The Scientific Woolsack
HELL HAD TO WAIT while there was a flicker of 'life in the old dog'. 1 He was a Janus-faced sentinel now, guarding the professional portal. In the 1880s he watched his legions march out to meet sacrilegious agnostics on one side and pious Prime Ministers on the other. He looked to the future as the ethical implications of Evolution and Socialism became pressing concerns, and then back again to the beginning of the Darwinian era.
Huxley himself had become part of history, and the passing years showed. Jessie's baby Oriana, born on 11 February 1880, made them grandparents at last. Hal felt a grandfatherly creakiness. He was 'very tired & worn out', and with Nettie suffering from bronchitis, the couple took off for the Surrey countryside early in April 1880. Here he devised a surprise blessing for Darwin. Excruciating toothache ruined his break and a local dentist had to extract two teeth. Inflamed gums or not, he dressed in evening costume to come up to the Royal Institution on the 9th. The perk of power was munificence, and he showered it in his Darwinian benediction. Huxley called his talk 'The Coming of Age of the "Origin of Species"'.
Darwin was at first perplexed, '& then ... the meaning of your words flashed on me!' It had been 21 years since Murray had chanced his arm on that royal green 15s Origin. Huxley was giving Darwin the key to Science's door. It was a political gesture, suggesting Darwinian maturity; a celebration of the prodigious change in opinion' which had left many 'worshipping that which they burned, and burning that which they worshipped'. The 'Coming of Age' masqueraded as history. It had the Origin sweeping away antique notions in 1859, of 'Great and sudden physical revolutions' causing global extinctions, and equally sudden and supernatural reCreations. But