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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. H. Huxley   30 October 1875

4 Marlborough Place

Oct. 30th 1875

My dear Darwin

The inclosed tells its own story— I have done my best to prevent your being bothered—but for various reasons which will occur to you I did not like to appear too obstructive and I was asked to write to you—1 The strong feeling of my colleagues (and my own I must say also) is that we ought to have your opinions in our minutes— At the same time there is a no less strong desire to trouble you as little as possible—and under no circumstances to cause you any risk of injury to health

What with occupation of time worry & vexation, this horrid Commission is playing the deuce with me— I have felt it my duty to act as Counsel for Science and was well satisfied with the way things were going

But on Thursday when I was absent at the Council of the Royal Society, Klein was examined and if what I hear is a correct account of the Evidence he gave—I may as well throw up my brief—2

I am told that he openly professed the most entire indifference to animal suffering—and said he only gave anaesthetics to keep animals quiet!

I declare to you I did not believe the man lived who was such an unmitigated cynical brute—as to profess & act upon such principles—and I would willingly agree to any law, which should send him to the treadmill—

The impression his evidence made on Cardwell & Forster3 is profound: and I am powerless (even if I had the desire which I have not) to combat it— He has done more mischief than all the fanatics put together—

I am utterly disgusted with the whole business

Ever | Yours | T H Huxley

Of course keep the little article on Species. It is in some American Encyclopedia published by Appleton4 And best thanks for your book.5 I shall study it some day & value it as I do every line you have ever written— Don’t mention what I have told you outside the circle of discreet Darwindom—


4 Marlborough Place | N. W.

October 30. 1875

My dear Darwin

I have just come from a meeting of the Vivisection Commission at which your letter was read,6 and, by the desire of my colleagues I write to you to say, that considering the great weight which would be attached to your opinion by the Public they hardly feel justified in abstaining from asking you to state them in person, unless they are distinctly assured, that such an exertion on your part, would be injurious to your health

I understand that, should you be able to appear before us you will be troubled with as few questions and detained for as short a time as possible; and the Commission will be glad to consult your convenience with regard to the time of your coming7

Ever | Yours very faithfully | T H Huxley


The enclosure was evidently the official request that Huxley was asked to make to CD to give evidence to the Royal Commission on vivisection. The Royal Commission had been set up on 22 June 1875 with Huxley as one of the commissioners (Report of the Royal Commission on vivisection, pp. v–vi).
Huxley was a secretary of the Royal Society of London (Record of the Royal Society of London). Edward Emanuel Klein was a researcher at the Brown Animal Sanatory Institution. He had testified that he used anaesthetics only for the sake of convenience (Report of the Royal Commission on vivisection, p. 184). For more on the impact of his testimony on the commission, see French 1975, pp. 103–6.
Edward Cardwell was the chairman of the Royal Commission on vivisection and William Edward Forster was a commissioner (Report of the Royal Commission on vivisection, pp. v–vi).
See letter to T. H. Huxley, 23 October [1875] and n. 2. The American cyclopædia was published by D. Appleton & Co.
CD appeared before the Royal Commission on vivisection on 3 November 1875 (see Report of the Royal Commission on vivisection, pp. 233–4).


American cyclopædia: The American cyclopædia: a popular dictionary of general knowledge. Edited by George Ripley and Charles A. Dana. 16 vols. New York and London: D. Appleton and Company. 1873–9.

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

Insectivorous plants. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1875.

Record of the Royal Society of London: The record of the Royal Society of London for the promotion of natural knowledge. 4th edition. London: Royal Society. 1940.

Report of the Royal Commission on vivisection: Report of the Royal Commission on the practice of subjecting live animals to experiments for scientific purposes; with minutes of evidence and appendix; 1876 (C.1397, C.1397-1) XLI.277, 689. House of Commons Parliamentary Papers.


Encloses an invitation to give evidence to Vivisection Commission. Satisfied with way things were going, but E. E. Klein’s evidence that he is utterly indifferent to pain of animals has done great mischief.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Henry Huxley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Marlborough Place, 4
Source of text
DAR 166: 351, DAR 166: 343
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 10234,” accessed on 22 October 2021,

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