Inspiring Purpose

Aldous Huxley

Born in Godalming, Surrey, the grandson of T H Huxley, he was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, where he read English, not biology as he intended, because of an eye disease which made him nearly blind. It later compelled him to settle in the warmer climate of California (1937). His first novels were Crome Yellow (1921) and Antic Hay (1923), satires on post-war Great Britain. Those Barren Leaves (1925) and Point Counter Point (1928) were written in Italy, where he associated with D H Lawrence, who appears as Mark Rampion in the last named. In 1932, in his most famous novel, Brave New World, Huxley warned of the dangers of moral anarchy in a scientific age, by depicting a repulsive Utopia, achieved by scientifically breeding and conditioning a society of human robots, for whom happiness is synonymous with subordination. Despite the wit and satire, Huxley was in deadly earnest, as his essay Brave New World Revisited (1959) shows. From such pessimism Huxley took refuge in the exploration of mysticism. Eyeless in Gaza (1936) and After Many a Summer (1939, James Tait Black Memorial Prize) pointed the way to Time must have a Stop (1944), in which he attempted to describe a person's state of mind at the moment of, and just after, death. The Doors of Perception (1954) and Heaven and Hell (1956) explore a controversial short cut to mysticism, the drug mescaline. Island (1962) is a more optimistic Utopian novel. He also wrote numerous essays on related topics including Proper Studies (1927), biographies, and a famous study in sexual hysteria, The Devils of Loudun (1952).

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