Complete Essays, Volume III: 1930-1935

Complete Essays, Volume III: 1930-1935

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This third volume of a projected six reinforces Huxley’s stature as one of the most acute and informed observers of the social and ideological trends of the years between the world wars. It contains the important collection of essays "Music at Night" as well as the majority of Huxley’s journalistic writing for the Hearst newspapers in the United States and for a variety of British periodicals such as Nash’s Pall Mall Magazine, the Evening Standard, and Time and Tide. Much of the attraction of the Hearst essays lies in their vivid period detail: references to the raucous voices of Nazi broadcasters, speeches by Roosevelt and Stalin, Soviet five-year plans, and the effects of the Great Depression combine to provide a rich context for Huxley’s increasingly active role in organized pacifism and his sense of standing on the threshold of a new era. The essays of "Music at Night" define this trend as “the New Romanticism,” a celebration of Enlightenment modernity and an excessive faith in instrumental reason and applied science. Huxley was both intrigued by and suspicious of state planning and centralized bureaucratic authority. The essays in Volume III (and the volume to follow) register his growing ambivalence about the role of technocracy and science in an era of experimentation in the concentration of executive and legislative power. At their best, Huxley’s essays stand among the finest examples of the genre in modern literature. "He was among the few writers who...played with ideas so freely, so gaily, with such virtuosity, that the responsive reader...was dazzled and excited."—Isaiah Berlin.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781566633475
Publisher: Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
Publication date: 07/28/2001
Series: Complete Essays of Aldous Huxley Series
Edition description: Volume III
Pages: 653
Product dimensions: 6.46(w) x 9.54(h) x 1.93(d)

About the Author

Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) was one of the most important novelists of the twentieth century. Robert S. Baker is professor of literature at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and author of The Dark Historic Page and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. James Sexton teaches English at Camosun College in British Columbia.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Aesop Revised


The grasshopper was an artist, whose labors, like those of most artists,were unprofitable and whose leisures were lively and expensive. The ant,on the contrary, was a pillar of his community; he went regularly to the office,worked fourteen hours a day, and put by every penny he could spare.

    Time passed. The ant's capital yearly increased; that of the grasshopperyearly diminished. "That young fellow," prophesied the ant, "will come toa bad end." And he sighed hypocritically. But secretly he was delighted.For, like all untalented, hard-working, and self-denying insects, he bore anenvious grudge against anyone who was happy; he feared and hated allwho were naturally superior in talent, in intelligence, in spiritual quality tohimself. He wanted everyone to lead a life as drearily laborious, as dullygood, as utterly pointless and empty as his own. Nothing distressed himmore than the spectacle of talent out of what he regarded as its properplace in the gutter, of lighthearted gaiety attended, in spite of all theproverbs, by worldly success. The sight of a butterfly that had contrived tohibernate through the winter without being killed by the frosts wasenough to make him lose his appetite for a week. His greatest pleasure wasto observe the misfortunes of others less virtuous and more highly giftedthan himself, and to draw the flattering moral.

    When, at last, the muchhoped-for, long-anticipated event took placeand the bankrupt grasshopper came to ask him for a loan, the ant gavevent to the accumulations of his envious spite in a long sermon, full ofmoral indignation, platitudes, and triumphant "I-told-you-sos." As forhelping the unfortunate grasshopper—no, no; on the highest ethical andsocial grounds he refused to lend him a penny.

    A few days later the spiders sent their historical ultimatum to the bumblebees.War was declared. The wasps, the hornets, and the honeybeescame in at once on the side of the bumbles. The ants and termites marchedwith their old allies the spiders. In a little while almost every insect speciesin the world was involved in the conflict. The grasshopper enlisted. Theant stayed at home and in two years trebled his fortune, which he invested(being the most prudent of virtuous insects) in high-class mortgages andgovernment stock. At the end of the war he was a millionaire. Threemonths later, after the collapse of the Antland currency, his accumulatedmillions were just sufficient, if the exchange fell no further, to keep him inbread and margarine for a week.

    Meanwhile, by reckless gambling on the stock exchange and themoney market, the grasshopper had made himself the world's fourth richestinsect. The moral of this is that prudence and virtue are not invariablyrewarded (thank goodness! we may say in chorus) according to theirdeserts.

    But the tale has a postscript. When the impoverished ant applied to hisold friend for help, the grasshopper, who had the vice of excessive generosity,incontinently wrote him out a large check and refused to hear of interest.The ant divided the borrowed money into two parts. With the first hebribed the financial journalists to create a panic on the market; and withthe other part he proceeded to buy, at slump prices, all the shares whichthe duly panic-stricken grasshopper sold out. When, in due course, theprices rose again, the ant was once more extremely rich, while thegrasshopper was reduced to relative poverty.

    And the moral of that is obvious: the gifted must always be on theirguard against the good, who are their natural enemies and between whosevirtue and their talent there is and always will be unsleeping war.


The frogs being leaderless asked Jupiter for a king. Jupiter heard theirprayer and let fall a log into their pond. The splash caused some alarmamong the frogs; but when the ripples had died down, they emerged fromtheir hiding places and came to pay their respects to their new sovereign.Familiarity soon turned their respect into contempt and, after a few days,the frogs might be seen climbing on to their unresponsive king, using himas a diving board or basking by the hour on his sun-warmed belly.

    Time passed. Under King Log's mild government the frogs increasedand multiplied. Much to the satisfaction of patriotic Batrachians, the populationwent up by leaps and bounds. "Our great and growing country,"wrote the frog journalists. "A rising population is the infallible sign of nationalgreatness and moral progress." And so on.

    But as the years went by, the pond began to grow uncomfortablycrowded. The prices of worms and duck-weed, of mosquitoes' eggs andsnails and mayflies and all the other necessities of life rose alarmingly. Inthe best quarters, among the water lilies, the rents were prohibitive. In theindustrial areas at the bottom of the pond there was terrible overcrowding.As for the slums at the roots of the willow trees—they were beyonddescription horrible. Thoughtful frogs were distressed to observe that itwas precisely in the worst districts that the birthrate was the highest.Among the leisured and professional classes of Batrachia there was amarked decrease in fecundity. Contraceptive practices were rife in thesecircles; frog ladies who, in the past, would have produced as many as sixor seven thousand fertilized eggs were now laying no more than the samenumber of hundreds.

    The slum-dwellers, on the contrary, continued to spawn in the mostreckless manner. The most superficial observer could not fail to be struckby the number of deformed, rickety, cretinous, and half-witted tadpoles tobe seen swimming about in the pond. It was clear that, if things went on atthe same rate, a few years would see the complete and irreparable degenerationof the Batrachian stock. This decline in the quality would be fatallyaccompanied by an increase in the quantity of the population, and thetime, according to the best Batrachian statisticians, was not far off whenthe resources of the pond would be insufficient for the numbers of its inhabitants.

    Deputations waited on the king, but the log would take no steps todeal with the problem; it had been brought up in the laissez-faire school ofBentham and John Stuart Mill. In the end the Batrachian priesthood madea solemn appeal to Jupiter. "Lord Jupiter," they croaked, "your king is ofno use to us. He is inactive, his political ideas are out of date, he is incapableof dealing with the problems of modern life."

    Jupiter was annoyed by what he regarded as the frogs' ingratitude andmutability. "Very well," he answered, "if you want a new king, you shallhave one." Whereupon he sent down a very large stork which, arrivingin the middle of the religious ceremony, incontinently swallowed theCardinal-Archbishop and half the leading clergy of Batrachia. The resthopped off the lily leaves and swam for safety in the depths. The appetiteof the new king was inextinguishable, and in a very little time he had reducedthe population of the pond by more than half.

    Jupiter, whose sense of humor is crude and who understands no jokeexcept a practical one, looked on at the scene with undisguised satisfaction."How do you like your new king?" he inquired some little time laterof the wisest of frogs. To his disgust the aged frog replied that he and allhis friends were very much pleased with their gracious sovereign.

    "Pleased?" echoed Jupiter, who had looked forward to hearing anothercomplaint and so having an opportunity to give the frogs a good sermonon fickleness. "Pleased? But he has eaten half your people."

    "Which is precisely why we are so delighted with him," answered thewise frog. "The stronger and the more intelligent among us find no difficultyin escaping from his bill. It is only the feeble in mind and body whobecome his victims. He has eaten half our people, it is true; but the halfthat remains is the better half. By eliminating the unfit he has preservedour race from degeneration, he has solved our political problems and abolishedthe most crying of our social evils—the slums; he has guaranteed usagainst starvation, caused prices to fall and the standard of living to rise.His reign, in a word, has been one prolonged act of beneficence. We cannotpraise him too highly, nor thank you enough, Lord Jupiter, for givingus so admirable a king."

    "Well, I'm blowed!" said Jupiter.


A crow was sitting on the branch of a tree; a fox happened to be passingalong the road below. The fox was hungry (foxes are chronically hungry);the crow was holding a piece of cheese in her beak. It was not a very largepiece, nor was the cheese of particularly good quality. But the fox was notdainty, nor did he consider it beneath his dignity to pick up the smallesttrifles; that was the secret of his success.

    "Dear lady," he said, looking up at the crow, "I can see at a glance thatyou are a highly sensitive and artistic soul, compelled by circumstances tolive among unappreciative people and in an uncongenial milieu, where it isimpossible for you to develop your native talents."

    The crow looked pleased and cocked her head to listen more attentively.

    "Allow me," the fox went on, "to present myself. My name is Fox andmy Mission in Life is to be of Service to my fellows. The particularbranches of Service to which I have devoted my energies are Developmentof Personality, the Realization of Legitimate Happiness, and the Achievementof Success, all of which I teach, for a purely nominal fee, either personallyor in a series of money-back-if-not-successful correspondencecourses. Your case, dear lady, is one in which I know I can be of Service.The Misunderstood Soul is one of my specialties. Let me help you to findSelf-Expression and, along with Self-Expression, Success, Happiness, andWealth."

    "With pleasure," replied the crow rather indistinctly; for she had totalk without opening her beak and her words were muffled by the cheese.Like all members of her sex she liked being talked to about her soul; shewas flattered by being told that she was misunderstood and that she had aPersonality to misunderstand.

    "Then tell me," said the fox, "what are your special gifts and whatyour private ambitions. Do you wish to Express your Personality on the


Excerpted from ALDOUS HUXLEY COMPLETE ESSAYS by . Copyright © 2001 by Ivan R. Dee. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

A Note on This Editionxi
Aesop Revised5
The Critic in the Crib10
Art and the Critic14
Vulgarity in Literature19
Reading, the New Vice48
Tragedy and the Whole Truth50
The Rest Is Silence56
Art and the Obvious58
"And Wanton Optics Roll the Melting Eye"62
Music at Night67
Meditation on El Greco71
Those Personal Touches77
Sermons in Cats82
An Exhibition86
Too Many Books88
Art and Propaganda90
Letter Writing91
Words, Words, Words93
Best of Both Worlds94
The Export ofWords96
Names and Things97
Fiction and Fact99
The Music Industry100
The Hundred Best Books102
Artists Against Fascism and War105
Meditation in Arundel Street109
Meditation on the Moon110
Beliefs and Actions112
On Grace117
Boundaries of Utopia124
On the Charms of History and the Future of the Past129
Obstacle Race138
Squeak and Gibber144
Science and Civilization148
Atoms Versus Men156
Monks Among Test Tubes157
Science of Politics?160
Religion, Science, and Man162
Science's Growth164
Mind Reading165
Science Turns to the Supernatural167
The Truth About Thinking179
The Outlook for American Culture185
In Praise of Intolerance194
The Best Authorities198
America and Europe: Yesterday's Influence on Today202
The New Salvation209
Some American Contradictions213
Machinery, Psychology, and Politics218
This Community Business221
Fatal Ladies226
Babies—State Property229
What Ghandi Fails to See232
To the Puritan All Things Are Impure236
Points of View241
Ethics in Andalusia242
Foreheads Villainous Low246
The New Romanticism250
Selected Snobberies254
The Beauty Industry257
Wanted, a New Pleasure260
Abroad in England264
Sight-seeing in Alien Englands274
The Victory of Art over Humanity282
On Going Over a Battleship290
Ideals and the Machine Tool294
Greater and Lesser London295
Love Interest Forecast301
A Treatise on Drugs303
A Letter from India305
A Soviet Schoolbook308
Forewarned Is Not Forearmed310
Hyde Park on Sunday312
In Whose Name?313
A Generation War?315
Poppy Juice316
The Use of Uselessness319
Flight from Force321
Are We Growing Stupider?323
Peace in Our Time325
Japanese Advertisement326
Industrial Progress and Social Stability328
Sex, the Slump, and Salvation331
False Prophets334
New World Drama336
The Problem of Leisure337
The Reality of Progress339
Compulsory Suicide341
Swastika and Arrows342
Man Proposes344
Dangers of Diversity345
The Problems of Property347
What Is the State?348
Aristocratic Tradition352
Hamlet in Russia355
Psychological Dividends356
Living Through History358
Political Plans359
Primitive Minds360
Primitive and Civilized361
Functional or Ornamental364
Force and Persuasion365
Anthropology at Home368
The Reality of Progress371
German Bonfires373
The Race Racket374
Population and Politics375
Racial History377
Swindlers and Swindlees379
The Prospects of Fascism in England380
The Strain of Modern Life384
Pareto and Society386
Nights Out389
Dispatches from the Riviera392
Reason Eclipsed398
What Is Happening to Our Population?399
100 Years Hence408
500 Prophets411
Pistol Fiends412
The Worth of a Gift414
Casino and Bourse419
Angry Ape422
The Next 25 Years423
Ballyhoo for Nations426
Emperor-Worship Up to Date438
General Election440
Political Murder445
Lord Campbell and Mr. Charles447
Beyond the Mexique Bay453

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