More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 1

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Author: Charles Darwin

Letter 282. To T.H. Huxley.

(282/1. In 1877 the honorary degree of LL.D. was conferred on Mr. Darwin by the University of Cambridge. At the dinner given on the occasion by the Philosophical Society, Mr. Huxley responded to the toast of the evening with the speech of which an authorised version is given by Mr. L. Huxley in the "Life and Letters" of his father (Volume I., page 479). Mr. Huxley said, "But whether the that doctrine [of evolution] be true or whether it be false, I wish to express the deliberate opinion, that from Aristotle’s great summary of the biological knowledge of his time down to the present day, there is nothing comparable to the "Origin of Species," as a connected survey of the phenomena of life permeated and vivified by a central idea."

In the first part of the speech there was a brilliant sentence which he described as a touch of the whip "tied round with ribbons," and this was perhaps a little hard on the supporters of evolution in the University. Mr. Huxley said "Instead of offering her honours when they ran a chance of being crushed beneath the accumulated marks of approbation of the whole civilised world, the University has waited until the trophy was finished, and has crowned the edifice with the delicate wreath of academic appreciation.")

Down, Monday night, November 19th [1877].

I cannot rest easy without telling you more gravely than I did when we met for five minutes near the Museum, how deeply I have felt the many generous things (as far as Frank could remember them) which you said about me at the dinner. Frank came early next morning boiling over with enthusiasm about your speech. You have indeed always been to me a most generous friend, but I know, alas, too well how greatly you overestimate me. Forgive me for bothering you with these few lines.

(282/2. The following extract from a letter (February 10th, 1878) to his old schoolfellow, Mr. J. Price, gives a characteristic remark about the honorary degree.)

"I am very much obliged for your kind congratulations about the LL.D. Why the Senate conferred it on me I know not in the least. I was astonished to hear that the R. Prof. of Divinity and several other great Dons attended, and several such men have subscribed, as I am informed, for the picture for the University to commemorate the honour conferred on me."

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Chicago: Charles Darwin, "Letter 282. To T.H. Huxley.," More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 1, ed. Darwin, Francis, Sir, 1848-1925 and Seward, A. C. (Albert Charles), 1863-1941 and trans. Babington, B. G. (Benjamin Guy), 1794-1866 in More Letters of Charles Darwin Original Sources, accessed May 29, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=V49K62I7BH9HZQS.

MLA: Darwin, Charles. "Letter 282. To T.H. Huxley." More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 1, edited by Darwin, Francis, Sir, 1848-1925 and Seward, A. C. (Albert Charles), 1863-1941, and translated by Babington, B. G. (Benjamin Guy), 1794-1866, in More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 1, Original Sources. 29 May. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=V49K62I7BH9HZQS.

Harvard: Darwin, C, 'Letter 282. To T.H. Huxley.' in More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol. 1, ed. and trans. . cited in , More Letters of Charles Darwin. Original Sources, retrieved 29 May 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=V49K62I7BH9HZQS.