Published On
1909
Language
English
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Although Huxley had now, at the age of twenty-six, won distinction in science, he soon discovered that it was not so easy to earn bread thereby. Nevertheless, to earn a living was most important if he were to accomplish the two objects which he had in view. He wished, in the first place, to marry Miss Henrietta Heathorn of Sydney, to whom he had become engaged when on the cruise with the Rattlesnake; his second object was to follow science as a profession. The struggle to find something connected with science which would pay was long and bitter; and only a resolute determination to win kept Huxley from abandoning it altogether. Uniform ill-luck met him everywhere. He has told in his autobiography of his troubles with the Admiralty in the endeavor to get his papers published, and of his failure there. He applied for a position to teach science in Toronto; being unsuccessful in this attempt, he applied successively for various professorships in the United Kingdom, and in this he was likewise unsuccessful. Some of his friends urged him to hold out, but others thought the fight an unequal one, and advised him to emigrate to Australia. He himself was tempted to practice medicine in Sydney; but to give up his purpose seemed to him like cowardice. On the other hand, to prolong the struggle indefinitely when he might quickly earn a living in other ways seemed like selfishness and an injustice to the woman to whom he had been for a long time engaged. Miss Heathorn, however, upheld him in his determination to pursue science; and his sister also, he writes, cheered him by her advice and encouragement to persist in the struggle. Something of the man's heroic temper may be gathered from a letter which he wrote to Miss Heathorn when his affairs were darkest. "However painful our separation may be," he says, "the spectacle of a man who had given up the cherished purpose of his life . . . would, before long years were over our heads, be infinitely more painful." He declares that he is hemmed in by all sorts of difficulties. "Nevertheless the path has shown itself a fair one, neither more difficult nor less so than most paths in life in which a man of energy may hope to do much if he believes in himself, and is at peace within." Thus relieved in mind, he makes his decision in spite of adverse fate. "My course of life is taken, I will not leave London—I WILL make myself a name and a position as well as an income by some kind of pursuit connected with science which is the thing for which Nature has fitted me if she has ever fitted any one for anything."
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"If I am to be remembered at all," Huxley once wrote, "I would rather it should be as a man who did his best to help the people than by any other title." Certainly as much of his time as could be spared from his regular work was given to help others. His lectures to workingmen and school-masters have already been mentioned. In addition, he lectured to women on physiology and to children on elementary science. In order to be of greater service to the children, Huxley, in spite of delicate health, became a member of the London School Board. His immediate object was "to temper book-learning with something of the direct knowledge of Nature." His other purposes were to secure a better physical training for children and to give them a clearer understanding of social and moral law. He did not believe, on the one hand, in overcrowding the curriculum, but, on the other hand, he "felt that all education should be thrown open to all that each man might know to what state in life he was called." Another statement of his purpose and beliefs is given by Professor Gladstone, who says of his work on the board: "He resented the idea that schools were to train either congregations for churches or hands for factories. He was on the Board as a friend of children. What he sought to do for the child was for the child's sake, that it might live a fuller, truer, worthier life."
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