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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. H. Huxley   6 March 1874

South Kensington

March 6th 1874

My dear Darwin

On my return from Aberdeen on Wednesday night1 I found the three letters which I enclose— two from Dohrn & one from his intimate friend Grant— Dohrns letters are, as you will see from one or two allusions, altogether private, but there is no reason why you should not read them—2

What is to be done?— I wish he had known his fathers mind better months ago3

Foster called on me today and urged me to advise Dohrn to take Balfour & Dew, who are at present with him, into his confidence, about the state of affairs—; as Foster says, that Balfour is very shrewd & practical & will be able to see exactly how things stand—4 I have written to Dohrn in this sense & also to Grant

To the latter I have said that I do not think Dohrn ought to reckon on covering more than 13rd. of his liabilities (taking them as he says at £1500) by what may be raised here and that unless he sees his way to getting the rest elsewhere it would be better for him to give up the game— He will break down, body & mind together, if he goes on much longer in his present fashion

It is a shame to worry you with all this, but there is no help for it—

Have you seen my Address in the Contemporary?5 It was as long as any Scotch sermon & my lively audience made an awful row— I was consoled however, by being told that usually they make much more!

I have had to go through no end of dinners & suppers & speech making but I have come back none the worse although the ‘Revue Scientifique’ does lament my untimely death.6

With kindest remembrance to Mrs. Darwin | Ever yours truly | T H Huxley

All well baring colds

[Enclosure 1]7

Pal. Torlonia

26. Febr. 1874.

Lieber Professor!

Mein Vater, der seit 8 Tagen hier ist, hat mir gesagt, dass er nichts dagegen habe, wenn ich für die Zoolog. Station das Geschenk annähme, das Sie u. Mr. Darwin mir zur Hilfe in meinen Schwierigkeiten angeboten haben.

Damit fällt für mich der wesentlichste Grund der bisherigen Ablehnung weg. Und da ich fürchten muss mit meinen Kräften und infolge dessen mit meinem gangen Unternahmen Schiffbruch zu leiden, falls mir nicht neue Hilfsquellen geöffnet werden, so habe ich mich entschlossen, auch meine persönliche Stellung zur Station zu veraendern, und all ihre Räumlichkeiten den Naturforschern zu überlassen, meine eigne Wohnung aber vorläufig im Palazzo Torlonia, später wohl noch weiter ausserhalb der Stadt zu nehmen.

Dadurch verliert die Station der Character des Privatbesitzes, und da es so wie so mein Plan war, sie dem Deutschen Reich in einigen Jahren zur Verwaltung und Erhaltung über mein Leben hinaus anzubieten, so habe ich auch nicht das Gefühl, Unrecht zu handeln, indem ich mich bemühe, für das Institut Geschenke zu erhalten.

Anderseits kann ich mich darüber nicht verblenden, dass ich selbst der Ruhe in solchem Maasse bedarf, dass die Fortsetzung der gegenwärtigen, überspannten und überarbeiteten, Existenz für mich unheilvolle Folgen haben muss. Und da Ruhe für mich eine reine Geldfrage geworden ist, (—der Kampf gegen den Fanatismus in Warschau habe ich und la belle Marie gründlich gewonnen,—)8 da ich durch Abtragung der in diesem und im nächsten Jahre fälligen Schulden die Station durch ihre eignen Einkünfte werde erhalten können, so wäre die eigentliche Schwierigkeit überwunden, falls diese Schulden,—1500£.— durch Aufbringung neuer Mittel gedeckt würden. Ich hoffe, das Deutsche Reich zu vermögen, eine Summe hierzu beizusteuern, und wenn Sie u. Mr. Darwin mir helfen, so würde es gelingen, die Station sofort rein wissenschaftlich zu verwalten.

Diess ist der Thatbestand, der ich nicht verheimlichen lässt. Ich theile ihn offen mit, da Sie wissen, wie sehr ich mich angestrengt habe, mit eigner Kraft die Schwierigkeiten zu überwinden. Ich könnte daran zu Grunde gehen, oder wenigstens die Sache zu Grunde gehen lassen,—aber ich will weder das Eine noch das Andre, da ich glaube dass ich noch manches Gute leisten kann.

Balfour u. Dew-Smith sind jetzt hier. Der Erstere scheint ein tüchtiger Mensch zu sein, der einen wahren Beruf zum Naturforscher hat, und den Funken besitzt, aus dem heraus was geschehen kann. Ich will das Meinige thun, Beiden hilfreich zu sein, um so mehr, als sie Beide mit grosser Liebenswürdigkeit ihre Hilfe in meinen bedrängten Umstaenden angeboten haben. An Material zur Bearbeitung fehlt es hier wahrlich nicht.

Wenn, Sie doch herkommen könnten!

Und nun noch Eins. Da ich nun doch einmal ein Geschenk für die Station annahmen muss, so will ich auch, dass es offen geschehe, und habe meinerseits keinen weitern Grund zur Verheimlichung   Was ich also von Ihnen u. Darwin erhalte, werde ich später als Geschenk der Englischen Naturforscher an die Zoologische Station öffentlich erwähnen. Es ist ja schliesslich doch nur der Station geschenkt,—anders würde es weder angeboten noch angenommen werden können.

Zugleich nehme ich den Gedanken wieder auf, eine oeffentliche Darlegung der gesammten Verwaltung des Institutes alljährlich zu geben, um dadurch zu der allgemeinsten Antheilnahme aufzufordern.

C. E. v Baer9 will im Sommer kommen, schrieb er mir neulich. Uebermorgen, 28. Febr., wird er 82 Jahr!

Und nun nehmen Sie den herzlichen Dank, dass ich mich so offen und frei an Sie wenden darf. Bald schreibe ich Weiteres. Etwas werden Sie mir gewiss helfen können.

Grüssen Sie die happy family! | Ihr treuer | Anton Dohrn

Das Aquarium hat bisher sehr viel geringere Einnahmen gehabt, als ich voraussetzen durfte. Das liegt daran, dass die Guidebooks keine Notiz enthalten und in den Hôtels Niemand auf das Aquarium aufmerksam macht. Ich hoffe durch Baedeker, Murray einwirken zu können, da Alle, die das Aquarium gesehen haben, es sehr schön finden.10 Dieser Ausfall in den Einnahmen hat alle Berechnungen vorderhand umgeworfen, und alle weitern Plaene vorläufig 〈e〉xistirt p.e. Dampfboot, Bücher ankäufe &.

[Enclosure 2]

Gestern schrieb ich Ihnen, lieber Professor Huxley, und heute fühle ich die Nöthigung, Ihnen wieder zu schreiben.

Ich weiss, dass ich vor dem Entweder-Oder stehe,—entweder man hilft mir durch eine bedeutende Geldsumme, oder die Station geht zu Grunde.

In dieser Alternative, die Sie begreifen werden, und die nicht besonders originell ist, gilt es indess noch einen dritten Ausgang, dass ich nämlich die Zoolog. Station aufgebe, aus dem Erlös der Summen, die in Mauern, Maschinen u. sonstigen Apparaten stecken, meine Schulden bezalle, und mit einer grossen Niederlage mich in irgend einen Winkel der Weld zurückziche, und tapfer an den wissenschaftlichen Aufgaben arbeite, die ich mir gestellt habe.

Ihnen zu sagen, dass ich den Muth habe, auch das zu thun und ruhig die Verurtheilung und das Ausgelacht werden der Welt zu ertragen, is der Grund dieser Zeilen.

In der klaren Einsicht dieser Möglichkeit, und in dem starken Verwerfen jeder blue devil’s Stimmung, die sich freilich fast alle Morgenmeiner zu bemächtigen strebt, sehe ich die Anzeichen dass meine Nerven zwar sehr belastet sind, aber doch nach so viel Widerstand leisten können, um das Aeusserste zu überstehen.

Diess musste ich Ihnen sagen,—und ich kann Ihnen auch hinzusetzen, dass la belle Marie nicht mit dem Auge zucken wird, wenn sie meine redusirte Existenz theilen müsste.

Haben Sie also kein Mitleid mit meiner persönlichen Lage; wenn Sie überzeugt sind, dass die Zoologische Station eines weitern Geldopfers werth sei, und wenn Sie glauben, mir so helfen zu können, dass die Schulden last, welche das Institut zu erstrecken droht, gehoben wird,—dann helfen Sie,—aber ich, Anton Dohrn, ich werde auch über den Sturz meines Unternehmens hinausleben und meinen Lebenszielen treu bleiben.

Glauben Sie mir das,—und schätzen Sie mich darum nicht geringer.

In treuer Freundschaft | Ihr | Anton Dohrn

26. Februar. 1874.

Footnotes

Huxley had been in Aberdeen from 25 February to 3 March to give his first address (delivered on 27 February) in his capacity as lord rector of the university (see L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 405).
The letter to Huxley from Charles Grant has not been found. Grant and Anton Dohrn had met when students in Jena; in 1872, Grant had moved to Naples, where Dohrn also lived (Heuss 1991, pp. 65, 135–6).
Dohrn had earlier stated that his father, Carl August Dohrn, objected to his publicly requesting donations in order to complete the zoological station he was building in Naples (see Correspondence vol. 21, letter from T. H. Huxley to Anton Dohrn, 15 November 1873, and letter from T. H. Huxley, 3 December 1873). In his letter (see enclosure), Dohrn told Huxley that his father was in favour of his accepting a donation raised by Huxley and CD.
Francis Maitland Balfour and Albert George Dew-Smith, Cambridge students of Michael Foster, were the first two British physiologists to work at Dohrn’s zoological station, arriving there in February 1874. Balfour had previously informed CD of Dohrn’s financial situation (see Correspondence vol. 21, letter from F. M. Balfour, 11 November 1873).
Huxley’s inaugural address (see n. 1, above), ‘Universities: actual and ideal’, had been published in the Contemporary Review 23 (1873–4): 657–79, in March 1874.
Huxley’s death had been reported in Revue scientifique, 21 February 1874, p. 812.
For a translation of the enclosures, see [Correspondence vol. 22] Appendix I.
Maria von Baranowska was Dohrn’s fiancée. The reference to overcoming fanaticism may relate to the plans for their marriage, which took place in Warsaw on 3 June 1874 (Kawecki 1978, p. 310).
Karl Ernst von Baer.
The Baedeker company in Germany and John Murray both published travel guides. Baedeker’s handbook to Southern Italy (Karl Baedeker (Firm) 1873, p. 77), mentioned that the large aquarium to be opened at the Villa Reale in 1873 as part of the Zoological Station founded by Dohrn promised to be one of the most interesting establishments of the kind, owing to the ‘remarkable wealth of the fauna of the Mediterranean’. In contrast, the seventh edition of A handbook for travellers in Southern Italy, published in London by Murray in 1873 (John Murray (Firm) 1873), made no mention of the aquarium or Zoological Station; it was not until Murray published the eighth edition of 1878 that the contents of the Naples aquarium were described (John Murray (Firm) 1878, p. 143).

Translation

From T. H. Huxley   6 March 1874

[Enclosure 1]1

Pal. Torlonia

26. Febr. 1874.

Dear Professor!

My father, who has been here for 8 days, has told me that he has nothing against my accepting the gift for the Zoolog. Station that you and Mr Darwin have offered to help me in my difficulties.

Thus the chief reason for my refusal has disappeared. Under the circumstances I must fear for my efforts and consequently my undertaking coming to naught, if new sources of help did not open up, so I decided to change my personal position in relation to the Station, and to leave all the accomodation to the researchers, my own residence to be temporarily in Palazzo Torlonia, later even further outside the city.

In this way the Station will lose the character of a private residence, and since in any case my plan was to offer the German state in a few years the control and maintenance of it over my life, I do not feel I am doing anything wrong, since I am making an effort to get gifts for the institute.

On the other hand I myself need peace in such great measure, that continuation of the present unnatural and overworked existence would result in unhealthy consequences. And since peace for me is purely a question of money, (—la belle Marie and I have basically won the struggle against fanaticism in Warsaw,—),2 since through the amortisation of the debt in this year and next, I will be able to keep the Station by its own income, the real difficulty would be overcome, if these debts, —1500£.—were covered by raising new funds. I hope the German state is able to contribute towards the sum, and if you and Mr Darwin help me, I would succeed in managing the Station in a purely scientific fashion straightaway.

This is the state of affairs, that I won’t keep quiet about. I am confiding this to you openly, since you know how hard I have striven to overcome the problems with my own power. I could have gone to pieces because of this, or at least the project could have,—but neither will happen, since I believe I can still accomplish a lot of good.

Balfour and Dew-Smith are here now. The former seems to be a capable man, with a true vocation as a researcher, and has the spark to be able to make something of it. I’ll do my part to help both of them, especially since they both have been so kind in offering their help in my worrying circumstances. There is truly no lack of material to work on.

If only you could come here!

And now one more thing. Since I must now accept a gift for the Station, I also want it to be out in the open, and for my part have no further reason for secrecy   Therefore what I receive from you and Darwin, I will publicly acknowledge later as a gift from English naturalists to the Zoological Station. It is, after all, only a gift for the Station—otherwise it could not have been offered or accepted.

At the same time I am again taking up the idea of giving an open exposition of the collective management of the institute annually, in order to promote the most general interest.

C. E. v Baer3 has just written that he will visit this summer. The day after tomorrow, 28 Febr., he will be 82!

And now please accept my heartfelt thanks for being able to consult you so often and so freely. I’ll write more soon. There’s something you will certainly be able to help me with.

Greetings to the happy family! | Faithfully yours | Anton Dohrn

The aquarium has had very little income up to now, as I ought to have expected. This is because the guidebooks have included no notice and in the hotels no one has drawn attention to the aquarium. I hope Murray can influence this through Baedeker, since everyone who has seen the aquarium thinks it is very beautiful.4 This failure to be noticed has upset all calculations for the time being and all further plans temporarily survive, e.g., steamboat, book purchase &c.

[Enclosure 2]

I wrote to you yesterday, dear Professor Huxley, and today I feel it necessary to write again.

I know that I am in an either-or situation,—either I receive help in the form of a significant amount of money, or the Station will go under.

In this alternative, which you will understand, and which is not especially peculiar, there is still yet a third outcome to consider, that is that I leave the Zoolog. Station, pay off my debts from the proceeds of the total invested in the building, machines and special equipment, and with a great sense of failure retreat to some corner of the world, and work stoically on the scientific tasks that I have set myself.

Telling you that I have the courage both to do that and to calmly bear the judgment and the ridicule of the world is the reason for this letter.

With a clear view of this possibility, and strongly rejecting the voice of the blue devil, which I admittedly struggle to overcome almost every day, I see the signs that though my nerves are under great strain, I can still fight back in order to get over the worst.

I must say this to you,—and I can also tell you that the belle Marie will not bat an eye if she has to share my reduced existence.

Therefore do not feel sorry for my personal situation; if you are convinced that the Zoological Station is worth further investment, and if you believe that you are able to help me, that the weight of debt which threatens to crush the Institute will be lifted,—then help,—but I, Anton Dohrn, I will live through the collapse of my undertaking and remain true to my life’s goals.

Believe me,—and do not value me less for this reason.

In true friendship | yours | Anton Dohrn

26 February 1874

Footnotes

For a transcription of these enclosures in their original German, see [Correspondence vol. 22] pp. 130–3.
Maria von Baranowska was Dohrn’s fiancée. The reference to overcoming fanaticism may relate to the plans for their marriage, which took place in Warsaw on 3 June 1874 (Kawecki 1978, p. 310).
Karl Ernst von Baer.
The Baedeker company in Germany and John Murray both published travel guides. Baedeker’s handbook to Southern Italy (Karl Baedeker (Firm) 1873, p. 77), mentioned that the large aquarium to be opened at the Villa Reale in 1873 as part of the Zoological Station founded by Dohrn promised to be one of the most interesting establishments of the kind, owing to the ‘remarkable wealth of the fauna of the Mediterranean’. In contrast, the seventh edition of A handbook for travellers in Southern Italy, published in London by Murray in 1873 (John Murray (Firm) 1873), made no mention of the aquarium or Zoological Station; it was not until Murray published the eighth edition of 1878 that the contents of the Naples aquarium were described (John Murray (Firm) 1878, p. 143).

Summary

Has heard from Dohrn about his financial problems. Asks CD’s advice on what to do.

THH’s article in Contemporary Review ["Universities: actual and ideal" (1874), Collected essays, vol. 3 (1894)].

Letter details

Letter no.
DCP-LETT-9336
From
Thomas Henry Huxley
To
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Kensington Museum
Source of text
DAR 103: 193–4; Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine (Huxley: 13.256, 13.258)
Physical description
4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9336,” accessed on 18 June 2019, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-9336

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22

letter