Reader's Encyclopedia

Huxley, Aldous [Leonard] (1894-1963)

English novelist, essayist, and satirist. He is the grandson of Thomas Huxley, great-nephew of Matthew Arnold, brother of Julian Huxley, and half-brother of Andrew Huxley (1917-), who won the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physiology. Huxley's early work differs sharply from that of his later years, the break reflecting his conversion to mysticism. His early novels are witty, despairing evocations of society in the 1920s, satirizing the intellectual pretensions and poses of the era. To this period belong Crome Yellow, Antic Hay, Those Barren Leaves (1925), and Point Counter Point. Huxley's early short stories were collected in Mortal Coils (1922). In the 1930s he became increasingly interested in political and philosophical issues and wrote novels of ideas, including Eyeless in Gaza (1936), After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, and Time Must Have a Stop (1944). Preoccupation with mysticism dominates such later works as the novel Island (1962) and the essays Heaven and Hell and The Doors of Perception (1954).

Huxley is noted for his interest in science; his last book was Literature and Science (1963). Brave New World, perhaps his best-known novel, expresses his concern over the dangers of scientific progress; Ape and Essence (1948) is a satire about the world after an atomic war. His most important essays are Music at Night (1931), Beyond the Mexique Bay (1934), The Perennial Philosophy (1946), and Brave New World Revisited (1958).

Huxley studied medicine but was prevented from practicing by a disease of the eyes that temporarily blinded him. He was associated with J. Middleton Murry and Katherine Mansfield in editing the Athenaeum. A friend and admirer of D. H. Lawrence, Huxley edited his letters in 1932; it was Lawrence who encouraged him to search for spiritual values when he was in despair. In 1947 he settled in southern California, his base for most of the rest of his life. He was associated for some time with the Ramakrishna Mission in Hollywood and pursued various occult studies.

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