The American Dream
'MY HEART DANCED WITHIN me', wrote Fiske at the news. Huxley was 'AI copper bottomed' and set to sail for America in 1876. Nautical language was in the air again. In three decades he had swapped his surgeon's lowly rank for celebrity status. But he never forgot that day when, as a Naval hopeful, he had waved goodbye to his favourite sister, Lizzie. 'It is ... thirty years since I left you at Antwerp, a boy beginning life', he wrote. 'Now I am a grey man looking towards the end of it ... What ghosts we shall seem when we face one another!'
The 'whole nation is electrified', said an American banker. Fiske offered the Huxleys a drive through the 'glorious hill-country' of Massachusetts, where Fall brought 'the nearest approach I know to heaven'. The Huxleys, always interested to know what Heaven was like, accepted. Appleton began planning a press reception, and lectures. President Gilman of the new Johns Hopkins University, discussing Martin as the possible professor of biology, realized a coup and snatched Huxley to inaugurate a guest lecture series. As Huxley's plans firmed up, the 'flying visit' for a family reunion became a royal walkabout. Dickens and the literary greats had all toured, often with typical British hauteur. Even Prince Edward had crossed the Canadian border in 1860, but for some with long memories Huxley's was the eclipsing visit: 'We will make infinitely more of him than we did of the Prince of Wales, & his retinue of Lords & Dukes'. 1
Preparations took place amid the usual turmoil. The 'hurry and worry of life' might increase 'with the square of your distance from youth', but even this formula looked simplistic by 1876, as new whirlwinds rose out of the steady turbulence.