Creative Person of the Week

25 Feb

Aldous Leonard Huxley (26 July 1894 – 22 November 1963) was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family. Best known for his novels including Brave New World and a wide-ranging output of essays, Huxley also edited the magazine Oxford Poetry, and published short stories, poetry, travel writing, film stories and scripts. Huxley spent the later part of his life in the United States, living in Los Angeles from 1937 until his death.

Aldous Huxley was a humanist, pacifist, and satirist, and he was latterly interested in spiritual subjects such as parapsychology and philosophical mysticism. He is also well known for advocating and taking psychedelics.

Aldous Huxley was born in Godalming, Surrey, UK, in 1894. He was the third son of the writer and schoolmaster Leonard Huxley and his first wife, Julia Arnold, who founded Prior’s Field School. Julia was the niece of poet and critic Matthew Arnold. Aldous was the grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley, the zoologist, agnostic and controversialist (“Darwin’s Bulldog”). His brother Julian Huxley and half-brother Andrew Huxley also became outstanding biologists.

Huxley began his learning in his father’s well-equipped botanical laboratory, then continued in a school named Hillside. His teacher was his mother who supervised him for several years until she became terminally ill. After Hillside, he was educated at Eton College. Huxley’s mother died in 1908 when he was 14. In 1911, he suffered an illness (keratitis punctata) which “left [him] practically blind for two to three years”. Aldous’s near-blindness disqualified him from service in the First World War. Once his eyesight recovered sufficiently, he was able to study English literature at Balliol College, Oxford. In 1916 he edited Oxford Poetry and later graduated (B.A.) with first class honours. His brother Julian wrote,

I believe his blindness was a blessing in disguise. For one thing, it put paid to his idea of taking up medicine as a career … His uniqueness lay in his universalism. He was able to take all knowledge for his province.

Following his education at Balliol, Huxley was financially indebted to his father and had to earn a living. He taught French for a year at Eton, where Eric Blair (later to become George Orwell) and Stephen Runciman were among his pupils, but was remembered as an incompetent and hopeless teacher who couldn’t keep discipline. Nevertheless, Blair and others were impressed by his use of words. For a short while in 1918, he was employed acquiring provisions at the Air Ministry.

Huxley completed his first (unpublished) novel at the age of 17 and began writing seriously in his early 20s. His first published novels were social satires, beginning with Crome Yellow (1921).

(Excerpt taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldous_Huxley#Early_life )

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