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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. H. Huxley   3 November 1873

Athenæum Club | Pall Mall

Novr. 3rd. 1873

My dear Darwin

You will have heard, (in fact I think I mentioned the matter when I paid you my pleasant visit the other day) that Flower is ill & obliged to go away for six months to a warm climate—1 It is a great grief to me as he is a man for whom I have great esteem & affection apart from his high scientific merits—and his symptoms are such as to cause very grave anxiety— I shall be happily disappointed if that accursed consumption has not got hold of him—

The College Authorities have behaved as well as they possibly could to him and I do not suppose that his enforced retirement, for a while, gives him the least pecuniary anxiety as his people are all well off—& he himself has an income apart from his College pay— Nevertheless, under such circumstances a man with half a dozen children always wants all the money he can lay hands on; and whether he does or no, he ought not to be allowed to deprive himself of any—2 Which leads me to the gist of my letter— His name was on your list as one of those hearty friends who came to my rescue last year; and it was the only name which made me a little uneasy—for I doubted whether it was right for a man with his responsibilities, to make sacrifices of this sort3

However, I stifled that feeling not seeing what else I could do without wounding him— But now my conscience won’t let me be; and I do not think that any consideration ought to deter me from getting his contribution back to him some how or other— There is no one to whose judgment on a point of honour I would defer more readily than yours—and I am quite sure you will agree with me— I really am quite unhappy & ashamed to think of myself as vigorous & well at the expense of his denying himself any rich man’s caprice he might take a fancy to—

So my dear good friend let me know what his contribution was that I may get it back to him somehow or other—even if I go like Nicodemus privily & by night to his bankers—4

Ever | Yours faithfully | T. H. Huxley

Not one solitary moment have I had to devote to Nitella yet5


Huxley refers to William Henry Flower. Huxley visited Down on 25 and 26 October 1873 (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 26 October [1873], and Emma Darwin’s diary (DAR 242)).
In 1870, Flower had replaced Huxley as Hunterian Professor of comparative anatomy and physiology at the Royal College of Surgeons of England. He had three sons and three daughters; his father founded Flower’s brewery in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1831 (ODNB).
Flower contributed to the subscription fund raised by Huxley’s personal friends in April 1873 to relieve his financial problems (see letter to subscribers to T. H. Huxley’s gift, [25 April 1873] and n. 4).
Huxley alludes to the biblical story of Nicodemus’s coming to prepare Jesus’s body by night (John 19: 39).
Nitella is a genus of branched, multicellular algae, commonly known as stoneworts.


ODNB: Oxford dictionary of national biography: from the earliest times to the year 2000. (Revised edition.) Edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. 60 vols. and index. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.


W. H. Flower is ill and obliged to go off for six months. Wants to return the money Flower contributed to fund for his holiday, asks the amount.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Henry Huxley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Athenaeum Club
Source of text
DAR 166: 329
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9126,” accessed on 20 October 2020,

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