But if mental processes should be thus interesting, a fortiori should they be so if they are those of a great expositor and apostle of the doctrine of evolution itself. Above all ought they to concern us if that expositor exercises great influence, is looked up to by multitudes of disciples, and has been in the habit of coupling with his expositions, precepts respecting matters which most of us think extremely important.
These considerations lead me to think that the time has come for some one to say a few words with respect to the process of evolution which seems to have taken place in the mind of Prof. Huxley. I venture, therefore, on the following observations.
Though it can not be affirmed that any sharp edge of criticism has transformed him as the sword-blade transformed the enchanted princess, nevertheless some changes of aspect are, I think, to be detected in certain of Prof. Huxley's recent utterances.
To these I desire to call attention, since they appear to justify the hope that ripened experience and mature reflection have called forth statements which, if (as is possible) they do not denote any consciously changed views, must surely, at the least, indicate their latent presence.
There are two matters with respect to his last publication especially noteworthy: (1) The first of these concerns our ethical perceptions; the second (2) relates to the nature of man as contrasted with that of other organisms.
Besides these matters, I would also refer to certain corollaries which, in my humble judgment, result from the views he has put forward with respect to humanity and ethics.
The present inquiry is no hostile one, but is made in a spirit of sympathy—such as a decade of pleasant memories should occasion. Long ago, and also recently, I said, "No one, I believe, has a greater regard for Prof. Huxley than I have, and no one is more convinced than I am of the uprightness of his intentions and his hearty sympathy with self-denying virtue."
If I may have the great satisfaction of finding that, as to ethical perceptions, he has approximated to the standpoint I long ago advocated, that satisfaction will be free from any taint of triumph. I am far too keenly aware of my own past difficulties to wonder at another intellect having been obscured by clouds which so long overshadowed my own. Indeed, the clearing away of those obscurities is indirectly due to Prof. Huxley himself. Such is the case, since it was in that lecture room in Jermyn Street—where, owing to his kindness no less than his ability, I gained much of the biological knowledge I possess—I made the
- The Romanes Lecture, 1893.
- Contemporary Review (January, 1872), p. 196.
- Essays and Criticisms (Osgood, McIlvaine & Co.), ii, 101.