Polishing off the G.O.M.
HUXLEY'S BREAKDOWNS were peculiar. A mental lethargy left him unable to face the world. He had no 'positive complaint', just a 'deadness that hangs about me'. His haggard looks had Matthew Arnold in tears after a chance meeting. The 'great anguish about Mady' had immobilized Hal again. And yet, ordered off to sunny climes, and told by his adoring superiors to 'at once act upon Sir A Clarke's [sic] advice', he had the will to work his way to Venice. He should have been fighting through the snarled-up traffic to his office. Instead mid-October found him sitting in a gondola. 1
Nettie remained, left with her own burden of organizing Rachel's wedding. She never forgot 'the agony of that time, Hal away, in torture of mind & weak in body', as she too 'lost hope'. A bleak telegram told them of Mady's total mental collapse, turning Hal into a silent 'wounded beast'. He slunk back for the wedding on 6 November. Rachel was marrying a blue-eyed civil engineer Alfred Eckersley, on a contract to build a railroad across southern Spain. But the wedding was a tortured dream: a flounce of feather-hatted bridesmaids, the shower of rice vexing the bride, Nettie in her Court dress trying to seat 90 to breakfast. By 3 o'clock it was all over and Rachel on her way to Spain. The worry returned as Nettie looked at Hal. 'Between him & Mady, my soul has been torn'. Like a typical depressive, Huxley was unable to cope with it in his daughter. The Times reported his flight, leaving the Fisheries men flummoxed. But Gladstone's Ministers agreed on the need for a 'Coercion Bill first in his case'. 2 Not that it proved hard to evict him from Britain.
The couple returned to Italy as Britain froze. They left Foster editing a new edition of the Lessons in Elementary Physiology and looking after affairs. He dropped in to Marlborough Place to find