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

By Adrian Desmond | Go to book overview

19
Eyeing the Prize

'IF HE HAS A FAULT, it is that, like Caesar, he is ambitious'. The Spectator was right, of course. The poor boy was still scrambling out of the ghetto. His ascent had been like a furious alpine climb. But by 1868 Huxley had scaled his way to the summit. He had come a long way since his birthday above a butcher's shop.

He was a new middle-class hero, whose wit tingled with patriotism and whose wisdom served the Dissenting elite. His ferocity was a reflection on the intransigent old order. Unable to call up professional backing, refusing to tug on patronage strings, he had forced his own way into society, pinking the old gents and pushing them aside with 'that slashing rapier of his': 'cutting up monkeys was his forte, and cutting up men was his foible', the Pall Mall Gazette observed. But the immovable grindstone of society had honed his blade.

There was another public side, and 1868 was a watershed there too. Thirty years earlier, the long-haired apprentice had been horrified by the dockland degradation. These no-go areas of starving wretches continued to haunt society. But Huxley's outstretched hand had turned the menacing labourers into backers for his Great technocratic Britain. 'I am a plebeian', he reassured them, 'and I stand by my order'. 1

The 'plebeian' became Principal Huxley in 1868, head of his own Working Men's College. His benefactors were Maurice's ubiquitous Christian Socialists. There could be no more concrete proof of their good intentions, however questionable Huxley thought their co-operative politics. On 4 January he inaugurated this small South London college, which was situated across the Thames, on the Blackfriars Road. Lubbock and Tyndall sat on the

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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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