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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. H. Huxley   24 April 1873

4, Marlborough Place, | Abbey Road, N.W.

April 24th 1873

My dear Darwin

Your most kind and affectionate letter, with its wholly unexpected, I may say unimaginable, announcement fairly overwhelmed me when it arrived last night (along with a notification from my banker) and I have spent many sleepless hours in wondering what I have done to make my friends care so tenderly & thoughtfully for my welfare—1 So I am rather shaky this morning and, likely enough, I shall say what I have to say poorly and inadequately. But you will understand my stammering

I accept the splendid gift you & my other friends offer, frankly and in the spirit of the givers—; and by my acceptance I pledge myself to make the best I can of this cranky frame of mine and get it in order for the best and highest kind of work of which I am capable

With such a letter as yours before me I should be the smallest of men, if I allowed even a shadow of the feeling of obligation to mingle with the great happiness so signal a demonstration of good-will has given me— And indeed not a shadow of that feeling exists; for I do not confound with that & you will not—a sort of impression, more or less morbid perhaps, that, for the first time in my life, I have been fairly beaten— I mean morally beaten— Through all sorts of troubles and difficulties—poverty, illness, bedevilments of all sorts—have I steered for these thirty years and never lost heart or failed to buffet the waves as stoutly as they buffetted me— And now that I am what people call a successful man—better off than I ever was in my life—and in spite of all my misadventures with no claims upon me but what I could have cleared off in a twelve month—I have for months been without energy & without hope and haunted by the constant presence of hypochondriacal apprehensions, which my reason told me were absurd, but which I could not get rid of—

No, I was breaking down; sliding into the meanest of difficulties; the would-be climber of height mired in a mere bog— I can use strong language on occasion as you know, and I have been giving myself the benefit of my own powers of criticism—

Well, I have poured out all this Jeremiad, that you may understand what your letter and great gift will do for me.— I may say, have done. For after all it is the nucleus of fact which gives hypochondria its hold— and it has abolished the nucleus of fact—

I shall go & take a long holiday in the summer now without feeling that I am potentially guilty of fraud— and when my familiar blue-devil dances about me (as I daresay he will for some time yet) I shall shy the cheque for £2100 at his head as Luther did the inkstand.2

Some of these days I will ask you to let me know the names of the seventeen who have so delicately shrouded themselves in anonymity— Use this letter with them as you may think fit— I should be glad that all should know my feelings in the matter— feelings fully shared by my wife,3 whose anxiety for me has I know been a heavy burden for many months past.

She is not used to see me beaten—

Have I said a word of appreciation for your own letter? I shall keep it for my children that their children may know what manner of man their father’s friend was & why he loved him

Ever yours | T. H. Huxley


Huxley alludes to the story of Martin Luther’s throwing his inkstand at the devil (in early versions of the story the devil throws the inkstand) when the devil pestered him while he translated the Bible into German (see Hendrix 2010, p. 4).
Henrietta Anne Huxley.


Hendrix, Scott A. 2010. Martin Luther: a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Is overwhelmed by generosity of his friends. Admits he felt morally beaten and without energy for first time in his life. Someday wants the names of the friends.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Henry Huxley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Marlborough Place, 4
Source of text
DAR 99: 62–5
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8873,” accessed on 22 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21