Aldous Huxley
Brave New World
Brave New World - Study Guide
The Gioconda Smile


"That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach" ("Case of Voluntary Ignorance" (1959))

Aldous Leonard Huxley was born in 1894, in Godalming in Surrey to an intellectual family. He was the grandson of Thomas Henry Huxley, the famous biologist and colleague of Darwin.He was also the great-nephew of Matthew Arnold, the brother of scientist and writer Julian Huxley, and the nephew of the best-selling novelist Mrs Humphry Ward. He attended Eton, during which time his mother died and he developed a serious disease of the eyes that left him partially blind for the rest of his life. These circumstances left the young Huxley unable to pursue the career in medicine as he had intended and instead he took a degree in English Literature at Balliol College, Oxford. During the war, he got to know a number of literary figures including Lady Ottoline Morrell.

Huxley became a journalist in 1919, having already published three books of poetry, writing for the Athenaeum and then The Westminster Gazette. His first books were Limbo (1920, a collection of stories) and Crome Yellow (1921) - a clever and satirical novel which caused offence among his literary acquaintances.

Throughout most of the 1920s and the first half of the 1930s, Huxley lived in Italy where he befriended the novelist D.H. Lawrence (who he portrays as Rampion in the fine Point Counter Point (1928)). His novels from the twenties are witty and usually conversation-based, while his characters are of minimal importance. Works of this time include Mortal Coils (1922, stories, notably "The Gioconda Smile"), Antic Hay (1923) and Barren Leaves (1925).

His most famous and significant work is Brave New World (1932), a future-shock tale of genetic manipulation and an example of "dystopian" writing. It was followed by Eyeless in Gaza (1936) after which he moved to California in 1937. His less renowned later work included After Many a Summer (1939, concerning the search for an elixir to prolong life), the less negative sequel to his classic, Brave New World Revisited (1959), and the utopian Island (1962). He wrote much non-fiction during the later years of his life, notably The Doors of Perception (1954) and Heaven and Hell (1956) in which he describes his experimentation with mescaline, LSD and peyote. His The Devils of Loudun (1952) concerned a medieval sexual hysteria and demonic possession that formed the basis of Whiting's play The Devils in 1961. Less famously he also adapted Charlotte Brontė's novel Jane Eyre for the screen. Although many feel that, Brave New World aside, Huxley's novels are better conceptually than they are literary, he is widely regarded as a genius and a maverick.

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