From T. H. Huxley and H. A. Huxley 20 September 1871
Castlemount, S. Andrews
Sep. 20th. 1871.
My dear Darwin
I suppose that I am indebted to you for the copy of Mr Chauncey Wright’s pamphlet on ‘Darwinism’ which reached me yesterday.1 Some parts of it are excellent and the republication of it here will do good— But I did not sit down to write for the purpose of saying that much, but to remark on the odd coincidence that just as Wright’s paper reached me I was sending off to the ‘Contemporary’ a long article I have just finished, mainly versus Mivart & the Quarterly Review of the ‘Descent’—but with some incidental touching up of Wallace.2
Mivart sent me the new edition of his book here—3 I had only glanced at the first Edition and was not tempted to go further— But the second being thrust under my nose, in this way, I thought I would read it carefully. My opinion of its value was not increased by the process and, moreover, I had an intuitive doubt of the soundness of Mivarts knowledge of Scholastic Philosophy & Theology
By great good luck there is an excellent Library here with a good copy of Suarez in a dozen big folios— Among them I dived to the great astonishment of the Librarian and looking into these ‘as the careful Robin eyes the delvers toil’ (vide ‘Idylls’) I carried off the two venerably clasped volumes which were most promising—4 Imagine my satisfaction at finding that our friend has hopelessly misunderstood the ‘Metaphysica’ which he quotes—and what is more to the point that he has overlooked a certain ‘Tracatus de opere sex Dierum’ in which Suarez condemns Augustine & Thomas Aquinas for the very opinions, which Mivart cites and advocates and goes in for the strictest & most literal interpretations of the words of Genesis!5
So I have come out in the new character of a defender of Catholic orthodoxy and upset Mivart out of the mouth of his own prophet—
Next I have taken up the mental & moral question versus Mivart & the Quarterly Review—(who I strongly suspect, from internal evidence, are one & the same)6 and Wallace, and, finally, I have given both the former a piece of my mind about the way they treat you which has made me very angry—
I am sorry to be obliged to pitch into Mivart, who has done good work & is by no means a bad fellow— But his mind is poisoned with his accursed Popery and fear for his soul (which is truly not of any consequence)xx has ruined a capacity which had the making of a man of science in it to begin with If the Quarterly article is really his, however, my grief will be much mitigated— Whoever wrote that deserves a pounding.
The best of the joke is that William Smith, the Editor talked very big about it, and sent it to me as the greatest blow & discouragement our side had had— And there is no doubt that the effect on the public of that article & of Mivarts book have been such as to make it worth while to bring the real state of the case prominently forward
We are coming to the close of our stay here as we return on the 28th.— It is a pleasant place under the one condition that you play at golf—; & still pleasanter if you talk golf and think golf. I play, talk & think golf from 2.30 p.m. to 6 p.m; but most St. Androvians, do the same, from 6.a.m. to 11.p.m.
The great problem & difficulty of life for us is to escape going out to dinner— If we were to stay much longer the struggle for (undisturbed) existence would convert us into liars— at present we have got no further than miserable subterfuges.
The children are all wonderfully improved & I hope, losing their Whooping cough permanently.7 Only your boy Harry8 was in a downcast (or it would be more correct to say upcast) condition last night. I suspect your early teachings had led him to take too large mouthfuls. The wife might be stronger with advantage but she is full of go as usual, and, at present, particularly cock-a-hoop about the annihilation of Mivart, against whom she has a most unjust prejudice.9 She sends her best love to Mrs. Darwin & you & I join
Ever yours faithfully | T H H
xx wife, who has looked over my shoulder, says “not worth a d—n” I say that such expressions are not lady-like.
Of course I didn’t— I’ve no prejudice just or unjust against Mr. Mivart or anyone else— indeed I rather like him.— My love to Henrietta when are you going to lose her10 Hal says no one will be able to read a line of this— I say it’s the only bit that is legible if he dont go & blot it.—11
Has received Chauncey Wright’s pamphlet [see 7940].
Has reviewed Quarterly Review article and 2d ed. of Genesis of species for the Contemporary Review [18 (1871): 443–76].
Mivart has hopelessly misunderstood Suarez [Disputiones (1630)] on evolution.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7953,” accessed on 27 March 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-7953