Other Literary Forms
The diversity of Aldous Huxley’s more than sixty books encompasses nine collections of poetry (the largest selection being in Verses and a Comedy); several plays (The Gioconda Smile, pb. 1948, based on his short story of this title, also was the basis of Huxley’s screenplay for the 1948 feature film A Woman’s Vengeance); numerous essays, gathered in several collections (the most convenient being the Collected Essays of 1959); and monographs on biography (for example, the 1941 study of Cardinal Richelieu, Grey Eminence), travel (for example, Beyond the Mexique Bay, 1934), politics and science (for example, Brave New World Revisited, 1958), philosophy (for example, The Perennial Philosophy, 1945), art and literature (for example, Vulgarity in Literature, 1930), and psychology and religion (for example, The Doors of Perception, 1954). He also wrote eleven novels, from Crome Yellow, in 1921, to Island, in 1962. He is perhaps most famous for his dystopian novel Brave New World (1932), which in many ways eerily prefigured modern society.
The recipient of awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1959) and the British Royal Society of Literature (1962), Aldous Huxley has been most praised and studied for his novels, in which—as with his short fiction—he distinctively blends witty prose style, allusion, irony and satire, and symbolism. His targets have ranged from modern British society (as in Point Counter Point, 1928), to modern American society (particularly Los Angeles and Hollywood, as in After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, 1939, and Ape and Essence, 1948), to the bleak view of a future totalitarian world, dominated by sex and drugs, in his science-fiction work Brave New World. Huxley’s essays have been widely commended, though not much written about, while his short fiction has not received the attention that it merits.
Other literary forms
In addition to the novel, Aldous Huxley wrote in every other major literary form. He published several volumes of essays and won universal acclaim as a first-rate essayist. He also wrote poetry, plays, short stories, biographies, and travelogues.
Aldous Huxley achieved fame as a satiric novelist and essayist in the decade following World War I. In his article “Aldous Huxley: The Ultra-modern Satirist,” published in The Nation in 1926, Edwin Muir observed, “No other writer of our time has built up a serious reputation so rapidly and so surely; compared with his rise to acceptance that of Mr. Lawrence or Mr. Eliot has been gradual, almost painful.” In the 1920’s and the early 1930’s, Huxley became so popular that the first London editions of his books were, within a decade of their publication, held at a premium by dealers and collectors. Huxley’s early readers, whose sensibilities had been hardened by the war, found his wit, his iconoclasm, and his cynicism to their taste. They were also impressed by his prophetic gifts. Bertrand Russell said, “What Huxley thinks today, England thinks tomorrow.” Believing that all available knowledge should be absorbed if humanity is to survive, Huxley assimilated ideas from a wide range of fields and allowed them to find their way into his novels, which came to be variously identified as “novels of ideas,” “discussion novels,” or “conversation novels.” His increasing store of knowledge did not, however, help him overcome his pessimistic and cynical outlook on life.
Huxley’s reputation as a novelist suffered a sharp decline in his later years. In his 1939 work The Novel and the Modern World , literary critic David Daiches took a highly critical view of Huxley’s novels, and since then, many other critics have joined him. It is often asserted that Huxley was essentially an essayist whose novels frequently turn into intellectual tracts. It has also been held that his plots lack dramatic interest and his characters are devoid of real substance. Attempts were made in the late twentieth century, however, to rehabilitate Huxley as an important novelist. In any...
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