THE HUXLEY FILEhttp://aleph0.clarku.edu/huxley/
This, THE HUXLEY FILE, is addressed to an audience ranging from those who never heard of Thomas Henry Huxley to those who are familiar with him and may even have read some of his work. For specific guidance on the various subjects he wrote about – fields ranging from the design of marine invertebrate structure to the design of a good human society – the cybernaut may refer to any of the 21 guides concluding this preview. Selections in THE HUXLEY FILE that appear only in obscure Victorian magazines or hidden archives will be of interest to those who do know him and may even have studied and published on him.
Born on May 4, 1825, and expired on June 29, 1895, THH, it is hoped this project will prove, deserves resurrection into the fame he once enjoyed. THE HUXLEY FILE is a memorial to his achievements in many fields, its ambition to bring forth THH so that we can advance our understanding of Victorian culture, of the contrasting features of superstition and of science, and of our own time; and take pleasure in reading one of the finest writers of any time any where.
If THH is known at all, it is as "Darwin’s bulldog." This self-imposed nickname recognizes the collegiate defense–and enthusiastic offense–he undertook in support of the theory of evolution. In November of 1859, after reading the newly-published Origin of Species, he warned Charles Darwin that there would be mischief from anti-evolutionists, and that he himself, T. H. Huxley, was sharpening up his claws preparing to annihilate these creationist critics. He devoted himself for most of his career defending Darwinism and related notorious subversive subjects
"Darwinism" was defined in the Victorian period and is defined today not only as Darwin's theory of natural selection, but as a comprehensive network that includes a philosophical view of the ethical as well as practical significance of scientific investigation; as a type of materialism; as agnosticism; as an assault on the historical validity of scripture; and as a model for the design of a political and economic community. To all of these, THH contributed, so significantly that though we are not aware of it, much of what educated free people think today of deity, or religion, of science, of their values, and of their own origin and future traces back to Huxley as originator, as he was the inventor of the word "agnostic" itself.
Huxley's career testifies to the richness of scientific investigation, the establishment of young rebels as a powerful party, and the pervasive intrusions of secularism during the Victorian period. He advises us on science as a proper discipline for the school curriculum, on vivisection, on compassion, competition, and capitalism, the U. S. Civil War, nature, chalk, protoplasm, dinosaurs, the pantheon and the pyramids. On the inequality of the races and genders, Thomas Huxley was not so keen or humane a radical as John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor, but did help to diminish stereotypes about skin color and stature being signals of intellectual and emotional value.
Huxley's achievements are pertinent today in helping us understand our own culture, for example, on these issues of immediate concern, especially in the U. S. Here's a list of problems of today that interest or afflict people throughout the world–problems which THH helps us understand and perhaps solve:
* the role of the government in advancing the academic program of the population, in supporting museums, in supervising health;
* the contest between religious fundamentalism and secularism, e.g., the use of the Bible in public education, the validity of scripture as a historical, scientific, and ethical guide;
* the assertion of the reality of demons and witches, and of other irrationalities;
* the credibility of materialistic language in mapping reality;
* the attack on science as being not an analysis of reality but an expression of the scientist's racial, gender, class and other prejudices;
* the movement to abolish the canons and traditions of a liberal education;
* the promotion of cultural illiteracy;
* the movement to replace a search for facts in historical survey with a search for that which will satisfy idiosyncratic, racial, gender, class and other credenda;
* the necessity of vivisection;
* the trustworthiness of natural selection as an explanation of evolution;
* the scenario of evolution, particularly of human evolution;
* the inherited or acquired features that distinguish among the races and between the genders;
* the relevance of race as a classifying system for the human species;
* the importance of knowing about cultures other than the western;
* and the danger to the species of global over-population.
Those merely interested in Huxley and scholars engaged in research on him, on Darwinism, on Victorian culture, on the history of science, and on topics such as those noted will find that THE HUXLEY FILE, in which reside over 1000 items, justifies its title. The 1000 figure covers 680 pieces of published and unpublished text by THH; more than 150 pictures by and on him, with an uncounted number of pictures in text by and for him; and 120 commentaries on him. Cybernauts will find here
* the entirety of the nine-volume Collected Essays;
* 40 selections from the five-volume Scientific Memoirs;
* and also a large number of Huxley essays that were never collected, from The Westminster Review, Youth's Companion, etc.; among these, the most important hidden pieces are the three essays he wrote for a club, The Metaphysical Society, on whether a frog has a soul, whether immortality is reasonable, whether Jesus was actually resurrected;
* several pieces that exist only in draft form, such as his teenage journal "Thoughts and Doings," "Agnosticism–A Fragment" and "The Natural History of Christianity";
* letters published in The Times, Nature, etc.; most of the letters appear in Leonard Huxley, ed., The Life and Letters of Thomas Huxley and Julian Huxley, ed., Thomas Henry Huxley's Diary of the Voyage of H.M.S. Rattlesnake –which is the best provider of THH's diary items; some of the letters come from collections in libraries around the world.
* a cornucopia of illustrations ranging from his doodles and sketches of natives to cartoons and portraits of him, illustrations not attached to any text, and a number illustrating texts such as Man's Place in Nature and Oceanic Hydrozoa.
* 120 commentaries on him, some praising his work, others attacking it, such as Powheads, Porwiggles and Protoplasm.
It's perhaps a bit late to say this, but this introduction and all the guides may be skipped, the cybernaut travelling directly to these selections.
The audience of THE HUXLEY FILE, then, is educated people of whatever culture (THH was translated into Chinese and Japanese, as well as into European languages Hungarian, Russian, Italian, German, French, Spanish, and Italian), especially high school and college teachers who can select and present for their students sections from THE HUXLEY FILE to enrich, liberalize, and vitalize courses in at least these fields: (1) education, (2) biology, (3) anthropology, (4) philosophy, (5) religion, (6) social studies, and (7) style. Though these categories are designed to help understand Huxley's contributions, it's important to note that he was not a strict disciplinarian–a river of text, essay or letter, could and often did flow with relevant material on all of these and other tributaries as well. Huxley's popularization adventures resulted in what he called "fugitive pieces," many of them written when he was assailed by insomnia, and most of them constituting Collected Essays ; but since he was a professional biologist, an ample supply of his Scientific Memoirs is offered, though most of those pieces would not be understood or appreciated by most of us lay people.