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Darwin Correspondence Project

To T. H. Huxley   5 [December 1860]1

Down Bromley Kent


My dear Huxley

I must thank you for your note, which made me laugh heartily.2 On my honour bright I did not look at you as the venerable figure which you pourtray.3 What I meant was that a long course of work, which the young are only likely to do, will be necessary to confirm my views, if they are ever to be confirmed. I did however fancy that you had got to think the probability less, which did not surprise me, as I used formerly myself to fluctuate in extreme degree.—   You may guess, therefore, how your note has pleased me.—   I am too sensitive of a shade of opinion in such men as you, but I find I can now honestly say that I care nothing about common reviewers. You will be a real good Christian if you do not hate me, as you are so “pounded” on opposite sides.—

I have read few first pages of the Macmillans article,4 & it pleases me that he quotes Mill’s Logic & declares that I have philosophised in right spirit, & that all the talk about Baconian induction is cant & rubbish.—5 I well remember that you took nearly same line & cited undulatory theory of light.—6

Here I am again running on about my wearisome self.—   Farewell my best of defenders & friends. I hope that Mrs. Huxley is going on pretty well.—7 Do not work too hard; I am always fearful that you will break down with so many irons in the fire.—

Adios | C. Darwin

P.S. I have just reread your note. What a fool old Gray is (not but what I like him);8 he understands my book no more than a pig does. He told me the last time I saw him “you see natural selection cannot possibly apply to plants”.—   As far as accurate & extended knowledge & acute philosophy go, he would be a precious deal nearer the truth, if he were to say “old Huxley” & “young Darwin”.

I see Fawett in Macmillan bring in you & the B. of Oxfords Ape! You must see how well he praises your rejoinder.9


Dated by the reference to Henry Fawcett’s article on Origin. See n. 4, below.
Huxley’s letter has not been found.
In the letter to T. H. Huxley, 2 December [1860], CD lamented that Huxley had not accepted his views more fully and remarked that if they were ever to be adopted, it would be by ‘young men growing up & replacing the old workers’.
Henry Fawcett’s article, entitled ‘A popular exposition of Mr. Darwin on the origin of species’, was published in the December 1860 issue of Macmillan’s Magazine (Fawcett 1860).
Stating that all hostile critics had repudiated CD’s theory by claiming that it was not based on ‘a rigorous induction’, Fawcett pointed out that CD’s method accorded well with John Stuart Mill’s exposition of the deductive method consisting of direct induction, ratiocination, and then verification (Fawcett 1860, pp. 83–4).
During his confrontation with Samuel Wilberforce at the 1860 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Huxley is reported to have said that CD’s theory was an explanation of the phenomena of natural history in the same way as the undulatory theory was an explanation of the phenomena of light. See L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 184 n. 1, and Appendix VI.
Henrietta Anne Huxley gave birth to Leonard Huxley on 11 December 1860. She was still grieving over the death of their oldest child, Noel Huxley, in September.
John Edward Gray.
Expressing his surprise that opponents had not discussed the ‘most formidable argument’ against CD’s theory, namely geology, Fawcett stated: ‘It was sad, indeed, to think that the opponents of the theory sought to supply this omission by summoning to their aid a species of oratory which could deem it an argument to ask a professor if he should object to discover that he had been developed out of an ape.’ (Fawcett 1860, pp. 88). For a fuller account of the discussion at the Oxford meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, see Correspondence vol.8, Appendix VI.


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Fawcett, Henry. 1860. A popular exposition of Mr Darwin on the origin of species. Macmillan’s Magazine 3 (1861): 81–92.

Origin: On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1859.


Thanks THH for his note; pleased by what he says. Is too sensitive about shades of opinion of men like THH.

The Macmillan article on Origin [H. Fawcett, "A popular exposition of Mr Darwin on the origin of species", Macmillan’s Mag. 3 (1860): 81–92].

J. E. Gray’s misunderstanding of Origin.

Account of the encounter at Oxford BAAS meeting.

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Thomas Henry Huxley
Sent from
Source of text
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Archives (Huxley 5:130)
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3009,” accessed on 5 December 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 8