September 18

This Day in History

Literary

Sep 18, 1917:

Aldous Huxley is hired at Eton

On this day in 1917, 23-year-old Aldous Huxley, future author of Brave New World is hired as a schoolmaster at Eton. One of his pupils will be Eric Blair, who will later use the pen name George Orwell.

Huxley was born into a prominent family. His grandfather was a famous biologist and proponent of Darwin, and his father was a respected biographer. Huxley hoped to become a scientist like his grandfather, but his dreams were shattered when a medical condition robbed him of most of his sight while he was a student at Eton.

Barely able to read, he nevertheless graduated from Oxford in 1916, the same year his first book appeared. The following year, he began teaching. His near-blindness disqualified him from service in World War I. From 1919 to 1921, he edited a publication called Athenaeum. In 1919, he married and had one son. The family moved to Italy in 1920 and lived most of the next several decades there while traveling widely. His satirical novels Crome Yellow (1921) and Antic Hay (1923) were successful, and he wrote full time for the rest of his life, churning out 47 books and many articles, essays, and screenplays.

His 1928 book, Point Counterpoint, became a bestseller, and in 1932 he published his masterwork Brave New World, which he wrote in four months. The book paints a dark vision of a future where individual emotion, creativity, and impulse have been completely subordinated to the tyrannical state.

In 1937, Huxley moved to California, where he became a screenwriter. His screenplays include Pride and Prejudice (1940), starring Laurence Olivier, and Jane Eyre (1944). In the 1950s, Huxley became a proponent of the controlled use of psychedelic drugs to liberate the mind. He wrote two books about his experiences using LSD and mescaline under supervision: The Doors of Perception (inspiring the name of the rock group The Doors) and Heaven and Hell. Huxley's first wife died in 1955, and he remarried in 1956. His 1962 novel, Island, envisioned a utopian society where psychedelic drugs are used for religious rituals. Huxley died in Los Angeles in 1963.

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