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Thomas H. Huxley

That man, I think, has a liberal education whose body has been so trained in youth that it is the ready servant of his will, and does with ease and pleasure all that, as a mechanism, it is capable of; whose intellect is a clear, cold, logic engine, with all its parts of equal strength and in smooth running order, ready, like a steam-engine, to be turned to any kind of work and to spin the gossamers as well as forge the anchors of the mind; whose mind is stored with the knowledge of the great fundamental truths of Nature and the laws of her operations; one who, no stunted ascetic, is full of life and fire, but whose passions have been trained to come to heel by a vigorous will, the servant of a tender conscience; one who has learned to love all beauty, whether of Nature or of art, to hate all vileness, and to esteem others as himself.

--Thomas Henry Huxley


That was a great group of thinkers to which Huxley belonged.

The Mutual Admiration Society forms the sunshine in which souls grow--great men come in groups. Sir Francis Galton says there were fourteen men in Greece in the time of Pericles who made Athens possible. A man alone is only a part of a man.

Praxiteles by himself could have done nothing. Ictinus might have drawn the plans for the Parthenon, but without Pericles the noble building would have remained forever the stuff which dreams are made of. And they do say that without Aspasia Pericles would have been a mere dreamer of dreams, and Walter Savage Landor overheard enough of their conversation to prove it.

William Morris and seven men working with him formed the Preraphaelite Brotherhood and gave the workers and doers of the world an impetus they yet feel.

Cambridge and Concord had seven men who induced the Muses to come to America and take out papers.

These men of the Barbizon School tinted the entire art world: Millet, Rousseau, Daubigny, Corot, Diaz. And the people who worked a complete revolution in the theological thought of Christendom were these: Darwin, Spencer, Mill, Tyndall, Wallace, Huxley and, yes, George Eliot, who bolstered the brain of Herbert Spencer when he was learning to think for himself.

When the victory had become a rout, there were many others who joined forces with the evolutionists; but at first the thinkers named above stood together and received the rather unsavory gibes and jeers of those who get their episcopopagy and science from the same source.

Darwin was the only man in the group who was a university graduate, and he once said that he owed nothing to his Alma Mater, save the stimulus derived from her disapproval.

For the work these men had to do there was no precedent: no one had gone before and blazed a trail.

Learning, like capital, is timid; but ignorance coupled with a desire to know, is bold. Do I then make a plea for ignorance? Yes, most assuredly. It is just as well not to know so much, as to be a theologian and know so many things that are not true.

Learning and institutions of learning subdue men into conformity; only the man who belongs to nothing is free; and ignorance, as well as a certain indifference to what the world has said and done, is a necessary factor in the character of him who would do a great work. It was the combined ignorance and boldness of Columbus that made it possible for him to give the world a continent.

Yet the man who has not had a college training often feels he has somehow missed something valuable: there is timidity and hesitation when he is in the presence of those who have had "advantages." And Huxley felt this loss, more or less, up to his thirty-fifth year, when Fate had him cross swords with college men, and then the truth became his that if he had had the regular university training, it was quite probable that he would have accepted the doctrines the universities taught, and would then have been in the camp of the "enemy," instead of with what he called the "blessed minority."

Isolation is a great aid to the thinker. Some of the best books the world has ever known were written behind prison-bars; exile has done much for literature, and a protracted sea-voyage has allowed many a good man to roam the universe in imagination. Some of Macaulay's best essays were written on board slow-going sailing-ships that were blown by vagrant winds from England to India. Darwin, Hooker and Huxley, all got their scientific baptism on board of surveying-ships, where time was plentiful and anything but fleeting, and most everything else was scarce.

Huxley was only assistant surgeon on the "Rattlesnake," and above him was a naturalist who much of his time lay in his bunk and read treatises on this and also on that.

Huxley was the seventh child of a plodding schoolteacher, born on the seventh day of the week on a seventh-floor back, he used to say. His genius for work came from his mother, a tireless, ambitious woman, who got things done while others were discussing them. "Had she been a man, she would have been leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons," her son used to say.

College education was not for that goodly brood--a living was the first thing, so after a good drilling in the three R's, Thomas Huxley was apprenticed to a pharmacist who paid him six shillings a week, a sum that the boy conscientiously gave to his mother.

Oh, if in our schoolteaching we could only teach this one thing: a great thirst for knowledge! But this desire we can not impart: it is trial, difficulty, obstacle, deprivation and persecution that make souls hunger and thirst after knowledge. Young Huxley wanted to know. His thoroughness in the drugstore won the admiration of the doctors whose prescriptions he compounded, and several of them loaned him books and took him to clinics; and at seventeen we find him with a Free Scholarship in Charing Cross Hospital, serving as nurse and assistant surgeon. Then came the appointment as assistant surgeon in the Navy, and the appointment to "H.M.S. Rattlesnake," bound on a four-year trip to the Antipodes, all quite as a matter of course.

Life is a sequence: this happened today because you did that yesterday. Tomorrow will be the result of today.

The general idea of evolution was strong in the mind of young Huxley. He realized that Nature was moving, growing, changing all things. He had studied embryology, and had seen how the body of a man begins as a single minute mass of protoplasm, without organs or dimensions.

Behind the ship was his dragnet, and he worked almost constantly recording the different specimens of animal and vegetable life that he thus secured. The jellyfish attracted him most.

To the ship's naturalist, jellyfish were jellyfish, but Huxley saw that there were many kinds, distinct, separate, peculiar. He began to dissect them and thus began his book on jellyfish, just as Darwin wrote his work on barnacles.

Huxley vowed to himself that before the "Rattlesnake" got back to England he would know more about jellyfish than any other living man. That his ambition was realized no one now disputes.

Among his first discoveries, it came to him with a thrill that a certain species of jellyfish bears a very close resemblance to the human embryo at a certain stage.

And he remembered the dictum of Goethe, that the growth of the individual mirrors the growth of the race. And he paraphrased it thus: "The growth of the individual mirrors the growth of the species." So filled was he with the thought that he could not sleep, so he got up and paced the deck and tried to explain his great thought to the second mate. He was getting ready for "The Origin of Species," which he once said to Darwin he would himself have written, if Darwin had been a little more of a gentleman and had held off for a few years.

It was on board the "Rattlesnake" that Huxley wrote this great truth: "Nature has no designs or intentions. All that live exist only because they have adapted themselves to the hard lines that Nature has laid down. We progress as we comply."

       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

In Australia, while waiting for his ship to locate and map a dangerous reef, Huxley went ashore, and as he playfully expressed it, "ran upon another."

The name of the most excellent young woman who was to become his wife was Henrietta Heathorn; and Julian Hawthorne has discovered that she belongs to the same good stock from whence came our Nathaniel of Salem.

It did not take the young naturalist and this stranded waif, seven thousand miles from home, long to see that they had much in common. Both were eager for truth, both had the ability to cut the introduction and reach live issues directly. "I saw you were a woman with whom only honesty would answer," he wrote her thirty years after. He was still in love with her.

Yet she was a proud soul, and no assistant surgeon on an insignificant sloop would answer her--when he got his surgeon's commission she would marry him. And it was seven years before she journeyed to England alone with that delightful object in view. He had to serve for her as Jacob did for Rachel, with this difference: Jacob loved several, but Thomas Huxley loved but one.

Huxley's wife was his companion, confidante, comrade, friend. I can not recall another so blest, in all the annals of thinking men, save John Stuart Mill. "I tell her everything I know, or guess, or imagine, so as to get it straight in my own mind," he said to John Fiske.

In that most interesting work, "Life and Lessons of Huxley," compiled by his son Leonard, are constant references and allusions to this most ideal mating. In reply to the question, Is marriage a failure? I would say, "No, provided the man marries a woman like Huxley's wife, and the woman marries a man like Huxley."

       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

There is a classic aphorism which runs about this way, "Knock and the world knocks with you; boost and you boost alone." Like most popular sayings this is truth turned wrong side out.

John Fiske once called Thomas Huxley an "appreciative iconoclast." That is to say, Huxley was a persistent protester (which is different from a protestant), and at the same time, he was a friend who never faltered and grew faint in time of trouble. Huxley always sniffed the battle from afar and said, Ha! Ha!

There be those who do declare that the success of Huxley was owing to his taking the tide at the flood, and riding into high favor on the Darwinian wave. To say that there would have been no Huxley had there been no Darwin would be one of those unkind cuts the cruelty of which lies in its truth.

It is equally true that if there had been no Lincoln there would have been no Grant; but Grant was a very great man just the same--so why raise the issue!

Darwin summed up and made nebulĉ of the truths which Huxley had, up to that time, held only in gaseous form.

Darwin was born in the immortal year Eighteen Hundred Nine. Huxley was born in Eighteen Hundred Twenty-five. When "The Origin of Species" was published in Eighteen Hundred Fifty-nine, Thomas Huxley was thirty-four years old. He had made his four years' trip around the world on the surveying-ship "Rattlesnake," just as Darwin had made his eventful voyage on the "Beagle."

These men in many ways had paralleled each other; but Darwin had sixteen years the start, and during these years he had steadily and silently worked to prove the great truth that he had sensed intuitively years before in the South Seas.

"The Origin of Species" sheds light in ten thousand ways on the fact that all life has evolved from very lowly forms and is still ascending: that species were not created by fiat, but that every species was the sure and necessary result of certain conditions.

Until "The Origin of Species" was published, and for some years afterward, the Immutability of Species was taught in all colleges, and everywhere accepted by the so-called learned men.

Goethe had somewhat dimly prophesied the discovery of the Law of Evolution, but his ideas on natural science were regarded by the schools as quite on a par with those of Dante: neither was taken seriously.

Darwin proved his hypothesis. Doubtless, very many schoolmen would have accepted the theory, but to admit that man was not created outright, complete, and in his present form, or superior to it, seemed to evolve a contradiction of the Mosaic account of Creation, and the breaking up of Christianity. And these things done, many thought, would entail moral chaos, destruction of private interests and moral confusion being one and the same thing to those whose interests are involved. And so for conscience' sake, Darwin was bitterly assailed and opposed.

Opportunity, which knocks many times at each man's door, rapped hard at Huxley's door in Eighteen Hundred Sixty. It was at Oxford, at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science: "A big society with a slightly ironical name," once said Huxley. The audience was large and fashionable, delegates being present from all parts of the British Empire.

"The Origin of Species" had been published the year before, and tongues were wagging. Darwin was not present; but Huxley, who was known to be a personal friend of Darwin, was in his seat. The intent of the chairman was to keep Darwin and his pestiferous book out of all the discussions: Darwin was a good man to smother with silence.

But Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, in the course of a speech on another subject began to run short of material, and so switched off upon a theme which he had already exploited from the pulpit with marked effect. All public speakers carry this boiler-plate matter for use in time of stress.

The Bishop began to denounce "those enemies of the Church and Society who make covert attacks upon the Bible in the name of Science." He warmed to his theme, and by a specious series of misstatements and various appeals to the prejudices of his audience worked the assemblage up to a high pitch of hilarity and enthusiasm. Toward the close of his speech he happened to spy Huxley seated near, and pointing a pudgy finger at him, "begged to be informed if the learned gentleman was really willing to be regarded as a descendant of a monkey?"

As the Bishop sat down, there was a wild burst of applause and much laughter, but amid the din were calls, "Huxley! Huxley!" These shouts increased as it came over the people that while the Bishop had made a great speech, he had gone a trifle too far in ridiculing a member who up to this time had been silent. The good English spirit of fair play was at work. Still Huxley sat silent. Then the enemy, thinking he was completely vanquished, took up the cry with intent to add to his discomfiture: "Huxley! Huxley!"

Slowly Huxley arose. He stood still until the last buzzing whisper had died away. When he spoke it was in so low a tone that people leaned forward to catch his words.

Huxley knew his business: his slowness to speak created an atmosphere. There was no jest in his voice or manner. The air grew tense.

His quiet reserve played itself off against the florid exuberance of the Bishop. The Bishop was not a man given to exact statements: his knowledge of science was general, not specific.

Huxley demolished his card house point by point, correcting the gross misstatements, and ending by saying that since a question of personal preferences had been brought into the discussion of a great scientific theme, he would confess that if the alternatives were a descent on the one hand from a respectable monkey, or on the other from a Bishop of the Church of England who could stoop to misrepresentation and sophistry and who had attempted in that presence to throw discredit upon a man who had given his life to the cause of science, then if forced to decide he would declare in favor of the monkey.

When Huxley took his seat, there was a silence that could be felt. Several ladies fainted. There were fears that the Bishop would reply, and to keep down such a possible unpleasant move the audience now applauded Huxley roundly, and amid the din the chairman declared the meeting adjourned.

From that time forward Huxley was famous throughout England as a man to let alone in public debate.

       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

It is a fine thing to be a great scientist, but it is a yet finer thing to be a great man. The one element in Huxley's life that makes his character stand out clear, sharp and well defined was his steadfast devotion to truth. The only thing he feared was self-deception. When he uttered his classic cry in defense of Darwin, there was no ulterior motive in it; no thought that he was attaching himself to a popular success; no idea that he was linking his name with greatness.

What he felt was true, he uttered; and the strongest desire of his soul was that he might never compromise with the error for the sake of mental ease, or accept a belief simply because it was pleasant.

Huxley once wrote this terse sentence of Gladstone: "It is to me a serious thing that the destinies of this great country should at present be to a great extent in the hands of a man who, whatever he may be in the affairs of which I am no judge, is nothing but a copious shuffler in those that I do understand." Gladstone crossed swords with Huxley, Spencer and Robert Ingersoll, and in each case his blundering intellect looked like a raft of logs compared with a steamboat that responds to the helm. Gladstone was a man of action, and silence to such is most becoming.

He had a belief, that was enough; he should have hugged it close, and never stood up to explain it. Let us vary a simile just used: Lincoln once referred to an opponent as being "like a certain steamboat that ran on the Sangamon. This boat had so big a whistle that when she blew it, there wasn't steam enough to make her run, and when she ran she couldn't whistle."

Huxley, Spencer and Robert Ingersoll, all made Gladstone cut for the woods and cover his retreat in a cloud of words. Ingersoll once said that in replying to Gladstone he felt like a man who had been guilty of cruelty to children.

If one wants to see how pitifully weak Gladstone could be in an argument, let him refer to the "North American Review" for Eighteen Hundred Eighty-two.

Yet Ingersoll was surely lacking in the passion for truth that characterized Huxley. Ingersoll was always a prosecutor or a defender: the lawyer habit was strong upon him. Just a little more bias in his clay and he would have made a model bishop.

His stock of science was almost as meager as was that of Samuel Wilberforce, and he seldom hesitated to turn the laugh on an adversary, even at the expense of truth. When brought to book for his indictment of Moses without giving that great man any credit for the sublime things he did do, or making allowances for the barbaric horde with which he had to deal, Bob evaded the proposition by saying, "I am not the attorney of Moses: he has more than three million men looking after his case."

Again, in that most charming lecture on Shakespeare, Ingersoll proves that Bacon did not write the plays, by picking out various detached passages of Bacon, which no one for a moment ever claimed revealed the genius of the man.

With equal plausibility we could prove that the author of Hamlet was a weakling, by selecting all the obscure and stupid passages, and parading these with the unexplained fact that the play opens with the spirit of a dead man coming back to earth, and a little later in the same play Shakespeare has the man who interviewed the ghost tell of "that bourne from whence no traveler returns." Even Shakespeare was not a genius all the time. And Ingersoll, the searcher for truth, borrowed from his friends, the priests, the cheerful habit of secreting the particular thing that would not help the cause in hand. But one of the best things in Ingersoll's character was that he realized his lapses and in private acknowledged them.

On reading the smooth, florid and plausible sophistry of Wilberforce, Ingersoll once said: "Be easy on Soapy Sam! A few years ago, a little shifting of base on the part of my ancestors, and I would probably have had Soapy Sam's job."

This resemblance of opposites makes a person think of that remark applied to Voltaire. "He was the father of all those who wear shovel-hats."

       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

When Thomas Huxley and his wife arrived in New York in Eighteen Hundred Seventy-six, on a visit to the Centennial Exhibition, this interesting item was flashed over the country, "Huxley and his titled bride have arrived in New York on their wedding-journey."

This item caused Mr. and Mrs. Huxley--both of them royal democrats--more joy than did the most complimentary interview. At home they had left a charming little brood of seven children, three of them nearly grown-ups.

Huxley sent Tyndall, who a few months before had married a daughter of Lord Hamilton, the clipping and this note: "You see how that once I am in a democratic country I am pulling all the honors I can in my own direction." The next letter the Huxleys received from Tyndall was addressed, "Sir Thomas and Lady Huxley." Huxley never stood in much awe of the nobility; he evidently felt that there was another kind of which he himself in degree was heir. Huxley never had a better friend than Sir Joseph Hooker, and we see in his letters such postscripts as this:

"Dear Sir Joseph: Do come and dine with us; it is a month since we have seen your homely old phiz." And Sir Joseph replies that he will be on hand the next Sunday evening and offers this mild suggestion, "Scientific gents as has countenances as curdles milk should not cast aspersions on men made in image of Maker."

       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

The wordy duel between Huxley and Gladstone prompted Toole, the great comedian, to send a box of grease-paints to Huxley with a note saying, "These are for you and Gladstone to use when you make up." It was a joke so subtle and choice that the Huxleys, always dear friends of Toole, laughed for a week.

Poor Gladstone required a diagram when he heard of the procedure; and then, not being trepanned for the pleasantry, remarked that if Toole and Huxley collaborated on the stage, it would be eminently the proper thing, and in his mind there was little choice between them, both being fine actors.

Later, we hear of Huxley saying he thought of sending the box of grease-paints to Gladstone, so the Premier could use them in making up with God; as for himself, he was like Thoreau and had never quarreled with Him.

Huxley had many friendships with people seemingly outside of his own particular line of work. Henry Irving, the Reverend Doctor Parker, John Fiske and Hall Caine once met at one of Huxley's "Tall Teas," and Doctor Parker explained that he personally had no objection to visiting with sinners.

For Parker, Huxley had a great admiration and often attended the Thursday noon meeting at the Temple, "to see and hear the greatest actor in England," a compliment which Parker much appreciated, otherwise he would not have repeated it. "If I ever take to the stage, I will play the part of Jacques or Touchstone," said Huxley.

John Fiske in his delightful essay on Huxley said that in the Huxley home there was more jest, joke and banter than in any other place in London. The air was surcharged with mirth, and puns, often very bad ones, were tossed back and forth with great recklessness.

At one time John Fiske was at the Huxleys and the dual or multiple nature of man came up for discussion. Huxley spoke of how very often men who were gentle and charming in their homes were capable of great crimes, and of how, on the other hand, a man might pass in the world as a philanthropist, and yet in his household be a veritable autocrat and tyrant.

Fiske then incidentally mentioned the case of Doctors Parker and Webster of Harvard--men of intellect and worth. These men brooded over a misunderstanding that grew into a grudge and eventually hatched murder. One worthy professor killed the other, cut up the body, and tried to burn it in a chemist's retort. Only the great difficulty of reducing the human body to ashes caused the murder to out, and brought about the hanging of a scientist of note.

"Yes, I have thought of the difficulty of disposing of a dead body," said Huxley, solemnly; "and often when on the point of committing murder this was the only thing that made me hesitate!"

"Oh, Pater, we are ashamed of you," said his three lovely daughters in concert. Huxley's ability to joke and his appreciation of the ludicrous marked him, in the mind of John Fiske, as the greatest thinker of his time. The humorist knows values, and that is why he laughs. Sensibility is, in fact, the basic element of wit.

       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

Huxley's duties on the "Rattlesnake" were not in the line of science. His rank was assistant surgeon; but as sure-enough surgeons were only sent out on bigger craft, he was this ship's doctor.

With the captain's help the men were kept busy, but not too busy, and the food and regulations were such that about all Huxley had to do was to look upon his work and pronounce it good.

As a physician, Huxley practised throughout his life the science of prevention.

"With a prophetic vision, quite unconscious, my parents named me after that particular apostle I was to admire most," once said Huxley. He was a doubter by instinct, and approached the world of Nature as if nothing were known about it.

His work on the Medusa won him the recognition of the British Society, and this secured him the coveted surgeon's commission. Two tragedies confront man on his journey through life--one when he wants a thing and can not get it; the other when he gets the thing and finds he does not want it.

Having secured his surgeon's commission, Huxley felt a strong repulsion toward devoting his life to the abnormal.

"I am a scientist by nature, and my business is to teach," he wrote to his affianced wife. These were wise words which he had learned from her, but which he repeated, seemingly quite innocent of their source. We take our own wherever we find it.

Miss Heathorn admired a surgeon, but loved a scientist, and Huxley being a man was making a heroic struggle to be what the young woman most wished. Love supplies an ideal--and that is the very best thing love does, with possibly an exception or two. So behold a ship's surgeon in London, full-fledged, refusing offers of position, and even declining to take a choice of ships, for such is the perversity of things animate and inanimate that, when we do not want things, Fate brings them to us on silver platters and begs us to accept. We win by indifference as much as by desire.

"I have declined to ship on board the 'Cormorant' as head surgeon, and have applied to the University of Toronto for a position as Professor of Natural History."

And so America had Huxley flung at her head. Toronto considered, and the Canadians sat on the case, and after considerable correspondence, the vacant chair was given to Professor Baldini of the Whitby Ladies College. It was a close call for Canada! Huxley had imagined that the New World offered special advantages to a rising young person of scientific bent, but now he secured a marriage-license and settled down as lecturer at the School of Mines. A little later he began to teach at the Royal College of Surgeons, with which institution he was to be connected the rest of his life, and fill almost any chair that happened to be vacant.

From the time he was twenty-seven Huxley never had to look for work. He was known as a writer of worth, and as a lecturer his services were in demand.

He became President of the Geological and Ethnological Society; was appointed Royal Commissioner for the Advancement of Science; was a member of the London School Board; Secretary of the Royal Society; Lord Rector of the University of Aberdeen; President of the Royal Society; and refused an offer to become Custodian of the British Museum, a life position, and where he had once applied for a clerkship.

In letters to Darwin he occasionally signed his name with all titles added, thus, "Thomas Henry Huxley, M.B., M.D., Ph.D., LL.D., F.R.S. of Her Majesty's Navy."

Huxley was a forceful and epigrammatic writer, and had a command of English second to no scientist that England has ever produced. He was the only one of his group who had a distinct literary style. As a speaker he was quiet, deliberate, decisive, sure; and he carried enough reserve caloric so that he made his presence felt in any assemblage before he said a word. In oratory it is personality that gives ballast.

Of his forty or so published books, "Man's Place in Nature," "Elementary Physiology" and "Classification of Animals" have been translated into many languages, and now serve as textbooks in various schools and colleges.

Huxley is the founder of the so-called Agnostic School, which has the peculiarity of not being a school. The word "agnostic" was given its vogue by Huxley. To superficial people it was quite often used synonymously with "infidel" and "freethinker," both words of reproach. To Huxley it meant simply one who did not know, but wished to learn.

The controlling impulse of Huxley's life was his absolute honesty. To pretend to believe a thing against which one's reason revolts, in order to better one's place in society, was to him the sum of all that was intellectually base.

He regarded man as an undeveloped creature, and for this creature to lay the flattering unction to his soul that he was in special communication with the Infinite, and in possession of the secrets of the Creator, was something that in itself proved that man was as yet in the barbaric stage.

Said Huxley: "As to the final truths of Creation and Destiny, I am an agnostic. I do not know, hence I neither affirm nor deny."

       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

Humor and commonsense usually go together. Huxley had a goodly stock of both. When George Eliot died, there was a very earnest but ill-directed effort made to have her body buried in Westminster Abbey. Huxley, being close to the Dean, serving with him on several municipal boards, was importuned by Spencer to use his influence toward the desired end. Huxley saw the incongruity of the situation, and in a letter that reveals the logical mind and the direct, literary, Huxley quality, he placed his gentle veto on the proposition and thus saved the "enemy" the mortification of having to do so.

Darwin is buried in Westminster Abbey, but this was not to be the final resting-place of the dust of Mill, Tyndall, Spencer, George Eliot or Huxley. These had all stood in the fore of the fight against superstition and had both given and received blows.

The Pantheon of such battle-scarred heroes was to be the hearts of those who prize above all that earth can bestow the benison of the God within. "Above all else, let me preserve my integrity of intellect," said Huxley. Here is Huxley's letter to Spencer:

4 Marlborough Place, Dec. 27, 1880

My Dear Spencer: Your telegram which reached me on Friday evening caused me great perplexity, inasmuch as I had just been talking to Morley, and agreeing with him that the proposal for a funeral in Westminster Abbey had a very questionable look to us, who desired nothing so much as that peace and honor should attend George Eliot to her grave.

It can hardly be doubted that the proposal will be bitterly opposed, possibly (as happened in Mill's case with less provocation) with the raking up of past histories, about which the opinion even of those who have least the desire or the right to be pharisaical is strongly divided, and which had better be forgotten.

With respect to putting pressure on the Dean of Westminster, I have to consider that he has some confidence in me, and before asking him to do something for which he is pretty sure to be violently assailed, I have to ask myself whether I really think it a right thing for a man in his position to do.

Now I can not say I do. However much I may lament the circumstance, Westminster Abbey is a Christian Church and not a Pantheon, and the Dean thereof is officially a Christian priest, and we ask him to bestow exceptional Christian honors by this burial in the Abbey. George Eliot is known not only as a great writer, but as a person whose life and opinions were in notorious antagonism to Christian practise in regard to marriage, and Christian theory in regard to dogma. How am I to tell the Dean that I think he ought to read over the body of a person who did not repent of what the Church considers mortal sin, a service not one solitary proposition of which she would have accepted for truth while she was alive? How am I to urge him to do that which, if I were in his place, I should most emphatically refuse to do? You tell me that Mrs. Cross wished for the funeral in the Abbey. While I desire to entertain the greatest respect for her wishes, I am very sorry to hear it. I do not understand the feeling which could create such a desire on any personal grounds, save those of affection, and the natural yearning to be near, even in death, those whom we have loved. And on public grounds the wish is still less intelligible to me. One can not eat one's cake and have it too. Those who elect to be free in thought and deed must not hanker after the rewards, if they are to be so called, which the world offers to those who put up with its fetters.

Thus, however I look at the proposal, it seems to me to be a profound mistake, and I can have nothing to do with it. I shall be deeply grieved if this resolution is ascribed to any other motives than those which I have set forth at greater length than I intended.

Ever yours very faithfully,

T. H. HUXLEY


Elbert Hubbard

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