Aldous Huxley

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Aldous Leonard Huxley 1894-1963

Aldous was born on the 25th July 1894, the third son of Leonard Huxley, a master at Charterhouse School in Godalming. Leonard is first listed in the Godalming Directories in 1885 as master at Charterhouse, and in 1889 living at Laleham, Peperharow Road. When Charterhouse School moved in 1872 to Godalming the main entrance was at first off Peperharow Rd, as Charterhouse Road was then only a track, called Sandy Lane.

In The Huxleys Ronald W Clark writes, “Leonard’s life at Charterhouse was placid enough. He had moved soon after his marriage to a new neat house built by Fred Waller on the height where Charterhouse stands – a house named after Matthew Arnold’s ‘Laleham’ on the Thames.”

Leonard Huxley married Julia Frances Arnold daughter of Thomas Arnold (1823-1900) professor of English literature and second son of Dr Thomas Arnold (1795-1842). He lived and ran a school at Laleham before becoming headmaster of Rugby. He married Julia, daughter of William Sorell of Hobart Town, Tasmania. Aldous was the great-nephew of Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), poet and critic, eldest son of Dr Thomas Arnold who was born at Laleham. Aldous was the nephew of his mother’s sister, Mary Augusta Arnold, known as Mrs Humphrey Ward, novelist and social worker.

Leonard Huxley was son of Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895) man of science. Aldous’s grandfather, T H Huxley, was the biologist and friend of Darwin. In 1900 Leonard Huxley wrote about his father The Life and Letters of T H Huxley, in 2 volumes. There is a portrait of T H Huxley in Godalming Museum Local Studies Library by John Collier, who was Aldous’s uncle. John Collier (1850-1934), painter and writer on art, was twice married, first to Marian, sister of Leonard Huxley in 1879, and secondly to Ethel Gladys Huxley, another sister of Leonard Huxley. The marriage took place in 1889 in Norway, the marriage being recognized in England in 1907 with the passing of the Deceased Wife’s Sister Act of 1907.

The 1891 census for Peperharow Road lists Laleham:

Leonard Huxley head mar 30 master LON St Marylebone
Julia " wife mar 28   WAR Edgbaston
Julian S " son   3   LON Bloomsbury
Noel T " son   1   LON St Marylebone
Emily Mills serv wid 46 nurse HAM Tichfield
Emma Capren serv s 26 cook SXX Fernhurst
Elizabeth Harriet Martin serv s 14 maid KNT Tunbridge Wells

RG12/0561 p22 f10

Leonard was shown as employed, and as an assistant classical master at Charterhouse. Elizabeth Martin was shown as a nursemaid. His first two sons, Julian Sorell Huxley and Noel Trevenen Huxley had been born in London Aldous’s brother, Julian Huxley, later Sir, was to become a scientist and writer.

A map of 1916 shows Charterhouse with Laleham as the house next to the Sanatorium, then situated on Hurtmore Road. A later undated map shows the plot divided into two, the house adjoining Laleham called Dormers, and situated on Farncombe Hill, which then joined Hurtmore Road. The roads were renamed c.1924 and the end of Farncombe Hill joining Hurtmore Road at the junction of Charterhouse Road was renamed Twycross Road. In 1973 Laleham and the houses were demolished and Bovis Homes Southern Ltd built new houses in Huxley Close, a junction off Twycross Road.

Aldous Huxley was born in 1894 and in The Huxleys (p.2) Ronald W Clark writes, “He (Aldous) returned to nearby Laleham, the house on the hill where he had been born, and lingered for a while to consider the view from what had been his nursery window.”

The 1901 census lists Laleham:

Leonard Huxley head mar 40 master MDX London
Julia Frances " wife mar 38   WAR Birmingham
Noel T " son   11   MDX London
Aldous Leonard " son   6   SRY Godalming
Margaret A " dau   1   SRY Godalming
Jacques Meyer vis s 18   France Foreign Subj
Ella Pauline Salknoski gov s 28   Germany German Subj
Emily Mills serv wid 52 cook HAM Warsash
Ada Mary Baker serv s 17 maid SRY Shamley Green
Kate Edwards serv s 14 housemaid SRY Shackleford

PRO RG13/0606 p26 f17

Leonard Huxley was shown as a schoolmaster and author, Ella Salknoski a nursery governess, Ada Baker a parlour maid, and Kate Edwards a housemaid. A daughter Margaret A Huxley had been born in 1900.

In 1901, according to Quick’s Charterhouse, A History of the School (p.88) the headmaster of Charterhouse School, Rendall, bought Laleham from Leonard Huxley. The house became a waiting house for fourteen boys as a need for boarding places had increased during the summer.

Leonard Huxley was taken on as literary adviser to Reginald John Smith (1857-1916) barrister and publisher in 1901. Smith had taken over the publishing firm Smith, Elder & Co., and had succeeded as editor of the Cornhill Magazine in 1898. Leonard was to become assistant editor of the Magazine, and Leonard Huxley succeeded as editor in 1916. In 1923 Leonard Huxley printed privately The House of Smith, Elder.

The architect, Charles F A Voysey, had been commissioned to design a house at Prior’s Garth, Prior’s Field but the owner never occupied the house and sold it to Leonard Huxley in 1901. In 1902 Aldous’s mother, Julia Huxley, established Prior’s Field School for girls there. Aldous was the only boy to attend. Aldous later attended Hillside, Farncombe a near-by preparatory school. Aldous lived in Godalming as a young boy from 1894-1908, and had holidays in Italy and Switzerland. In 1908 his mother tragically died at the age of 45, when Aldous was only 14 years old. His father moved to London, and Aldous went to live with a friend in Berkhamsted, and later stayed with relatives.

Aldous won a scholarship to Eton and went to study in 1908. It was here two years later that he caught an eye infection which forced him to leave Eton due to impending blindness in 1911, aged 17. He learnt to read Braille, type and play the piano, and was taught by tutors. In 1913 his eyesight had improved enough for him to return to study. Aldous went to Balliol College, Oxford for two years to study English Literature, and in 1916 received a BA in English. During this time his brother, Noel Trevenen Huxley died aged 25 in 1914.

Aldous worked in the War Office and taught at Eton and Repton, and joined the editorial staff of the The Athenaeum. Aldous began to write poetry, The Burning Wheel (1916), Jonah (1917) and The Defeat of Youth (1918).

Aldous was very tall being six feet four-and-a-half inches tall. The Dictionary of National Biography describes Huxley, “As so thin that he was accurately described as having to ‘fold himself and his legs, like some gigantic grasshopper, into a chair.’”

Aldous was invited by the literary hostess Lady Ottoline Morrell to her home at Garsington Manor, near Oxford, where he met the Bloomsbury set. It was here that he met Maria Nys, daughter of a Flemish family who had sought refuge in England, and whom he married in 1919. They lived in Hampstead and their only child, Matthew Huxley was born in 1920.

In 1920 Aldous wrote a collection of short stories Limbo, and in 1921 his first novel, Crome Yellow. He continued to write short stories, essays and books on travel. In the 1920s Aldous spent time in Italy and was a friend of David Herbert Lawrence (1885-1930) poet, novelist, and essayist. In 1932 Aldous was editor of Letters of D H Lawrence.

Aldous and his wife travelled, and bought a house near Paris in 1928. In 1928 Point Counter Point became a best seller in England and America. In 1932 Aldous wrote Brave New World, and in 1936 Eyeless in Gaza his last novel written in England. Aldous moved to California in 1937 where he believed the clear sunlight would enable him to see and read. His wife died in 1955 and a year later Aldous married Laura Archera, an Italian concert violinist and psychotherapist.

In 1960 Huxley developed cancer of the tongue, and in May 1961 his house in Los Angeles was totally destroyed by fire. He refused surgery on his tongue because it would impair his speech, and had radium treatment but it was incurable. Aldous died 22nd November 1963. It was to be the same day that President Kennedy was assassinated and his death was overshadowed by that event. In 1971 Aldous’s ashes were returned to England and were interred in his parent’s grave at Compton Chapel Cemetery.

In Loving Memory

Noel Trevenen Huxley

Leonard Huxley

Aldous Leonard Huxley
And Maria his wife

Julian Sorell Huxley
Marie Juliette his wife
née Baittot, 1896-1994

Anthony Julian Huxley
1920-1992, their son

Rosalind née Bruce
1890-1994 2nd wife of
Leonard Huxley

An inscription around the edge records:

11 Dec 1862 Julia Frances Huxley 29 Nov 1908
Daughter of Thomas Arnold beloved wife of
Leonard Huxley
We live by admiration hope and love


Godalming Museum @ 2006


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