Today (July 26) is the birthday of Aldous Huxley (1894 – 1963). He came from a long line of British intellectuals – his grandfather Thomas was a colleague of Darwin’s and his mother was the niece of Matthew Arnold. Huxley’s friends included D. H. Lawrence, George Orwell, and the Bloomsbury writers and, after moving to Southern California, Ray Bradbury and Anita Loos. His first novel, Crome Yellow (1921) satirizes a party at the house of a character based on his friend Lady Ottoline Morrell. Many young people know him for his dystopian novel, Brave New World (1932), and his memoir about using hallucinogenic drugs, The Doors of Perception (1954), from which the rock group took its name. Huxley also wrote plays, poetry, screenplays, travel books, and many collections of essays.
In the preface to his 1960 Collected Essays he outlined the following taxonomy of the essay: “Essays belong to a literary species whose extreme variability can be studied most effectively within a three-poled frame of reference. There is the pole of the personal and the autobiographical; there is the pole of the objective, the factual, the concrete-particular; and there is the pole of the abstract-universal. …The most richly satisfying essays are those which make the best not of one, not of two, but of all the three worlds in which it is possible for the essay to exist. Freely, effortlessly, thought and feeling move in these consummate works of art, hither and thither between the essay’s three poles—from the personal to the universal, from the abstract back to the concrete, from the objective datum to the inner experience.” // Ned Stuckey-French