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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   4 May [1856]1

Down Bromley Kent

May 4th

My dear Huxley

I have been thinking over the Ray Soc. business,2 & it seems to me so improper that my advances of £117, during the last 2–3 years to pay Mr. Sowerby should never have been mentioned to the Council, that I hope that you will bring forward the case, & you can say very truly that I asked you when I was going to be paid & was surprised to find that you knew nothing about it.—3

Moreover it strikes me that it rather deeply concerns you personally, for if you were to get Royal Soc. money & the Ray Soc became bankrupt it wd. be an awkward affair for you.—4 There may be other debts besides mine.—

As I feel under great obligations to the Ray Soc, which I beg you to express on my part, I would not for the world do anything troublesome or unfair towards the Society.—

I enjoyed your visit here extremely, & I much hope that Mrs. Huxley did not suffer.

Yours most truly | Ch. Darwin

P.S. I have this minute received your note in regard to the Chinese Pots; & very much obliged I am to you for so kindly remembering the subject: I am very sorry to hear about Mrs. Huxley.5

C. D.


Dated by the reference to Huxley having recently visited CD at Down (see letter to T. H. Huxley, 2 April [1856]).
Huxley, a member of the council of the Ray Society, had apparently mentioned to CD during his visit to Down in April that owing to the failure of a number of members to pay their subscriptions and to over-publication, the society was facing bankruptcy. In 1857, however, the situation began to improve through withdrawing the names of non-paying members and increasing the number of new members (‘Report of the council of the Ray Society’, 2 September 1857, bound into the copy of T. H. Huxley 1859b in the Cambridge University Library).
George Brettingham Sowerby Jr had drawn the figures for Living Cirripedia (1851) and (1854), published by the Ray Society. CD had paid him on behalf of the Ray Society (see Correspondence vol. 5, letters to J. S. Bowerbank, Ray Society, 28 September [1851], and to John Lubbock, 10 [September 1853], n. 3). The Ray Society repaid CD £67 on 21 November 1857. An entry in his Account book (Down House MS) reads: ‘Ray Society. Part repayment 50£ due.’
Huxley had made repeated attempts, after returning from the voyage of the Rattlesnake, to obtain funds from the Admiralty for the publication of his work on marine invertebrates. Only after resigning his commission in 1854 was he awarded £300 from the government grant administered by the Royal Society. The Ray Society undertook to publish the work, but this was delayed until 1859 owing to Huxley’s ‘heavy official duties’ and the great number of other publications undertaken by the Ray Society in the intervening years. See the preface to T. H. Huxley 1859b and L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 71–6.
Henrietta Anne Huxley was pregnant.


It seems improper that his advances to G. B. Sowerby Jr for payment of engravings should not have been mentioned to Council of Ray Society. His appreciation of the Society.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Huxley
Sent from
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5: 35)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 1868,” accessed on 26 April 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 6