Kirkus Reviews QR Code
COMPLETE ESSAYS by Aldous Huxley


Vol. III, 1930-1935

by Aldous Huxley & edited by Robert S. Baker & James Sexton

Pub Date: June 22nd, 2001
ISBN: 1-56663-347-8
Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

The third of a projected six-volume set of Huxley’s essays.

In addition to authoring the classic Brave New World, Huxley was also a prolific essayist; most of the pieces here are short, editorial-style columns that originally appeared (with the exception of those taken from a collection published in 1930 titled Music at Night) in periodicals such as the Evening Standard, Nash’s Pall Mall Magazine, and Hearst. Written during “the Slump” and during the early rumblings of Nazism, Fascism, and the launching of Stalin’s “Five-Year Plan,” they provide a window into the social and political climate of the times. Huxley covers a wide range of topics. His commentaries on the value of technology and industry are still interesting, and his uninhibited musings on the different political systems evolving during the period are sharp; critical of American political democracy, Huxley was intrigued early on by authoritarian social planning and even Fascism. The primary value of this collection, however, will be to chart the evolution of Huxley’s ideas. Frequently diffuse and surprisingly insubstantial, many essays are also dated—ranging from his amusing pronouncement that “the energy set free” in splitting the atom “is too small, for practical purposes, to matter” to his disappointingly short-sighted optimism about the possibilities offered by eugenics (especially as regards the loathsome prospect of “sterilization of the unfit”) to his ironic call for state funding of “bio-chemical researches for the purpose of discovering the ideal substitute for alcohol, cocaine, and opium.” He also placed great hope in parapsychology training programs, given that research had “definitely established” in the 1880s “the reality of telepathic communication.”

For serious fans only.