Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley

Aldous Leonard Huxley was a British writer who emigrated to the United States. He was a member of the famous Huxley family who produced a number of brilliant scientific minds. Best known for his novels and wide-ranging output of essays, he also is known in many other areas. Amongst humanists, Huxley was considered an intellectual's intellectual. His books are frequently on the required reading lists of English and modern philosophy courses in American colleges and universities.

Huxley was born on July 26, 1894 in Godalming, Surrey, England. He was the son of the writer Leonard Huxley by his first wife, Julia Arnold. His mother died in 1908, when Aldous was only fourteen. Following an education at Balliol College in Oxford, and after a short period of working, he completed and began publishing his first novels while still in his early twenties. By World War I, he was already a noted satirist and social thinker.

Huxley moved to Llano, California in 1937. After mixing and becoming friends with a number mystical leaders, Huxley wrote his book on widely held spiritual values and ideas, The Perennial Philosophy, which discussed teachings of the world's great mystics. Later in life, Aldous started meditating and became a vegetarian. Thereafter, his works were strongly influenced by mysticism and his experiences with the hallucinogenic drugs. Huxley's psychedelic drug experiences are described in different essays. Some of his writings on psychedelics became frequent reading among early hippies.

Huxley's first wife, Maria, died of breast cancer in 1955, and in 1956 he remarried, to Laura Archera. In 1960, Huxley was diagnosed with throat cancer. In the years that followed, with his health deteriorating, he wrote the utopian novel Island, and gave lectures on "Human Potentialities" at the Esalen institute. He was also invited to speak at several prestigious American universities.

On his deathbed, unable to speak, he made a written request for a drug overdose. Obliged, he died peacefully the following morning, November 22, 1963. Media coverage of his death was overshadowed by news of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which occurred on the same day, as did the death of British author C. S. Lewis.

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Brave New World
by Aldous Huxley
from HarperCollins
Dystopian Literature for 10th-Adult
in 20th & 21st Century Literature (Location: LIT7-20)