LIFE AND LETTERS OF THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY
BY HIS SON
IN THREE VOLUMES.
(PLATE: PORTRAIT OF T.H. HUXLEY, FROM A PHOTOGRAPH BY DOWNEY, 1890. MCQUEEN, SC.)
CHAPTER 3.1. 1887.
CHAPTER 3.2. 1887.
CHAPTER 3.3. 1888.
CHAPTER 3.4. 1888.
CHAPTER 3.5. 1889.
CHAPTER 3.6. 1889-1890.
CHAPTER 3.7. 1890-1891.
CHAPTER 3.8. 1890-1891.
CHAPTER 3.9. 1892.
CHAPTER 3.10. 1892.
CHAPTER 3.11. 1892.
CHAPTER 3.12. 1893.
CHAPTER 3.13. 1894.
CHAPTER 3.14. 1895.
CHAPTER 3.16. 1895.
[The first half of 1887, like that of the preceding year, was chequered by constant returns of ill-health.] "As one gets older," [he writes in a New Year's letter to Sir J. Donnelly, "hopes for oneself get more moderate, and I shall be content if next year is no worse than the last. Blessed are the poor in spirit!" [The good effects of the visit to Arolla had not outlasted the winter, and from the end of February he was obliged to alternate between London and the Isle of Wight.
Nevertheless, he managed to attend to a good deal of business in the intervals between his periodic flights to the country, for he continued to serve on the Royal Society Council, to do some of the examining work at South Kensington, and to fight for the establishment of adequate Technical Education in England. He attended the Senate and various committees of the London University and of the Marine Biological Association.
Several letters refer to the proposal—it was the Jubilee year—to commemorate the occasion by the establishment of the Imperial Institute. To this he gladly gave his support; not indeed to the merely social side; but in the opportunity of organising the practical applications of science to industry he saw the key to success in the industrial war of the future. Seconding the resolution proposed by Lord Rothschild at the Mansion House meeting on January 12, he spoke of the relation of industry to science—the two great developments of this century. Formerly practical men looked askance at science, "but within the last thirty years, more particularly," continues the report in "Nature" (volume 33 page 265) "that state of things had entirely changed. There began in the first place a slight flirtation between science and industry, and that flirtation had grown into an intimacy, he must almost say courtship, until those who watched the signs of the times saw that it was high time that the young people married and set up an establishment for themselves. This great scheme, from his point of view, was the public and ceremonial marriage of science and industry."
Proceeding to speak of the contrast between militarism and industrialism, he asked whether, after all, modern industry was not war under the forms of peace. The difference was the difference between modern and ancient war, consisting in the use of scientific weapons, of organisation and information. The country, he concluded, had dropped astern in the race for want of special education which was obtained elsewhere by the artisan. The only possible chance for keeping the industry of England at the head of the world was through organisation.
Writing on January 18, to Mr. Herbert Spencer, who had sent him some proofs of his Autobiography to look through, he says:—]
I see that your proofs have been in my hands longer than I thought for. But you may have seen that I have been "starring" at the Mansion House.
This was not exactly one of those bits of over-easiness to pressure with which you reproach me—but the resultant of a composition of pressures, one of which was the conviction that the "Institute" might be made into something very useful and greatly wanted—if only the projectors could be made to believe that they had always intended to do that which your humble servant wants done—that is the establishment of a sort of Royal Society for the improvement of industrial knowledge and an industrial university—by voluntary association.
I hope my virtue may be its own reward. For except being knocked up for a day or two by the unwonted effort, I doubt whether there will be any other. The thing has fallen flat as a pancake, and I greatly doubt whether any good will come of it. Except a fine in the shape of a subscription, I hope to escape further punishment for my efforts to be of use.
[However, this was only the beginning of his campaign.
On January 27, a letter from him appeared in the "Times," guarding against a wrong interpretation of his speech, in the general uncertainty as to the intentions of the proposers of the scheme.]
I had no intention [he writes] of expressing any enthusiasm on behalf of the establishment of a vast permanent bazaar. I am not competent to estimate the real utility of these great shows. What I do see very clearly is that they involve difficulties of site, huge working expenses, the potentiality of endless squabbles, and apparently the cheapening of knighthood.
[As for the site proposed at South Kensington,] "the arguments used in its favour in the report would be conclusive if the dry light of reason were the sole guide of human action." [But it would alienate other powerful and wealthy bodies, which were interested in the Central Institute of the City and Guilds Technical Institute,] "which looks so portly outside and is so very much starved inside."
[He wrote again to the "Times" on March 21:—]
The Central Institute is undoubtedly a splendid monument of the munificence of the city. But munificence without method may arrive at results indistinguishably similar to those of stinginess. I have been blamed for saying that the Central Institute is "starved." Yet a man who has only half as much food as he needs is indubitably starved, even though his short rations consist of ortolans and are served upon gold plate.
[Only half the plan of operations as drawn up by the Committee was, or could be, carried out on existing funds.
The later part of his letter was printed by the Committee as defining the functions of the new Institute:—]
That with which I did intend to express my strong sympathy was the intention which I thought I discerned to establish something which should play the same part in regard to the advancement of industrial knowledge which has been played in regard to science and learning in general, in these realms, by the Royal Society and the Universities...I pictured the Imperial Institute to myself as a house of call for all those who are concerned in the advancement of industry; as a place in which the home-keeping industrial could find out all he wants to know about colonial industry and the colonist about home industry; as a sort of neutral ground on which the capitalist and the artisan would be equally welcome; as a centre of intercommunication in which they might enter into friendly discussion of the problems at issue between them, and, perchance, arrive at a friendly solution of them. I imagined it a place in which the fullest stores of industrial knowledge would be made accessible to the public; in which the higher questions of commerce and industry would be systematically studied and elucidated; and where, as in an industrial university, the whole technical education of the country might find its centre and crown. If I earnestly desire to see such an institution created, it is not because I think that or anything else will put an end to pauperism and want—as somebody has absurdly suggested,—but because I believe it will supply a foundation for that scientific organisation of our industries which the changed conditions of the times render indispensable to their prosperity. I do not think I am far wrong in assuming that we are entering, indeed, have already entered, upon the most serious struggle for existence to which this country has ever been committed. The latter years of the century promise to see us embarked in an industrial war of far more serious import than the military wars of its opening years. On the east, the most systematically instructed and best-informed people in Europe are our competitors; on the west, an energetic offshoot of our own stock, grown bigger than its parent, enters upon the struggle possessed of natural resources to which we can make no pretension, and with every prospect of soon possessing that cheap labour by which they may be effectually utilised. Many circumstances tend to justify the hope that we may hold our own if we are careful to "organise victory." But to those who reflect seriously on the prospects of the population of Lancashire and Yorkshire—should the time ever arrive when the goods which are produced by their labour and their skill are to be had cheaper elsewhere—to those who remember the cotton famine and reflect how much worse a customer famine would be, the situation appears very grave.
[On February 19 and 22, he wrote again to the "Times" declaring against the South Kensington site. It was too far from the heart of commercial organisation in the city, and the city people were preparing to found a similar institution of their own. He therefore wished to prevent the Imperial Institute from becoming a weak and unworthy memorial of the reign.
A final letter to the "Times" on March 21, was evoked by the fact that Lord Hartington, in giving away the prizes at the Polytechnic Y.M.C.A., had adopted Huxley's position as defined in his speech, and declared that science ought to be aided on precisely the same grounds on which we aid the army and navy.
In this letter he asks, how do we stand prepared for the task thus imperatively set us? We have the machinery for providing instruction and information, and for catching capable men, but both in a disjointed condition]—"all mere torsos—fine, but fragmentary." "The ladder from the School Board to the Universities, about which I dreamed dreams many years ago, has not yet acquired much more substantiality than the ladder of Jacob's vision," [but the Science and Art Department, the Normal School of Science, and the Central Institute only want the means to carry out the recommendations already made by impartial and independent authority.] "Economy does not lie in sparing money, but in spending it wisely."
[He concluded with an appeal to Lord Hartington to take up this task of organising industrial education and bring it to a happy issue.
A proposal was also made to the Royal Society to co-operate, and Sir M. Foster writes on February 19: "We have appointed a Committee to consider and draw up a draft reply with a view of the Royal Society following up your letter."
To this Huxley replied on the 22nd:—]
...My opinion is that the Royal Society has no right to spend its money or pledge its credit for any but scientific objects, and that we have nothing to do with sending round the hat for other purposes.
The project of the Institute Committee as it stands connected with the South Kensington site—is condemned by all the city people and will receive none but the most grudging support from them. They are going to set up what will be practically an Institute of their own in the city.
The thing is already a failure. I daresay it will go on and be varnished into a simulacrum of success—to become eventually a ghost like the Albert Hall or revive as a tea garden.
[The following letter also touches upon the function of the Institute from the commercial side:—]
4 Marlborough Place, February 20, 1887.
My dear Donnelly,
Mr. Law's suggestion gives admirable definition to the notions that were floating in my mind when I wrote in my letter to the "Times", that I imagined the Institute would be a "place in which the fullest stores of industrial knowledge would be made accessible to the public." A man of business who wants to know anything about the prospects of trade with, say, Boorioboola-Gha (vide Bleak House) ought to be able to look into the Institute and find there somebody who will at once fish out for him among the documents in the place all that is known about Boorioboola.
But a Commercial Intelligence Department is not all that is wanted, vide valuable letter aforesaid.
I hope your appetite for the breakfast was none the worse for last night's doings—mine was rather improved, but I am dog-tired.
Ever yours very faithfully,
I return Miss —'s note. she evidently thinks my cage is labelled "These animals bite."
[Later in the year, the following letters show him continuing the campaign. But an attack of pleurisy, which began the very day of the Jubilee, prevented him from coming to speak at a meeting upon Technical Education. In the autumn, however, he spoke on the subject at Manchester, and had the satisfaction of seeing the city "go solid," as he expressed it, for technical education. The circumstances of this visit are given later.]
4 Marlborough Place, May 1, 1887.
My dear Roscoe,
I met Lord Hartington at the Academy Dinner last night and took the opportunity of urging upon him the importance of following up his technical education speech. He told me he had been in communication with you about the matter, and he seemed to me to be very well disposed to your plans.
I may go on crying in the wilderness until I am hoarse, with no result, but if he and you and Mundella will take it up, something may be done.
Ever yours very faithfully,
4 Marlborough Place, June 28, 1887.
My dear Roscoe,
Donnelly was here on Sunday and was quite right up to date. I felt I ought to be better, and could not make out why the deuce I was not. Yesterday the mischief came out. There is a touch of pleurisy—which has been covered by the muscular rheumatism.
So I am relegated to bed and told to stop there—with the company of cataplasms to keep me lively.
I do not think the attack in any way serious—but M. Pl. is a gentleman not to be trifled with, when you are over sixty, and there is nothing for it but to obey my doctor's orders.
Pray do not suppose I would be stopped by a trifle, if my coming to the meeting [Of July 1, on Technical Education.] would really have been of use. I hope you will say how grieved I am to be absent.
Ever yours very faithfully,
4 Marlborough Place, June 29, 1887.
My dear Roscoe,
I have scrawled a variety of comments on the paper you sent me. Deal with them as you think fit.
Ever since I was on the London School Board I have seen that the key of the position is in the Sectarian Training Colleges and that wretched imposture, the pupil teacher system. As to the former Delendae sunt no truce or pact to be made with them, either Church or Dissenting. Half the time of their students is occupied with grinding into their minds their tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee theological idiocies, and the other half in cramming them with boluses of other things to be duly spat out on examination day. Whatever is done do not let us be deluded by any promises of theirs to hook on science or technical teaching to their present work.
I am greatly disgusted that I cannot come to Tyndall's dinner to-night—but my brother-in-law's death would have stopped me (the funeral to-day)—even if my doctor had not forbidden me to leave my bed. He says I have some pleuritic effusion on one side and must mind my P's and Q's.
Ever yours very faithfully,
[A good deal of correspondence at this time with Sir M. Foster relates to the examinations of the Science and Art Department. He was still Dean, it will be remembered, of the Royal College of Science, and further kept up his connection with the Department by acting in an honorary capacity as Examiner, setting questions, but less and less looking over papers, acting as the channel for official communications, as when he writes (April 24),] "I send you some Department documents—nothing alarming, only more worry for the Assistant Examiners, and that WE do not mind"; and finally signing the Report. But to do this after taking so small a share in the actual work of examining, grew more and more repugnant to him, till on October 12 he writes:—]
I will read the Report and sign it if need be—though there really must be some fresh arrangement.
Of course I have entire confidence in your judgment about the examination, but I have a mortal horror of putting my name to things I do not know of my own knowledge.
[In addition to these occupations, he wrote a short paper upon a fossil, Ceratochelys, which was read at the Royal Society on March 31; while on April 7 he read at the Linnean ("Botany" volume 24 pages 101-124), his paper, "The Gentians: Notes and Queries," which had sprung from his holiday amusement at Arolla.
Philosophy, however, claimed most of his energies. The campaign begun in answer to the incursion of Mr. Lilly was continued in the article "Science and Pseudo-Scientific Realism" ("Collected Essays" 5 59-89) which appeared in the "Nineteenth Century" for February 1887. The text for this discourse was the report of a sermon by Canon Liddon, in which that eminent preacher spoke of catastrophes as the antithesis of physical law, yet possible inasmuch as a "lower law" may be "suspended" by the "intervention of a higher," a mode of reasoning which he applied to the possibility of miracles such as that of Cana.
The man of science was up in arms against this incarnation of abstract terms, and offered a solemn protest against that modern recrudescence of ancient realism which speaks of "laws of nature" as though they were independent entities, agents, and efficient causes of that which happens, instead of simply our name for observed successions of facts.
Carefully as all personalities had been avoided in this article, it called forth a lively reply from the Duke of Argyll, rebuking him for venturing to criticise the preacher, whose name was now brought forward for the first time, and raising a number of other questions, philosophical, geological, and biological, to which Huxley rejoined with some selections from the authentic history of these points in "Science and Pseudo-Science" ("Nineteenth Century" April 1887, "Collected Essays" 5 90-125).
Moreover, judging from the vivacity of the duke's reply that some of the shafts of the first article must have struck nearer home than the pulpit of St. Paul's, he was induced to read "The Reign of Law," the second chapter of which, dealing with the nature of "Law," he now criticised sharply as] "a sort of 'summa' of pseudo-scientific philosophy," [with its confusions of law and necessity, law and force,] "law in the sense, not merely of a rule, but of a cause." [(Cf. his treatment of the subject 24 years before, volume 1.)
He wound up with some banter upon the Duke's picture of a scientific Reign of Terror, whereby, it seemed, all men of science were compelled to accept the Darwinian faith, and against which Huxley himself was preparing to rebel, as if:—]
Forsooth, I am supposed to be waiting for the signal of "revolt," which some fiery spirits among these young men are to raise before I dare express my real opinions concerning questions about which we older men had to fight in the teeth of fierce public opposition and obloquy—of something which might almost justify even the grandiloquent epithet of a Reign of Terror—before our excellent successors had left school.
[Here for a while the debate ceased. But in the September number of the "Nineteenth Century" the Duke of Argyll returned to the fray with an article called "A Great Lesson," in which he attempted to offer evidence in support of his assertions concerning the scientific reign of terror. The two chief pieces of evidence adduced were Bathybius and Dr. (now Sir J.) Murray's theory of coral reefs. The former was instanced as a blunder due to the desire of finding support for the Darwinian theory in the existence of this widespread primordial life; the latter as a case in which a new theory had been systematically burked, for fear of damaging the infallibility of Darwin, who had propounded a different theory of coral reefs!
Huxley's reply to this was contained in the latter half of an article which appeared in the "Nineteenth Century" for November 1887, under the title of "Science and the Bishops" (reprinted both in "Controverted Questions" and in the "Collected Essays" 5 126, as "An Episcopal Trilogy"). Preaching at Manchester this autumn, during the meeting of the British Association, the Bishops of Carlisle, Bedford, and Manchester had spoken of science not only with knowledge, but in the spirit of equity and generosity.] "These sermons," [he exclaims,] "are what the Germans call Epochemachend!"
How often was it my fate [he continues], a quarter of a century ago, to see the whole artillery of the pulpit brought to bear upon the doctrine of evolution and its supporters! Any one unaccustomed to the amenities of ecclesiastical controversy would have thought we were too wicked to be permitted to live.
[After thus welcoming these episcopal advances, he once more repudiated the a priori argument against the efficacy of prayer, the theme of one of the three sermons, and then proceeded to discuss another sermon of a dignitary of the Church, which had been sent to him by an unknown correspondent, for] "there seems to be an impression abroad—I do not desire to give any countenance to it—that I am fond of reading sermons."
[Now this preacher was of a very different mind from the three bishops. Instead of dwelling upon the "supreme importance of the purely spiritual in our faith," he warned his hearers against dropping off any of the miraculous integument of their religion. "Christianity is essentially miraculous, and falls to the ground if miracles be impossible." He was uncompromisingly opposed to any accommodation with advancing knowledge, or with the high standard of veracity, enforced by the nature of their pursuits, in which Huxley found the only difference between scientific men and any other class of the community.
But it was not merely this misrepresentation of science on its speculative side which Huxley deplored; he was roused to indignation by an attack on its morality. The preacher reiterated the charge brought forward in the "Great Lesson," that Dr. Murray's theory of coral reefs had been actually suppressed for two years, and that by the advice of those who accepted it, for fear of upsetting the infallibility of the great master.
Hereupon he turned in downright earnest upon the originator of the assertion, who, he considered, had no more than the amateur's knowledge of the subject. A plain statement of the facts was refutation enough. The new theories, he pointed out, had been widely discussed; they had been adopted by some geologists, although Darwin himself had not been converted, and after careful and prolonged re-examination of the question, Professor Dana, the greatest living authority on coral reefs, had rejected them. As Professor Judd said, "If this be a 'conspiracy of silence,' where, alas! can the geological speculator seek for fame?" Any warning not to publish in haste was but advice to a still unknown man not to attack a seemingly well-established theory without making sure of his ground. (Letter in "Nature.")
As for the Bathybius myth, Huxley pointed out that his announcement of the discovery had been simply a statement of the actual facts, and that so far from seeing in it a confirmation of Darwinian hypotheses, he was careful to warn his readers] "to keep the questions of fact and the questions of interpretation well apart." "That which interested me in the matter," he says, "was the apparent analogy of Bathybius with other well-known forms of lower life,"..."if Bathybius were brought up alive from the bottom of the Atlantic to-morrow, the fact would not have the slightest bearing, that I can discern, upon Mr. Darwin's speculations, or upon any of the disputed problems of biology." [And as for his] "eating the leek" [afterwards, his ironical account of it is an instance of how the adoption of a plain, straightforward course can be described without egotism.]
The most considerable difference I note among men [he concludes] is not in their readiness to fall into error, but in their readiness to acknowledge these inevitable lapses.
[As the Duke in a subsequent article did not unequivocally withdraw his statements, Huxley declined to continue public controversy with him.
Three years later, writing (October 10, 1890) to Sir J. Donnelly apropos of an article by Mr. Mallock in the "Nineteenth Century," which made use of the "Bathybius myth," he says:—]
Bathybius is far too convenient a stick to beat this dog with to be ever given up, however many lies may be needful to make the weapon effectual.
I told the whole story in my reply to the Duke of Argyll, but of course the pack give tongue just as loudly as ever. Clerically-minded people cannot be accurate, even the liberals.
[I give here the letter sent to the "unknown correspondent" in question, who had called his attention to the fourth of these sermons.]
4 Marlborough Place, September 30, 1887.
I have but just returned to England after two months' absence, and in the course of clearing off a vast accumulation of letters, I have come upon yours.
The Duke of Argyll has been making capital out of the same circumstances as those referred to by the Bishop. I believe that the interpretation put upon the facts by both is wholly misleading and erroneous.
It is quite preposterous to suppose that the men of science of this or any other country have the slightest disposition to support any view which may have been enunciated by one of their colleagues, however distinguished, if good grounds are shown for believing it to be erroneous.
When Mr. Murray arrived at his conclusions I have no doubt he was advised to make his ground sure before he attacked a generalisation which appeared so well founded as that of Mr. Darwin respecting coral reefs.
If he had consulted me I should have given him that advice myself, for his own sake. And whoever advised him, in that sense, in my opinion did wisely.
But the theologians cannot get it out of their heads, that as they have creeds, to which they must stick at all hazards, so have the men of science. There is no more ridiculous delusion. We, at any rate, hold ourselves morally bound to "try all things and hold fast to that which is good"; and among public benefactors, we reckon him who explodes old error, as next in rank to him who discovers new truth.
You are at liberty to make any use you please of this letter.
[Two letters on kindred subjects may appropriately follow in this place. Thanking M. Henri Gadeau de Kerville for his "Causeries sur le Transformisme," he writes (February 1):—]
Accept my best thanks for your interesting "causeries," which seem to me to give a very clear view of the present state of the evolution doctrine as applied to biology.
There is a statement on page 87 "Apres sa mort Lamarck fut completement oublie," which may be true for France but certainly is not so for England. From 1830 onwards for more than forty years Lyell's "Principles of Geology" was one of the most widely read scientific books in this country, and it contains an elaborate criticism of Lamarck's views. Moreover, they were largely debated during the controversies which arose out of the publication of the "Vestiges of Creation" in 1844 or thereabouts. We are certainly not guilty of any neglect of Lamarck on this side of the Channel.
If I may make another criticism it is that, to my mind, atheism is, on purely philosophical grounds, untenable. That there is no evidence of the existence of such a being as the God of the theologians is true enough; but strictly scientific reasoning can take us no further. Where we know nothing we can neither affirm nor deny with propriety.
[The other is in answer to the Bishop of Ripon, enclosing a few lines on the principal representatives of modern science, which he had asked for.]
4 Marlborough Place, June 16, 1887.
My dear Bishop of Ripon,
I shall be very glad if I can be of any use to you now and always. But it is not an easy task to put into half-a-dozen sentences, up to the level of your vigorous English, a statement that shall be unassailable from the point of view of a scientific fault-finder—which shall be intelligible to the general public and yet accurate.
I have made several attempts and enclose the final result. I think the substance is all right, and though the form might certainly be improved, I leave that to you. When I get to a certain point of tinkering my phrases I have to put them aside for a day or two.
Will you allow me to suggest that it might be better not to name any living man? The temple of modern science has been the work of many labourers not only in our own but in other countries. Some have been more busy in shaping and laying the stones, some in keeping off the Sanballats, some prophetwise in indicating the course of the science of the future. It would be hard to say who has done best service. As regards Dr. Joule, for example, no doubt he did more than any one to give the doctrine of the conservation of energy precise expression, but Mayer and others run him hard.
Of deceased Englishmen who belong to the first half of the Victorian epoch, I should say that Faraday, Lyell, and Darwin had exerted the greatest influence, and all three were models of the highest and best class of physical philosophers.
As for me, in part from force of circumstance and in part from a conviction I could be of most use in that way, I have played the part of something between maid-of-all-work and gladiator-general for Science, and deserve no such prominence as your kindness has assigned to me.
With our united kind regards to Mrs. Carpenter and yourself, ever yours very faithfully,
[A brief note, also, to Lady Welby, dated July 25, is characteristic of his attitude towards unverified speculation.]
I have looked through the paper you have sent me, but I cannot undertake to give any judgment upon it. Speculations such as you deal with are quite out of my way. I get lost the moment I lose touch of valid fact and incontrovertible demonstration and find myself wandering among large propositions, which may be quite true but which would involve me in months of work if I were to set myself seriously to find out whether, and in what sense, they are true. Moreover, at present, what little energy I possess is mortgaged to quite other occupations.
[The following letter was in answer to a request which I was commissioned to forward him, that he would consent to serve on an honorary committee of the Societe des Professeurs de Francais en Angleterre.]
January 17, 1887.
I quite forgot to say anything about the Comite d'honneur, and as you justly remark in the present strained state of foreign politics the consequences may be serious. Please tell your colleague that I shall be "proud an' 'appy." You need not tell him that my pride and happiness are contingent on having nothing to do for the honour.
[In the meantime, the ups and downs of his health are reflected in various letters of these six months. Much set up by his stay in the Isle of Wight, he writes from Shanklin on April 11 to Sir E. Frankland, describing the last meeting of the x Club, which the latter had not been able to attend, as he was staying in the Riviera:—]
Hooker, Tyndall, and I alone turned up last Thursday. Lubbock had gone to High Elms about used up by the House of Commons, and there was no sign of Hirst.
Tyndall seemed quite himself again. In fact, we three old fogies voted unanimously that we were ready to pit ourselves against any three youngsters of the present generation in walking, climbing, or head-work, and give them odds.
I hope you are in the same comfortable frame of mind.
I had no notion that Mentone had suffered so seriously in the earthquake of 1887. Moral for architects: read your Bible and build your house upon the rock.
The sky and sea here may be fairly matched against Mentone or any other of your Mediterranean places. Also the east wind, which has been blowing steadily for ten days, and is nearly as keen as the Tramontana. Only in consequence of the long cold and drought not a leaf is out.
[Shanklin, indeed, suited him so well that he had half a mind to settle there.] "There are plenty of sites for building," [he writes home in February,] "but I have not thought of commencing a house yet." [However, he gave up the idea; Shanklin was too far from town.
But though he was well enough as long as he kept out of London, a return to his life there was not possible for any considerable time. On May 19, just before a visit to Mr. F. Darwin at Cambridge, I find that he went down to St. Albans for a couple of days, to walk; and on the 27th he betook himself, terribly ill and broken down, to the Savernake Forest Hotel, in hopes of getting] "screwed up." [This] "turned out a capital speculation, a charming spick-and-span little country hostelry with great trees in front." [But the weather was persistently bad,] "the screws got looser rather than tighter," [and again he was compelled to stay away from the x.
A week later, however, he writes:—]
The weather has been detestable, and I got no good till yesterday, which was happily fine. Ditto to-day, so I am picking up, and shall return to-morrow, as, like an idiot as I am, I promised to take the chair at a public meeting about a Free Library for Marylebone on Tuesday evening.
I wonder if you know this country. I find it charming.
[On the same day as that which was fixed for the meeting in favour of the Free Library, he had a very interesting interview with the Premier, of which he left the following notes, written at the Athenaeum immediately after:—]
June 7, 1887.
Called on Lord Salisbury by appointment at 3 p.m., and had twenty minutes' talk with him about the "matter of some public interest" mentioned in his letter of the [29th].
This turned out to be a proposal for the formal recognition of distinguished services in Science, Letters, and Art by the institution of some sort of order analogous to the Pour le Merite. Lord Salisbury spoke of the anomalous present mode of distributing honours, intimated that the Queen desired to establish a better system, and asked my opinion.
I said that I should like to separate my personal opinion from that which I believed to obtain among the majority of scientific men; that I thought many of the latter were much discontented with the present state of affairs, and would highly approve of such a proposal as Lord Salisbury shadowed forth.
That, so far as my own personal feeling was concerned, it was opposed to anything of the kind for Science. I said that in Science we had two advantages—first, that a man's work is demonstrably either good or bad; and secondly, that the "contemporary posterity" of foreigners judges us, and rewards good work by membership of Academies and so forth.
In Art, if a man chooses to call Raphael a dauber, you can't prove he is wrong; and literary work is just as hard to judge.
I then spoke of the dangers to which science is exposed by the undue prominence and weight of men who successfully apply scientific knowledge to practical purposes—engineers, chemical inventors, etc., etc.; said it appeared to me that a Minister having such order at his disposal would find it very difficult to resist the pressure brought by such people as against the man of high science who had not happened to have done anything to strike the popular mind.
Discussed the possibility of submission of names by somebody for the approval and choice of the Crown. For Science, I thought the Royal Society Council might discharge that duty very fairly. I thought that the Academy of Berlin presented people for the Pour le Merite, but Lord Salisbury thought not.
In the course of conversation I spoke of Hooker's case as a glaring example of the wrong way of treating distinguished men. Observed that though I did not personally care for or desire the institution of such honorary order, yet I thought it was a mistake in policy for the Crown as the fountain of honour to fail in recognition of that which deserves honour in the world of Science, Letters, and Art.
Lord Salisbury smilingly summed up. "Well, it seems that you don't desire the establishment of such an order, but that if you were in my place you would establish it," to which I assented.
Said he had spoken to Leighton, who thought well of the project.
[It was not long, however, before he received imperative notice to quit town with all celerity. He fell ill with what turned out to be pleurisy; and after recruiting at Ilkley, went again to Switzerland.]
4 Marlborough Place, June 27, 1887.
My dear Foster,
...I am very sorry that it will be impossible for me to attend [the meeting of committee down for the following Wednesday]. If I am well enough to leave the house I must go into the country that day to attend the funeral of my wife's brother-in-law and my very old friend Fanning, of whom I may have spoken to you. He has been slowly sinking for some time, and this morning we had news of his death.
Things have been very crooked for me lately. I had a conglomerate of engagements of various degrees of importance in the latter half of last week, and had to forgo them all, by reason of a devil in the shape of muscular rheumatism of one side, which entered me last Wednesday, and refuses to be wholly exorcised (I believe it is my Jubilee Honour). [(On the same day he describes this to Sir J. Evans:—] "I have hardly been out of the house as far as my garden, and not much off my bed or sofa since I saw you last. I have had an affection of the muscles of one side of my body, the proper name of which I do not know, but the similitude thereof is a bird of prey periodically digging in his claws and stopping your breath in a playful way.") Along with it, and I suppose the cause of it, a regular liver upset. I am very seedy yet, and even if Fanning's death had not occurred I doubt if I should have been ready to face the Tyndall dinner.
[The reference to this "Tyndall dinner" is explained in the following letters, which also refer to a meeting of the London University, in which the projects of reform which he himself supported met with a smart rebuff.]
4 Marlborough Place, May 13, 1887.
My dear Tyndall,
I am very sorry to hear of your gout, but they say when it comes out at the toes it flies from the better parts, and that is to the good.
There is no sort of reason why unsatisfied curiosity should continue to disturb your domestic hearth; your wife will have the gout too if it goes on. "They" can't bear the strain.
The history of the whole business is this. A day or two before I spoke to you, Lockyer told me that various people had been talking about the propriety of recognising your life-long work in some way or other; that, as you would not have anything else, a dinner had been suggested, and finally asked me to inquire whether you would accept that expression of goodwill. Of course I said I would, and I asked accordingly.
After you had assented I spoke to several of our friends who were at the Athenaeum, and wrote to Lockyer. I believe a strong committee is forming, and that we shall have a scientific jubilation on a large scale; but I have purposely kept in the background, and confined myself, like Bismarck, to the business of "honest broker."
But of course nothing (beyond preliminaries) can be done till you name the day, and at this time of year it is needful to look well ahead if a big room is to be secured. So if you can possibly settle that point, pray do.
There seems to have been some oversight on my wife's part about the invitation, but she is stating her own case. We go on a visit to Mrs. Darwin to Cambridge on Saturday week, and the Saturday after that I am bound to be at Eton.
Moreover, I have sacrificed to the public Moloch so far as to promise to take the chair at a public meeting in favour of a Free Library for Marylebone on the 7th. As Wednesday's work at the Geological Society and the soiree knocked me up all yesterday, I shall be about finished I expect on the 8th. If you are going to be at Hindhead after that, and would have us for a day, it would be jolly; but I cannot be away long, as I have some work to finish before I go abroad.
I never was so uncomfortable in my life, I think, as on Wednesday when L— was speaking, just in front of me, at the University. Of course I was in entire sympathy with the tenor of his speech, but I was no less certain of the impolicy of giving a chance to such a master of polished putting-down as the Chancellor. You know Mrs. Carlyle said that Owen's sweetness reminded her of sugar of lead. Granville's was that plus butter of antimony!
Ever yours very faithfully,
N.B.—Don't swear, but get Mrs. Tyndall, who is patient and good-tempered, to read this long screed.
May 18, 1887.
My dear Tyndall,
I was very glad to get your letter yesterday morning, and I conveyed your alteration at once to Rucker, who is acting as secretary. I asked him to communicate with you directly to save time.
I hear that the proposal has been received very warmly by all sorts and conditions of men, and that is quite apart from any action of your closer personal friends. Personally I am rather of your mind about the "dozen or score" of the faithful. But as that was by no means to the mind of those who started the project, and, moreover, might have given rise to some heartburning, I have not thought it desirable to meddle with the process of spontaneous combustion. So look out for a big bonfire somewhere in the middle of June! I have a hideous cold, and can only hope that the bracing air of Cambridge, where we go on Saturday, may set me right.
Ever yours very faithfully,
[To recover from his pleuritic "Jubilee Honour" he went for a fortnight (July 11-25) to Ilkley, which had done him so much good before, intending to proceed to Switzerland as soon as he conveniently could.]
Ilkley, July 15, 1887.
My dear Foster,
I was very much fatigued by the journey here, but the move was good, and I am certainly mending, though not so fast as I could wish. I expect some adhesions are interfering with my bellows. As soon as I am fit to travel I am thinking of going to Lugano, and thence to Monte Generoso. The travelling is easy to Lugano, and I know the latter place.
My notion is I had better for the present avoid the chances of a wet, cold week in the high places.
M.B.A. [Marine Biological Association]...As to the employment of the Grant, I think it ought to be on something definite and limited. The Pilchard question would be an excellent one to take up.
— seems to have a notion of employing it on some geological survey of Plymouth Sound, work that would take years and years to do properly, and nothing in the way of clear result to show.
I hope to be in London on my way abroad in less than ten days' time, and will let you know.
Ever yours very faithfully,
[And on the same day to Sir J. Donnelly:—]
I expect...that I shall have a slow convalescence. Lucky it is no worse!
Much fighting I am likely to do for the Unionist cause or any other! But don't take me for one of the enrages. If anybody will show me a way by which the Irish may attain all they want without playing the devil with us, I am ready to give them their own talking-shop or anything else.
But that is as much writing as I can sit up and do all at once.
[On the last day of July he left England for Switzerland, and did not return till the end of September. A second visit to Arolla worked a great change in him. He renewed his Gentian studies also, with unflagging ardour. The following letters give some idea of his doings and interests:—]
Hotel du Mont Collon, Arolla, Switzerland, August 28, 1887.
My dear Foster,
I know you will be glad to hear that I consider myself completely set up again. We went to the Maderaner Thal and stayed a week there. But I got no good out of it. It is charmingly pretty, but damp; and, moreover, the hotel was 50 per cent too full of people, mainly Deutschers, and we had to turn out into the open air after dinner because the salon and fumoir were full of beds. So, in spite of all prudential considerations, I made up my mind to come here. We travelled over the Furca, and had a capital journey to Evolena. Thence I came on muleback (to my great disgust, but I could not walk a bit uphill) here. I began to get better at once; and in spite of a heavy snowfall and arctic weather a week ago, I have done nothing but mend. We have glorious weather now, and I can take almost as long walks as last year.
We have some Cambridge people here: Dr. Peile of Christ's and his family. Also Nettleship of Oxford. What is the myth about the Darwin tree in the "Pall Mall"? ["A tree planted yesterday in the centre of the circular grass plot in the first court of Christ's College, in Darwin's honour, was 'spirited' away at night."—"Pall Mall Gazette" August 23, 1887.] Dr. Peile believes it to be all a flam.
Forel has just been paying a visit to the Arolla glacier for the purpose of ascertaining the internal temperature. He told me he much desired to have a copy of the Report of the Krakatoa Committee. If it is published, will you have a copy sent to him? He is Professor at Lausanne, and a very good man.
Our stay here will depend on the weather. At present it is perfect. I do not suppose we shall leave before 7th or 8th of September, and we shall get home by easy stages not much before the end of the month.
Ever yours very faithfully,
Madder than ever on Gentians.
[The following is in reply to Sir E. Frankland's inquiries with reference to the reported presence of fish in the reservoirs of one of the water-companies.]
Hotel Righi Vaudois, Glion, September 16, 1887.
We left Arolla about ten days ago, and after staying a day at St. Maurice in consequence of my wife's indisposition, came on here where your letter just received has followed me. I am happy to say I am quite set up again, and as I can manage my 1500 or 2000 feet as well as ever, I may be pretty clear that my pleurisy has not left my lung sticking anywhere.
I will take your inquiries seriatim. (1) The faith of your small boyhood is justified. Eels do wander overland, especially in the wet stormy nights they prefer for migration. But so far as I know this is the habit only of good-sized, downwardly-moving eels. I am not aware that the minute fry take to the land on their journey upwards.
(2) Male eels are now well known. I have gone over the evidence myself and examined many. But the reproductive organs of both sexes remain undeveloped in fresh water—just the contrary of salmon, in which they remain undeveloped in salt water.
(3) So far as I know, no eel with fully-developed reproductive organs has yet been seen. Their matrimonial operations go on in the sea where they spend their honeymoon, and we only know the result in the shape of the myriads of thread-like eel-lets, which migrate up in the well-known "eel-fare."
(4) On general principles of eel-life I think it is possible that the Inspector's theory MAY be correct. But your story about the roach is a poser. They certainly do not take to walking abroad. It reminds me of the story of the Irish milk-woman who was confronted with a stickleback found in the milk. "Sure, then, it must have been bad for the poor cow when that came through her teat."
Surely the Inspector cannot have overlooked such a crucial fact as the presence of other fish in the reservoirs?
We shall be here another week, and then move slowly back to London. I am loth to leave this place, which is very beautiful with splendid air and charming walks in all directions—two or three thousand feet up if you like.
Hotel Righi Vaudois, Glion, Switzerland, September 16, 1887.
My dear Donnelly,
We left Arolla for this place ten days ago, but my wife fell ill, and we had to stay a day at St. Maurice. She has been more or less out of sorts ever since until to-day. However, I hope now she is all right again.
This is a very charming place at the east end of the Lake of Geneva—1500 feet above the lake—and you can walk 3000 feet higher up if you like.
What they call a "funicular railway" hauls you up a gradient of 1 in 1 3/4 from the station on the shore in ten minutes. At first the sensation on looking down is queer, but you soon think nothing of it. The air is very fine, the weather lovely, the feeding unexceptionable, and the only drawback consists in the "javelins," as old Francis Head used to call them—stinks of such wonderful crusted flavour that they must have been many years in bottle. But this is a speciality of all furrin parts that I have ever visited.
I am very well and extremely lazy so far as my head goes—legs I am willing to use to any extent up hill or down dale. They wanted me to go and speechify at Keighley in the middle of October, but I could not get permission from the authorities. Moreover, I really mean to keep quiet and abstain even from good words (few or many) next session. My wife joins with me in love to Mrs. Donnelly and yourself.
She thought she had written, but doubts whether in the multitude of her letters she did not forget.
[From Glion also he writes to Sir M. Foster:—]
I have been doing some very good work on the Gentians in the interests of the business of being idle.
[The same subject recurs in the next letter:—]
Hotel Righi Vaudois, Glion, Switzerland, September 21, 1887.
My dear Hooker,
I saw in the "Times" yesterday the announcement of Mr. Symond's death. I suppose the deliverance from so painful a malady as heart-disease is hardly to be lamented in one sense; but these increasing gaps in one's intimate circle are very saddening, and we feel for Lady Hooker and you. My wife has been greatly depressed in hearing of Mrs. Carpenter's fatal disorder. One cannot go away for a few weeks without finding some one gone on one's return.
I got no good at the Maderaner Thal, so we migrated to our old quarters at Arolla, and there I picked up in no time, and in a fortnight could walk as well as ever. So if there are any adhesions they are pretty well stretched by this time.
I have been at the Gentians again, and worked out the development of the flower in G. purpurea and G. campestris. The results are very pretty. They both start from a thalamifloral condition, then become corollifloral, G. purpurea at first resembling G. lutea and G. campestris, an Ophelia, and then specialise to the Ptychantha and Stephanantha forms respectively.
In G. campestris there is another very curious thing. The anthers are at first introrse, but just before the bud opens they assume this position [sketch] and then turn right over and become extrorse. In G. purpurea this does not happen, but the anthers are made to open outwards by their union on the inner side of the slits of dehiscence.
There are several other curious bits of morphology have turned up, but I reserve them for our meeting.
Beyond pottering away at my Gentians and doing a little with that extraordinary Cynanchum I have been splendidly idle. After three weeks of the ascetic life of Arolla, we came here to acclimatise ourselves to lower levels and to fatten up. I go straight through the table d'hote at each meal, and know not indigestion.
My wife has fared not so well, but she is all right again now. We go home by easy stages, and expect to be in Marlborough Place on Tuesday.
With all our best wishes to Lady Hooker and yourself.
[The second visit to Arolla did as much good as the first. Though unable to stay more than a week or two in London itself, he was greatly invigorated. His renewed strength enabled him to carry out vigorously such work as he had put his hand to, and still more, to endure one of the greatest sorrows of his whole life which was to befall him this autumn in the death of his daughter Marian.
The controversy which fell to his share immediately upon his return, has already been mentioned. This was all part of the war for science which he took as his necessary portion in life; but he would not plunge into any other forms of controversy, however interesting. So he writes to his son, who had conveyed him a message from the editor of a political review:—]
4 Marlborough Place, October 19, 1887.
No political article from me! I have had to blow off my indignation incidentally now and then lest worse might befall me, but as to serious political controversy, I have other fish to fry. Such influence as I possess may be most usefully employed in promoting various educational movements now afoot, and I do not want to bar myself from working with men of all political parties.
So excuse me in the prettiest language at your command to Mr. A.
[Nevertheless politics very soon drew him into a new conflict, in defence, be it said, of science against the possible contamination of political influences. Professor (now Sir) G.G. Stokes, his successor in the chair of the Royal Society, accepted an invitation from the University of Cambridge to stand for election as their member of Parliament, and was duly elected. This was a step to which many Fellows of the Royal Society, and Huxley in especial, objected very strongly. Properly to fulfil the duties of both offices at once was, in his opinion, impossible. It might seem for the moment an advantage that the accredited head of the scientific world should represent its interests officially in Parliament; but the precedent was full of danger. Science being essentially of no party, it was especially needful for such a representative of science to keep free from all possible entanglements; to avoid committing science, as it were, officially to the policy of a party, or, as its inevitable consequence, introducing political considerations into the choice of a future President.
During his own tenure of the Presidency Huxley had carefully abstained from any official connection with societies are public movements on which the feeling of the Royal Society was divided, lest as a body it might seem committed by the person and name of its President. He thought it a mistake that his successor should even be President of the Victoria Institute.
Thus there is a good deal in his correspondence bearing on this matter. He writes on November 6 to Sir J. Hooker:—]
I am extremely exercised in my mind about Stokes' going into Parliament (as a strong party man, moreover) while still P.R.S. I do not know what you may think about it, but to my mind it is utterly wrong—and degrading to the Society—by introducing politics into its affairs.
[And on the same day to Sir M. Foster:—]
I think it is extremely improper for the President of the Royal Society to accept a position as a party politician. As a Unionist I should vote for him if I had a vote for Cambridge University, but for all that I think it is most lamentable that the President of the Society should be dragged into party mud.
When I was President I refused to take the Presidency of the Sunday League, because of the division of opinion on the subject. Now we are being connected with the Victoria Institute, and sucked into the slough of politics.
[These considerations weighed heavily with several both of the older and the younger members of the Society; but the majority were indifferent to the dangers of the precedent. The Council could not discuss the matter; they waited in vain for an official announcement of his election from the President, while he, as it turned out, expected them to broach the subject.
Various proposals were discussed; but it seemed best that, as a preliminary to further action, an editorial article written by Huxley should be inserted in "Nature," indicating what was felt by a section of the Society, and suggesting that resignation of one of the two offices was the right solution of the difficulty.
Finally, it seemed that perhaps, after all, a] "masterly inactivity" [was the best line of action. Without risk of an authoritative decision of the Society] "the wrong way," [out of personal regard for the President, the question would be solved for him by actual experience of work in the House of Commons, where he would doubtless discover that he must] "renounce either science, or politics, or existence."
This campaign, however, against a principle, was carried on without any personal feeling. The perfect simplicity of the President's attitude would have disarmed the hottest opponent, and indeed Huxley took occasion to write him the following letter, in reference to which he writes to Dr. Foster:—] "I hate doing things in the dark and could not stand it any longer."
December 1, 1887.
My dear Stokes,
When we met in the hall of the Athenaeum on Monday evening I was on the point of speaking to you on a somewhat delicate topic; namely, my responsibility for the leading article on the Presidency of the Royal Society and politics which appeared a fortnight ago in "Nature." But I was restrained by the reflection that I had no right to say anything about the matter without the consent of the Editor of "Nature." I have obtained that consent, and I take the earliest opportunity of availing myself of my freedom.
I should have greatly preferred to sign the article, and its anonymity is due to nothing but my strong desire to avoid the introduction of any personal irrelevancies into the discussion of a very grave question of principle.
I may add that as you are quite certain to vote in the way that I think right on the only political questions which greatly interest me, my action has not been, and cannot be, in any way affected by political feeling.
And as there is no one of whom I have a higher opinion as a man of science—no one whom I should be more glad to serve under, and to support year after year in the Chair of the Society, and no one for whom I entertain feelings of more sincere friendship—-I trust you will believe that, if there is a word in the article which appears inconsistent with these feelings, it is there by oversight, and is sincerely regretted.
During the thirty odd years we have known one another, we have often had stout battles without loss of mutual kindness. My chief object in troubling you with this letter is to express the hope that, whatever happens, this state of things may continue.
I am, yours very faithfully,
P.S.—I am still of opinion that it is better that my authorship should not be officially recognised, but you are, of course, free to use the information I have given you in any way you may think fit.
[To this the President returned a very frank and friendly reply; saying he had never dreamed of any incompatibility existing between the two offices, and urging that the Presidency ought not to constrain a man to give up his ordinary duties as a citizen. He concludes:—
And now I have stated my case as it appears to myself; let me assure you that nothing that has passed tends at all to diminish my friendship towards you. My wife heard last night that the article was yours, and told me so. I rather thought it must have been written by some hot Gladstonian. It seems, however, that her informant was right. She wishes me to tell you that she replied to her informant that she felt quite sure that if you wrote it, it was because you thought it.
To which Huxley replied:—]
I am much obliged for your letter, which is just such as I felt sure you would write.
Pray thank Mrs. Stokes for her kind message. I am very grateful for her confidence in my uprightness of intention.
We must agree to differ.
It may be needful for me and those who agree with me to place our opinions on record; but you may depend upon it that nothing will be done which can suggest any lack of friendship or respect for our President.
[It will be seen from this correspondence and the letter to Sir J. Donnelly of July 15, that Huxley was a staunch Unionist. Not that he considered the actual course of English rule in Ireland ideal; his main point was that under the circumstances the establishment of Home Rule was a distinct betrayal of trust, considering that on the strength of Government promises, an immense number of persons had entered into contracts, had bought land, and staked their fortunes in Ireland, who would be ruined by the establishment of Home Rule. Moreover, he held that the right of self-preservation entitled a nation to refuse to establish at its very gates a power which could, and perhaps would, be a danger to its own existence. Of the capacity of the Irish peasant for self-government he had no high opinion, and what he had seen of the country, and especially the great central plain, in his frequent visits to Ireland, convinced him that the balance between subsistence and population would speedily create a new agrarian question, whatever political schemes were introduced. This was one of] "the only political questions which interested him."
[Towards the end of October he left London for Hastings, partly for his own, but still more for his wife's sake, as she was far from well. He was still busy with one or two Royal Society Committees, and came up to town occasionally to attend their meetings, especially those dealing with the borings in the Delta, and with Antarctic exploration. Thus he writes:—]
11 Eversfield Place, Hastings, October 31, 1887.
My dear Foster,
We have been here for the last week, and are likely to be here for some time, as my wife, though mending, is getting on but slowly, and she will be as well out of London through beastly November. I shall be up on Thursday and return on Friday, but I do not want to be away longer, as it is lonesome for the wife.
I quite agree to what you propose on Committee, so I need not be there. Very glad to hear that the Council "very much applauded what we had done," and hope we shall get the 500 pounds.
I don't believe a word in increasing whale fishery, but scientifically, the Antarctic expedition would, or might be very interesting, and if the colonies will do their part, I think we ought to do ours.
You won't want me at that Committee either. Hope to see you on Thursday.
[But he did not come up that Thursday. His wife was for a time too ill to be left, and he winds up the letter of November 2 to Dr. Foster with the reflection:—]
Man is born to trouble as the sparks, etc.—but when you have come to my time of life you will say as I do—Lucky it is no worse.
I am very glad to hear that the 500 pounds is granted, and I will see to what is next to be done as soon as I can. Also I am very glad to find you don't want my valuable service on Council Royal Society. I repented me of my offer when I thought how little I might be able to attend.
[One thing, however, afforded him great pleasure at this time. He writes on November 6 to his old friend, Sir J. Hooker:—]
I write just to say what infinite satisfaction the award of the Copley Medal to you has given me. If you were not my dear old friend, it would rejoice me as a mere matter of justice—of which there is none too much in this "— rum world," as Whitworth's friend called it.
[To the reply that the award was not according to rule, inasmuch as it was the turn for the medal to be awarded in another branch of science, he rejoins:—]
I had forgotten all about the business—but he had done nothing to deserve the Copley, and all I can say is that if the present award is contrary to law, the "law's a hass" as Mr. Bumble said. But I don't believe that it is.
[He replies also on November 5 to a clerical correspondent who had written to him on the distinction between sheretz and rehmes, and accused him of "wilful blindness" in his theological controversy of 1886:—]
Let me assure you that it is not my way to set my face against being convinced by evidence.
I really cannot hold myself to be responsible for the translators of the Revised Version of the Old Testament. If I had given a translation of the passage to which you refer on my own authority, any mistake would be mine, and I should be bound to acknowledge it. As I did not, I have nothing to admit. I have every respect for your and Mr. —'s authority as Hebraists, but I have noticed that Hebrew scholars are apt to hold very divergent views, and before admitting either your or Mr. —'s interpretation, I should like to see the question fully discussed.
If, when the discussion is concluded, the balance of authority is against the revised version, I will carefully consider how far the needful alterations may affect the substance of the one passage in my reply to Mr. Gladstone which is affected by it.
At present I am by no means clear that it will make much difference, and in no case will the main lines of my argument as to the antagonism between modern science and the Pentateuch be affected. The statements I have made are public property. If you think they are in any way erroneous I must ask you to take upon yourself the same amount of responsibility as I have done, and submit your objections to the same ordeal.
There is nothing like this test for reducing things to their true proportions, and if you try it, you will probably discover, not without some discomfort, that you really had no reason to ascribe wilful blindness to those who do not agree with you.
[He was now preparing to complete his campaign of the spring on technical education by delivering an address to the Technical Education Association at Manchester on November 29, and looked forward to attending the anniversary meeting of the Royal Society on his way home next day, and seeing the Copley medal conferred upon his old friend, Sir J. Hooker. However, unexpected trouble befell him. First he was much alarmed about his wife, who had been ill more or less ever since leaving Arolla. Happily it turned out that there was nothing worse than could be set right by a slight operation. But nothing had been done when news came of the sudden death of his second daughter on November 19.] "I have no heart for anything just now," [he writes; nevertheless, he forced himself to fulfil this important engagement at Manchester, and in the end the necessity of bracing himself for the undertaking acted on him as a tonic.
It is a trifle, perhaps, but a trifle significant of the disturbance of mind that could override so firmly fixed a habit, that the two first letters he wrote after receiving the news are undated; almost the only omission of the sort I have found in all his letters of the last twenty-five years of his life.
His daughter's long illness had left him without hope for months past, but this, as he confessed, did not mend matters much. In his letters to his two most intimate friends, he recalls her brilliant promise, her happy marriage, her] "faculty for art, which some of the best artists have told me amounted to genius." [But he was naturally reticent in these matters, and would hardly write of his own griefs unbidden even to old friends.]
85 Marina, St. Leonards, November 21, 1887.
My dear Spencer,
You will not have forgotten my bright girl Marian, who married so happily and with such bright prospects half a dozen years ago?
Well, she died three days ago of a sudden attack of pneumonia, which carried her off almost without warning. And I cannot convey to you a sense of the terrible sufferings of the last three years better than by saying that I, her father, who loved her well, am glad that the end has come thus...
My poor wife is well nigh crushed by the blow. For though I had lost hope, it was not in the nature of things that she should.
Don't answer this—I have half a mind to tear it up—for when one is in a pool of trouble there is no sort of good in splashing other people.
[As for his plans, he writes to Sir J. Hooker on November 21:—]
I had set my heart on seeing you get the Copley on the 30th. In fact, I made the Manchester people, to whom I had made a promise to go down and address the Technical Education Association, change their day to the 29th for that reason.
I cannot leave them in the lurch after stirring up the business in the way I have done, and I must go and give my address. But I must get back to my poor wife as fast as I can, and I cannot face any more publicity than that which it would be cowardly to shirk just now. So I shall not be at the Society except in the spirit.
[And again to Sir M. Foster:—]
You cannot be more sorry than I am that I am going to Manchester, but I am not proud of chalking up "no popery" and running away—for all Evans' and your chaff—and, having done a good deal to stir up the Technical Education business and the formation of the Association, I cannot leave them in the lurch when they urgently ask for my services...
The Delta business must wait till after the 30th. I have no heart for anything just now.
[The letters following were written in answer to letters of sympathy.]
85 Marina, St. Leonards, November 25, 1887.
My dear Mr. Clodd,
Let me thank you on my wife's behalf and my own for your very kind and sympathetic letter.
My poor child's death is the end of more than three years of suffering on her part, and deep anxiety on ours. I suppose we ought to rejoice that the end has come, on the whole, so mercifully. But I find that even I, who knew better, hoped against hope, and my poor wife, who was unfortunately already very ill, is quite heart-broken. Otherwise, she would have replied herself to your very kind letter.
She has never yet learned the art of sparing herself, and I find it hard work to teach her.
Ever yours very faithfully,
[In the same strain he writes to Dr. Dyster:—]
Rationally we must admit that it is best so. But then, whatever Linnaeus may say, man is not a rational animal—especially in his parental capacity.
85, Marina, St. Leonards, November 25, 1887.
My dear Knowles,
I really must thank you very heartily for your letter. It went to our hearts and did us good, and I know you will like to learn that you have helped us in this grievous time.
My wife is better, but fit for very little; and I do not let her write a letter even, if I can help it. But it is a great deal harder to keep her from doing what she thinks her duty than to get most other people to do what plainly is their duty.
With our kindest love and thanks to all of you.
Ever, my dear Knowles, yours very faithfully,
Yes, you are quite right about "loyal." I love my friends and hate my enemies, which may not be in accordance with the Gospel, but I have found it a good wearing creed for honest men.
[The "Address on behalf of the National Association for the Promotion of Technical Education," first published in the ensuing number of "Science and Art," and reprinted in "Collected Essays," 3 427-451, was duly delivered in Manchester, and produced a considerable effect.
He writes to Sir M. Foster, December 1:—]
I am glad I resisted the strong temptation to shirk the business. Manchester has gone solid for technical education, and if the idiotic London papers, instead of giving half a dozen lines of my speech, had mentioned the solid contributions to the work announced at the meeting, they would have enabled you to understand its importance.
...I have the satisfaction of having got through a hard bit of work, and am none the worse physically—rather the better for having to pull myself together.
[And to Sir J. Hooker:—]
85 Marina, St. Leonards, December 4, 1887.
My dear Hooker,
x = 8, 6.30. I meant to have written to ask you all to put off the x till next Thursday, when I could attend, but I have been so bedevilled I forgot it. I shall ask for a bill of indemnity.
I was rather used up yesterday, but am picking up. In fact my Manchester journey convinced me that there was more stuff left than I thought for. I travelled 400 miles, and made a speech of fifty minutes in a hot, crowded room, all in about twelve hours, and was none the worse. Manchester, Liverpool, and Newcastle have now gone in for technical education on a grand scale, and the work is practically done. Nunc dimittis!
I hear great things of your speech at the dinner. I wish I could have been there to hear it...
[Of the two following letters, one refers to the account of Sir J.D. Hooker's work in connection with the award of the Copley medal; the other, to Hooker himself, touches a botanical problem in which Huxley was interested.]
St. Leonards, November 25, 1887.
My dear Foster,
...I forget whether in the notice of Hooker's work you showed me there was any allusion made to that remarkable account of the Diatoms in Antarctic ice, to which I once drew special attention, but Heaven knows where?
Dyer perhaps may recollect all about the account in the "Flora Antarctica," if I mistake not. I have always looked upon Hooker's insight into the importance of these things and their skeletons as a remarkable piece of inquiry—anticipative of subsequent deep sea work.
Best thanks for taking so much trouble about H—. Pray tell him if ever you write that I have not answered his letter only because I awaited your reply. He may think my silence uncivil...
To Sir J.D. Hooker.
4 Marlborough Place, December 29, 1887.
Where is the fullest information about distribution of Coniferae? Of course I have looked at "Genera Plantarum" and De Candolle.
I have been trying to make out whether structure or climate or paleontology throw any light on their distribution—and am drawing complete blank. Why the deuce are there no Conifers but Podocarpus and Widringtonias in all Africa south of the Sahara? And why the double deuce are about three-quarters of the genera huddled together in Japan and northern China?
I am puzzling over this group because the paleontological record is comparatively so good.
I am beginning to suspect that present distribution is an affair rather of denudation than migration.
Sequoia! Taxodium! Widringtonia! Araucaria! all in Europe, in Mesozoic and Tertiary.
[The following letters to Mr. Herbert Spencer were written as sets of proofs of his Autobiography arrived. That to Sir J. Skelton was to thank him for his book on "Maitland of Lethington," the Scotch statesman of the time of Queen Mary.]
January 18, 1887.
[The first part of this letter is given above.]
My dear Spencer,
I see that your proofs have been in my hands longer than I thought for. But you may have seen that I have been "starring" at the Mansion House...
I am immensely tickled with your review of your own book. That is something most originally Spencerian. I have hardly any suggestions to make, except in what you say about the "Rattlesnake" work and my position on board.
Her proper business was the survey of the so-called "inner passage" between the Barrier Reef and the east coast of Australia; the New Guinea work was a hors d'oeuvre, and dealt with only a small part of the southern coast.
Macgillivray was naturalist—I was actually Assistant-Surgeon and nothing else. But I was recommended to Stanley by Sir John Richardson, my senior officer at Haslar, on account of my scientific proclivities. But scientific work was no part of my duty. How odd it is to look back through the vista of years! Reading your account of me, I had the sensation of studying a fly in amber. I had utterly forgotten the particular circumstance that brought us together. Considering what wilful tykes we both are (you particularly), I think it is a great credit to both of us that we are firmer friends now than we were then. Your kindly words have given me much pleasure.
This is a deuce of a long letter to inflict upon you, but there is more coming. The other day a Miss —, a very good, busy woman of whom I and my wife have known a little for some years, sent me a proposal of the committee of a body calling itself the London Liberty League (I think) that I should accept the position of one of three honorary something or others, you and Mrs. Fawcett being the other two.
Now you may be sure that I should be glad enough to be associated with you in anything; but considering the innumerable battles we have fought over education, vaccination, and so on, it seemed to me that if the programme of the League were wide enough to take us both for figure-heads, it must be so elastic as to verge upon infinite extensibility; and that one or other of us would be in a false position.
So I wrote to Miss — to that effect, and the matter then dropped.
Misrepresentation is so rife in this world that it struck me I had better tell you exactly what happened.
On the whole, your account of your own condition is encouraging; not going back is next door to going forward. Anyhow, you have contrived to do a lot of writing.
We are all pretty flourishing, and if my wife does not get worn out with cooks falling ill and other domestic worries, I shall be content.
Now this really is the end.
Ever yours very truly,
4 Marlborough Place, London, N.W., March 7, 1887.
My dear Skelton [This letter is one of the twelve from T.H.H. already published by Sir John Skelton in his "Table Talk of Shirley" page 295 sq.],
Wretch that I am, I see that I have never had the grace to thank you for "Maitland of Lethington" which reached me I do not choose to remember how long ago, and which I read straight off with lively satisfaction.
There is a paragraph in your preface, which I meant to have charged you with having plagiarised from an article of mine, which had not appeared when I got your book. In that Hermitage of yours, you are up to any Esotericobuddhistotelepathic dodge!
It is about the value of practical discipline to historians. Half of them know nothing of life, and still less of government and the ways of men.
I am quite useless, but have vitality enough to kick and scratch a little when prodded.
I am at present engaged on a series of experiments on the thickness of skin of that wonderful little wind-bag —. The way that second rate amateur poses as a man of science, having authority as a sort of papistical Scotch dominie, bred a minister, but stickit, really "rouses my corruption." What a good phrase that is. I am cursed with a lot of it, and any fool can strike ile.
Ever yours very faithfully,
Please remember me very kindly to Mrs. Skelton.
11 Eversfield Place, Hastings, November 18, 1887.
My dear Spencer,
I was very glad to get your letter this morning. I heard all about you from Hirst before I left London, now nearly a month ago, and I promised myself that instead of bothering you with a letter I would run over from here and pay you a visit.
Unfortunately, my wife, who had been ill more or less ever since we left Arolla and came here on Clark's advice, had an attack one night, which frightened me a good deal, though it luckily turned out to arise from easily remediable causes.
Under these circumstances you will understand how I have not made my proposed journey to Brighton.
I am rejoiced to hear of your move. I believe in the skill of Dr. B. Potter and her understanding of the case more than I do in all the doctors and yourself put together. Please offer my respectful homage to that eminent practitioner.
You see people won't let me alone, and I have had to tell the Duke to "keep on board his own ship," as the Quaker said, once more. I seek peace, but do not ensue it.
Send any quantity of proofs, they are a good sign. By the way, we move to 85 Marina, St. Leonards, to-morrow.
Wife sends her kind regards.
Ever yours very faithfully,
85 Marina, St. Leonards, December 1887.
My dear Spencer,
I have nothing to criticise in the enclosed except that the itineraries seem to me rather superfluous.
I am glad to find that you forget things that have happened to you as completely as I do. I should cut almost as bad a figure as "Sir Roger" if I were cross-examined about my past life.
Your allusion to sending me the proofs made me laugh by reminding me of a particularly insolent criticism with which I once favoured you: "No objection except to the whole."
It was some piece of diabolical dialectics, in which I could pick no hole, if the premises were granted—and even then could be questioned only by an ultra-sceptic!
Do you see that the American Association of Authors has adopted a Resolution, which is a complete endorsement of my view of the stamp-swindle?
We have got our operation over, and my wife is going on very well. Overmuch anxiety has been telling on me, but I shall throw it off.
Ever yours very faithfully,
[Huxley had returned to town before Christmas, for the house in St. John's Wood was still the rallying-point for the family, although his elder children were now married and dispersed. But he did not stay long.] "Wife wonderfully better," [he writes to Sir M. Foster on January 8,] "self as melancholy as a pelican in the wilderness." [He meant to have left London on the 16th, but his depressed condition proved to be the beginning of a second attack of pleurisy, and he was unable to start for Bournemouth till the 24th.
Here, however, his recovery was very slow. He was unable to come up to the first meeting of the x Club.] "I trust," [he writes,] "I shall be able to be at the next x—but I am getting on very slowly. I can't walk above a couple of miles without being exhausted, and talking for twenty minutes has the same effect. I suppose it is all Anno Domini."
[But he had a pleasant visit from one of the x, and writes:—]
Casalini, West Cliff, Bournemouth, January 29, 1888.
My dear Hooker,
Spencer was here an hour ago as lively as a cricket. He is going back to town on Tuesday to plunge into the dissipations of the Metropolis. I expect he will insist on you all going to Evans' (or whatever represents that place to our descendants) after the x.
Bellows very creaky—took me six weeks to get them mended last time, so I suppose I may expect as long now.
Ever yours very faithfully,
[As appears from the letters which follow, he had been busied with writing an article for the "Nineteenth Century," for February, on the "Struggle for Existence" ("Collected Essays" 9 195.), which on the one hand ran counter to some of Mr. Herbert Spencer's theories of society; and on the other, is noticeable as briefly enunciating the main thesis of his "Romanes Lecture" of 1893.]
85 Marina, St. Leonards, December 13, 1887.
My dear Knowles,
I have to go to town to-morrow for a day, so that puts an end to the possibility of getting my screed ready for January. Altogether it will be better to let it stand over.
I do not know whence the copyright extract came, except that, as Putnam's name was on the envelope, I suppose they sent it.
Pearsall Smith's practice is a wonderful commentary on his theory. Distribute the contents of the baker's shop gratis—it will give people a taste for bread!
Great is humbug, and it will prevail, unless the people who do not like it hit hard. The beast has no brains, but you can knock the heart out of him.
Ever yours very truly,
4 Marlborough Place, January 9, 1888.
My dear Donnelly,
Here is my proof. Will you mind running your eye over it?
The article is long, and partly for that reason and partly because the general public wants principles rather than details, I have condensed the practical half.
H. Spencer and "Jus" will be in a white rage with me.
Ever yours very faithfully,
[To Professor Frankland, February 6:—]
I am glad you like my article. There is no doubt it is rather like a tadpole, with a very big head and a rather thin tail. But the subject is a ticklish one to deal with, and I deliberately left a good deal suggested rather than expressed.
Casalini, West Cliff, Bournemouth, February 9, 1888.
My dear Donnelly,
No! I don't think softening has begun yet—vide "Nature" this week. ["Nature" 37 337 for February 9, 1888: review of his article in the "Nineteenth Century" on the "Industrial Struggle for Existence."] I am glad you found the article worth a second go. I took a vast of trouble (as the country folks say) about it. I am afraid it has made Spencer very angry—but he knows I think he has been doing mischief this long time.
Bellows to mend! Bellows to mend! I am getting very tired of it. If I walk two or three miles, however slowly, I am regularly done for at the end of it. I expect there has been more mischief than I thought for.
How about the Bill?
[However, he and Mr. Spencer wrote their minds to each other on the subject, and as Huxley remarks with reference to this occasion,] "the process does us both good, and in no way interferes with our friendship."
[The letter immediately following, to Mr. Romanes, answers an inquiry about a passage quoted from Huxley's writings by Professor Schurman in his "Ethical Import of Darwinism." This passage, made up of sentences from two different essays, runs as follows:—]
It is quite conceivable that every species tends to produce varieties of a limited number and kind, and that the effect of natural selection is to favour the development of some of these, while it opposes the development of others along their predetermined line of modification. ("Collected Essays" 2 223.) A whale does not tend to vary in the direction of producing feathers, nor a bird in the direction of producing whalebone. (In "Mr. Darwin's Critics" 1871 "Collected Essays" 2 181.)
"On the strength of these extracts" (writes Mr. Romanes), "Schurman represents you 'to presuppose design, since development takes place along certain predetermined lines of modification.' But as he does not give references, and as I do not remember the passages, I cannot consult the context, which I fancy must give a different colouring to the extracts."
4 Marlborough Place, January 5, 1888.
My dear Romanes,
They say that liars ought to have long memories. I am sure authors ought to. I could not at first remember where the passage Schurman quotes occurs, but I did find it in the Encyclopaedia Britannica article on "Evolution" ["Collected Essays" 2 223.], reprinted in "Science and Culture," page 307.
But I do not find anything about the "whale" here. Nevertheless I have a consciousness of having said something of the kind somewhere. [In "Mr. Darwin's Critics" 1871 "Collected Essays" 2 181.]
If you look at the whole passage, you will see that there is not the least intention on my part to presuppose design.
If you break a piece of Iceland spar with a hammer, all the pieces will have shapes of a certain kind, but that does not imply that the Iceland spar was constructed for the purpose of breaking up in this way when struck. The atomic theory implies that of all possible compounds of A and B only those will actually exist in which the proportions of A and B by weight bear a certain numerical ratio. But it is mere arguing in a circle to say that the fact being so is evidence that it was designed to be so.
I am not going to take any more notice of the everlasting D—, as you appropriately call him, until he has withdrawn his slanders....
Pray give him a dressing—it will be one of those rare combinations of duty and pleasure.
Ever yours very faithfully,
[He was, moreover, constantly interested in schemes for the reform of the scientific work of the London University, and for the enlargement of the scope and usefulness of the Royal Society. As for the latter, a proposal had been made for federation with colonial scientific societies, which was opposed by some of his friends in the x Club; and he writes to Sir E. Frankland on February 3:—]
I am very sorry you are all against Evans' scheme. I am for it. I think it a very good proposal, and after all the talk, I do not want to see the Society look foolish by doing nothing.
You are a lot of obstructive old Tories, and want routing out. If I were only younger and less indisposed to any sort of exertion, I would rout you out finely!
[With respect to the former, it had been proposed that medical degrees should be conferred, not by the university, but by a union of the several colleges concerned. He writes:—]
4 Marlborough Place, January 11, 1888.
My dear Foster,
I send back the "Heathen Deutscheree's" (whose ways are dark) letter lest I forget it to-morrow.
Meanwhile perpend these two things:—
1. United Colleges propose to give just as good an examination and require as much qualification as the Scotch Universities. Why then give their degree a distinguishing mark?
2. "Academical distinctions" in medicine are all humbug. You are making a medical technical school at Cambridge—and quite right too. The United Colleges, if they do their business properly, will confer just as much, or as little "academical distinction" as Cambridge by their degree.
3. The Fellowship of the College of Surgeons is in every sense as much an "academical distinction" as the Masterships in Surgery or Doctorate of Medicine of the Scotch and English Universities.
4. You may as well cry for the moon as ask my colleagues in the Senate to meddle seriously with the Matriculation. They are possessed by the devil that cries continually, "There is only the Liberal education, and Greek and Latin are his prophets."
[At Bournemouth he also applied himself to writing the Darwin obituary notice for the Royal Society, a labour of love which he had long felt unequal to undertaking. The manuscript was finally sent off to the printer's on April 6, unlike the still longer unfinished memoir on Spirula, to which allusion is made here, among other business of the "Challenger" Committee, of which he was a member.
On February 12 he writes to Sir J. Evans:—]
Spirula is a horrid burden on my conscience—but nobody could make head or tail of the business but myself.
That and Darwin's obituary are the chief subjects of my meditations when I wake in the night. But I do not get much "forrarder," and I am afraid I shall not until I get back to London.
Bournemouth, February 14, 1888.
My dear Foster,
No doubt the Treasury will jump at any proposition which relieves them from further expense—but I cannot say I like the notion of leaving some of the most important results of the "Challenger" voyage to be published elsewhere than in the official record....
Evans made a deft allusion to Spirula, like a powder between two dabs of jam. At present I have no moral sense, but it may awake as the days get longer.
I have been reading the "Origin" slowly again for the nth time, with the view of picking out the essentials of the argument, for the obituary notice. Nothing entertains me more than to hear people call it easy reading.
Exposition was not Darwin's forte—and his English is sometimes wonderful. But there is a marvellous dumb sagacity about him—like that of a sort of miraculous dog—and he gets to the truth by ways as dark as those of the Heathen Chinee.
I am getting quite sick of all the "paper philosophers," as old Galileo called them, who are trying to stand upon Darwin's shoulders and look bigger than he, when in point of real knowledge they are not fit to black his shoes. It is just as well I am collapsed or I believe I should break out with a final "Fur Darwin."
I will think of you when I get as far as the fossils. At present I am poking over P. sylvestris and P. pinnata in the intervals of weariness.
My wife joins with me in love to you both.
Ever yours very faithfully,
Snow and cold winds here. Hope you are as badly off at Cambridge.
Bournemouth, February 21, 1888.
My dear Foster,
We have had nothing but frost and snow here lately, and at present half a gale of the bitterest north-easter I have felt since we were at Florence is raging. [Similarly to Sir J. Evans on the 28th]—"I get my strength back but slowly, and think of migrating to Greenland or Spitzbergen for a milder climate."]
I believe I am getting better, as I have noticed that at a particular stage of my convalescence from any sort of illness I pass through a condition in which things in general appear damnable and I myself an entire failure. If that is a sign of returning health you may look upon my restoration as certain.
If it is only Murray's speculations he wants to publish separately, I should say by all means let him. But the facts, whether advanced by him or other people, ought all to be in the official record. I agree we can't stir.
I scented the "goak." How confoundedly proud you are of it. In former days I have been known to joke myself.
I will look after the questions if you like. In my present state of mind I shall be a capital critic—on Dizzy's views of critics...
[This year Huxley was appointed a Trustee of the British Museum, an office which he had held ex officio from 1883 to 1885, as President of the Royal Society.
This is referred to in the following letter of March 9:—]
My dear Hooker,
Having nothing to do plays the devil with doing anything, and I suppose that is why I have been so long about answering your letter.
There is nothing the matter with me now except want of strength. I am tired out with a three-mile walk, and my voice goes if I talk for any time. I do not suppose I shall do much good till I get into high and dry air, and it is too early for Switzerland yet....
You see I was honoured and gloried by a trusteeship of the British Museum. [Replying on the 2nd to Sir John Evans' congratulations, he says:—"It is some months since Lord Salisbury made the proposal to me, and I was beginning to wonder what had happened—whether Cantaur had put his foot down for example, and objected to bad company."] These things, I suppose, normally come when one is worn-out. When Lowe was Chancellor of the Exchequer I had a long talk with him about the affairs of the Natural History Museum, and I told him that he had better put Flower at the head of it and make me a trustee to back him. Bobby no doubt thought the suggestion cheeky, but it is odd that the thing has come about now that I don't care for it, and desire nothing better than to be out of every description of bother and responsibility.
Have not Lady Hooker and you yet learned that a large country house is of all places the most detestable in cold weather? The neuralgia was a mild and kindly hint of Providence not to do it again, but I am rejoiced it has vanished.
Pronouns got mixed somehow.
With our kindest regards.
More last words:—What little faculty I have has been bestowed on the obituary of Darwin for Royal Society lately. I have been trying to make it an account of his intellectual progress, and I hope it will have some interest. Among other things I have been trying to set out the argument of the "Origin of Species," and reading the book for the nth time for that purpose. It is one of the hardest books to understand thoroughly that I know of, and I suppose that is the reason why even people like Romanes get so hopelessly wrong.
If you don't mind, I should be glad if you would run your eye over the thing when I get as far as the proof stage—Lord knows when that will be.
[A few days later he wrote again on the same subject, after reading the obituary of Asa Gray, the first American supporter of Darwin's theory.]
March 23, 1888.
I suppose Dana has sent you his obituary of Asa Gray.
The most curious feature I note in it is that neither of them seems to have mastered the principles of Darwin's theory. See the bottom of page 19 and the top of page 20. As I understand Darwin there is nothing "Anti-Darwinian" in either of the two doctrines mentioned.
Darwin has left the causes of variation and the question whether it is limited or directed by external conditions perfectly open.
The only serious work I have been attempting lately is Darwin's obituary. I do a little every day, but get on very slowly. I have read the life and letters all through again, and the "Origin" for the sixth or seventh time, becoming confirmed in my opinion that it is one of the most difficult books to exhaust that ever was written.