The Season of Despair
CHRISTMAS FOUND HUXLEY climbing the walls of a new den. The news from abroad left him 'as savage as a bear'. The Sydney chair never materialized, and the mail on 29 December 1851 had him growling uncontrollably. A Canadian contact tipped him off that nepotism would win out in Toronto. References from the world's best paled beside the qualification of another candidate, 'a Brother of a Gentleman holding a high position in the Provl. Govnt'. 'Of course he will have it', snapped Huxley: merit meant nothing.
He began his descent once again, shattered, wrecked on more reefs:
Into what lies I have deceived myself about devotion to Science and the cultivation of the Intellect ... It is all a sham ... I could stamp and cry aloud for powerless vexation. 1
In a fit he tried to make a killing another way. Despite his debts he borrowed more to flutter on his brother's gold-mining speculations. The fever was infectious. Hadn't Pendennis' father made a mint on copper mines and turned a brass-button gentleman, ignoring his drug-grinding origins? These were boom and bust times. 'Fanning himself is deep in an Australian Gold Mine', George was backing a 'Californian Gold mine - the West Mariposa', but then he was as 'wily as any fox - with a vast amount of experience to boot' (which meant he had already 'made and lost one fortune'). But Huxley's fever quickly broke and he swore he would 'never be such an ass again'. 2
Others were in the same boat, eyeing the same reefs. An impecu