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

By Adrian Desmond | Go to book overview

8
Homesick Heroes

THE BRITTLE PERFECTIONIST was cracking. Captain Stanley looked ravaged and no one questioned his cut-and-run policy. He had been racked for months. The flood of anxieties, about the reefs, the savages, the safety of his crew and the worth of his work, had pushed the 'little man' to the brink. The crash came with horrifying violence.

Sailing away from the Louisiade he had a seizure, leaving him partly paralysed. As he dragged his leg, his mind began to wander. Then came the vitriolic outbursts. His 'waspish' temper 'became unbearable' and Thomson showed alarm as Stanley snapped heads off. The doctor pleaded with him to relinquish command or he 'could not feel ... responsible for his life'.

Stanley's fastidiousness deserted him. He seemed not to care anymore, his mind gone, his body paralysed, his brother dead. He ignored badly charted wrecking-reefs in the Coral Sea. This, as MacGillivray said, was practically criminal for a surveyor with 17 chronometers on board.

The run to Sydney was painfully slow. Light winds dogged them. 'We have made about 600 miles in the last fortnight', Huxley logged on 24 January 1850; 'we are about 800 miles from Sydney, and might be there in a week. But so we might a week ago. Uncertainty and suspense seem my lot. Patience! Patience!' On 4 February they were still lying becalmed, 30 miles off Sydney Heads. Only six hours away but no breeze to blow them in. He had not heard from Nettie for five months and the frustration was showing. 'The Fates can surely not tantalize any longer'. 1

These were the moments that Nettie dreamed of yet dreaded, as the Rattlesnake hove into sight. In her 'bitter fancies' she feared

-129-

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Huxley: From Devil's Disciple to Evolution's High Priest
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Also by Adrian Desmond *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • The Apostle Paul of the New Teaching xiii
  • Part One - The Devil's Disciple *
  • 1825-1846 Dreaming My Own Dreams *
  • 1 - Philosophy Can Bake No Bread 3
  • 2 - Son of the Scalpel 18
  • 3 - The Surgeon's Mate 36
  • 1846-1850 the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea *
  • 4 - Men-Of-War 53
  • 5 - An Ark of Promise 66
  • 6 - The Eighth Circle of Hell 86
  • 7 - Sepulchral Painted Savages 111
  • 8 - Homesick Heroes 129
  • 1850-1858 Lost in the Wilderness *
  • 9 - The Scientific Sadducee 149
  • 10 - The Season of Despair 172
  • 11 - The Jihad Begins 195
  • 12 - The Nature of the Beast 216
  • 13 - Empires of the Deep Past 231
  • 1858-1865 the New Luther *
  • 14 - The Eve of a New Reformation 251
  • 15 - Buttered Angels & Bellowing Apes 266
  • 16 - Reslaying the Slain 292
  • 17 - Man's Place 312
  • 1865-1870 the Scientific Swell *
  • 18 - Birds, Dinosaurs & Booming Guns 339
  • 19 - Eyeing the Prize 361
  • Part Two - Evolution's High Priest *
  • 1870-1884 Marketing the 'New Nature' *
  • 20 - The Gun in the Liberal Armoury 385
  • 21 - From the City of the Dead to the City of Science 411
  • 22 - Automatons 433
  • 23 - The American Dream 463
  • 24 - A Touch of the Whip 483
  • 25 - A Person of Respectability 495
  • 26 - The Scientific Woolsack 507
  • 1885-1895 the Old Lion *
  • 27 - Polishing off the G.O.M 537
  • 28 - Christ Was No Christian 562
  • 29 - Combating the Cosmos 583
  • 30 - Fighting Unto Death 600
  • Afterword *
  • Abbreviations 645
  • Notes 648
  • Bibliography 751
  • Index 783
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