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A. Huxley in Sanary - A condensed biography A.1

The early years

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Born in England in 1894 from a family of reputed intellectuals (his grand father helped refine Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, the famous poet Matthew Arnold was an uncle of his) Aldous Huxley felt early on a strong leaning towards Science and Humanities. Poor health and very bad eyesight, consequence of an eye infection when he was sixteen prevented him from becoming a scientist and to walk in his famous ancestor’s steps. However, he managed to overcome the physical handicap of his near blindness, acquiring a BA in literature at the Universities of Oxford and Eton where he briefly taught, Georges Orwell was once his student.

In 1916 young Aldous was spending more and more time and eventually lived at Garsington Manor near Oxford. Owned by the famous and eccentric Lady Ottoline Morell, Garsington was a ‘country side Bloomsbury’ where was sheltered and entertained a liberated group of pacifists, a rather rich assortment of talent; Bertrand Russel, Bernard Keynes, Cleeve Bell, TS Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield and DH Lawrence. Here Huxley observed the intellectual elite of the time and while laying down his plan to become a poet and writer met for the first time the then young Maria. Belgium-born Maria Nys had just fled her invaded country with her mother and her three sisters who stayed in London while she took refuge at the home of her mother’s old friend Lady Ottoline.

Aldous was very much attracted to her but their story temporarily interrupted due to the fact that Maria’s mother had found a safer and less expensive shelter for her family near some friends of hers in Tuscany where they stayed for the rest of the war. If those two following years were hard for a struggling young Huxley in England, they were frugal but instructive for Maria in Italy, which explains the attachment Maria always felt for that country, an attachment she later communicated to her husband. Their love having survived this forced separation, they were reunited in the Nys family in Belgium and in 1919 their wedding was celebrated in London.

Aldous Huxley had stopped teaching and was now writing articles for reviews and magazines. Then, after several attempts to make a name for himself in poetry, Huxley was to turn his inspiration towards the Bloomsbury life style of the 20’s with whose members he was well acquainted. With his first literary success Crome Yellow(1921), his razor-sharp ability to describe their sociology with a pen as a microscope led him to find his place in the world of the Belles Lettres. In few years he had mastered the art of writing novels with another success, Antic Hay (1923), and in 1928 he finally became famous with the well-known Point Counterpoint (1928), a brilliant, multi-layered social criticism of the British middle class society. Anthony Burgess wrote that: ‘With “Point Counterpoint” Huxley had equipped novel with a brain.’

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