chiavenna-Colico Railway. We hear that the latter
is not yet repaired.

I was going to write to you at the Vittoria, but thought you
could have hardly got there yet. We took rooms there a week
ago, and then had to countermand them. If there are any letters
kicking about for us, will you ask them to send them on ?

By way of an additional complication my poor wife gave
herself an unlucky strain this morning, and even if the railway
is mended I do not think she will be fit to travel for two or
three days. We are very disappointed. What is to be done?

I am wonderfully better. So long as I am taking active
exercise and the weather is dry, I am quite comfortable, and
only discover that I have a heart when I am kept quiet by bad
weather or get my liver out of order. Here I can walk nine
or ten miles up hill and down dale without difficulty or fatigue.
What I may be able to do elsewhere is doubtful. Ever yours,


It would do you and Mrs. Foster a great deal of good to
come up here. Not out of your way at all ! Oh dear no !

ZURICH, Oct. 4, 1888.

MY DEAR FOSTER I should have written to you at Stresa,
but I had mislaid your postcard, and it did not turn up till too

We made up our minds after all that we would as soon not
go down to the Lakes where the ground would be drying up
after the inundations so we went the other way over the Julier
to Tiefenkasten, and from T. to Ragatz, where we stayed a
week. Ragatz was hot and steamy at first cold and steamy
afterwards but earlier in the season, I should think, it would
be pleasant.

Last Monday we migrated here, and have had the vilest
weather until to-day. All yesterday it rained cats and dogs.

To-day we are off to Neuhausen (Schweitzerhof) to have a
look at the Rhine falls. If it is pleasant we may stop there a
few days. Then we go to Stuttgart, on our way to Nuremberg,
which neither of us have seen. We shall be at the " Bavarian
Hotel," and a letter will catch us there, if you have anything to
say, I daresay up to the middle of the month. After that Frank-
fort, and then home.

We do not find long railway journeys very good for either
of us, and I am trying to keep within six hours at a stretch.


I am not so vigorous as I was at Maloja, but still infinitely
better than when I left England.

I hope the mosquitoes left something of you in Venice.
When I was there in October there were none !

My wife joins with me in love to Mrs. Foster and yourself.
Ever yours very faithfully, T. H. HUXLEY.

Some friendly chaff in Sir M. Foster's reply to the latter
contains at least a real indication of the way in which Huxley
became the centre of the little society at the Maloja :

You may reflect that you have done the English tourists a
good service this summer. At most table d'hotes in the Lakes I
overheard people talking about the joys of Maloja, and giving
themselves great airs, on account of their intimacy with " Pro-
fessor Huxley " ! !

But indeed he made several friends here, notably one in
an unexpected quarter. This was Father Steffens, Professor
of Palaeography in Freiburg University, resident Catholic
priest at Maloja in the summer, with whom he had many
discussions, and whose real knowledge of the critical ques-
tions confronting Christian theology he used to contrast
with the frequent ignorance and occasional rudeness of the
English representatives of that science who came to the

A letter to Mr. Spencer from Ragatz shows him on his
return journey :

In fact, so long as I was taking rather sharp exercise in sun-
shine I felt quite well, and I could walk as well as any time these
ten years. It needed damp cold weather to remind me that my
pumping apparatus was not to be depended upon under unfa-
vourable conditions. Four thousand feet descent has impressed
that fact still more forcibly upon me, and I am quite at sea as to
what it will be best to do when we return. Quite certainly,
however, we shall not go to Bournemouth. I like the place,
but the air is too soft and moist for either of us.

I should be very glad if we could be within reach of you
and help to cheer you up, but I cannot say anything definite
at present about our winter doings. . . .

My wife sends her kindest regards. She is much better than
when we left, which is lucky for me, as I have no mind, and



could not make it up if I had any. The only vigour I have is
in my legs, and that only when the sun shines. Ever yours,


A curious incident on this journey deserves recording,
as an instance of a futile " warning." On the night of
October 6-7, Huxley woke in the night and seemed to
hear an inward voice say, ' Don't go to Stuttgart and
Nuremberg; go straight home." All he did was to make
a note of the occurrence and carry out his original plan,
whereupon nothing happened.

The following to his youngest daughter, who had gone
back earlier from the Maloja, refers to her success in win-
ning the prize for modelling at the Slade School of Art.


DEAREST BABS I will sit to you like " Pater on a monument
smiling at grief ' for the medallion. As to the photographs, I
will try to get them done to order either at Stuttgart or Nurem-
berg, if we stay at either place long enough. But I am inclined
to think they had better be done at home, and then you could
adjust the length of the caoutchouc visage to suit your artistic

We have been crowing and flapping our wings over the
medal and trimmings. The only thing I lament is that " your
father's influence " was not brought to bear ; there is no telling
what you might have got if it had been. Thoughtless very ! !

So sorry we did not come here instead of stopping at Ragatz.
The falls are really fine, and the surrounding country a wide table-
land, with the great snowy peaks of the Oberland on the horizon.
Last evening we had a brilliant sunset, and the mountains were
lighted up with the most delicate rosy blush you can imagine.

To-day it rains cats and dogs again. You will have seen in
the papers that the Rhine and the Aar and the Rhone and the
Arve are all in flood. There is more water here in the falls than
there has been these ten years. However, we have got to go,

Online LibraryThomas Henry HuxleyLife and letters of Thomas Henry Huxley → online text (page 19 of 49)