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

By Adrian Desmond | Go to book overview
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A Person of Respectability

HUXLEY'S SCIENTIFIC BROTHERHOOD gathered on a warm sunny Saturday 4 May 1878 - Hal's 53rd birthday - for Jess's wedding to her young architect Fred Waller. Only an unwell Tyndall was missing, but Louisa carried his blessing, which was 'as good as the parson's'. Hooker sent 'heaps of lovely flowers from Kew' and the bride wore the Darwins' gift, a ruby and diamond star. 'It is the first break in our family', Huxley told Haeckel, and he felt it. He 'was grey in colour from the suppressed emotion' as he walked Jess towards Canon Duckworth. Naturally this 'ecclesiastical part' was 'quite out of the question' for the blimpish Spencer, but he deigned to attend the 'social part' afterwards in his 'passive' way. 1 He milled with the barons of science and industry And at least one Right Honourable artist, John Collier, 'Jack' to everybody, son of a former Attorney‐ General and a constant presence in the lives of the arty girls.

'Married & done for' pronounced a footloose Mady, dangling her bevy of men. But the footsteps of fortune are slippery. Days later the marriage was overshadowed as the children came down with diphtheria, Mady dangerously so. Her throat was an agony She was gasping and feverish. Her blood poisoned, she 'lost her sight her speech, & lastly the use of her legs'. Clark and the family doctor stood by helpless. By 17 May Nettie was fraught and 'worn out with nursing'. By the 20th she herself had not had an hour's undisturbed sleep for a week. Hal's face showed the desperation as he watched Mady 'for several days hovering between life & death'. 'I never saw a man more crushed', said his lab technician Jeffrey Parker. 2

The day Mady began fighting for her life Huxley tore himself from her bedside to deliver the first of his Davis Lectures at the Zoological Society He started to talk on the common crayfish as a key to the


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