skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. H. Huxley   2 July 1863

Jermyn St

July 2nd | 1863

My dear Darwin

I am horridly loth to say that I cannot do anything you want done—& partly for that reason & partly because we have been very busy here with some new arrangements during the last day or two, I did not at once reply to your note1

I am afraid, however, I cannot undertake any sort of new work— In spite of working like a horse (or if you prefer it like an ass) I find myself scandalously in arrear—and I shall get into terrible hot water if I do not clear off some things that have been hanging about me for months & years

If you will send me up the specimens, however, I will ask Flower2 (whom I see constantly) to examine them for you— The examination will be no great trouble and I am ashamed to make a fuss about doing it—but I have sworn a big oath to take no fresh work, great or small, until certain things are done—

I wake up in the morning with somebody saying in my ear, A, is not done, & B, is not done & C is not done & D, is not done &c &c.—and a feeling like a fellow whose duns are all in the street waiting for him—

By the way you ask me what I am doing now—so I will just enumerate some of the A, B, & C; aforesaid—

A. Editing Lectures on Vertebrate skull & bringing them out in the Medical Times3

B. Editing & rewriting Lectures on Elementary Physiology—just delivered here & reported as I went along—4

C. Thinking of my course of 24 Lectures on the Mammalia at Coll. Surgeons in next spring & making investigations bearing on the same.5

D. Thinking of & working at a Manual of Comparative Anatomy (may it be d——d) which I have had in hand these seven years6

E. Getting heaps of remains of new Labyrinthodonts from the Glasgow coal field which have to be described7

F. working at a memoir on Glyptodon based on a new & almost entire specimen at the College of Surgeons8

G. preparing a new Decade upon Fossil fishes for this place9

H. knowing that I ought to have written long ago a description of a lot of most interesting Indian fossils sent to me by Oldham—10

I. being blown at by Hooker for doing nothing for the Natural History Review11

K. being bothered by sundry Editors—just to write articles “which you know you can knock off in a moment”

L. Consciousness of having left unwritten letters which ought to have been written long ago especially to C. Darwin—

M. General worry & botheration   Ten or twelve people taking up my time all day— about their own affairs—

N. O. P. Q R. S T. U. V. W. X. Y. Z



Dinners— Evening parties & all the apparatus for wasting time called ‘Society’

Colenso-ism & botheration about Moses—12

Finally pestered to death in public & private because I am supposed to be what they call a “Darwinian”!

If that is not enough I could exhaust the Greek alphabet for heads in addition

I am very glad to hear that Wyman thinks well of my book—as he is very competent to judge—13 I hear it is republished in America—but I suppose I shall get nothing out of it.—14

The man who does the virulence in the Edinburgh & Anthropological is a jackal of Owen’s by the name of C. Carter Blake—15 The same whom Falconer shewed up in the Elephant paper16

As a return for the impertinence against Rolleston & myself which that absurd Anthropological Society sanctioned—I sent them back the Diploma of Honorary Fellowship—by means of which after I had refused to join them in any other way they had lugged me in—17

Owen is damning himself as fast as is good for us— The Aye-Aye wind up is the greatest bosh I ever read—18

Lyell is not as bold as I should have wished. But it is a great thing for a man past sixty to have eaten as much of his leek as he has19

My wife is better than I have seen her for years—but going to increase the population again in September I am sorry to say—20 We have been grieved to get poor accounts of you occasionally   I hope Mrs Darwin is well

Ever yours faithfully | T H Huxley


William Henry Flower.
T. H. Huxley 1863c. Huxley was appointed Hunterian Professor of comparative anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons in 1863 (DNB). In the spring of 1863, he delivered two courses of lectures, one on the classification of animals and one on the vertebrate skull, both of which were published in the Medical Times and Gazette. The lectures were subsequently republished in book form (T. H. Huxley 1864).
According to Leonard Huxley these lectures were delivered on Friday evenings from April to June at the Royal School of Mines, Jermyn Street, London, where Huxley was professor of natural history; Leonard Huxley also stated, incorrectly, that they were reported in the Medical Times (L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 246 n.). No published report of the lectures has been found; however, they subsequently formed the basis of T. H. Huxley 1866a.
As Hunterian Professor of comparative anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons, Huxley was obliged to deliver twenty-four lectures each year (see L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 236). Between 2 February and 26 March 1864, Huxley delivered twenty-four lectures on ‘The structure and classification of the Mammalia’ (see Medical Times and Gazette (1864), pt 1: 153 and pt 2: 145).
In 1855, Huxley agreed to write a ‘treatise on comparative anatomy for students’ for the leading medical publisher, John Churchill (T. H. Huxley 1877, p. iii, and L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 85). The work finally appeared in two volumes as A manual of the anatomy of vertebrated animals and A manual of the anatomy of invertebrated animals (T. H. Huxley 1871 and 1877).
As naturalist of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, Huxley was one of those responsible for cataloguing and describing the palaeontological specimens acquired by the Museum of Practical Geology (see Flett 1937, pp. 66–7; see also T. H. Huxley and Etheridge 1865). Huxley had recently described a fossil specimen of a newly discovered genus of labyrinthodont from the Lanarkshire coalfield in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society (T. H. Huxley 1862b).
Huxley presented a ‘brief preliminary notice’ of a fossil specimen of the extinct edentate genus, Glyptodon, at a meeting of the Royal Society on 18 December 1862 (T. H. Huxley 1862c). Huxley apparently refers to his full account of the specimen, which was read before the Royal Society on 28 January 1864, and published as T. H. Huxley 1864b.
T. H. Huxley 1866b. Since 1849, the Geological Survey had published an occasional series of ‘Figures and descriptions of British organic remains’; each number contained ten plates of illustrations, and was thus called a ‘decade’ (Flett 1937, pp. 67–8). In 1861, Huxley contributed at length to a number on fish (T. H. Huxley 1861a, 1861b, and 1861c). He contributed an entire number on fish in 1866, and made a further contribution to the series in 1872 (T. H. Huxley 1866b and 1872).
T. H. Huxley 1865. Thomas Oldham was the director of the Geological Survey of India (Sarjeant 1980–96).
Joseph Dalton Hooker was one of the eleven editors of the Natural History Review, of which Huxley was the editor-in-chief (see letter from Charles Lyell, 15 March 1863, n. 19). Huxley apparently ceased to contribute to the organisation of the journal in July 1863, when the responsibility of the ‘commissariat’ was handed over to paid editors. Huxley observed: ‘I did not foresee all this crush of work … when the Review was first started, or I should not have pledged myself to any share in supplying it’ (L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 210; see also L. Huxley ed. 1918, 1: 413).
The reference is to John William Colenso, whose critical examination of the Old Testament had caused great controversy because of its denial that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch (Colenso 1862–79; see DNB). Huxley had become acquainted with Colenso, who was bishop of Natal in southern Africa, when Colenso attended some of his lectures at the Royal College of Surgeons in the spring of 1863 (see A. Desmond 1994–7, 1: 315–16).
See letter to T. H. Huxley, 27 June [1863] and n. 12. Huxley refers to Jeffries Wyman and to T. H. Huxley 1863b.
The first American edition of T. H. Huxley 1863b was published by D. Appleton & Co. of New York in May or early June 1863 (T. H. Huxley 1863d; see American Publishers’ Circular 1 (1863): 43 and 192). At the time, there was no international copyright agreement, and American publishers often issued pirated editions of British books. D. Appleton & Co. was known for sometimes paying royalties to foreign authors, and had paid CD royalties on American editions of Origin; however, the company apparently issued pirated editions of both T. H. Huxley 1863a and 1863b (see L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 283–4, Tebbel 1972, pp. 291–3, A. Desmond 1994–7, 1: 311 and 323–4, and Correspondence vol. 8).
See letter to T. H. Huxley, 27 June [1863] and n. 13. Huxley refers to Richard Owen, to Charles Carter Blake’s anonymous critical review of T. H. Huxley 1863b in the Edinburgh Review ([Blake] 1863a), and to Blake’s pseudonymous letter on the subject in the Anthropological Review 1 (1863): 107–17. The attribution to Blake of the article in the Edinburgh Review is confirmed by the Wellesley Index.
Falconer 1863a, pp. 46–9. See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 January [1863] and n. 1.
Huxley apparently refers to the manner in which the account in T. H. Huxley 1863a of his long-standing dispute with Owen concerning the comparative anatomy of human and simian brains (the so-called ‘hippocampus controversy’) had been criticised in the Anthropological Review (Anon. 1863b, pp. 114–17). Although not specifically mentioned, George Rolleston had been one of Owen’s main opponents on this subject (see, for example, L. G. Wilson 1996b). The Anthropological Review was produced by the Anthropological Society of London, which was founded, early in 1863, by James Hunt, in opposition to the Ethnological Society of London. Hunt and his society were explicitly opposed to CD’s theory of natural selection. See Stocking 1987, pp. 245–54.
See letter to T. H. Huxley, 27 June [1863] and n. 16. Huxley refers to the conclusion of Owen’s paper on the aye-aye, a Madagascan lemur, in which Owen reviewed the theories currently employed to account for the origin of new species (Owen 1862c, pp. 87–97). See also letter to J. D. Hooker, 17 March [1863].
See letter to T. H. Huxley, 27 June [1863] and n. 18. The reference is to C. Lyell 1863a. The phrase ‘eat the leek’ (Shakespeare, Henry V, 5.1.1–59 (Wells and Taylor eds. 1988)), denotes being ‘compelled to take back one’s words’ (Chambers). Lyell, who had long been an outspoken opponent of transmutation theories, had significantly revised his views on the subject in the light of CD’s theory.
Henrietta Anne Huxley gave birth to a daughter, Nettie, on 21 September 1863 (A. Desmond 1994–7, 1: 322).


Too busy to examine specimen. Will ask W. H. Flower to do it. Long catalogue of what keeps him busy and concerned.

C. Carter Blake, "a jackal of Owen’s", is the reviewer in Edinburgh Review and Anthropological Review [see 4223]. Has sent back his diploma of Hon. Fellowship to Anthropological Society.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Henry Huxley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Jermyn St
Source of text
DAR 166: 298
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4228,” accessed on 12 December 2017,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 11