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Flower Power

P.N. Furbank: Jocelyn Brooke

8 May 2003
'The Military Orchid’ and Other Novels 
by Jocelyn Brooke.
Penguin, 437 pp., £10.99, August 2002, 0 14 118713 1
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... his year at prep school, during the 1914-18 war, another from his cheerful time at Bedales, as an Aldous-Huxley-and-Yellow-Book-inspired highbrow (with still the vaguest notions about the facts of life); a layer from his service with the Royal Army Medical Corps, venereal disease department, in the desert of Cyrenaica and ...

Patrician Poverty

Rosemary Hill: Sybille Bedford

18 August 2005
Quicksands: A Memoir 
by Sybille Bedford.
Hamish Hamilton, 370 pp., £20, June 2005, 0 241 14037 4
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... writing, her knowledge of wine, her love affairs (mostly with women), and her friendships – with Aldous Huxley, Norman Douglas and others – Bedford writes with touching modesty of all of this, as she does of her ‘intermittent brushes with the catastrophic events of the century’. A narrator rather than a raconteur, the intersections of her own life ...

At Home in the Huntington

John Sutherland: The Isherwood Archive

10 June 1999
... that after his move to Southern California Isherwood would recede into comfortable obscurity. Like Huxley, Chandler and Faulkner, he could make easy money in the movies and write on the side. (If a city can be an enemy of promise, Los Angeles would undoubtedly qualify.) Isherwood continued turning out his elegantly autobiographical fiction, but his ...


Michael Neve

16 October 1980
My Guru and his Disciple 
by Christopher Isherwood.
Eyre Methuen, 338 pp., £8.50, July 1980, 0 413 46930 1
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... real goodbye to Berlin. Whatever else, the discipline could not be drug-induced. Unlike Aldous Huxley, tripping away nearby, Isherwood doubted drugs. Swami did not approve of them either. Isherwood tripped on mescaline in London and that seemed agreeable enough, ending up (familiar story) with a giggling fit in Westminster Abbey. ...

A Life without a Jolt

Ferdinand Mount: M.R. James

26 January 2012
Collected Ghost Stories 
by M.R. James.
Oxford, 468 pp., £14.99, October 2011, 978 0 19 956884 0
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... the people and things that James hated and refused to countenance at King’s or Eton were: T.H. Huxley (‘a coarse 19th-century stinks man’), Henry Sidgwick and his philosophy, the German higher criticism, anthropology and comparative mythography, Aldous Huxley, James Joyce, Bertrand Russell, J.B.S. Haldane and ...

The Unpredictable Cactus

Emily Witt: Mescaline

2 January 2020
Mescaline: A Global History of the First Psychedelic 
by Mike Jay.
Yale, 297 pp., £18.99, May 2019, 978 0 300 23107 6
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... was coined in 1953, by the psychiatrist Humphry Osmond (in correspondence with Aldous Huxley), in part to describe the experience of taking mescaline. The full spectrum of its effects includes ‘dizziness, fullness in the head, nausea, time distortion, a rainbow sheen of visual trails, hyperventilation, an uncanny sense of double ...

C (for Crisis)

Eric Hobsbawm: The 1930s

6 August 2009
The Morbid Age: Britain between the Wars 
by Richard Overy.
Allen Lane, 522 pp., £25, May 2009, 978 0 7139 9563 3
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... often in the apocalyptic idiom constructed for the purpose and explored in Norman Cohn’s works. (Aldous Huxley, in Overy’s quotation, sees ‘Belial’s guiding hand’ in modern history.) There are good reasons in European history why the sense that ‘we’ – however defined – feel under threat from outside enemies or inner demons is not ...
4 December 1980
Lewis Namier and Zionism 
by Norman Rose.
Oxford, 182 pp., £9.95, October 1980, 0 19 822621 7
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Personal Impressions 
by Isaiah Berlin.
Hogarth, 219 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 7012 0510 5
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... cause to celebrate (Einstein, FDR); and those on otherwise unclassified friends (Auberon Herbert, Aldous Huxley, Namier himself). The collection ends with a long memoir, specially written (or perhaps ‘composed’: few, one is tempted to suggest, could make such good use of a dictaphone) for this volume, though shortened versions have since appeared ...
20 March 1980
Peacock Displayed: A Satirist in his Context 
by Marilyn Butler.
Routledge, 361 pp., £10.95, October 1979, 0 7100 0293 9
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... pieces had a revival in the Twenties and Thirties of this century and an explicit influence on Aldous Huxley, who, however, fatally lacked Peacock’s tenderness for women and his poetic grace. Marilyn Butler speaks, at one point, of his Mozartian sparkle. Mozart is indeed a source, The Marriage of Figaro especially, for Peacock’s mischievous ...
24 January 1980
Looking for Laforgue 
by David Arkell.
Carcanet, 248 pp., £6.95, November 1980, 0 85635 285 3
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A Night of Serious Drinking 
by René Daumal, translated by David Coward.
Routledge, 150 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 7100 0325 0
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... a funereal coat, dine artistically, and then among sickly virgins, take an idiotic stance’ – Aldous Huxley sees, in that stanza, all modern life. But this is only the posture of the Modern, something with which Eliot would simply begin. Lawrence distinguished between the gimmicks of Modernism which make the cerebral Clifford Chatterley a popular ...
18 September 1980
The Private Diaries of Sir H. Rider Haggard, 1914-1925 
edited by D.S. Higgins.
Cassell, 299 pp., £14.95, May 1980, 0 304 30611 8
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... expresses something like the lust for the sun which enticed post-war dissidents and exiles such as Aldous Huxley and Norman Douglas and D.H. Lawrence and Osbert Sitwell to the hot beaches of the Mediterranean and the ‘lakes of light’ in Northern Italy and Mexico. But Haggard was not their kind, and with the exception of a trip to Egypt, after the war ...

Skinned alive

John Bayley

25 June 1987
Collected Poems 
by George Barker, edited by Robert Fraser.
Faber, 838 pp., £27.50, May 1987, 0 571 13972 8
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By Grand Central Station I sat down and wept 
by Elizabeth Smart, introduced by Brigid Brophy.
Grafton, 126 pp., £2.50, July 1987, 0 586 02083 7
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... off the strength of his present howl. Quoting the poignant suicide note of an illiterate lover, Aldous Huxley opined that sincerity was mainly a matter of talent, but that is misleading. The talent may get everything wrong, but the passion may come through pure, in spite of the wrongness, or even because of it. I doubt whether this applies to paint. A ...


Ronan Bennett: My Father

9 July 1992
... husband. She became, once again, a Belfast girl, and her talk was no longer of Graham Greene and Aldous Huxley, but of Mrs Conroy’s operation. Like to like. In later years my father’s veneer wore thinner and thinner. His terrible failures undermined his pretences: he never finished his doctorate, he never wrote his book. He never found anyone to ...

Poe’s Woes

Julian Symons

23 April 1992
Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance 
by Kenneth Silverman.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £25, March 1992, 9780297812531
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... Auden condemned a sentence from ‘William Wilson’ as vague and verbose, and Aldous Huxley summed up Poe as ‘one of Nature’s Gentlemen, unhappily cursed with incorrigible bad taste ... diamond rings on every finger proclaim the parvenu.’ An admirer should begin by acknowledging the force of the case against Poe. Those who ...

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