skip to content

Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   4 January [1865]1

Down. | Bromley. | Kent. S.E.

Jan. 4th

My dear Huxley

Very many thanks for your Photograph, which is excellent, but it makes you look too black & solemn as if facing the bench of Bishops.—2

We were all charmed with Mrs. Huxley “too sincere” note.3 Oh that I should live to be called “Owen-like”! I was indeed innocent of concealing the context, for I did not read one line beyond the charming lines which I quoted, & they were enough for me!4

How hard you are worked & I do wish that you had more leisure or at least not so many lectures. It is an absolute marvel to me how much you do.— I knew there was very little chance of your having time to write a popular treatise on Zoology;5 but you are about the one man that could do it. At the time I felt it would be almost a sin for you to do it, as it would of course destroy some original work. On the other hand, I sometimes think that general & popular Treatises are almost as important for the progress of science as original work.— As for writing being a great labour to you, I can hardly swallow that. Your words on paper seem always to come out spontaneously. I have heard it hinted that you wrote the slashing leading article in the last Reader.6 It is a capital article whether or no you wrote it. That is splendid about the pump & shoes—7

I am no great thing in health, but manage most days to do a little work.—

Our kindest remembrances to Mrs Huxley | Ever yours | C. Darwin


The year is established by the relationship between this letter and the letter from T. H. Huxley, 1 January 1865.
See letter from T. H. Huxley, 1 January 1865. The photograph has not been found.
See letter from H. A. Huxley, 1 January 1865.
Henrietta Anne Huxley had accused CD of behaving like Richard Owen in quoting lines from a Tennyson poem out of context. See letter from H. A. Huxley, 1 January 1865 and nn. 2 and 3.
See letter from T. H. Huxley, 1 January 1865 and n. 3.
Joseph Dalton Hooker had correctly suggested that Huxley wrote the Reader article (see letter from J. D. Hooker, 1 January 1865 and n. 6, and [T. H. Huxley] 1864b).
In his Reader article, Huxley criticised what he considered to be the prevailing bias among statesmen and church leaders against the introduction of science into élite English schools, such as Eton. The reform of these schools was currently being considered by Parliament, following a report that had been prepared by the government-appointed Clarendon Commission, which contained recommendations for supplementing the traditional curriculum of classical languages and mathematics with other subjects, including the natural sciences (see Shrosbree 1988). Huxley cited a passage from one of the opponents of scientific education, who had drawn an analogy between teaching the physical laws of an air pump, and teaching the art of shoemaking ([T. H. Huxley] 1864b, p. 821): How will an Eton boy be the better for knowing how to make a pump? Doubtless it is a good thing to know how to make a pump; but it is also a good thing to know how to make shoes; and yet you do not propose to introduce shoemaking as a branch of liberal education.


Thanks for photograph, charmed by Mrs Huxley’s letter.

Regrets THH cannot do the popular work on zoology.

Has heard THH wrote leading article in last Reader ["Science and ""church policy"" ", 4 (1864): 821].

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: 211)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4738,” accessed on 24 January 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13