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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. H. Huxley   20 January 1862

Jermyn St

Jany 20th 1862

My dear Darwin

The inclosed article which has been followed up by another more violent more scurrilously personal & more foolish, will prove to you that my labour has not been in vain—and that your views & mine are likely to be better ventilated in Scotland than they have been1   I was quite uneasy at getting no attack from the ‘Witness’ thinking I must have overestimated the impression I had made & the favourableness of the reception of what I said— But the raving of the ‘Witness’ is clear testimony that my notion was correct—2

I shall send a short reply to the ‘Scotsman’ for the purpose of further advertising the question—3

With regard to what are especially your doctrines—I spoke much more favourably than I am reputed to have done— I expressed no doubt as to their ultimate establishment—but as I particuly desire not to be misrepresented as an advocate trying to soften or explain away real dificulties—I did not in speaking enter in to the details of what is to be said in diminishing the weight of the hybrid difficulty— All this will be put fully when I print the Lecture—4

The arguments put in your letter are those which I have urged to other people— of the opposite side—over & over again.5

I have told my students that I entertain no doubt that twenty years experiments on pigeons conducted by a skilled physiologist instead of by a mere breeder—, would give us physiological species sterile inter se from a common stock—(& in this if I mistake not I go further than you do yourself) and I have told them that when these experiments have been performed I shall consider your views to have a complete physical basis—and to stand on as firm ground as any physiological theory whatever—6

This was impossible for me in the time I had to lay all this down to my Edinburgh audience—& in default of full explanation it was far better to seem to do scanty justice to you

I am constitutionally slow of adopting any theory that I must need stick by when I have once gone in for it—but for these two years I have been gravitating towards your doctrines & since the publication of your Primula paper with accelerated velocity—7 By about this time next year I expect to have shot past you—and to find you pitching into me for being more Darwinian than yourself— However, you have set me going & must just take the consequences, for I warn you I will stop at no point so long as clear reasoning will carry me further—

My wife & I were very grieved to hear you had had such a sick house—8 but I hope the change in the weather has done you all good— Anything is better than the damp warmth we had

I will take great care of the three ‘Barriers’—9 I wanted to cut it up in the ‘Saturday’10 but how I can fulfil my benevolent intentions—with four lectures a week—a lecture at the Royal Institution11 & heaps of other things on my hands I don’t know

Ever | Yours faithfully | T. H. Huxley

I am very glad to hear about Brown Sequard;12 he is a thoroughly good man & told me it was worth while to come all the way to Oxford to hear the Bp. pummelled13


The enclosure has not been found. Huxley refers to the response of the Scottish press to two lectures he had recently given in Edinburgh (see letter from T. H. Huxley, 13 January 1862).
The Witness, a popular twice-weekly newspaper that served as the de facto organ of the evangelical Free Church of Scotland, carried an attack on Huxley’s lectures on 14 January 1862 (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix V). See also L. Huxley ed. 1900, 1: 193–4, where the report is quoted, but an incorrect date given for its publication, and Altholz 1989, pp. 90–1.
Huxley’s letter appeared in the Scotsman, 24 January 1862, p. 2 (see Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix V).
The substance of Huxley’s lectures was eventually incorporated into T. H. Huxley 1863a, pp. 57–118.
Many members of the Darwin household had been ill with influenza (see letter to T. H. Huxley, 14 [January 1862]).
Huxley refers to the Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art; no review of [Rorison] 1861 appeared in that journal.
Huxley gave a lecture entitled ‘On fossil remains of man’ at the Royal Institution on 7 February 1862 (T. H. Huxley 1862a). Huxley probably also refers to his lectures as professor of natural history at the Government School of Mines, Jermyn Street, London (DSB); he gave fifty lectures there in the 1861–2 session (Medical directory 1862, p. 243).
Huxley refers to Samuel Wilberforce, bishop of Oxford. Wilberforce’s criticisms of Origin, made at the 1860 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Oxford, had been vigorously answered by Huxley, Joseph Dalton Hooker, and John Lubbock (see Correspondence vol. 8).


Altholz, Josef L. 1989. The religious press in Britain, 1760-1900. Westport, Conn., New York and London: Greenwood Press.

Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

‘Dimorphic condition in Primula’: On the two forms, or dimorphic condition, in the species of Primula, and on their remarkable sexual relations. By Charles Darwin. [Read 21 November 1861.] Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (Botany) 6 (1862): 77–96. [Collected papers 2: 45–63.]

DSB: Dictionary of scientific biography. Edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie and Frederic L. Holmes. 18 vols. including index and supplements. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1970–90.

Medical directory: The London medical directory … every physician, surgeon, and general practitioner resident in London. London: C. Mitchell. 1845. The London and provincial medical directory. London: John Churchill. 1848–60. The London & provincial medical directory, inclusive of the medical directory for Scotland, and the medical directory for Ireland, and general medical register. London: John Churchill. 1861–9. The medical directory … including the London and provincial medical directory, the medical directory for Scotland, the medical directory for Ireland. London: J. & A. Churchill. 1870–1905.

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.

[Rorison, Gilbert.] 1861. The three barriers: notes on Mr Darwin’s ‘Origin of species’. Edinburgh and London: Blackwood & Sons.


The Witness attacks THH’s lecture.

Assures CD he spoke more favourably of his doctrines than the reports show.

Agrees with CD’s arguments on sterility of hybrids and predicts physiological experiments will produce physiological species sterile inter se. Has come even closer to CD’s view especially since Primula paper. Will soon be more Darwinian than CD.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Henry Huxley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Jermyn St
Source of text
DAR 166.2: 291
Physical description
ALS 8pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3396,” accessed on 18 May 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 10