|Born on||26 July 1894|
|Born in||Godalming, Surrey, England|
|Died on||22 November 1963|
Aldous Huxley Childhood
Aldous Huxley was born on 26 July 1894 in Godalming, Surrey, England to writer and schoolmaster father, Leonard Huxley and Julia Arnold. He was the youngest of three children in the Huxley family. Young Huxley started getting his initial education and learning in his father's well-equipped botanical laboratory before joining a school named Hillside. He found his mother to be a great teacher who taught and supervised him for several years before falling terminally ill. Huxley joined Eton College after Hillside schooling. His mother died in 1908. In 1911 Huxley contracted an illness, “keratitis punctata” which reportedly left him blind for two to three years. He could not join the forces during the World War I due to his blindness.
After regaining his eyesight he could continue with his education and pursue English literature at Balliol College, Oxford. He started editing the magazine, ‘Oxford Poetry’ from 1916. He graduated with a first class in honours.
Having completed with his graduation from Balliol College, Oxford he had to make up to his father and repay him. He took up work to earn for his living and became a French teacher teaching for a year at Eton where he had students like Eric Blair (later known by the pen name George Orwell who was a brilliant English writer) and Stephen Runciman, the very famous future Historian. Huxley was known to be an incompetent teacher who did not have the strength to maintain a disciplined class but in spite of all these labels he was greatly known for his use of words and mastery with the English language.
In 1918 Huxley spent a short term at the Air Ministry. In the 1920s he got employed with the technologically-advanced Brunner and Mond chemical plant in Billingham, Teesside. At the age of 17 he completed writing his first unpublished novel and by the time he reached his 20s he started writing seriously. His very early novels include “Crome Yellow” which was published in 1921.
Early Life & Career
As the World War I continued in its full swing Huxley worked as a farm labourer at Garsington Manor, home of Lady Ottoline Morrell, where he met several eminent personalities like Bertrand Russell, Clive Bell and D. H. Lawrence of “Bloomsbury Group” or “Bloomsbury Set” which was an intellectual group comprising of writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists.
In 1919 he married Maria Nys, a Belgian woman whom he met at Garsington. Huxley would frequently meet D. H. Lawrence who was a friend of Huxley’s. In 1930 Lawrence died which led Huxley to edit Lawrence's letters in 1933. During this period, Huxley wrote his magnum opus, “Brave New World” in 1931 which was published in 1932. Brave New World depicted developments in reproductive technology and sleep-learning that combine together and go on to change society. Huxley elaborated on the future society which he showed as an embodiment of the ideals that form the basis of futurism. He also wrote his bestselling novel ‘Eyeless in Gaza’ which was published in 1936.
Move to the United States
In 1937 Huxley shifted his base to Hollywood, California with his wife Maria, son Matthew, and friend Gerald Heard. He started living in California and he lived in the United States till his death. He also lived in Taos, New Mexico where he completed writing his book of essays, “Ends and Means” (an Enquiry Into the Nature of Ideals and Into the Methods Employed for Their Realization) which was published in 1937.
Huxley was introduced to Vedanta philosophy by his friend Gerald Heard. Huxley got tuned to the Hindu Veda-centric school of thought where he learnt various modes of meditation, and vegetarianism through the principle of ahimsa, that Vedanta taught. In 1938 Huxley befriended J. Krishnamurti whose teachings inspired Huxley greatly. Soon Huxley became a prominent Vedantist and joined the circle of Hindu Swami Prabhavananda, and introduced Christopher Isherwood to this circle. He started writing on his next book that had his recently acquired spiritual values and ideas, “The Perennial Philosophy” which was published in 1945 and Huxley talked about “the metaphysic that recognizes a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds; the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical with, divine Reality; the ethic that places man's final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being; the thing is immemorial and universal. Rudiments of the perennial philosophy may be found among the traditional lore of primitive peoples in every region of the world, and in its fully developed forms it has a place in every one of the higher religions” in the book. By perennial philosophy Huxley must have meant a gross translated expression of the Hindu term (concept), ‘Sanatana Dharma’ or eternal religion.
Huxley started making friends in United States and his aim was to become a prominent writer in Hollywood. He befriended Remsen Bird, president of Occidental College where Huxley spent a lot of time. During the late 1930s Huxley earned some Hollywood income as a writer.
In March 1938 his novelist and screenwriter friend, Anita Loos introduced Huxley to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer who hired Huxley for Madame Curie which was originally to star Greta Garbo and be directed by George Cukor.
In 1939 Huxley wrote his satirical novel “After Many a Summer” which is a story about a Hollywood millionaire who fears his impending death. It was published in the USA with the title, ‘After Many a Summer Dies the Swan’. Huxley won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction in 1939. Huxley used the Occidental College and named it as Tarzana College in his book.
He received payments for various Hollywood films (that bore his work) like “Pride and Prejudice” in 1940 for which Huxley received screen credit and Jane Eyre in 1944. In spite of his involvement in several films, he did not attain great success in Hollywood. Huxley could not match with the fast paced dynamic dialogue writing sessions prevalent in Hollywood because he was known for his leisurely development of ideas which was unsuitable in Hollywood.
On 21 October 1949, Huxley wrote to George Orwell, author of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” and congratulated Orwell that "how fine and how profoundly important the book is".
End of World War II
Huxley remained greatly attached with the Vedanta Society of Southern California which was founded and headed by Swami Prabhavananda, from the period 1939 till his death in 1963. In 1944 Huxley wrote the introduction to the “Bhagavad Gita: The Song of God” which was translated by Swami Prabhavanada and Christopher Isherwood and published by The Vedanta Society of Southern California.
From 1941 to 1960 Huxley had made a total of 48 article contributions to ‘Vedanta and the West’ which was again published by the society. From 1951 to 1962 he had served as a member of the editorial board of ‘Vedanta and the West’ with Isherwood, Heard, and playwright John van Druten. In 1954 Huxley’s book, ‘The Doors of Perception’ was published which elaborated on his experiences of taking Mescaline, a naturally-occurring psychedelic alkaloid of the phenethylamine class used mainly as an entheogen. This book moved Huxley away from Swami who disagreed with Huxley’s meaning and importance of the LSD drug experience. In spite of his differences with Swami, Huxley continued writing articles for the Society's journal, lecture at the temple and also attend social functions at the Society.
Bettering his Eyesight
There are several and varied accounts on Huxley’s eyesight given by his biographers and other individuals. In 1939 Huxley went through Bates Method, the alternative therapy for bettering eyesight. He was taught by Margaret Corbett to learn the method.
In 1940 he moved from Hollywood to the high desert hamlet of Llano, California, in northernmost Los Angeles County where he supposedly found his eyesight to have improved greatly. He reportedly saw better with the help of Bates Method. It was in the midst of pure natural lighting of the south-western American desert that he gained his normal eye sight of which he gave an account stating that for the first time in 25 years he could read without his pair of glasses without having to strain his eyes. He also tried driving a car along the dirt road beside the ranch. In 1942 Huxley’s “The Art of Seeing” was published in the USA, stating his views and experiences with the Bates Method. It was published in UK in 1943.
It has been noted that Huxley lived with his poor eyesight due to his childhood illness, despite his claims that his eyesight had improved greatly but it was allegedly only a temporary recovery. This has been confirmed with one incident that occurred in 1952 when Bennett Cerf was present when Huxley spoke at a Hollywood banquet, wearing no glasses and apparently reading his paper from the lectern without difficulty. Cerf states, “Then suddenly he faltered—and the disturbing truth became obvious. He wasn't reading his address at all. He had learned it by heart. To refresh his memory he brought the paper closer and closer to his eyes. When it was only an inch or so away he still couldn't read it, and had to fish for a magnifying glass in his pocket to make the typing visible to him. It was an agonizing moment.” Huxley’s wife had affirmed the regaining of Huxley’s eyesight in her biographical account, “This Timeless Moment”, stating, “One of the great achievements of his life: that of having regained his sight”.
In 1919, he married Maria Nys, a Belgian whom he had met during his stay at Garsington. The couple had a child Matthew Huxley who became a epidemiologist. In 1955 Maria died of breast cancer. Huxley married again in 1956 to writer Laura Archera.
James Tait Black Memorial Prize for ‘After Many a Summer Dies the Swan’ in 1939
American Academy of Arts and Letters Award of Merit for ‘Brave New World’ in 1959
Companion of Literature by the Royal Society of Literature in 1962
Huxley was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in 1960. In the following years he got weaker. Huxley used to take drugs and had requested his wife for LSD at his deathbed. She had obliged to give a drug injection to Huxley in the morning and he died in the evening of 22 November 1963.
Aldous Huxley Timeline:
1894 - Huxley was born on 26 July
1908 - His mother died
1911 - Huxley contracted an illness, “keratitis punctata” which reportedly left him blind for two to three years. He could not join the forces during the World War I due to his blindness
1916 - After regaining his eyesight he could continue with his education and pursue English literature at Balliol College, Oxford. He started editing the magazine, ‘Oxford Poetry’. He graduated with a first class in honours
1918 - Huxley spent a short term at the Air Ministry
1919 - He married Maria Nys, a Belgian woman whom he met at Garsington Manor where he worked as a farm labourer. He also met several eminent personalities like Bertrand Russell, Clive Bell and D. H. Lawrence of “Bloomsbury Group” or “Bloomsbury Set” which was an intellectual group comprising of writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists
1920s - He got employed with the technologically-advanced Brunner and Mond chemical plant in Billingham, Teesside
1921 - His very early novels include “Crome Yellow” which was published
1930 - Huxley would frequently meet D. H. Lawrence who was a friend of Huxley’s and he died
1930s - During the late 1930s Huxley earned some Hollywood income as a writer
1931 - Huxley wrote his magnum opus, “Brave New World”
1932 - “Brave New World” was published
1933 – Lawrence’s death led Huxley to edit Lawrence's letters
1936 – He wrote his bestselling novel ‘Eyeless in Gaza’ which was published
1937 - Huxley shifted his base to Hollywood, California with his wife Maria, son Matthew, and friend Gerald Heard. He started living in California and he lived in the United States till his death
1937 - He also lived in Taos, New Mexico where he completed writing his book of essays, “Ends and Means” (an Enquiry Into the Nature of Ideals and Into the Methods Employed for Their Realization) which was published