Thomas Henry Huxley.

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rarder." That is to say, I am well for a few days and then all
adrift, and have to put myself right by dosing with Clark's pills,
which are really invaluable. They will make me believe in those
pills I saw advertised in my youth, and which among other
things were warranted to cure ' the indecision of juries." I
really can't make out my own condition. I walked seven or
eight miles this morning over Monte Mario and out on the Cam-
.pagna without any particular fatigue, and yesterday I was as
miserable as an owl in sunshine. Something perhaps must be
put down to the relapse which our poor girl had a week ago,
and which became known to us in a terrible way. She had
apparently quite recovered, and arrangements were made for
their going abroad, and now everything is upset. I warned
her husband that this was very likely, but did not sufficiently
take the warning to myself.

You are taking a world of trouble for me, and Donnelly
writes I am to do as I like so far as they are concerned. I have
heard nothing from the Home Office, and I suppose it would be
proper for me to write if I want any more leave. I really hardly
know what to do. I can't say I feel very fit for the hurly-burly



of London just now, but I am not sure that the wholesomest
thing for me would not be at all costs to get back to some en-
grossing work. If my poor girl were well, I could perhaps make
something of the dolce far niente, but at present one's mind runs
to her when it is not busy in something else.

I expect we shall be here a week or ten days more at any
rate, this address is safe afterwards to Florence.

What am I to do in the Riviera? Here and at Florence
there is always some distraction. You see the problem is

My wife, who is very lively, thanks you for your letter
(which I have answered) and joins with me in love to Mrs.
Foster and yourself. Ever yours, T. H. H.

Writing on the same day to Sir J. Evans, he proposed
a considerable alteration in the duties of the Assistant
Secretary of the Royal Society.

You know that I served a seven years' apprenticeship as
Secretary, and that experience gave me very solid grounds for
the conviction that, with the present arrangements, a great deal
of the time of the Secretaries is wasted over the almost me-
chanical drudgery of proof-reading.

He suggests new arrangements, and proceeds :

At the same time it would be very important to adopt some
arrangements by which the Transactions papers can be printed
independently of one another.

Why should not the papers be paged independently and be
numbered for each year ? Thus " Huxley. Idleness and In-
capacity in Italy. Phil, Trans. 1885. VI."

People grumble at the delay in publication, and are quite
right in doing so, though it is impossible under the present sys-
tem to be more expeditious, and it is not every senior secretary
who would slave at the work as Stokes does. . . .

But it is carrying coals to Newcastle to talk of such business
arrangements as these to you.

The only thing I am strong about, is the folly of going on
cutting blocks with our Secretarial razors any longer.

I am afraid I cannot give a very good account of myself.

The truth of the answer to Mallock's question " Is life worth
living?" that depends on the liver is being strongly enforced
upon me in the hepatic sense of liver, and I must confess myself
fit for very little. A week hence we shall migrate to Florence


and try the effect of the more bracing air. The Pincio is the
only part of Rome that is fit to live in, and unfortunately the
Government does not offer to build me a house there.

However, I have got a great deal of enjoyment out of ancient
Rome papal Rome is too brutally pagan (and in the worst pos-
sible taste too) for me.


Jan. II, 1885.

We have now had nearly three weeks in Rome. I am sick of

churches, galleries, and museums, and meanly make M go

and see them and tell me about them. As we are one flesh, it
is just the same as if I had seen them.

Since the time of Constantine there has been nothing but
tawdry rubbish in the shape of architecture * the hopeless bad
taste of the Papists is a source of continual gratification to me
as a good Protestant (and something more). As for the skies,
they are as changeable as those of England the only advantage
is the absence of frost and snow (raining cats and dogs this
Sunday morning).

But down to the time of Constantine, Rome is endlessly in-
teresting, and if I were well I should like to spend some months
in exploring it. As it is, I do very little, though I have con-
trived to pick up all I want to know about Pagan Rome and the
Catacombs, which last are my especial weakness.

My master and physician is bothered a good deal with
eczema otherwise very lively. All the chief collections in
Rome are provided with a pair of her spectacles, which she
leaves behind. Several new opticians' shops are set up on the
strength of the purchases in this line she is necessitated to make.

I want to be back at work, but I am horribly afraid I should
be no good yet. We are thinking of going to Florence at the end
of this week to see what the drier and colder air there will do.

With our dear love to you all we are wae for a sight of
you. Ever your loving father, T. H. HUXLEY.

Jan. 16, 1885.

MY DEAR FOSTER It seems to me that I am giving my
friends a word of trouble. . . .

I have had a bad week of it, and the night before last was

* For his appreciation of the great dome of the Pantheon, see p. 134.


under the impression that I was about to succumb shortly to a
complication of maladies, and moreover, that a wooden box that
my wife had just had made would cost thousands of pounds in
the way of payment for extra luggage before we reached home.
I do not know \vhich hypochondriacal possession was the most
depressing. I car laugh at it now, but I really was extraordi-
1 narily weak and ill.

We had made up our minds to bolt from Rome to Florence
at once, when I suddenly got better, and to-day am all right. So
as we hear of snow at Florence we shall stop where we are. It
has been raining cats and dogs here, and the Tiber rose 40 feet
and inundated the low grounds. But " cantabit elevatus " ; it
can't touch us, and at any rate the streets are washed clean.

The climate is mild here. We have a capital room and all
the sunshine that is to be had, plus a good fire when needful,
and at worst one can always get a breezy walk on the Pincio
hard by.

However, about the leave. Am I to do anything or nothing?
I am dying to get back to steady occupation and English food,
and the sort of regimen one can maintain in one's own house.
On the other hand, I stand in fear of the bitter cold of February
and early March, and still more of the thousand and one worries
of London outside one's work. So I suppose it will be better
if I keep away till Easter, or at any rate to the end of March.
But I must hear something definite from the H.^\ I have

H Cl C

written to Donnelly to the same effect. My poor Brian's re-
lapse did not do us any good, for all that I expec f J it. How-
ever, the last accounts are very favourable.

I wrote to Evans the other day about a re-arrangement of
the duties of the Secretary and Assistant Secretary. I thought
it was better to write to him than to you on that subject, and I
begged him to discuss the matter with the orticers. It is quite
absurd that Stokes and you should waste your time in press

We are very prudent here, and the climate suits us both,
especially my wife, who is so vigorous that I depute her to go
and see the Palazzi, and tell me all about them when she comes
back. Old Rome is endlessly interesting to me, and I can always
potter about and find occupation. I think I shall turn antiquary
it's just the occupation for a decayed naturalist, though you
need not tell the Treasurer I say so.

With our love to Mrs. Foster and yourself Ever yours,

T. H. H.




Jan. 18, 1885.

MY DEAR DONNELLY - - Official sentence of exile for two
months more (up to May 12) arrived yesterday. So if my lords
will be so kind as to concur I shall be able to disport myself with
a clear conscience. I hope their lordships won't think that I
am taking things too easy in not making a regular application,
and I will do so if you think it better. But if it had rested with
me I think I should have got back in February and taken my
chance. That energetic woman that owns me, and Michael
Foster, however, have taken the game out of my hands, and I
have nothing to do but to submit.

On the whole I feel it is wise. I shall have more chance if I
escape not only the cold but the bother of London for a couple
of months more.

I was very bad a week ago, but I have taken to dosing myself
with quinine, and either that or something else has given me a
spurt for the last two days, so that I have been more myself than
any time since I left, and begin to think that there is life in the old
dog yet. If one could only have some fine weather ! To-day there
is the first real sunshine we have been favoured with for a week.

We are just back from a great function at St. Peter's. It is
the festa of St. Peter's chair, and the ex-dragoon Cardinal How-
ard has been fugleman in the devout adorations addressed to
that venerable article of furniture, which, as you ought to know,
but probably don't, is inclosed in a bronze double and perched up
in a shrine of the worst possible taste in the Tribuna of St.
Peter's. The display of man-millinery and lace \vas enough to
fill the lightest-minded woman with envy, and a general concert
some of the music very good prevented us from feeling dull,
while the ci-devant guardsman big, burly, and bullet-headed
made God and then eat him.* I must have a strong strain of
Puritan blood in me somewhere, for I am possessed with a desire
to arise and slay the whole brood of idolaters whenever I assist
at one of these ceremonies. You will observe that I am decid-
edly better, and have a capacity for a good hatred still.

The last news about Gordon is delightful. The chances are
he will rescue Wolseley yet.

With our love Ever yours, T. H. HUXLEY.

* A reminiscence of Browning in " The Bishop Orders his Tomb " :

And then how I shall lie through centuries,
And hear the blessed mutter of the mass,
And see God made and eaten all day long.




ROME, Jan. 20, 1885.

I need hardly tell you that I find Rome wonderfully interest-
ing, and the attraction increases the longer one stays. I am
obliged to take care of myself and do but little in the way of
sight-seeing, but by directing one's attention to particular ob-
jects one can learn a great deal without much trouble. I begin
to understand Old Rome pretty well, and I am quite learned in
the Catacombs, which suit me, as a kind of Christian fossils
out of which one can reconstruct the body of the primitive
Church. She was a simple maiden enough and vastly more
attractive than the bedizened old harridan of the modern Papacy,
so smothered under the old clothes of Paganism which she has
been appropriating for the last fifteen centuries that Jesus of
Nazareth would not know her if he met her.

I have been to several great papistical functions among
others to the festa of the Cathedra Petri in St. Peter's last Sun-
day, and I confess I am unable to understand how grown men
can lend themselves to such elaborate tomfooleries nothing but
mere fetish worship in forms of execrably bad taste, devised,
one would think, by a college of ecclesiastical man-milliners for
the delectation of school-girls. It is curious to notice that intel-
lectual and aesthetic degradation go hand in hand. You have
only to go from the Pantheon to St. Peter's to understand the
great abyss which lies between the Roman of paganism and the
Roman of the papacy. I have seen nothing grander than
Agrippa's work the popes have stripped it to adorn their own
petrified lies, but in its nakedness it has a dignity with which
there is nothing to compare in the ill-proportioned, worse deco-
rated tawdry stone mountain on the Vatican.

The best thing, from an aesthetic point of view, that could be
done with Rome would be to destroy everything except St. Paolo
fuor le Mure, of later date than the fourth century.

But you will have had enough of my scrawl, and your
mother wants to add something. She is in great force, and is
gone prospecting to some Palazzo or other to tell me if it is
worth seeing. Ever your loving father, T. H. HUXLEY.


Jan. 25, 1885.

MY DEAR DONNELLY Best thanks for the telegram which
arrived the day before yesterday and set my mind at ease.


I have been screwing up the old machine which I inhabit,
first with quinine and now with a form of strychnia (which
Clark told me to take) for the last week, and I have improved
a good deal whether post hoc or propter hoc in the present un-
certainty of medical science I decline to give any opinion.

The weather is very cold for Rome ice an eighth of an inch
thick in the Ludovisi Garden the other morning, and every night
.it freezes, but mostly fine sunshine in the day. (This is a re-
markable sentence in point of grammar, but never mind.) The
day before yesterday we came out on the Campagna, and it then
was as fresh and bracing a breeze as you could get in North-

We are very comfortable and quiet here, and I hold on till it
gets warmer. I am told that Florence is detestable at present.
As for London, our accounts make us shiver and cough.

News about the dynamiting gentry just arrived. A little
more mischief and there will be an Irish massacre in some of
our great towns. If an Irish Parnellite member were to be
shot for every explosion I believe the thing would soon stop.
It would be quite just, as they are practically accessories.

I think would do it if he were Prime Minister. Noth-
ing like a thorough Radical for arbitrary acts of power !

I must be getting better, as my disgust at science has ceased,
and I have begun to potter about Roman geology and prehistoric
work. You may be glad to learn that there is no evidence that
the prehistoric Romans had Roman noses. But as I cannot find
any particular prevalence of [them] among the modern or
ancient except for Caesar Romani, the fact is not so interesting
as it might appear, and I would not advise you to tell of it.

Behold a Goak feeble, but promising of better things.

My wife unites with me with love to Mrs. Donnelly and
yourself. Ever yours, T. H. HUXLEY.

The following letter refers to the fourth edition of the
Lessons in Elementary Physiology, in the preparation of which
Dr. Foster had been helping during the summer :


Feb. i, 1885.

MY DEAR FOSTER Anything more disgraceful than the way
in which I have left your letter of more than a fortnight ago
unanswered, I don't know. I thought the wife had written about
the leave (and she thought I had, as she has told you) but I


knew I had not answered the questions about the title, still less
considered the awful incubus (X 10,000 dinners by hepatic deep
objection) of the preface.

There is such a thing as justice in this world not much of
it, but still some and it is partly on that ground and partly
because I want you, in view of future eventualities, to have a
copyright in the book, that I proposed we should join our names.

Of course, if you would really rather not, for any good
reason you may have, I have nothing further to say. But I
don't think that the sentimental reason is a good one, and unless
you have a better, I wish you would let the original proposal

However, having stated the case afresh I leave it for you
to say yes or no, and shall abide by your decision without further

As to the Preface. If I am to write it, please send me the
old Preface. I think the book was published in 1864, or was it
1866? * and it ought to be come of age or nearly so.

You might send me the histological chapter, not that I am
going to alter anything, but I should like to see how it looks. I
will knock the preface off at once, as soon as I hear from you.

The fact is, I have been much better in the course of the
last few days. The weather has been very sunshiny but cool
and bracing, and I have taken to quinine. Tried Clark's strych-
nine, but it did not answer so well.

I am in hopes that I have taken a turn for the better, and
that there may yet be the making of something better than a
growling hypochondriacal old invalid about me. But I am most
sincerely glad that I am not obliged to be back 10 days hence
there is not much capital accumulated yet.

I find that the Italians have been doing an immense deal in
prehistoric archaeology of late years, and far more valuable work
than I imagined. But it is very difficult to get at, and as
Loescher's head man told me the other day when I asked for an
Italian book published in Rome, " Well, you see it is so difficult
to get Roman books in Rome."

I am ashamed to be here two months without paying my
respects to the Lincei, and I am going to-day. The unaccount-
able creatures meet at i o'clock lunch time !

Best love from my wife and self to Mrs. Foster and yourself.
Ever yours, T. H. HUXLEY.

* In 1866.



ROME, Feb. 14, 1885.

MY DEAR FOSTER Voila the preface a work of great
labour ! and which you may polish and alter as you like, all but
the last paragraph. You see I have caved in. I like your asking
to have your own way ' for once." My wife takes the same
line, does whatever she pleases, and then declares I leave her no

If I talk of public affairs, I shall simply fall a-blaspheming.
I see the Times holds out about Gordon, and does not believe he
is killed. Poor fellow ! I wish I could believe that his own con-
viction (as he told me) is true, and that death only means a
larger government for him to administer. Anyhow, it is better
to wind up that way than to go growling out one's existence as
a ventose hypochondriac, dependent upon the condition of a few
square inches of mucous membrane for one's heaven or hell.

As to private affairs, I think I am getting solidly, but very
slowly, better. In fact, I can't say there is much the matter
with me, except that I am weaker than I ought to be, and that

a sort of weary indolence hangs about me like a fog. M is

wonderfully better, and her husband has taken a house for them
at Norwood. If I could be rejoiced at anything, I should be at
that; but it seems to me as if since that awful journey when
I first left England, " the springs was broke," as that vagabond
tout said at Naples.

It has turned very cold here, and we are uncertain when to
leave for Florence, but probably next week. The Carnival is the
most entirely childish bosh I have ever met with among grown
people. Want to finish this now for post, but will write again
speedily. Moseley's proposition is entirely to my mind, and I
have often talked of it. The R.S. rooms ought to be house-of-
call and quasi-club for all F.R.S. in London.

Wife is bonny, barring a cold. It is as much as I can do to
prevent her sporting a mask and domino !

With best love Ever yours, T. H. H.


Feb. 16, 1885.

MY DEAR DONNELLY I have had it on my mind to write to
you for the last week ever since the hideous news about Gor-
don reached us. But partly from a faint hope that his wonderful
fortune might yet have stood him in good stead, and partly
because there is no great satisfaction in howling with rage, I
have abstained.


Poor fellow ! I wonder if he has entered upon the " larger
sphere of action " which he told me was reserved for him in case
of such a trifling accident as death. Of all the people whom I
have met with in my life, he and Darwin are the two in whom
I have found something bigger than ordinary humanity an
unequalled simplicity and directness of purpose a sublime un-

Horrible as it is to us, I imagine that the manner of his
death was not unwelcome to himself. Better wear out than
rust out, and better break than wear out. The pity is that he
could not know the feeling of his countrymen about him.

I shall be curious to see what defence the superingenious
Premier has to offer for himself in Parliament. I suppose, as
usual, the question will drift into a brutal party fight, when the
furious imbecility of the Tories will lead them to spoil their
case. That is where we are ; on the one side, timid imbecility
" waiting for instructions from the constituencies " ; furious
imbecility on the other, looking out for party advantage. Oh !
for a few months of William Pitt.

I see you think there may be some hope that Gordon has
escaped yet. I am afraid the last telegram from Wolseley was
decisive. We have been watching the news with the greatest
anxiety, and it has seemed only to get blacker and blacker.

[Touching a determined effort to alter the management of
certain Technical Education business.]

I trust he may succeed, and that the unfitness of these people
to be trusted with anything may be demonstrated. I regret I
am not able to help in the good work. Get the thing out of
their hands as fast as possible. The prospect of being revenged
for all the beastly dinners I sat out and all the weary discussions
I attended to on purpose, really puts a little life into me.
Apropos of that, I am better in various ways, but curiously weak
and washed out ; and I am afraid that not even the prospect of
a fight would screw me up for long. I don't understand it, un-
less I have some organic disease of which nobody can find any
trace (and in which I do not believe myself), or unless the ter-
rible trouble we have had has accelerated the advent of old age.
I rather suspect that the last speculation is nearest the truth.
You will be glad to hear that my poor girl is wonderfully better,
and, indeed, to all appearance quite well. They are living
quietly at Norwood.

I shall be back certainly by the I2th April, probably before.


We have found very good quarters here, and have waited for
the weather to get warmer before moving; but at last we have
made up our minds to begin nomadising again next Friday. We
go to Florence, taking Siena, and probably Pisa, on our way,
and reaching Florence some time next week. Address Hotel
Milano, Via Cerretani.

For the last week the Carnival has been going on. It strikes
me as the most elaborate and dreariest tomfoolery I have ever
seen, but I doubt if I am in the humour to judge it fairly. It is
only just to say that it entertains my vigorous wife immensely.
I have been expecting to see her in mask and domino, but hap-
pily this is the last day, and there is no sign of any yet. I have
never seen any one so much benefited by rest and change as she
is, and that is a good thing for both of us.

After Florence we shall probably make our way to Venice,
and come home by the Lago di Garda and Germany. But I will
let you know when our plans are settled.

With best love from we two to you two Ever yours,



SIENA, Feb. 23, 1885.

DEAKEST ETHEL The cutting you sent me contains one of
the numerous " goaks " of a Yankee performing donkey who is
allowed to disport himself in one of the New York papers. I
confess it is difficult to see the point of the joke, but there is one
if you look close. I don't think you need trouble to enlighten
the simple inquirer. He probably only wanted the indignant
autograph which he won't get.

The Parker Museum must take care of itself. The public
ought to support it, not the men of science.

As a grandfather, I am ashamed of my friends who are of
the same standing; but I think they would take it as a liberty if,
in accordance with your wish, I were to write to expostulate.

After your mother had exhausted the joys of the Carnival,
she permitted me to leave Rome for this place, where we arrived
last Friday evening. My impression is that if we had stayed
in Rome much longer we should never have left. There is some-
thing idle and afternoony about the air which whittles a\vay
one's resolution.

The change here is wonderfully to the good. We are

Online LibraryThomas Henry HuxleyLife and letters of Thomas Henry Huxley → online text (page 9 of 49)