The Scientific Sadducee
NOT FOR HUXLEY the mariner's folly, flipping guineas into the deep to thank Neptune for deliverance. But emotionally he was just as extravagant. After the long homeward haul the very rigging quivered with excitement. All hands strained for a sight of industrial Devonport. At last, on 23 October 1850, its smokestacks appeared over the horizon. After 40,000 miles on a jury‐ rigged, rotting scuttle-bucket, through hell-and-high-water, past interminable reefs and endless little Englands, he was back.
That day he 'saw English green fields' for the first time in four years. Not that he noticed, firing off letters, asking 'news of a certain naughty sister of mine', Lizzie in Tennessee. By now Yule had a ship full of impatient souls. Beating up the Channel, they were dogged by contrary winds and chased by the blue devils. 1 But Huxley put the time to use, planning his naval blockade of the Admiralty.
Past the White Cliffs his spine stiffened. He drew up a report for the hydrographer Sir Francis Beaufort. Another went to Sir John Richardson listing his discoveries, asking about 'a nominal appointmerit' to a Thames ship in order to write them up. Officers routinely went on half pay until they were recalled. 2 But what surgeon's mate had the gall to dictate stronger terms to the Sea Lords? He wanted to remain on leave, and on half pay until he had finished. Nothing less would do.
They put in at Sheerness docks, ten miles down river from Chatham. More dusty grainstores and cranes, bluecoats and barking officers - and the first real feeling he had arrived: 'I was standing in the midst of a group busily talking ... when I felt my arm touched and lo! there stood my brother James'. It was the same