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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. H. Huxley   5 June 1875

31 Royal Terrace | Edinburgh

June 5th 1875

My dear Darwin

I see I have forgotten to return Playfairs letter—which I inclose— He sent me a copy of his last letter to you—but it did not reach me until some days after my return from London   In the meanwhile I saw him & Lord Cardwell at the House of Commons on Friday (last week)1

Playfair seems rather disgusted at our pronunciamento against the Bill & he declares that both Sanderson & Sharpey assented to it— What they were dreaming about I cannot imagine— To say that no man shall experiment except for purpose of original discovery is about as reasonable as to ordain that no man shall swim unless he means to go from Dover to Calais—2

However the Commission is to be issued and it is everything to gain time & let the present madness subside a little— I vowed I would never be a member of another Commission if I could help it, but I suppose I shall have to serve on this—3

I am very busy with my lectures and am nearly half through—4 I shall not be sorry when they are over as I have been grinding away now since last October

With kindest regards to Mrs Darwin | Ever | Yours very faithfully | T H Huxley


The letter from Lyon Playfair, 27 May 1875, was the most recent letter CD had received from Playfair. No letter to Huxley in which CD mentioned enclosing a letter from Playfair has been found. Edward Cardwell was the chairman of the commission on vivisection (French 1975, p. 93).
The vivisection bill was introduced in the House of Lords by Cardwell and in the House of Commons by Playfair (see letter from J. S. Burdon Sanderson, 6 May [1875]). It contained a clause condemning vivisection in demonstrations for educational purposes (see letter to Lyon Playfair, 26 May 1875). John Scott Burdon Sanderson and William Sharpey had been involved in framing the bill (letter from William Sharpey to J. S. Burdon Sanderson, 19 May 1875; London University, Imperial College Archives, L. Playfair/1/623). For Playfair’s expression of disgust, see the letter from Lyon Playfair, 27 May 1875.
The commission on vivisection was constituted on 22 June 1875 with Huxley as one of its commissioners (Report of the Royal Commission on Vivisection, pp. v–vi).
Huxley was giving a course of lectures at the University of Edinburgh (see letter to J. V. Carus, 19 April [1875], n. 4).


French, Richard D. 1975. Antivivisection and medical science in Victorian society. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.


Playfair "disgusted at our pronunciamentos against the Bill". Burdon Sanderson and William Sharpey agreed to it. THH feels he must serve on Vivisection Commission.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Henry Huxley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 166: 341
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10010,” accessed on 8 March 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 23