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Letters of Aldous Huxley Edited by Grover Smith

Letters of Aldous Huxley Edited by Grover Smith


New York : Harper & Row, 1969. First U.S. Edition. Hardcover. 992 pages ; 25 cm. $15.00 dust jacket with minimal wear. Pages are clean and unmarked. Binding is firm.

EDITED BY Grover Smith

These letters, which begin in 1899 and end in 1963, provide a feast of pleasures—not least, an insider's view of a half-century of intellectual life in England, on the Continent, and, extensively, in the United States. Here is social history: the uniquely free, university-bred upper-middle- and upper-class English world; the social and cultural upheaval of the twenties; and expatriate life in Italy, France, and Hollywood.

Here are recorded friendships of singular warmth and frankness—from the younger Haldanes to D. H. Lawrence, from Anita Loos to Paul Valery, Edwin Hubble, and Dr. Humphry Osmond.

The themes are no less various: music, literature, zoology, psychology, medicine, painting, movies, theatre, and mystical religions—subjects on which he writes with ease, often with passion, never without humanity.

Most thrilling of all, perhaps, these letters record Aldous Huxley's efforts to achieve—and his actually achieving— that inner transformation he believed possible, that growth in consciousness and charity he came to regard as the whole duty of man.

In his Preface Grover Smith says:

"Huxley's letters collectively reveal him experiencing, thinking, and becoming, all the while marveling at the strangeness of existence and discovering new richness in human relationships. Some men affect always to know where they are going: Huxley in his exploratory wisdom refused to be sure. As with his favorite, Micawber, something would always turn up —not to rescue a life bogged down in improvidence, for such was not Huxley's, but to stimulate a life receptive to fresh motivations. His life, like his writings, was constantly improvising. Its graces were its rewards—stoical good humor, enquiring genius, and deep but effusive affections.

"In his sixty-nine years Huxley perhaps wrote at the very least ten thousand letters. I have had the opportunity of examining more than twenty-five hundred. . . .The present compilation represents therefore a choice of fewer than two-fifths of the known items. Pre-dominating here is material selected for its biographical, literary, or philosophical qualities."

The editor of this volume has been a Professor of English at Duke University since 1952. Before that Grover Smith, who attended Columbia University, had taught at Rutgers University and then at Yale. His publications include a critical study of T. S. Eliot entitled T. S. Eliot's Poetry and Plays.

Comments in the British press on Letters of Aldous Huxley

"This selection of... letters... spread out evenly over the years from childhood to a few days before his death gives you the effect of a running narrative, a planned autobiography almost It is remarkable how consistent is the personality which emerges. And what an agreeable personality it is, surprisingly simple really, gentle and sensitive, detached yet curiously pervasive...

"Whenever he is writing about a finite subject, whether the bearing of animal behavior studies on human aggression, or the critical dose of LSD, his scientific temper returns. About family matters, business, scriptwriting, he is very much on the spot; his literary judgments are sound as ever; his travelogue bits are sharp and clear and there is plenty of human gossip. Considering how strong was his mystical fervor and wish to believe in another world, it is remarkable really how he retained so much of his all-around humorous zestful interest in this one." —Maurice Richardson, The Observer Review

"The early letters are unbuttoned, lively, gossipy, and sharp, but they tell us more of the times than of the author, more of others than himselfc.. . The later letters show the range of an intellect that never stopped exploring and that was kept young by a huge variety of exercise—Their virtue is that every reader can please himself in making a selection arid that there is hardly a single subject of contemporary interest that does not find a place in them somewhere." —Nigel Dennis, The Sunday Telegraph

"... for anyone at all curious about the changing intellectual climate over the past 50 years, this is a book to buy, borrow or at least browse upon." —H. D. Ziman, Daily Telegraph

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