LIFE AND LETTERS OF THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY
BY HIS SON
IN THREE VOLUMES.
(PLATE: T.H. HUXLEY, PHOTOGRAPH BY WALKER AND COCKERILL, PH. SC. SIGNED T.H. HUXLEY, 1857.)
CHAPTER 2.1. 1870.
CHAPTER 2.2. 1871.
CHAPTER 2.3. 1872.
CHAPTER 2.4. 1873.
CHAPTER 2.5. 1874.
CHAPTER 2.6. 1875-1876.
CHAPTER 2.7. 1875-1876.
CHAPTER 2.8. 1876.
CHAPTER 2.9. 1877.
CHAPTER 2.10. 1878.
CHAPTER 2.11. 1879.
CHAPTER 2.12. 1881.
CHAPTER 2.13. 1882.
CHAPTER 2.14. 1883.
CHAPTER 2.15. 1884.
CHAPTER 2.16. 1884-1885.
CHAPTER 2.17. 1885.
CHAPTER 2.18. 1886.
CHAPTER 2.19. 1886.
CHAPTER 2.1. 1870.
[With the year 1870 comes another turning-point in Huxley's career. From his return to England in 1850 till 1854 he had endured four years of hard struggle, of hope deferred; his reputation as a zoologist had been established before his arrival, and was more than confirmed by his personal energy and power. When at length settled in the professorship at Jermyn Street, he was so far from thinking himself more than a beginner who had learned to work in one corner of the field of knowledge, still needing deep research into all kindred subjects in order to know the true bearings of his own little portion, that he treated the next six years simply as years of further apprenticeship. Under the suggestive power of the "Origin of Species" all these scattered studies fell suddenly into due rank and order; the philosophic unity he had so long been seeking inspired his thought with tenfold vigour, and the battle at Oxford in defence of the new hypothesis first brought him before the public eye as one who not only had the courage of his convictions when attacked, but could, and more, would, carry the war effectively into the enemy's country. And for the next ten years he was commonly identified with the championship of the most unpopular view of the time; a fighter, an assailant of long-established fallacies, he was too often considered a mere iconoclast, a subverter of every other well-rooted institution, theological, educational, or moral.
It is difficult now to realise with what feelings he was regarded in the average respectable household in the sixties and early seventies. His name was anathema; he was a terrible example of intellectual gravity beyond redemption, a man with opinions such as cannot be held "without grave personal sin on his part" (as was once said of Mill by W.G. Ward), the representative in his single person of rationalism, materialism, atheism, or if there be any more abhorrent "ism"—in token of which as late as 1892 an absurd zealot at the headquarters of the Salvation Army crowned an abusive letter to him at Eastbourne by the statement, "I hear you have a local reputation as a Bradlaughite."
But now official life began to lay closer hold upon him. He came forward also as a leader in the struggle for educational reform, seeking not only to perfect his own biological teaching, but to show, in theory and practice, how scientific training might be introduced into the general system of education. He was more than once asked to stand for Parliament, but refused, thinking he could do more useful work for his country outside.
The publication in 1870 of "Lay Sermons," the first of a series of similar volumes, served, by concentrating his moral and intellectual philosophy, to make his influence as a teacher of men more widely felt. The "active scepticism," whose conclusions many feared, was yet acknowledged as the quality of mind which had made him one of the clearest thinkers and safest scientific guides of his time, while his keen sense of right and wrong made the more reflective of those who opposed his conclusions hesitate long before expressing a doubt as to the good influence of his writings. This view is very clearly expressed in a review of the book in the "Nation" (New York 1870 11 407).
And as another review of the "Lay Sermons" puts it ("Nature" 3 22), he began to be made a kind of popular oracle, yet refused to prophesy smooth things.
During the earlier period, with more public demands made upon him than upon most men of science of his age and standing, with the burden of four Royal Commissions and increasing work in learned societies in addition to his regular lecturing and official paleontological work, and the many addresses and discourses in which he spread abroad in the popular mind the leaven of new ideas upon nature and education and the progress of thought, he was still constantly at work on biological researches of his own, many of which took shape in the Hunterian lectures at the College of Surgeons from 1863-1870. But from 1870 onward, the time he could spare to such research grew less and less. For eight years he was continuously on one Royal Commission after another. His administrative work on learned societies continued to increase; in 1869-70 he held the presidency of the Ethnological Society, with a view to effecting the amalgamation with the Anthropological,] "the plan," [as he calls it,] "for uniting the Societies which occupy themselves with man (that excludes 'Society' which occupies itself chiefly with woman)." [He became President of the Geological Society in 1872, and for nearly ten years, from 1871 to 1880, he was secretary of the Royal Society, an office which occupied no small portion of his time and thought, "for he had formed a very high ideal of the duties of the Society as the head of science in this country, and was determined that it should not at least fall short through any lack of exertion on his part" (Sir M. Foster, Royal Society Obituary Notice). (See Appendix 2.)
The year 1870 itself was one of the busiest he had ever known. He published one biological and four paleontological memoirs, and sat on two Royal Commissions, one on the Contagious Diseases Acts, the other on Scientific Instruction, which continued until 1875.
The three addresses which he gave in the autumn, and his election to the School Board will be spoken of later; in the first part of the year he read two papers at the Ethnological Society, of which he was President, on "The Geographical Distribution of the Chief Modifications of Mankind," March 9—and on "The Ethnology of Britain," May 10—the substance of which appeared in the "Contemporary Review" for July under the title of "Some Fixed Points in British Ethnology" ("Collected Essays" 7 253). As President also of the Geological Society and of the British Association, he had two important addresses to deliver. In addition to this, he delivered an address before the Y.M.C.A. at Cambridge on "Descartes' Discourse."
How busy he was may be gathered from his refusal of an invitation to Down:—]
26 Abbey Place, January 21, 1870.
My dear Darwin,
It is hard to resist an invitation of yours—but I dine out on Saturday; and next week three evenings are abolished by Societies of one kind or another. And there is that horrid Geological address looming in the future!
I am afraid I must deny myself at present.
I am glad you liked the sermon. Did you see the "Devonshire man's" attack in the "Pall Mall?"
I have been wasting my time in polishing that worthy off. I would not have troubled myself about him, if it were not for the political bearing of the Celt question just now.
My wife sends her love to all you.
[The reference to the "Devonshire Man" is as follows:—Huxley had been speaking of the strong similarity between Gaul and German, Celt and Teuton, before the change of character brought about by the Latin conquest; and of the similar commixture, a dash of Anglo-Saxon in the mass of Celtic, which prevailed in our western borders and many parts of Ireland, e.g. Tipperary.
The "Devonshire Man" wrote on January 18 to the "Pall Mall Gazette," objecting to the statement that "Devonshire men are as little Anglo-Saxons as Northumbrians are Welsh." Huxley replied on the 21st, meeting his historical arguments with citations from Freeman, and especially by completing his opponent's quotation from Caesar, to show that under certain conditions, the Gaul was indistinguishable from the German. The assertion that the Anglo-Saxon character is midway between the pure French or Irish and the Teutonic, he met with the previous question, Who is the pure Frenchman? Picard, Provencal, or Breton? or the pure Irish? Milesian, Firbolg, or Cruithneach?
But the "Devonshire Man" did not confine himself to science. He indulged in various personalities, to the smartest of which, a parody of Sydney Smith's dictum on Dr. Whewell, Huxley replied:—]
"A Devonshire Man" is good enough to say of me that "cutting up monkeys is his forte, and cutting up men is his foible." With your permission, I propose to cut up "A Devonshire Man"; but I leave it to the public to judge whether, when so employed, my occupation is to be referred to the former or to the latter category.
[For this he was roundly lectured by the "Spectator" on January 29, in an article under the heading "Pope Huxley." Regardless of the rights or wrongs of the controversy, he was chidden for the abusive language of the above paragraph, and told that he was a very good anatomist, but had better not enter into discussions on other subjects.
The same question is developed in the address to the Ethnological Society later in the year and in "Some Fixed Points in British Ethnology" (see above), and reiterated in an address from the chair in Section D at the British Association in 1878 at Dublin, and in a letter to the "Times" for October 12, 1887, apropos of a leading article upon "British Race-types of To-day."
Letter-writing was difficult under such pressure of work, but the claims of absent friends were not wholly forgotten, though left on one side for a time, and the warm-hearted Dohrn, could not bear to think himself forgotten, managed to get a letter out of him—not on scientific business.]
26 Abbey Place, January 30, 1870.
My dear Dohrn,
In one sense I deserve all the hard things you may have said and thought about me, for it is really scandalous and indefensible that I have not written to you. But in another sense, I do not, for I have very often thought about you and your doings, and as I have told you once before, your memory always remains green in the "happy family."
But what between the incessant pressure of work and an inborn aversion to letter-writing, I become a worse and worse correspondent the longer I live, and unless I can find one or two friends who will [be] content to bear with my infirmities and believe that however long before we meet, I shall be ready to take them up again exactly where I left off, I shall be a friendless old man.
As for your old Goethe, you are mistaken. The Scripture says that "a living dog is better than a dead lion," and I am a living dog. By the way, I bought Cotta's edition of him the other day, and there he stands on my bookcase in all the glory of gilt, black, and marble edges. Do you know I did a version of his "Aphorisms on Nature" into English the other day. [For the first number of "Nature," November 1869.] It astonishes the British Philistines not a little. When they began to read it they thought it was mine, and that I had suddenly gone mad!
But to return to your affairs instead of my own. I received your volume on the "Arthropods" the other day, but I shall not be able to look at it for the next three weeks, as I am in the midst of my lectures, and have an annual address to deliver to the Geological Society on the 18th February, when, I am happy to say, my tenure of office as President expires.
After that I shall be only too glad to plunge into your doings and, as always, I shall follow your work with the heartiest interest. But I wish you would not take it into your head that Darwin or I, or any one else thinks otherwise than highly of you, or that you need "re-establishing" in any one's eyes. But I hope you will not have finished your work before the autumn, as they have made me President of the British Association this year, and I shall be very busy with my address in the summer. The meeting is to take place in Liverpool on the 14th September, and I live in hope that you will be able to come over. Let me know if you can, that I may secure you good quarters.
I shall ask the wife to fill up the next half-sheet. But for Heaven's sake don't be angry with me in English again. It's far worse than a scolding in Deutsch, and I have as little forgotten my German as I have my German friends.
[On February 18 he delivered his farewell address to the Geological Society, on laying down the office of President. ("Palaeontology and the Doctrine of Evolution" "Collected Essays" 8.) He took the opportunity to revise his address to the Society in 1862, and pointed out the growth of evidence in favour of evolution theory, and in particular traced the paleontological history of the horse, through a series of fossil types approaching more and more to a generalised ungulate type and reaching back to a three-toed ancestor, or collateral of such an ancestor, itself possessing rudiments of the two other toes which appertain to the average quadruped.]
If [he said] the expectation raised by the splints of horses that, in some ancestor of the horses, these splints would be found to be complete digits, has been verified, we are furnished with very strong reasons for looking for a no less complete verification of the expectation that the three-toed Plagiolophus-like "avus" of the horse must have been a five-toed "atavus" at some early period.
[Six years afterwards, this forecast of paleontological research was to be fulfilled, but at the expense of the European ancestry of the horse. A series of ancestors, similar to these European fossils, but still more equine, and extending in unbroken order much farther back in geological time, was discovered in America. His use of this in his New York lectures as demonstrative evidence of evolution, and the immediate fulfilment of a further prophecy of his will be told in due course.
His address to the Cambridge Y.M.C.A, "A Commentary on Descartes' 'Discourse touching the method of using reason rightly, and of seeking scientific truth,'" was delivered on March 24. This was an attempt to give this distinctively Christian audience some vision of the world of science and philosophy, which is neither Christian nor Unchristian, but Extra-christian, and to show] "by what methods the dwellers therein try to distinguish truth from falsehood, in regard to some of the deepest and most difficult problems that beset humanity, "in order to be clear about their actions, and to walk sure-footedly in this life," as Descartes says. For Descartes had laid the foundation of his own guiding principle of "active scepticism, which strives to conquer itself."
[Here again, as in the "Physical Basis of Life," but with more detail, he explains how far materialism is legitimate, is, in fact, a sort of shorthand idealism. This essay, too, contains the often-quoted passage, apropos of the] "introduction of Calvinism into science."
I protest that if some great Power would agree to make me always think what is true and do what is right, on condition of being turned into a sort of clock and wound up every morning before I got out of bed, I should instantly close with the offer. The only freedom I care about is the freedom to do right; the freedom to do wrong I am ready to part with on the cheapest terms to any one who will take it of me.
[This was the latest of the essays included in "Lay Sermons, Addresses and Reviews," which came out, with a dedicatory letter to Tyndall, in the summer of 1870, and, whether on account of its subject matter or its title, always remained his most popular volume of essays.
To the same period belongs a letter to Matthew Arnold about his book "St. Paul and Protestantism."]
My dear Arnold,
Many thanks for your book which I have been diving into at odd times as leisure served, and picking up many good things.
One of the best is what you say near the end about science gradually conquering the materialism of popular religion.
It will startle the Puritans who always coolly put the matter the other way; but it is profoundly true.
These people are for the most part mere idolaters with a Bible-fetish, who urgently stand in need of conversion by Extra-christian Missionaries.
It takes all one's practical experience of the importance of Puritan ways of thinking to overcome one's feeling of the unreality of their beliefs. I had pretty well forgotten how real to them "the man in the next street" is, till your citation of their horribly absurd dogmas reminded me of it. If you can persuade them that Paul is fairly interpretable in your sense, it may be the beginning of better things, but I have my doubts if Paul would own you, if he could return to expound his own epistles.
I am glad you like my Descartes article. My business with my scientific friends is something like yours with the Puritans, nature being OUR Paul.
Ever yours very faithfully,
26 Abbey Place, May 10, 1870.
[From the 14th to the 24th of April Huxley, accompanied by his friend Hooker, made a trip to the Eifel country. His sketch-book is full of rapid sketches of the country, many of them geological; one day indeed there are eight, another nine such.
Tyndall was invited to join the party, and at first accepted, but then recollected the preliminaries which had to be carried out before his lectures on electricity at the end of the month. So he writes on April 6:—
Royal Institution, 6 April.
My dear Huxley,
I was rendered drunk by the excess of prospective pleasure when you mentioned the Eifel yesterday, and took no account of my lectures. They begin on the 28th, and I have studiously to this hour excluded them from my thought. I have made arrangements to see various experiments involving the practical application of electricity before the lectures begin; I find myself, in short, cut off from the expedition. My regret on this score is commensurable with the pleasures I promised myself. Confound the lectures!
And yours on Friday is creating a pretty hubbub already. (On the Pedigree of the Horse" April 8, 1870, which was never brought out in book form.) I am torn to pieces by women in search of tickets. Anything that touches progenitorship interests them. You will have a crammed house, I doubt not.
Geological Survey of England and Wales, April 6, 1870.
My dear Tyndall,
DAMN the L e c t u r e s.
That's a practical application of electricity for you.
[In June he writes to his wife, who has taken a sick child to the seaside:—]
I hear a curious rumour (which is not for circulation), that Froude and I have been proposed for D.C.L.'s at Commemoration, and that the proposition has been bitterly and strongly opposed by Pusey. [Huxley ultimately received his D.C.L. in 1885.] They say there has been a regular row in Oxford about it. I suppose this is at the bottom of Jowett's not writing to me. But I hope that he won't fancy that I should be disgusted at the opposition and object to come [i.e. to pay his regular visit to Balliol]. On the contrary, the more complete Pusey's success, the more desirable it is that I should show my face there. Altogether it is an awkward position, as I am supposed to know nothing of what is going on.
[The situation is further developed in a letter to Darwin:—]
Jermyn Street, June 22, 1870.
My dear Darwin,
I sent the books to Queen Anne St. this morning. Pray keep them as long as you like, as I am not using them.
I am greatly disgusted that you are coming up to London this week, as we shall be out of town next Sunday. It is the rarest thing in the world for us to be away, and you have pitched upon the one day. Cannot we arrange some other day?
I wish you could have gone to Oxford, not for your sake, but for theirs. There seems to have been a tremendous shindy in the Hebdomadal board about certain persons who were proposed; and I am told that Pusey came to London to ascertain from a trustworthy friend who were the blackest heretics out of the list proposed, and that he was glad to assent to your being doctored, when he got back, in order to keep out seven devils worse than that first!
Ever, oh Coryphaeus diabolicus, your faithful follower,
[The choice of a subject for his Presidential Address at the British Association for 1870, a subject which, as he put it,] "has lain chiefly in a land flowing with the abominable, and peopled with mere grubs and mouldiness," [was suggested by a recent controversy upon the origin of life, in which the experiments of Dr. Bastian, then Professor of Pathological Anatomy at University College, London, which seemed to prove spontaneous generation, were shown by Professor Tyndall to contain a flaw. Huxley had naturally been deeply interested from the first; he had been consulted by Dr. Bastian, and, I believe, had advised him not to publish until he had made quite sure of his ground. This question and the preparation of the course of Elementary Biology [See below.] led him to carry on a series of investigations lasting over two years, which took shape in a paper upon "Penicillium, Torula, and Bacterium", first read in Section D at the British Association, 1870 ("Quarterly Journal of Micr. Science" 1870 10 pages 355-362.); and in his article on "Yeast" in the "Contemporary Review" for December 1871. He laboriously repeated Pasteur's experiments, and for years a quantity of flasks and cultures used in this work remained at South Kensington, until they were destroyed in the eighties. Of this work Sir J. Hooker writes to him:—
You have made an immense leap in the association of forms, and I cannot but suppose you approach the final solution...
I have always fancied that it was rather brains and boldness, than eyes or microscopes that the mycologists wanted, and that there was more brains in Berkeley's [Reverend M.J. Berkeley.] crude discoveries than in the very best of the French and German microscopic verifications of them, who filch away the credit of them from under Berkeley's nose, and pooh-pooh his reasoning, but for which we should be, as we were.
In his Presidential Address, "Biogenesis and Abiogenesis" ("Collected Essays" 8 page 229), he discussed the rival theories of spontaneous generation and the universal derivation of life from precedent life, and professed his belief, as an act of philosophic faith, that at some remote period, life had arisen out of inanimate matter, though there was no evidence that anything of the sort had occurred recently, the germ theory explaining many supposed cases of spontaneous generation. The history of the subject, indeed, showed] "the great tragedy of Science—the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact—which is so constantly being enacted under the eyes of philosophers," and recalled the warning "that it is one thing to refute a proposition, and another to prove the truth of a doctrine which, implicitly or explicitly, contradicts that proposition."
[Two letters to Dr. Dohrn refer to this address and to the meeting of the Association.]
Jermyn Street, April 30, 1870.
My dear Whirlwind,
I have received your two letters; and I was just revolving in my mind how best to meet your wishes in regard to the very important project mentioned in the first, when the second arrived and put me at rest.
I hope I need not say how heartily I enter into all your views, and how glad I shall be to see your plan for "Stations" carried into effect. [Dr. Dohrn succeeded in establishing such a zoological "station" at Naples.] Nothing could have a greater influence upon the progress of zoology.
A plan was set afoot here some time ago to establish a great marine Aquarium at Brighton by means of a company. They asked me to be their President, but I declined, on the ground that I did not desire to become connected with any commercial undertaking. What has become of the scheme I do not know, but I doubt whether it would be of any use to you, even if any connection could be established.
As soon as you have any statement of your project ready, send it to me and I will take care that it is brought prominently before the British public so as to stir up their minds. And then we will have a regular field-day about it in Section D at Liverpool.
Let me know your new ideas about insects and vertebrata as soon as possible, and I promise to do my best to pull them to pieces. What between Kowalesky and his Ascidians, Miklucho-Maclay [A Russian naturalist, and close friend of Haeckel's, who later adventured himself alone among the cannibals of New Guinea.] and his Fish-brains, and you and your Arthropods, I am becoming schwindelsuchtig, and spend my time mainly in that pious ejaculation "Donner and Blitz," in which, as you know, I seek relief. Then there is our Bastian who is making living things by the following combination:—
Prescription: Ammoniae Carbonatis Sodae Phosphatis Aquae destillatae quantum sufficit Caloris 150 degrees Centigrade Vacui perfectissimi Patientiae.
Transubstantiation will be nothing to this if it turns out to be true, and you may go and tell your neighbour Januarius to shut up his shop as the heretics mean to outbid him.
Now I think that the best service I can render to all you enterprising young men is to turn devil's advocate, and do my best to pick holes in your work.
By the way, Miklucho-Maclay has been here; I have seen a good deal of him, and he strikes me as a man of very considerable capacity and energy. He was to return to Jena to-day.
My friend Herbert Spencer will be glad to learn that you appreciate his book. I have been HIS devil's advocate for a number of years, and there is no telling how many brilliant speculations I have been the means of choking in an embryonic state.
My wife does not know that I am writing to you, or she would say apropos of your last paragraph that you are an entirely unreasonable creature in your notions of how friendship should be manifested, and that you make no allowances for the oppression and exhaustion of the work entailed by what Jean Paul calls a "Tochtervolles Haus." I hope I may live to see you with at least ten children, and then my wife and I will be avenged. Our children will be married and settled by that time, and we shall have time to write every day and get very wroth when you do not reply immediately.
Ever yours faithfully,
All are well, the children so grown you will not know them.
July 18, 1870.
My dear Dohrn,
Notwithstanding the severe symptoms of "Tochterkrankheit" under which I labour, I find myself equal to reply to your letter.
The British Association meets in September on the 14th day of that month, which falls on a Wednesday. Of course, if you come you shall be provided for by the best specimen of Liverpool hospitality. We have ample provision for the entertainment of the "distinguished foreigner."
Will you be so good as to be my special ambassador with Haeckel and Gegenbauer, and tell them the same thing? It would give me and all of us particular pleasure to see them and to take care of them.
But I am afraid that this wretched war will play the very deuce with our foreign friends. If you Germans do not give that crowned swindler, whose fall I have been looking for ever since the coup d'etat, such a blow as he will never recover from, I will never forgive you. Public opinion in England is not worth much, but at present, it is entirely against France. Even the "Times," which generally contrives to be on the baser side of a controversy, is at present on the German side. And my daughters announced to me yesterday that they had converted a young friend of theirs from the French to the German side, which is one gained for you. All look forward with great pleasure to seeing you in the autumn.
Ever yours faithfully,
[In addition to this address on September 14, he read his paper on "Penicillium," etc., in Section D on the 20th. Speaking on the 17th, after a lecture of Sir J. Lubbock's on the "Social and Religious Condition of the Lower Races of Mankind," he brought forward his own experiences as to the practical results of the beliefs held by the Australian savages, and from this passed to the increasing savagery of the lower classes in great towns such as Liverpool, which was the great political question of the future, and for which the only cure lay in a proper system of education.
The savagery underlying modern civilisation was all the more vividly before him, because one evening he, together with Sir J. Lubbock, Dr. Bastian, and Mr. Samuelson, were taken by the chief of the detective department round some of the worst slums in Liverpool. In thieves' dens, doss houses, dancing saloons, enough of suffering and criminality was seen to leave a very deep and painful impression. In one of these places, a thieves' lodging-house, a drunken man with a cut face accosted him and asked him whether he was a doctor. He said "yes," whereupon the man asked him to doctor his face. He had been fighting, and was terribly excited. Huxley tried to pacify him, but if it had not been for the intervention of the detective, the man would have assaulted him. Afterwards he asked the detective if he were not afraid to go alone in these places, and got the significant answer, "Lord bless you, sir, drink and disease take all the strength out of them."
On the 21st, after the general meeting of the Association, which wound up the proceedings, the Historical Society of Lancashire and Cheshire presented a diploma of honorary membership and a gift of books to Huxley, Sir G. Stokes, and Sir J. Hooker, the last three Presidents of the British Association, and to Professors Tyndall and Rankine and Sir J. Lubbock, the lecturers at Liverpool. Then Huxley was presented with a mazer bowl lined with silver, made from part of one of the roof timbers of the cottage occupied as his headquarters by Prince Rupert during the siege of Liverpool. He was rather taken aback when he found the bowl was filled with champagne, after a moment, however, he drank] "success to the good old town of Liverpool," [and with a wave of his hand, threw the rest on the floor, saying,] "I pour this as a libation to the tutelary deities of the town."
[The same evening he was the guest of the Sphinx Club at dinner at the Royal Hotel, his friend Mr. P.H. Rathbone being in the chair, and in proposing the toast of the town and trade of Liverpool, declared that commerce was a greater civiliser than all the religion and all the science ever put together in the world, for it taught men to be truthful and punctual and precise in the execution of their engagements, and men who were truthful and punctual and precise in the execution of their engagements had put their feet upon the first rung of the ladder which led to moral and intellectual elevation.
There were the usual clerical attacks on the address, among the rest a particularly violent one from a Unitarian pulpit. Writing to Mr. Samuelson on October 5 he says:—]
Be not vexed on account of the godly. They will have their way. I found Mr. —'s sermon awaiting me on my return home. It is an able paper, but like the rest of his cloth he will not take the trouble to make himself acquainted with the ideas of the man whom he opposes. At least that is the case if he imagines he brings me under the range of his guns.
[On October 2 he writes to Tyndall:—]
I have not yet thanked you properly for your great contribution to the success of our meeting [i.e. his lecture "On the Scientific Uses of the Imagination"]. I was nervous over the passage about the clergy, but those confounded parsons seem to me to let you say anything, while they bully me for a word or a phrase. It's the old story, "one man may steal a horse while the other may not look over the wall."
[Tyndall was not to be outdone, and replied:—
The parsons know very well that I mean kindness; if I correct them I do it in love and not in wrath.
One more extract from a letter to Dr. Dohrn, under date of November 17. The first part is taken up with a long and detailed description of the best English microscopes and their price, for Dr. Dohrn wished to get one; and my father volunteered to procure it for him. The rest of the letter has a more general interest as giving his views on the great struggle between France and Germany then in progress, his distrust of militarism, and above all, his hatred of lying, political as much as any other:—]
This wretched war is doing infinite mischief; but I do not see what Germany can do now but carry it out to the end.
I began to have some sympathy with the French after Sedan, but the Republic lies harder than the Empire did, and the whole country seems to me to be rotten to the core. The only figure which stands out with anything like nobility or dignity, on the French side, is that of the Empress, and she is only a second-rate Marie-Antoinette. There is no Roland, no Corday, and apparently no MAN of any description.
The Russian row is beginning, and the rottenness of English administration will soon, I suppose, have an opportunity of displaying itself. Bad days are, I am afraid, in store for all of us, and the worst for Germany if it once becomes thoroughly bitten by the military mad dog.
The "happy family" is flourishing and was afflicted, even over its breakfast, when I gave out the news that you had been ill.
The wife desires her best remembrances, and we all hope you are better.
[The high pressure under which Huxley worked, and his abundant output, continued undiminished through the autumn and winter. Indeed, he was so busy that he postponed his Lectures to Working Men in London from October to February 1871. On October 3 he lectured in Leicester on "What is to be Learned from a Piece of Coal," a parallel lecture to that of 1868 on "A Piece of Chalk." On the 17th and 24th he lectured at Birmingham on "Extinct Animals intermediate between Reptiles and Birds"—a subject which he had made peculiarly his own by long study; and on December 29 he was at Bradford, and lectured at the Philosophical Institute upon "The Formation of Coal" ("Collected Essays" 8.).
He was also busy with two Royal Commissions; still, at whatever cost of the energy and time due to his own investigations and those additional labours by which he increased his none too abundant income, he felt it his duty, in the interests of his ideal of education, to come forward as a candidate for the newly-instituted School Board for London. This was the practical outcome of the rising interest in education all over the country; on its working, he felt, depended momentous issues—the fostering of the moral and physical well-being of the nation; the quickening of its intelligence and the maintenance of its commercial supremacy. Withal, he desired to temper "book-learning" with something of the direct knowledge of nature: on the one hand, as an admirable instrument of education, if properly applied; on the other, as preparing the way for an attitude of mind which could appreciate the reasons for the immense changes already beginning to operate in human thought.
Moreover, he possessed a considerable knowledge of the working of elementary education throughout the country, owing to his experience as examiner under the Science and Art Department, the establishment of which he describes as "a measure which came into existence unnoticed, but which will, I believe, turn out to be of more importance to the welfare of the people than many political changes over which the noise of battle has rent the air" ("Scientific Education" 1869; "Collected Essays" 3 page 131.)
Accordingly, though with health uncertain, and in the midst of exacting occupations, he felt that he ought not to stand aside at so critical a moment, and offered himself for election in the Marylebone division with a secret sense that rejection would in many ways be a great relief.
The election took place on November 29, and Huxley came out second on the poll. He had had neither the means nor the time for a regular canvass of the electors. He was content to address several public meetings, and leave the result to the interest he could awaken amongst his hearers. His views were further brought before the public by the action of the editor of the "Contemporary Review," who, before the election, "took upon himself, in what seemed to him to be the public interest," to send to the newspapers an extract from Huxley's article, "The School Boards: what they can do, and what they may do," which was to appear in the December number.
In this article will be found ("Collected Essays" 3 page 374) a full account of the programme which he laid down for himself, and which to a great extent he saw carried into effect, in its fourfold division—of physical drill and discipline, not only to improve the physique of the children, but as an introduction to all other sorts of training—of domestic training, especially for girls—of education in the knowledge of moral and social laws and the engagement of the affections for what is good and against what is evil—and finally, of intellectual training. And it should be noted that he did not only regard intellectual training from the utilitarian point of view; he insisted, e.g. on the value of reading for amusement as] "one of its most valuable uses to hard-worked people."
[Much as he desired that this intellectual training should be efficient, the most cursory perusal of this article will show how far he placed the moral training above the intellectual, which, by itself, would only turn the gutter-child into] "the subtlest of all the beasts of the field," [and how wide of the mark is the cartoon at this period representing him as the Professor whose panacea for the ragged children was to] "cram them full of nonsense."
[In the third section are also to be found his arguments for the retention of Bible-reading in the elementary schools. He reproached extremists of either party for confounding the science, theology, with the affection, religion, and either crying for more theology under the name of religion, or demanding the abolition of] "religious" [teaching in order to get rid of theology, a step which he likens to] "burning your ship to get rid of the cockroaches."
[As regards his actual work on the Board, I must express my thanks to Dr. J.H. Gladstone for his kindness in supplementing my information with an account based partly on his own long experience of the Board, partly on the reminiscences of members contemporary with my father.
The Board met first on December 15, for the purpose of electing a Chairman. As a preliminary, Huxley proposed and carried a motion that no salary be attached to the post. He was himself one of the four members proposed for the Chairmanship; but the choice of the Board fell upon Lord Lawrence. In the words of Dr. Gladstone:—
Huxley at once took a prominent part in the proceedings, and continued to do so till the beginning of the year 1872, when ill-health compelled him to retire.
At first there was much curiosity both inside and outside the Board as to how Huxley would work with the old educationists, the clergy, dissenting ministers, and the miscellaneous body of eminent men that comprised the first Board. His antagonism to many of the methods employed in elementary schools was well known from his various discourses, which had been recently published together under the title of "Lay Sermons, Addresses, and Reviews." I watched his course with interest at the time; but for the purpose of this sketch I have lately sought information from such of the old members of the Board as are still living, especially the earl of Harrowby, Bishop Barry, the Reverend Dr. Angus, and Mr. Edward North Buxton, together with Mr. Croad, the Clerk of the Board. They soon found proof of his great energy, and his power of expressing his views in clear and forcible language; but they also found that with all his strong convictions and lofty ideals he was able and willing to enter into the views of others, and to look at a practical question from its several sides. He could construct as well as criticise. Having entered a public arena somewhat late in life, and being of a sensitive nature, he had scarcely acquired that calmness and pachydermatous quality which is needful for one's personal comfort; but his colleagues soon came to respect him as a perfectly honest antagonist or supporter, and one who did not allow differences of conviction to interfere with friendly intercourse.
The various sections of the clerical party indeed looked forward with great apprehension to his presence on the Board, but the more liberal amongst them ventured to find ground for hoping that they and he would not be utterly opposed so far as the work of practical organisation was concerned, in the declaration of his belief that true education was impossible without "religion," of which he declared that all that has an unchangeable reality in it is constituted by the love of some ethical ideal to govern and guide conduct,] "together with the awe and reverence, which have no kinship with base fear, but rise whenever one tries to pierce below the surface of things, whether they be material or spiritual." [And in fact a cleavage took place between him and the seven extreme "secularists" on the Board (the seven champions of unchristendom, as their opponents dubbed them) on the question of the reading of the Bible in schools (see below (Bishop Barry calls particular attention to his attitude on this point, "because," he says, "it is (I think) often misunderstood. In the "Life of the Right Honourable W.H. Smith" (for instance), published not long ago, Huxley is supposed, as a matter of course to have been the leader of the Secularist party.")
One of the earliest proposals laid before the Board was a resolution to open the meetings with prayer. To this considerable opposition was offered; but a bitter debate was averted by Huxley pointing out that the proposal was ultra vires, inasmuch as under the Act constituting the Board the business for which they were empowered to meet did not include prayer. Hereupon a requisition—in which he himself joined—was made to allow the use of a committee-room to those who wished to unite in a short service before the weekly meetings, an arrangement which has continued to the present time.
At the second meeting, on December 21, he gave notice of a motion to appoint a committee to consider and report upon the scheme of education to be adopted in the Board Schools.
This motion came up for consideration on February 15, 1871. In introducing it, he said that such a committee ought to consider:—]
First, the general nature and relations of the schools which may come under the Board. Secondly, the amount of time to be devoted to educational purposes in such schools; and Thirdly, the subject-matter of the instruction or education, or teaching, or training, which is to be given in these schools.
[But this, by itself, he continued, would be incomplete. At one end of the scale he advocated Infant schools, and urged a connection with the excellent work of the Ragged schools. At the other end he desired to see continuation schools, and ultimately some scheme of technical education. A comprehensive scheme, indeed, would involve an educational ladder from the gutter to the university, whereby children of exceptional ability might reach the place for which nature had fitted them.
The subject matter of elementary instruction must be limited by what was practicable and desirable. The revised code had done too little; it had taught the use of the tools of learning, while denying all sorts of knowledge on which to exercise them afterwards. And here incidentally he repudiated the notion that the English child was stupid; on the contrary, he thought the two finest intellects in Europe at this time were the English and the Italian.
In particular he advocated the teaching of] "the first elements of physical science"; "by which I do not mean teaching astronomy and the use of the globes, and the rest of the abominable trash—but a little instruction of the child in what is the nature of common things about him; what their properties are, and in what relation this actual body of man stands to the universe outside of it." "There is no form of knowledge or instruction in which children take greater interest."
[Drawing and music, too, he considered, should be taught in every elementary school, not to produce painters or musicians, but as civilising arts. History, except the most elementary notions, he put out of court, as too advanced for children.
Finally, he proposed a list of members to serve on the Education Committee in a couple of sentences with a humorous twist in them which disarmed criticism.] "On a former occasion I was accused of having a proclivity in favour of the clergy, and recollecting this, I have only given them in this instance a fair proportion of the representation. If, however, I have omitted any gentleman who thinks he ought to be on the committee, I can only assure him that above all others I should have been glad to put him on."
[That day week the committee was elected, about a third of the members of the Board being chosen to serve on it. At the same meeting, Dr. Gladstone continues:—
Mr. W.H. Smith, the well-known member of Parliament, proposed, and Mr. Samuel Morley, M.P., seconded, a resolution in favour of religious teaching—"That, in the schools provided by the Board, the Bible shall be read, and there shall be given therefrom such explanations and such instruction in the principles of religion and morality as are suited to the capacities of children," with certain provisos. Several antagonistic amendments were proposed; but Professor Huxley gave his support to Mr. Smith's resolutions, which, however, he thought might be trimmed and amended in a way that the Reverend Dr. Angus had suggested. His speech, defining his own position, was a very remarkable one. He said] "it was assumed in the public mind that this question of religious instruction was a little family quarrel between the different sects of Protestantism on the one hand, and the old Catholic Church on the other. Side by side with this much shivered and splintered Protestantism of theirs, and with the united fabric of the Catholic Church (not so strong temporally as she used to be, otherwise he might not have been addressing them at that moment), there was a third party growing up into very considerable and daily increasing significance, which had nothing to do with either of those great parties, and which was pushing its own way independent of them, having its own religion and its own morality, which rested in no way whatever on the foundations of the other two." [He thought that] "the action of the Board should be guided and influenced very much by the consideration of this third great aspect of things," [which he called the scientific aspect, for want of a better name.]
"It had been very justly said that they had a great mass of low half-instructed population which owed what little redemption from ignorance and barbarism it possessed mainly to the efforts of the clergy of the different denominations. Any system of gaining the attention of these people to these matters must be a system connected with, or not too rudely divorced from their own system of belief. He wanted regulations, not in accordance with what he himself thought was right, but in the direction in which thought was moving." [He wanted an elastic system, that did not oppose any obstacle to the free play of the public mind.
Huxley voted against all the proposed amendments, and in favour of Mr. Smith's motion. There were only three who voted against it; while the three Roman Catholic members refrained from voting. This basis of religious instruction, practically unaltered, has remained the law of the Board ever since.
There was a controversy in the papers, between Professor Huxley and the Reverend W.H. Fremantle, as to the nature of the explanations of the Bible lessons. Huxley maintained that it should be purely grammatical, geographical, and historical in its nature; Fremantle that it should include some species of distinct religious teaching, but not of a denominational character. (Cp. extract from Lord Shaftesbury's journal about this correspondence ("Life and Work of Lord Shaftesbury" 3 282). "Professor Huxley has this definition of morality and religion:] 'Teach a child what is wise, that is morality. Teach him what is wise and beautiful, that is RELIGION!' Let no one henceforth despair of making things clear and of giving explanations!")
[In taking up this position, Huxley expressly disclaimed any desire for a mere compromise to smooth over a difficulty. He supported what appeared to be the only workable plan under the circumstances, though it was not his ideal; for he would not have used the Bible as the agency for introducing the religious and ethical idea into education if he had been dealing with a fresh and untouched population.
His appreciation of the literary and historical value of the Bible, and the effect it was likely to produce upon the school children, circumstanced as they were, is sometimes misunderstood to be an endorsement of the vulgar idea of it. But it always remained his belief] "that the principle of strict secularity in State education is sound, and must eventually prevail." [(As a result of some remarks of Mr. Clodd's on the matter in "Pioneers of Evolution," a correspondent, some time after, wrote to him as follows:—
"In the report upon State Education in New Zealand, 1895, drawn up by R. Laishly, the following occurs, page 13:—'Professor Huxley gives me leave to state his opinion to be that the principle of strict secularity in State education is sound, and must eventually prevail.'"
His views on dogmatic teaching in State schools, may be gathered further from two letters at the period when an attempt was being made to upset the so-called compromise.
The first appeared in the "Times" of April 29, 1893:—]
In a leading article of your issue of to-day you state, with perfect accuracy, that I supported the arrangement respecting religious instruction agreed to by the London School Board in 1871, and hitherto undisturbed. But you go on to say that "the persons who framed the rule" intended it to include definite teaching of such theological dogmas as the Incarnation.
I cannot say what may have been in the minds of the framers of the rule; but, assuredly, if I had dreamed that any such interpretation could fairly be put upon it, I should have opposed the arrangement to the best of my ability.
In fact, a year before the rule was framed I wrote an article in the "Contemporary Review," entitled "The School Boards—what they can do and what they may do," in which I argued that the terms of the Education Act excluded such teaching as it is now proposed to include. And I support my contention by the following citation from the speech delivered by Mr. Forster at the Birkbeck Institution in 1870:—
["I have the fullest confidence that in the reading and explaining of the Bible what the children will be taught will be the great truths of Christian life and conduct, which all of us desire they should know, and that no efforts will be made to cram into their poor little minds theological dogmas which their tender age prevents them from understanding."
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Hodeslea, Eastbourne, April 28.
[The second is to a correspondent who wrote to ask him whether adhesion to the compromise had not rendered nonsensical the teaching given in a certain lesson upon the finding of the youthful Jesus in the temple, when, after they had read the verse, "How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" the teacher asked the children the name of Jesus' father and mother, and accepted the simple answer, Joseph and Mary. Thus the point of the story, whether regarded as reality or myth, is slurred over, the result is perplexity, the teaching, in short, is bad, apart from all theory as to the value of the Bible.
In a letter to the "Chronicle," which he forwarded, this correspondent suggested a continuation of the "incriminated lesson":—
Suppose, then, that an intelligent child of seven, who has just heard it read out that Jesus excused Himself to his parents for disappearing for three days, on the ground that He was about His father's business, and has then learned that His father's name was Joseph, had said, "Please, teacher, was this the Jesus that gave us the Lord's Prayer?" The teacher answers, "Yes." and suppose the child rejoins, "And is it to His father Joseph that he bids us pray when we say Our Father?" But there are boys of nine, ten, eleven years in Board Schools, and many such boys are intelligent enough to take up the subject of the lesson where the instructor left it. "Please, teacher," asks one of these, "what business was it that Jesus had to do for His father Joseph? Had He stopped behind to get a few orders? Was it true that He had been about Joseph's business? And, if it was not, did He not deserve to be punished?"
Huxley replied on October 16, 1894:—]
I am one with you in hating "hush up" as I do all other forms of lying; but I venture to submit that the compromise of 1871 was not a "hush-up." If I had taken it to be such I should have refused to have anything to do with it. And more specifically, I said in a letter to the "Times" (see "Times," 29th April 1893) at the beginning of the present controversy, that if I had thought the compromise involved the obligatory teaching of such dogmas as the Incarnation I should have opposed it.
There has never been the slightest ambiguity about my position in this matter; in fact, if you will turn to one paper on the School Board written by me before my election in 1870, I think you will find that I anticipated the pith of the present discussion.
The persons who agreed to the compromise, did exactly what all sincere men who agree to compromise, do. For the sake of the enormous advantage of giving the rudiments of a decent education to several generations of the people, they accepted what was practically an armistice in respect of certain matters about which the contending parties were absolutely irreconcilable.
The clericals have now "denounced" the treaty, doubtless thinking they can get a new one more favourable to themselves.
From my point of view, I am not sure that it might not be well for them to succeed, so that the sweep into space which would befall them in the course of the next twenty-three years might be complete and final.
As to the case you put to me—permit me to continue the dialogue in another shape.
Boy.—Please, teacher, if Joseph was not Jesus' father and God was, why did Mary say, "Thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing"? How could God not know where Jesus was? How could He be sorry?
Teacher.—When Jesus says Father, he means God; but when Mary says father, she means Joseph.
Boy.—Then Mary didn't know God was Jesus' father?
Teacher.—Oh, yes, she did (reads the story of the Annunciation).
Boy.—It seems to me very odd that Mary used language which she knew was not true, and taught her son to call Joseph father. But there's another odd thing about her. If she knew her child was God's son, why was she alarmed about his safety? Surely she might have trusted God to look after his own son in a crowd.
I know of children of six and seven who are quite capable of following out such a line of inquiry with all the severe logic of a moral sense which has not been sophisticated by pious scrubbing.
I could tell you of stranger inquiries than these which have been made by children in endeavouring to understand the account of the miraculous conception.
Whence I conclude that even in the interests of what people are pleased to call Christianity (though it is my firm conviction that Jesus would have repudiated the doctrine of the Incarnation as warmly as that of the Trinity), it may be well to leave things as they are.
All this is for your own eye. There is nothing in substance that I have not said publicly, but I do not feel called upon to say it over again, or get mixed up in an utterly wearisome controversy.
I am, yours faithfully,
[However, he was unsuccessful in his proposal that a selection be made of passages for reading from the Bible; the Board refused to become censors. On May 10 he raised the question of the diversion from the education of poor children of charitable bequests, which ought to be applied to the augmentation of the school fund. In speaking to this motion he said that the long account of errors and crimes of the Catholic Church was greatly redeemed by the fact that that Church had always borne in mind the education of the poor, and had carried out the great democratic idea that the soul of every man was of the same value in the eyes of his Maker.
The next matter of importance in which he took part was on June 14, when the Committee on the Scheme of Education presented its first report. Dr. Gladstone writes:—
It was a very voluminous document. The Committee had met every week, and, in the words of Huxley,] "what it had endeavoured to do, was to obtain some order and system and uniformity in important matters, whilst in comparatively unimportant matters they thought some play should be given for the activity of the bodies of men into whose hands the management of the various schools should be placed." [The recommendations were considered on June 21 and July 12, and passed without any material alterations or additions. They were very much the same as existed in the best elementary schools of the period. Huxley's chief interest, it may be surmised, was in the subjects of instruction. It was passed that, in infants' schools there should be the Bible, reading, writing, arithmetic, object lessons of a simple character, with some such exercise of the hands and eyes as is given in the Kindergarten system, music, and drill. In junior and senior schools the subjects of instruction were divided into two classes, essential and discretionary, the essentials being the Bible, and the principles of religion and morality, reading, writing, and arithmetic, English grammar and composition, elementary geography, and elementary social economy, history of England, the principles of book-keeping in senior schools, with mensuration in senior boys' schools. All through the six years there were to be systematised object lessons, embracing a course of elementary instruction in physical science, and serving as an introduction to the science examinations conducted by the Science and Art department. An analogous course of instruction was adopted for elementary evening schools. In moving] "that the formation of science and art classes in connection with public elementary schools be encouraged and facilitated," [Huxley contended strongly for it, saying,] "The country could not possibly commit a greater error than in establishing schools in which the direct applications of science and art were taught before those who entered the classes were grounded in the principles of physical science." [In advocating object lessons he said,] "The position that science was now assuming, not only in relation to practical life, but to thought, was such that those who remained entirely ignorant of even its elementary facts were in a wholly unfair position as regarded the world of thought and the world of practical life." [It was, moreover,] "the only real foundation for technical education."
[Other points in which he was specially concerned were, that the universal teaching of drawing was accepted, against an amendment excluding girls; that domestic economy was made a discretionary substitute for needlework and cutting-out; while he spoke in defence of Latin as a discretionary subject, alternatively with a modern language. It was true that he would not have proposed it in the first instance, not because a little Latin is a bad thing, but for fear of] "overloading the boat." [But, on the other hand, there was great danger if education were not thrown open to all without restriction. If it be urged that a man should be content with the state of life to which he is called, the obvious retort is, How do you know what is your state of life, unless you try what you are called to? There is no more frightful] "sitting on the safety valve" [than in preventing men of ability from having the means of rising to the positions for which they, by their talents and industry, could qualify themselves.
Further, although the committee as a whole recommended that discretionary subjects should be extras, he wished them to be covered by the general payment, in which sense the report was amended.
This Education Committee (proceeds Dr. Gladstone) continued to sit, and on November 30 brought up a report in favour of the Prussian system of separate classrooms, to be tried in one school as an experiment. This reads curiously now that it has become the system almost universally adopted in the London Board Schools.
In regard to examinations Huxley strongly supported the view that the teaching in all subjects, secular or sacred, should be periodically tested.
On December 13, Huxley raised the question whether the selection of books and apparatus should be referred to his Committee or to the School Management Committee, and on January 10 following, a small sub-committee for that object was formed. Almost immediately after this he retired from the Board.
One more speech of his, which created a great stir at the time, must be referred to, namely his expression of undisguised hostility to the system of education maintained by the Ultramontane section of the Roman Catholics. (Cp. "Scientific Education" "Collected Essays" 3 page 111.) In October the bye-laws came up for consideration. One of them provided that the Board should pay over direct to denominational schools the fees for poor children. This he opposed on the ground that it would lead to repeated contests on the Board, and further, might be used as a tool by the Ultramontanes for their own purposes. Believing that their system as set forth in the syllabus, of securing complete possession of the minds of those whom they taught or controlled, was destructive to all that was highest in the nature of mankind, and inconsistent with intellectual and political liberty, he considered it his earnest duty to oppose all measures which would lead to assisting the Ultramontanes in their purpose.
Hereupon he was vehemently attacked, for example, in the "Times" for his "injudicious and even reprehensible tone" which "aggravated the difficulties his opponents might have in giving way to him." Was this, it was asked, the way to get Roman Catholic children to the Board schools? Was it not an abandonment of the ideal of compulsory education?
It is hardly necessary to point out that the question was not between the compulsory inclusion or exclusion of poor children, but between their admission at the cost of the Board to schools under the Board's own control or outside it. In any case the children of Roman Catholics were not likely to get their own doctrines taught in Board Schools, and without this they declared they would rather go without education at all.
Early in 1872 Huxley retired. For a year he had continued at this task; then his health broke down, and feeling that he had done his part, from no personal motives of ambition, but rather at some cost to himself, for what he held to be national ends, he determined not to resume the work after the rest which was to restore him to health, and made his resignation definite.
Dr. Gladstone writes:—
On February 7 a letter of resignation was received from him, stating that he was] "reluctantly compelled, both on account of his health and his private affairs, to insist on giving up his seat at the Board." [The Reverend Dr. Rigg, Canon Miller, Mr. Charles Reed, and Lord Lawrence expressed their deep regret. In the words of Dr. Rigg, "they were losing one of the most valuable members of the Board, not only because of his intellect and trained acuteness, but because of his knowledge of every subject connected with culture and education, and because of his great fairness and impartiality with regard to all subjects that came under his observation."
Though Huxley quitted the Board after only fourteen months' service, the memory of his words and acts combined to influence it long afterwards. In various ways he expressed his opinion on educational matters, publicly and privately. He frequently talked with me on the subject at the Athenaeum Club, and shortly after my election to the Board in 1873, I find it recorded in my diary that he insisted strongly on the necessity of our building infants' schools,—] "People may talk about intellectual teaching, but what we principally want is the moral teaching."
As to the sub-committee on books and apparatus, it did little at first, but at the beginning of the second Board, 1873, it became better organised under the presidency of the Reverend Benjamin Waugh. At the commencement of the next triennial term I became the chairman, and continued to be such for eighteen years. It was our duty to put into practice the scheme of instruction which Huxley was mainly instrumental in settling. We were thus able indirectly to improve both the means and methods of teaching. The subjects of instruction have all been retained in the Curriculum of the London School Board, except, perhaps, "mensuration" and "social economy." The most important developments and additions have been in the direction of educating the hand and eye. Kindergarten methods have been promoted. Drawing, on which Huxley laid more stress than his colleagues generally did, has been enormously extended and greatly revolutionised in its methods. Object lessons and elementary science have been introduced everywhere, while shorthand, the use of tools for boys, cookery and domestic economy for girls are becoming essentials in our schools. Evening continuation schools have lately been widely extended. Thus the impulse given by Huxley in the first months of the Board's existence has been carried forward by others, and is now affecting the minds of the half million of boys and girls in the Board Schools of London, and indirectly the still greater number in other schools throughout the land.
I must further express my thanks to Bishop Barry for permission to make use of the following passages from the notes contributed by him to Dr. Gladstone:—
I had the privilege of being a member of his committee for defining the curriculum of study, and here also—the religious question being disposed of—I was able to follow much the same line as his, and I remember being struck not only with his clear-headed ability, but with his strong commonsense, as to what was useful and practicable, and the utter absence in him of doctrinaire aspiration after ideal impossibilities. There was (I think) very little under his chairmanship of strongly-accentuated difference of opinion.
In his action on the Board generally I was struck with these three characteristics:—First, his remarkable power of speaking—I may say, of oratory—not only on his own scientific subjects, but on all the matters, many of which were of great practical interest and touched the deepest feelings, which came before the Board at that critical time. Had he chosen—and we heard at that time that he was considering whether he should choose—to enter political life, it would certainly have made him a great power, possibly a leader, in that sphere. Next, what constantly appears in his writings, even those of the most polemical kind—a singular candour in recognising truths which might seen to militate against his own position, and a power of understanding and respecting his adversaries' opinions, if only they were strongly and conscientiously held. I remember his saying on one occasion that in his earlier experience of sickness and suffering, he had found that the most effective helpers of the higher humanity were not the scientist or the philosopher, but] "the parson, and the sister, and the Bible woman." [Lastly, the strong commonsense, which enabled him to see what was] "within the range of practical politics," [and to choose for the cause which he had at heart the line of least resistance, and to check, sometimes to rebuke, intolerant obstinacy even on the side which he was himself inclined to favour. These qualities over and above his high intellectual ability made him, for the comparatively short time that he remained on the Board, one of its leading members.
No less vivid is the impression left, after many years, upon another member of the first School Board, the Reverend Benjamin Waugh, whose life-long work for the children is so well known. From his recollections, written for the use of Professor Gladstone, it is my privilege to quote the following paragraphs:—
I was drawn to him most, and was influenced by him most, because of his attitude to a child. He was on the Board to establish schools for children. His motive in every argument, in all the fun and ridicule he indulged in, and in his occasional anger, was the child. He resented the idea that schools were to train either congregations for churches or hands for factories. He was on the Board as a friend of children. What he sought to do for the child was for the child's sake, that it might live a fuller, truer, worthier life. If ever his great tolerance with men with whom he differed on general principles seemed to fail him for a moment, it was because they seemed to him to seek other ends than the child for its own sake...
His contempt for the idea of the world into which we were born being either a sort of clergyhouse or a market-place, was too complete to be marked by any eagerness. But in view of the market-place idea he was the less calm.
Like many others who had not yet come to know in what high esteem he held the moral and spiritual nature of children, I had thought he was the advocate of mere secular studies, alike in the nation's schools, and in its families. But by contact with him, this soon became an impossible idea. In very early days on the Board a remark I had made to a mutual friend which implied this unjust idea was repeated to him.] "Tell Waugh that he talks too fast," [was his message to me. I was not long in finding out that this was a very just reproof...
The two things in his character of which I became most conscious by contact with him, were his childlikeness and his consideration for intellectual inferiors. His arguments were as transparently honest as the arguments of a child. They might or might not seem wrong to others, but they were never untrue to himself. Whether you agreed with them or not, they always added greatly to the charm of his personality. Whether his face was lighted by his careless and playful humour or his great brows were shadowed by anger, he was alike expressing himself with the honesty of a child. What he counted iniquity he hated, and what he counted righteous he loved with the candour of a child...
Of his consideration for intellectual inferiors I, of course, needed a large share, and it was never wanting. Towering as was his intellectual strength and keenness above me, indeed above the whole of the rest of the members of the Board, he did not condescend to me. The result was never humiliating. It had no pain of any sort in it. He was too spontaneous and liberal with his consideration to seem conscious that he was showing any. There were many men of religious note upon the Board, of some of whom I could not say the same.
In his most trenchant attacks on what he deemed wrong in principles, he never descended to attack either the sects which held them or the individuals who supported them, even though occasionally much provocation was given him. He might not care for peace with some of the theories represented on the Board, but he had certainly and at all times great good-will to men.
As a speaker he was delightful. Few, clear, definite, and calm as stars were the words he spoke. Nobody talked whilst he was speaking. There were no tricks in his talk. He did not seem to be trying to persuade you of something. What convinced him, that he transferred to others. He made no attempt to misrepresent those opposed to him. He sought only to let them know himself...Even the sparkle of his humour, like the sparkle of a diamond, was of the inevitable in him, and was as fair as it was enjoyable.
As one who has tried to serve children, I look back upon having fallen in with Mr. Huxley as one of the many fortunate circumstances of my life. It taught me the importance of making acquaintance with facts, and of studying the laws of them. Under his influence it was that I most of all came to see the practical value of a single eye to those in any pursuit of life. I saw what effect they had on emotions of charity and sentiments of justice, and what simplicity and grandeur they gave to appeals.
My last conversation with him was at Eastbourne some time in 1887 or 1888. I was there on my society's business.] "Well, Waugh, you're still busy about your babies," [was his greeting. "Yes," I responded "and you are still busy about your pigs." One of the last discussions at which he was present at the School Board for London had been on the proximity of a piggery to a site for a school, and his attack on Mr. Gladstone on the Gadarene swine had just been made in the "Nineteenth Century."] "Do you still believe in Gladstone?" [he continued.] "That man has the greatest intellect in Europe. He was born to be a leader of men, and he has debased himself to be a follower of the masses. If working men were to-day to vote by a majority that two and two made five, to-morrow Gladstone would believe it, and find them reasons for it which they had never dreamed of." [He said it slowly and with sorrow.
Two more incidents are connected with his service on the School Board. A wealthy friend wrote to him in the most honourable and delicate terms, begging him, on public grounds, to accept 400 pounds sterling a year to enable him to continue his work on the Board. He refused the offer as simply and straightforwardly as it was made; his means, though not large, were sufficient for his present needs.
Further, a good many people seemed to think that he meant to use the School Board as a stalking horse for a political career. To one of those who urged him to stand for Parliament, he replied thus:—]
November 18, 1871.
It has often been suggested to me that I should seek for a seat in the House of Commons; indeed I have reason to think that many persons suppose that I entered the London School Board simply as a road to Parliament.
But I assure you that this supposition is entirely without foundation, and that I have never seriously entertained any notion of the kind.
The work of the School Board involves me in no small sacrifices of various kinds, but I went into it with my eyes open, and with the clear conviction that it was worth while to make those sacrifices for the sake of helping the Education Act into practical operation. A year's experience has not altered that conviction; but now that the most difficult, if not the most important, part of our work is done, I begin to look forward with some anxiety to the time when I shall be relieved of duties which so seriously interfere with what I regard as my proper occupation.
No one can say what the future has in store for him, but at present I know of no inducement, not even the offer of a seat in the House of Commons, which would lead me, even temporarily and partially, to forsake that work again.
I am, dear sir, yours very faithfully,
[I give here a letter to me from Sir Mountstuart Grant Duff, who also at one period was anxious to induce him to enter Parliament:—
Lexden Park, Colchester, 4th November, 1898.
Dear Mr. Huxley,
I have met men who seemed to me to possess powers of mind even greater than those of your father—his friend Henry Smith for example; but I never met any one who gave me the impression so much as he did, that he would have gone to the front in any pursuit in which he had seen fit to engage. Henry Smith had, in addition to his astonishing mathematical genius, and his great talents as a scholar, a rare faculty of persuasiveness. Your father used to speak with much admiration and some amusement of the way in which he managed to get people to take his view by appearing to take theirs; but he never could have been a power in a popular assembly, nor have carried with him by the force of his eloquence, great masses of men. I do not think that your father, if he had entered the House of Commons and thrown himself entirely into political life, would have been much behind Gladstone as a debater, or Bright as an orator. Whether he had the stamina which are required not only to reach but to retain a foremost place in politics, is another question. The admirers of Prince Bismarck would say that the daily prayer of the statesman should be there "une bonne digestion et un mauvais coeur." "Le mauvais coeur" does not appear to be "de toute necessite," but, assuredly, the "bonne digestion" is. Given an adequate and equal amount of ability in two men who enter the House of Commons together, it is the man of strong digestion, drawing with it, as it usually does, good temper and power of continuous application, who will go furthest. Gladstone, who was inferior to your father in intellect, might have "given points" to the Dragon of Wantley who devoured church steeples. Your father could certainly not have done so, and in that respect was less well equipped for a lifelong parliamentary struggle.
I should like to have seen these two pitted against each other with that "substantial piece of furniture" between them behind which Mr. Disraeli was glad to shelter himself. I should like to have heard them discussing some subject which they both thoroughly understood. When they did cross swords the contest was like nothing that has happened in our times save the struggle at Omdurman. It was not so much a battle as a massacre, for Gladstone had nothing but a bundle of antiquated prejudices wherewith to encounter your father's luminous thought and exact knowledge.
You know, I daresay, that Mr. William Rathbone, then M.P. for Liverpool, once proposed to your father to be the companion of my first Indian journey in 1874-5, he, William Rathbone, paying all your father's expenses. (Of this, Dr. Tyndall wrote to Mrs. Huxley:—"I want to tell you a pleasant conversation I had last night with Jodrell. He and a couple more want to send Hal with Grant Duff to India, taking charge of his duties here and of all necessities ghostly and bodily there!") Mr. Rathbone made this proposal when he found that Lubbock, with whom I travelled a great deal at that period of my life, was unable to go with me to India. How I wish your father had said "Yes." My journey, as it was, turned out most instructive and delightful; but to have lived five months with a man of his extraordinary gifts would have been indeed a rare piece of good fortune, and I should have been able also to have contributed to the work upon which you are engaged a great many facts which would have been of interest to your readers. You will, however, I am sure, take the will for the deed, and believe me, very sincerely yours,
M.E. Grant Duff.]
["In 1871" (to quote Sir M. Foster), "the post of Secretary to the Royal Society became vacant through the resignation of William Sharpey, and the Fellows learned with glad surprise that Huxley, whom they looked to rather as a not distant President, was willing to undertake the duties of the office." This office, which he held until 1880, involved him for the next ten years in a quantity of anxious work, not only in the way of correspondence and administration, but the seeing through the press and often revising every biological paper that the Society received, as well as reading those it rejected. Then, too, he had to attend every general, council, and committee meeting, amongst which latter the "Challenger" Committee was a load in itself. Under pressure of all this work, he was compelled to give up active connection with other learned societies. (See Appendix 2.)
Other work this year, in addition to the School Board, included courses of lectures at the London Institution in January and February, on "First Principles of Biology," and from October to December on "Elementary Physiology"; lectures to Working Men in London from February to April, as well as one at Liverpool, March 25, on "The Geographical Distribution of Animals"; two lectures at the Royal Institution, May 12 and 19, on "Berkeley on Vision," and the "Metaphysics of Sensation" ("Collected Essays" 6). He published one paleontological paper, "Fossil Vertebrates from the Yarrow Colliery" (Huxley and Wright, "Irish Academy Transactions"). In June and July he gave 36 lectures to schoolmasters—that important business of teaching the teachers that they might set about scientific instruction in the right way. (See below.) He attended the British Association at Edinburgh, and laid down his Presidency; he brought out his "Manual of Vertebrate Anatomy," and wrote a review of "Mr. Darwin's Critics" (see below), while on October 9 he delivered an address at the Midland Institute, Birmingham, on "Administrative Nihilism" ("Collected Essays" 1). This address, written between September 21 and 28, and remodelled later, was a pendant to his educational campaign on the School Board; a restatement and justification of what he had said and done there. His text was the various objections raised to State interference with education; he dealt first with the upholders of a kind of caste system, men who were willing enough to raise themselves and their sons to a higher social plane, but objected on semi-theological grounds to any one from below doing likewise—neatly satirising them and their notions of gentility, and quoting Plato in support of his contention that what is wanted even more than means to help capacity to rise is "machinery by which to facilitate the descent of incapacity from the higher strata to the lower." He repeats in new phrase his warning] "that every man of high natural ability, who is both ignorant and miserable, is as great a danger to society as a rocket without a stick is to people who fire it. Misery is a match that never goes out; genius, as an explosive power, beats gunpowder hollow: and if knowledge, which should give that power guidance, is wanting, the chances are not small that the rocket will simply run amuck among friends and foes."
[Another class of objectors will have it that government should be restricted to police functions, both domestic and foreign, that any further interference must do harm.]
Suppose, however, for the sake of argument, that we accept the proposition that the functions of the State may be properly summed up in the one great negative commandment—"Thou shalt not allow any man to interfere with the liberty of any other man,"—I am unable to see that the logical consequence is any such restriction of the power of Government, as its supporters imply. If my next-door neighbour chooses to have his drains in such a state as to create a poisonous atmosphere, which I breathe at the risk of typhoid and diphtheria, he restricts my just freedom to just as much as if he went about with a pistol threatening my life; if he is to be allowed to let his children go unvaccinated, he might as well be allowed to leave strychnine lozenges about in the way of mine; and if he brings them up untaught and untrained to earn their living, he is doing his best to restrict my freedom, by increasing the burden of taxation for the support of gaols and workhouses, which I have to pay.