Publisher Information: 1871.
Huxley, Thomas Henry (1825-95). Autograph letter signed to an unidentified correspondent (“Dear Madam”). 4pp. (bifolium). [London], 20 January 1871. 181 x 112 mm. Minor foxing, remains of mount present (partly obscuring last letter of Huxley’s large and bold signature). Very good.
Huxley’s bitingly humorous response to an autograph seeker: “Dear Madam, I venture to address you in this way because men never ask for autographs which have no legal value. It is an awkward task which has been set me—that is writing to a lady whom I have not the honour to know, about nothing—And, having succeeded thus far, I think I cannot take any path more wise, prudent and indeed, I may say, statesmanlike, than that of immediately subscribing myself, with all that respect one has for the unknown (and possibly unknowable but not in Mr. Spencer’s sense), your obedient servant, Thomas H. Huxley.” The signature is unusually large and bold.
The letter’s last sentence includes a sly dig at Herbert Spencer’s doctrine of “the Unknowable,” a term Spencer used to refer to the “absolute reality” underlying all phenomena in the universe. Both Spencer and Huxley were agnostics, but Huxley rejected religious faith completely while Spencer sought to reconcile religious belief with science.Book Id: 45524