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Aldous Leonard Huxley (26 July 1894 – 22 November 1963) was an English writer, novelist, philosopher, and prominent member of the Huxley family. He graduated from Balliol College at the University of Oxford with a first-class honours degree in English literature. Identified with the Lost Generation.
The author of nearly fifty books, Huxley was best known for his novels (among them Brave New World, set in a dystopian future); for nonfiction works, such as The Doors of Perception, in which he recalls his experiences taking psychedelic drugs; and for his wide-ranging essays. Early in his career, Huxley published short stories and poetry, and edited the literary magazine Oxford Poetry. He went on to publish travel writing, film stories, satire, and screenplays. He spent the latter part of his life in the United States, living in Los Angeles from 1937 until his death.
Huxley was a humanist and pacifist. He became interested in spiritual subjects such as parapsychology and philosophical mysticism, and in particular universalism. By the end of his life, Huxley was widely acknowledged as one of the pre-eminent intellectuals of his time. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature seven times. In 1962, a year before he died, Huxley was elected Companion of Literature by the Royal Society of Literature.
Huxley married Maria Nys, a Belgian he met at Garsington, Oxfordshire, in 1919. They had one child, Matthew Huxley (19 April 1920 – 10 February 2005), who had a career as an author, anthropologist, and prominent epidemiologist. In 1955, Maria Huxley died of cancer.
Aldous Huxley; Dorothy Brett; Mark Gertler by Lady Ottoline Morrell vintage snapshot print, 1917 2 1/2 in. x 1 5/8 in. (62 mm x 40 mm) image size Purchased with help from the Friends of the National Libraries and the Dame Helen Gardner Bequest, 2003 Photographs Collection NPG Ax140690
As someone says in Aldous Huxley’s novel Those Barren Leaves (1925), ‘Too much light conversation about the Oedipus complex and anal eroticism is taking the edge off love’.
In the 1930s Dwight Ripley kept a residence in London, and with his partner Rupert Barneby mixed in circles that included Dwight's fellow Oxonians W.H. Auden and Stephen Spender, as well as Christopher Isherwood, the Huxleys, the Sitwells, Cyril Connolly and his American wife, Jean Connolly: circles in which the admired standards were for satire in literature and, in society, sarcasm and wit. Jean Connolly, who became one of Dwight's closer friends, was at the center of avant-garde sets on both sides of the Atlantic; she was the only woman, said Auden, who could keep him up all night.
W.H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood had left England in January 1939. Auden stayed in New York, but Isherwood went on to Los Angeles, where he joined Dwight Ripley's still closer friends, Christopher Wood and Gerald Heard, who had emigrated along with Aldous Huxley, Maria Nys, and son Matthew Huxley two years before. Rupert Barneby obtained a new passport in June, and by October 1939 the two men were in New York.
In 1956 Huxley married Laura Archera (1911–2007), also an author as well as a violinist and psychotherapist. She wrote This Timeless Moment, a biography of Huxley. She told the story of their marriage through Mary Ann Braubach's 2010 documentary, Huxley on Huxley.
In 1960 Aldous Huxley was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer and, in the years that followed, with his health deteriorating, he wrote the Utopian novel Island, and gave lectures on "Human Potentialities" both at the University of California's San Francisco Medical Center and at the Esalen Institute. These lectures were fundamental to the beginning of the Human Potential Movement.
Huxley was a close friend of Jiddu Krishnamurti and Rosalind Rajagopal and was involved in the creation of the Happy Valley School, now Besant Hill School of Happy Valley, in Ojai, California.
The most substantial collection of Huxley's few remaining papers, following the destruction of most in a fire, is at the Library of the University of California, Los Angeles. Some are also at the Stanford University Libraries.
On 9 April 1962, Huxley was informed he was elected Companion of Literature by the Royal Society of Literature, the senior literary organisation in Britain, and he accepted the title via letter on 28 April 1962. The correspondence between Huxley and the society are kept at the Cambridge University Library. The society invited Huxley to appear at a banquet and give a lecture at Somerset House, London in June 1963. Huxley wrote a draft of the speech he intended to give at the society; however, his deteriorating health meant he was not able to attend.
On his deathbed, unable to speak owing to advanced laryngeal cancer, Huxley made a written request to his wife Laura for "LSD, 100 µg, intramuscular." According to her account of his death in This Timeless Moment, she obliged with an injection at 11:20 a.m. and a second dose an hour later; Huxley died aged 69, at 5:20 p.m. (Los Angeles time), on 22 November 1963.
Media coverage of Huxley's death—as with that of the author C. S. Lewis–was overshadowed by the assassination of U.S. president John F. Kennedy on the same day. This coincidence served as the basis for Peter Kreeft's book Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis, & Aldous Huxley, which imagines a conversation among the three men taking place in Purgatory following their deaths.
Huxley's memorial service took place in London in December 1963; it was led by his older brother Julian, and on 27 October 1971 his ashes were interred in the family grave at the Watts Cemetery, home of the Watts Mortuary Chapel in Compton, Guildford, Surrey, England.
Huxley had been a long-time friend of Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, who later dedicated his last orchestral composition to Huxley. Stravinsky began Variations in Santa Fé, New Mexico, in July 1963, and completed the composition in Hollywood on 28 October 1964. It was first performed in Chicago on 17 April 1965, by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Robert Craft.
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