A Touch of the Whip
IN MARCH 1877 the eagle-eyed raptor nodded off on his Secretary's perch and slept through Frank Darwin's paper on teasel plants. The Royal Society was rather astonished. It wasn't the Huxley of old. 'I am not quite happy about Hal', Nettie told Lizzie as the inner man sagged, 'but don't say so beyond yr home'. 1 Others saw his candle burning down fast.
Huxley was a glutton for punishing work, with endless opportunity to indulge himself. Thursday, his last free night, was finally sacrificed when Stanley started his meet-the-eminent evenings for young clerks and shop assistants at Westminster Deanery. Nettie was furious. Even the Professor was finding 'that as I get older doing more than two or three things at once becomes somewhat troublesome' - or so he told the Quekett Microscopical Club (of which of course he took the Presidency). And the 'Government never gives Hal any peace'. It co-opted him now onto his eighth Royal Commission, to look into the Scottish universities. Thus began more trips to Edinburgh and 'much work & no pay'. Even then the Treasury had the gall to query his expenses. But he had to get aboard to push through his reforms, and take 'up the case of you troublesome women', as he told the wife, 'who want admission into the University (very rightly too I think)'. 2
Nettie sat at home awaiting the daily numbered letter. A genteel circle came to her aid: Lord Arthur Russell would arrange a ducal box at Covent Garden, or she would accompany the older girls to the Season's soirées. By day the younger, boisterous Nettie and brother Len would 'chase & battle' about the house. 'The rushing, the screams ... ' and their mother laughing too much to be able to stop them. And the youngest of all, Harry, 12 in 1877, was 'wonderfully