Crome. English country house that is the seat of the Wimbush family. Formerly a monastery, it was rebuilt in the Elizabethan era by Sir Ferdinando Lapith in accordance with his eccentric theories of sanitation, which involved obtaining a maximum separation of distance between bathrooms (privies)—those at Crome being initially situated at the tops of its three towers—and the sewers into which they empty their wastes. Further rebuilding in the eighteenth century resulted in more practical plumbing facilities, although Sir Ferdinando was by no means the last eccentric to inflict his originality on Crome’s architecture. The estate is still capable of further change—as illustrated by the yearly fair to which it plays host, which brings about a periodic transformation and enlivenment. However, there is a sense in which it is inescapably wedded to a lost past.
A turfed terrace in front of the house has a summerhouse at either end. The beautiful garden that slopes rather dangerously away from the terrace, encompassing a swimming pool, seems strangely monochromatic when viewed from the house, but the high-hedged flower garden conceals a blaze of color. Crome’s interior is a patchwork of obsolete styles: Its long gallery is decorated with Italian primitive paintings and Chinese sculptures; its paneled drawing room is equipped with capacious chintz-upholstered armchairs; its modernized morning room features lemon yellow walls and rococo tables; its dining room is decked out with eighteenth century furniture and art. Similar variety is displayed in the many different kinds of antique beds with which the house’s guest rooms are equipped. Crome also has a library, because no English country house would be complete without one, but none of the fashionable texts about which the assembled houseguests love to talk are contained therein.
The name Crome is obviously a variation of “chrome”; however, the name is not intended to recall the bright metal finish associated with that metal. Chrome yellow is a pigment (neutral lead chromate) that was once familiar to every English child as a staple of watercolor painting boxes. Aldous Huxley invokes that color here because of its autumnal associations.
Camlet-in-the-Water. Railway station situated on an insignificant branch line in the rural heartland of England on which Crome is most easily reached. The station’s name recalls King Arthur’s legendary Camelot, mischievously but not irreverently.
Home farm. Part of Crome’s estate most intimately linked to the house, by virtue of the contiguity of its fields with the gardens. One of its unused granaries is appropriated by the painter Gombauld as the studio in which he paints a portrait of Anne Wimbush.
Rectory. Gloomy abode of the stern Mr. Bodiham, the clergyman entrusted with the care of the parish in which Crome is situated. Although the rectory is of more recent construction than Crome, its architectural affiliation with the Gothic revival embodies more ancient and more stubborn values. However, Bodiham’s censorious brand of Protestantism makes no more impact on Crome’s inhabitants than the rectory building itself does on the local landscape.
Rational State. Hypothetical future society sketched out by Mr. Scogan. It is the antithesis of Crome, and also—allegedly, at least—the destiny to which the house, and the quaintly crazy England it symbolizes, are ultimately bound; it was to be much more elaborately described and condemned in Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World.
Gobley Great Park
Gobley Great Park. Stately Georgian home, far more modern than Crome, featured on the picture postcard that Mary receives from Ivor, to add to the other temptations that seem likely to lure her away from her past-mired home. It is, however, merely...
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one more staging-post on the way to the Rational State.
Baker, Robert S. The Dark Historic Page: Social Satire and Historicism in the Novels of Aldous Huxley, 1921-1939. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982. Invaluable work, especially the chapter entitled “Crome Yellow and the Problem of History.”
Bedford, Sybille. Aldous Huxley: A Biography. 1st ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974. First-rate, extensive biography.
Birnbaum, Milton. Aldous Huxley’s Quest for Values. 1st ed. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1971. Deals with Huxley’s novels by theme rather than by chronology, but the index references to Crome Yellow are worth looking up. Birnbaum, a college student in the 1920’s, writes in his preface, “In debunking the traditional sources of value he was, in a sense, acting as our surrogate.”
Bowering, Peter. Aldous Huxley: A Study of the Major Novels. New York: Oxford University Press, 1969. Notes the counterpull, beneath the benign skepticism of its surface, of an underlying gravity in Crome Yellow.
Firchow, Peter. Aldous Huxley: Satirist and Novelist. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1972. Sound insights into Huxley’s procedure in Crome Yellow.
Murray, Nicholas. Aldous Huxley: A Biography. New York: St. Martin’s, 2003. Murray’s 500-plus page biography and intellectual history is a wide-ranging survey of Huxley’s writing and his social, personal, and political life. The book stretches from Huxley’s early satirical writing to his peace activism, from his close relations and friendships with Hollywood filmmakers and other intellectuals, to his fascination with spirituality and mysticism. Illustrations, bibliography, and index.
Watt, Donald, ed. Aldous Huxley: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975. Fascinating compendium of reviews, articles, and letters, arranged chronologically. F. Scott Fitzgerald, at that time the author of one published novel, said in his review of Crome Yellow, “Huxley . . . is said to know more about French, German, Latin, and medieval Italian literature than any man alive. I refuse to make the fatuous remark that he should know less about books and more about people.” Watt’s introduction provides further insights into Crome Yellow.