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Darwin Correspondence Project

From T. H. Huxley   23 December 1874

4 Marlborough Place | NW.

Dc 23. 1874

My dear Darwin

I entirely sympathise with your feeling about the attack on George— If anybody tries that on with my boy Leonard the old wolf will shew all the fangs he has left by that time, depend upon it.—1

My ambassador’s message has evoked a letter from Mivart (which I would send to you except that it is marked ‘private & confidential’) in which he not only pleads guilty but expresses his regret in a manner which shews that he is not devoid of all the instincts of a gentleman2

But after turning over the matter in my mind for a day— I came to the conclusion that there was no patching the matter up and I wrote him a note of which I enclose you a copy— Please to send it on to Hooker when you have read it & ask him to return it to me3

But now if I may venture in a word of counsel to my elder & better. I hope that neither you nor Hooker will do anything unless Mivart takes the initiative and I rather gather from his letter than he means to write either to you or George—

As a matter of policy, I think it is very desirable that no one shall be able to give a colour to the veritable lie— that we are a clique & that if you touch one all the other are down upon you— You ought to be like one of the blessed Gods of Elysium & let the inferior Deities do battle with the infernal powers

Moreover the severest & most effectual punishment for this sort of moral assassination is quietly to ignore the offender & give him the cold shoulder

He knows why he gets it & Society comes to know why, & though Society is more or less of a dunderhead— it has honourable instincts & the man in the cold finds no cloak that will cover him—

With all manner of hearty good wishes to you & yours | Ever | Yours faithfully | T H Huxley

Figurez vous. They have made me a Foreign Associate of that highly Catholic Academy of Brussels   E. van Beneden suggests that it may be set against the Irish Bishops curses!4


Dear Mivart

I am much obliged for the letter which you have sent me in reply to the message which Mr Roberts was kind enough to convey from me— The letter is marked private & confidential, & I have endeavoured to respect your wishes in that matter So far as such a course may be consistent with justice to those concerned with its contents.

You tell me that you now regret the publication of the attack on Mr G. Darwin, & that the impression made upon your mind by his article, & under the influence of which you wrote, is not to be justified— And I gather that this regret & conviction that your attack was not justifiable have existed in y〈our〉 mind for some months— in fact ever since the article was published.

Under these circumstances, had I been in your position, there were two things I shd have felt it my duty to do. In the first place I should have written to Mr G. Darwin or to Mr D.— with whom you have been in friendly correspondence & offered him the fullest & frankest apology I cd put into words, & in the second place, I s〈hould ha〉ve requested the Ed. of the Q. R to insert a note fully & fairly retracting all that cd be considered unjust & therefore offensive to Mr. G. D—

You did neither of these things, & when an apology was extorted from the Q.— what appeared presumably with your sanction, if not from your hand, was a defence rather than a retractation.5

Proceedings of this kind are not in accordance with what I understand to be the rules by which men shd endeavour to guide their conduct— & as I concur with Mr G. D that the charges made & insinuated against him are, as he says “absolutely false”—it will be obvious to you that our views on those points which I hold to be the most important of all to mankind, are too hopelessly divergent to render familiar intercourse between us pleasant or adviseable

I am | yours very truly | T. H. H—


Huxley had decided to intervene on CD’s behalf after St George Jackson Mivart published anonymously in the Quarterly Review an attack on article on marriage by George Howard Darwin ([Mivart] 1874; G. H. Darwin 1873a). Leonard was Huxley’s eldest surviving son.
For the letter from St G. J. Mivart to T. H. Huxley, 20 December 1874, see Appendix V. Huxley sent a message to Mivart via William Walter Roberts (see enclosure to letter from J. D. Hooker, 21 December 1874).
Huxley refers to Joseph Dalton Hooker. The copy of Huxley’s letter to Mivart surviving in the Darwin Archive–CUL, from which this transcription is taken, was probably made by a Darwin family member. There is another copy among the Huxley papers at the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine; a transcript of this copy was published in Gruber 1960, pp. 106–7.
Figurez vous: imagine (French). Huxley was elected an associate (scientific class) of the Académie royale des sciences, des lettres et des beaux-arts de Belgique on 15 December 1874 ( (accessed 16 May 2013)). CD himself had been elected an associate in 1870 (see Correspondence vol. 19, Appendix III). Huxley refers to Eduard van Beneden. The Belfast clergy had objected to John Tyndall’s presidential address to the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held in Belfast (see letter from Charles Lyell, 1 September 1874).
Mivart’s apology appeared after George’s response to his allegations in Quarterly Review 137 (1874): 588–9.


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

Gruber, Jacob W. 1960. A conscience in conflict. The life of St. George Jackson Mivart. New York: Columbia University Press for Temple University Publications.

[Mivart, St George Jackson.] 1874b. Primitive man: Tylor and Lubbock. [Essay review of the works of John Lubbock and Edward Burnett Tylor.] Quarterly Review 137 (1874): 40–77.


Entirely sympathises with CD about Mivart’s attack on George. THH has had a letter from Mivart in which he pleads guilty, but THH has decided there is no patching the matter up. Advises against doing anything unless Mivart takes initiative.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Henry Huxley
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Marlborough Place, 4
Source of text
DAR 95: 356–7; DAR 166: 336
Physical description
4pp & CC 4pp damaged

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 9773,” accessed on 30 July 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 22