UCLA Library acquires Aldous Huxley’s literary archive
By Dawn Setzer March 05, 2009 Category: Campus News
The UCLA Library has acquired the literary archive of the visionary novelist and essayist Aldous Huxley (1894–1963). The collection contains literary materials he created subsequent to a devastating 1961 fire that destroyed his Los Angeles home and much of his earlier archive; correspondence, photographs and audio tapes; and typescripts and galley proofs retrieved from publishers after his death. Also included are the papers of his wife, Laura Huxley (1911–2007), an author and lay therapist.
Jack Miles, a trustee of the Aldous and Laura Huxley Literary Trust, said of the acquisition: "Aldous Huxley lived just under half his life in Southern California. Though in America he was always seen as an English writer, many in England have long thought of him, with reason, as an American and indeed a Californian writer. In truth, he was both, and the new availability of these fascinating unpublished papers and manuscripts will enable future students of his seminal work to deepen their understanding in important new ways."
The literary materials include manuscripts and working papers for 12 books; 35 essays, articles and speeches; and 31 lectures. Among hundreds of letters are love letters between the writer and his wife, Laura. There are recordings of many of his lectures and of him reading from his novel "Time Must Have a Stop" (1944) and English and French poetry. The archive also contains a travel diary, four personal notebooks and personal effects, including his British passport, a magnifying glass, fountain pens and a leather wallet.
"We are thrilled to obtain this remarkable collection," said UCLA University Librarian Gary E. Strong. "Not only does it enhance the UCLA Library's holdings of papers and books by American and European authors associated with California and Los Angeles, such as Raymond Chandler, Christopher Isherwood and Henry Miller, but it also complements our holdings of the papers of individuals in his circle of friends, such as Gerald Heard, Richard Neutra and Ashley Montagu."
Laura Huxley chose the UCLA Library for the Aldous and Laura Huxley Collection shortly before her death. The transfer came about in accordance with her wishes, through the good offices of the Huxley Trust and with funds provided by Bill Edwards, a 1961 graduate of UCLA and a member of the UCLA Library's board of visitors and the Powell Society.
These materials join the Aldous Huxley Papers already held by the Charles E. Young Research Library Department of Special Collections. That collection consists of Huxley's manuscripts for "Time Must Have a Stop" and "The Devils of Loudon" (1952); personal correspondence with Lewis Mumford, Lawrence Clark Powell, Hugh Trevor-Roper, Lionel Trilling and Jacob Zeitlin, among others; and business correspondence with the publisher Harper & Row.
"Aldous Huxley was a close friend of the UCLA Library and its Department of Special Collections," said Victoria Steele, head of the Young Research Library Department of Special Collections. "He did research in our collections and, in fact, inscribed one of his manuscripts to us 'from a grateful reader'. In 1952, he served as guest judge of our student book-collecting competition, the Campbell Contest. He always intended to have his papers come to the department, so we are delighted that this acquisition has worked out. It's what he wanted."
Huxley was born in Godalming, England, into a distinguished family: His grandfather was the zoologist Thomas Henry Huxley, a staunch supporter of Charles Darwin; his mother was a niece of the poet Matthew Arnold; and his brother was the evolutionary biologist and humanitarian Julian Huxley. He moved to Los Angeles in 1937 with his first wife, Maria, and son, Matthew, and lived in the U.S. for the rest of his life. A year after Maria's death in 1955, he married Laura, whose biography of their years together, "This Timeless Moment: A Personal View of Aldous Huxley," was published in 1968.
Huxley described himself in a 1952 interview as "an essayist who sometimes writes novels and biographies." He earned international renown for "Brave New World" (1932), which joins George Orwell's "1984" and Yevgeny Zamyatin's "We" as the great trio of 20th-century novels about a dystopian future society. He was a remarkably versatile writer, authoring short stories, travel books and poetry, along with his better-known novels and essays. His earlier fiction is noteworthy for its wit and social satire, while as he grew older, his fiction became more mystical and concerned with issues of physical and mental perception.
Among its most interesting and valuable papers, the Aldous and Laura Huxley Collection features a nearly complete manuscript, nine drafts and proofs for Huxley's final book, "Island" (1962), which he began in 1956. This manuscript was the only one the Huxleys were able to save from the fire that destroyed their home and his earlier archives. The typewritten pages contain his handwritten revisions, additions and changes, providing unique insight into his compositional process. A utopian novel, "Island" has been described by critics as a counterpart to "Brave New World" and compared to "Gulliver's Travels" for its use of fiction to offer social commentary and stimulate debate about the proper aims and function of human societies.
Among other works of fiction are the final publisher's typescript and page proofs for the semi-autobiographical novel "Eyeless in Gaza" (1936) and a copy of the typescript for "Jacob's Hands," which he and Christopher Isherwood wrote in the late 1930s or early '40s.
Additional highlights include nine folders of working papers for and the original text of "An Anthology of Essays and Criticisms," commissioned in 1946 by the Encyclopedia Britannica. This unpublished work fills more than 2,200 pages with Huxley's biographical notes on authors and his commentaries on writing, categorized by topic.
There are also the typescript and page proofs for "Texts and Pretexts" (1932), an anthology of literary works with Huxley's commentaries, and illustrations and page proofs for "Grey Eminence: A Study in Religion and Politics" (1941), a biography of the French monk who served as Cardinal Richelieu's confessor and adviser.
Highlights of the recordings include 63 tapes of Huxley reading English and French poems to himself and 102 tapes of him reading his lectures, plus tapes of 16 lectures on "The Human Situation," which he delivered at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1959. Two particularly poignant tapes were recorded during the three days prior to his death on Nov. 22, 1963, the same day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Of the more personal items in the collection, especially noteworthy are letters Aldous and Laura exchanged, including a two-page love letter he wrote to her, which she kept with her at all times. The correspondence also includes his letters to Henry Miller, Jacob Zeitlin and UCLA university librarians Lawrence Clark Powell and Robert Vosper and letters from his son, Matthew.
The collection contains the British passport that Huxley was issued in Los Angeles on May 29, 1958, which gives his profession as "author." Among other personal effects are a man's silk scarf with a note from Laura stating that Igor Stravinsky gave it to Aldous after the Huxleys' house burned down and a black leather wallet containing a U.S. immigrant's card and a Los Angeles Public Library card. A magnifying glass serves as a reminder of Huxley's vision difficulties, which resulted from a serious eye disease that nearly blinded him at the age of 17.
The UCLA Library, ranked among the top 10 research libraries in the U.S., is a campuswide network of libraries serving programs of study and research in many fields. Its collections encompass more than 8 million volumes, as well as archives, audiovisual materials, corporate reports, government publications, microforms, technical reports and other scholarly resources. More than 50,000 serial titles are received regularly. The UCLA Library also provides access to a vast array of digital resources, including reference works, electronic journals and other full-text titles and images.
The Charles E. Young Research Library Department of Special Collections administers the UCLA Library's rare and unique materials in the humanities, social sciences and visual arts. Its collections encompass rare books and pamphlets from the 15th century through the 20th century; extensive manuscript holdings; drawings, including original architectural drawings; early maps and atlases; photographs, prints and paintings; audiotape and videotape recordings; oral history transcripts; postcards; and posters.