About the Author
English novelist and critic, grandson of the prominent biologist T.H. Huxley (see further below) and brother of Julian Huxley, who also was a biologist. Aldous Huxley's production was wide. Besides novels he published travel books, histories, poems, plays, and essays on philosophy, arts, sociology, religion and morals. Among Huxley's best known novels is Brave New World, which is one of the classical works of science fiction along with George Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four. The word "utopia" comes from Thomas More's novel Utopia. In his later years Huxley wrote two books about mind-altering drugs.
Aldous Huxley was born in Godalming, Surrey into a well-to-do upper-middle-class family. On his mother's side he was related to Matthew Arnold, the great British humanist, and his father, Leonard Huxley, was a biographer, editor, and poet. He first studied at Eton College, Berkshire (1908-13). When Huxley was fourteen his mother died. At the age of 16 Huxley suffered an attack of keratitis punctata and became for a period of about 18 months totally blind. By using special glasses and one eye recovered sufficiently he was able to read and he also learned braille. Despite a condition of near-blindness, Huxley continued his studies at Balliol College, Oxford (1913-15), receiving his B.A. in English in 1916. Unable to pursue his chosen career as a scientist - or fight in World War on the front - Huxley turned to writing. He worked for the War Office in London in 1917, and taught briefly at Eton College and Repton. His first collection of poetry appeared in 1916 and two more volumes followed by 1920. In 1919-20 he was member of the editorial staff of Athenaeum under Middleton Murray, Katherine Mansfield's husband. Huxley wrote biographical and architectural articles and reviews of fiction, drama music and art.
In 1920-21 Huxley was drama a critic for Westminster Gazette, an assistant at the Chelsea Book Club and worked for Condé Nast Publications (1922). His first novel, Crome Yellow (1921), a witty criticism of society, appeared in 1921. Huxley's style, a combination of brilliant dialogue, cynicism, and social criticism, made him one of the most fashionable literary figures of the decade. He was a friend of Lady Ottoline Morrell and the Bloomsbury group, which included such writers as Virginia Woolf, Clive Bell, Lytton Strachey, and E.M. Forster. In eight years he published a dozen books, among them Point Counter Point (1928), in which the numerous characters, among them D.H. Lawrence, Murray, Mansfield, and the author himself, are compared to instruments in an orchestra, and each character plays his separate portion of Huxley's vision of life. Later these early works, mostly satirical comments on contemporary events, have been criticized for their rather one-dimensional characters, which the author used as a mouthpiece to say 'almost everything about almost anything' - as Huxley once described the nature of the essay. In Do What You Will (1929) Huxley predicts that Karl Marx's Proletariat becomes "a bourgeoisie with oily instead of inky fingers", compares the first motion picture in which spoken dialogue is heard, 'The Jazz Singer', to a "brimming bowl of hog-wash", and sees that at out time "monotheism has lost the value which circumstances once gave it. It lacks political utility, and to the individual it is a poison." In the essay 'Fashions on Love' he defends D.H. Lawrence's doctrine of the 'natural love' but rejects "the sexual impulse, which now spends itself purposelessly..."
During the 1920s Huxley formed a close friendship with D.H. Lawrence with whom he traveled in Italy and France. For most of the 1920s Huxley lived in Italy. In the 1930s he moved to Sanary, near Toulon, where he wrote Brave New World, a dark vision of a highly technological society of the future. In it Huxley turned upside down H.G. Wells' scientific optimism. Developments in sciences and cultural changes in his own time inspired much of imagination - such as mass production, which revolutionized industry, air travel, glamorized by Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, behaviorist psychology, and explorations in genetics. Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa (1928) also was among the books he read for the novel. In the book Huxley answered to fears of hopes of wide variety of his readers and in its first year it sold a total of twenty-eight thousand copies in England and in the United States, and enjoyed respectable sales throughout the remainder of the century.
In the 1930s Huxley was deeply concerned with the Peace Pledge Union. He moved in 1937 with the guru-figure Gerald Heard to the United States, believing that the Californian climate would help his eyesight, a constant burden. After this turning point in his life, Huxley abandoned pure fictional writing and chose the essay as the vehicle for expressing his ideas. He also wrote screenplays in collaboration with Christopher Isherwood for film studios, but did not gain success in this field. Among their unproduced film treatments was Jacob's Hands, a story about healing powers and disappointment in love. Huxley also was a regular contributor to Vedanta and the West, the magazine Isherwood edited while a discipline of Swami Prabhavananda.
Several of Huxley's screenplays never got filmed. His best screenplays for Hollywood included MGM's Pride and Prejudice (1940). The first film project offered was an adaptation of Galsworthy's Forsyte Saga, which Huxley turned down, explaining in a letter, ''Even the lure of enormous lucre could not reconcile me to remaining closeted for months with the ghost of the late poor John Galsworthy. I couldn't face it.'' In 1938 he wrote an uncredited treatment for Madame Curie, directed by Mervyn LeRoy. With John Houseman and Robert Stevenson he worked for the 20th Century-Fox film Jane Eyre (1944), starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. Woman's Vengeance (1947), directed by Zoltan Korda and starring Charles Boyer and Jessica Tandy, was based on Huxley's story 'The Gioconda Smile.'
Brave New World Revised appeared in 1958. He stated that in writing Brave New World he had failed to recognize the ominous potential of nuclear fission, "for the possibilities of atomic energy had been a popular topic of conversation for years before the book was written." He believed that individual freedom was much closer to extinction than he had imagined. Huxley's other later works include The Devils of Loudon (1952), depicting mass-hysteria and exorcism in the 17th-century France. Island (1962) was an utopian novel and a return to the territory of Brave New World, in which a journalist shipwrecks on Pala, the fabled island, and discovers there a kind and happy people. But the earthly paradise is not immune to the harsh realities of oil policy. Brave New World Revisited (1959) was a sequel to his classic novel. Huxley compared the predictions of his earlier work with subsequent developments in science and society. In 1963 appeared Literature and Science, a collection of essays.
In 1954 Huxley published an influential study of consciousness expansion through mescaline, The Doors of Perception and became later a guru among Californian hippies'. He also started to use LSD and showed interest in Hindu philosophy. In 1961 Huxley suffered a severe loss when his house and his papers were totally destroyed in a bush-fire. Little survived apart from the manuscript of Island. Huxley died in Los Angeles on November 22, 1963. In the media news of his death were overshadowed by the assassination of President Kennedy. Huxley was married twice. In 1919 he married Maria Nys, a Belgian, who died 1956. They had one son. In 1956 he married the violinist and psychotherapist Laura Archera.
As a essayist Huxley was concerned about the power of science and technology. His skepticism caused much controversy among his readers. Huxley's philosophical cul-de-sac led him finally to seek answers from mysticism and the thought of the East. Among Huxley's most puzzling ideas was the education of the human being as 'amphibian', one capable of living in different environments. Late in his life Huxley remarked, "It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the and that one has no more to offer by way of advice that 'Try to be a little kinder.'"
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