Huxley: From Devil's Disciple to Evolution's High Priest

By Adrian Desmond | Go to book overview
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14
The Eve of a New Reformation

SIX YEARS EARLIER Nettie's sister Ory and her husband William Fanning had left Hal an insecure tyro. Now back from Sydney, they found a confident, hardworking teacher, but just as proud and pugnacious and doing what he had always prophesied, capitalizing on knowledge. The years had seen a transformation. Domestic anchorage gave him a new joy and stability. He doted on his little 'monkey', Noel. This 'bright eyed golden haired mannikin' was 'the apple of his father's eye and chief deity of his mother's pantheon, which at present contains only a god and goddess. Another is expected shortly, however, so that there is no fear of Olympus looking empty'. 1

They also found him wielding power. Huxley's organizational flair was apparent. He was the whipper-in: 'it is no use putting any faith in the old buffers', he mused, 'hardened as they are in trespasses & sins'. With the Quarterly Review talking of moving the British Museum's natural history collection to a separate museum - giving Owen 'a temple of his own' - Huxley formed a 'Committee of Public Safety' and petitioned the Chancellor with alternative plans. His Danton was played to perfection. He expected 'oceans of trouble & abuse, but so long as we gain our end, I care not a whistle whether the sweet voices of the scientific mob are for or against me'.

His ginger group wanted a national museum, but not one under Owen's control. Theirs was to be a Temple of Reason. No republic had a more zealous Minister of Justice. Huxley arranged low-brow support for their people-friendly museum in Robert Chambers' Journal and high-brow coverage in the Quarterly. He even roused Prince Albert and The Times. 'Can you get at the

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