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.
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
I. THE ANT AND THE GRASSHOPPER
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 grasshopperno, 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.
II. THE FROGS AND THEIR KING
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 treesthey 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 evilsthe 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.
III. THE FOX AND THE CROW
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 Edition||xi|
|I. ART, LITERATURE, MUSIC|
|The Critic in the Crib||10|
|Art and the Critic||14|
|Vulgarity in Literature||19|
|Reading, the New Vice||48|
|Tragedy and the Whole Truth||50|
|The Rest Is Silence||56|
|Art and the Obvious||58|
|"And Wanton Optics Roll the Melting Eye"||62|
|Music at Night||67|
|Meditation on El Greco||71|
|Those Personal Touches||77|
|Sermons in Cats||82|
|Too Many Books||88|
|Art and Propaganda||90|
|Words, Words, Words||93|
|Best of Both Worlds||94|
|The Export ofWords||96|
|Names and Things||97|
|Fiction and Fact||99|
|The Music Industry||100|
|The Hundred Best Books||102|
|Artists Against Fascism and War||105|
|II. SCIENCE, PHILOSOPHY, RELIGION|
|Meditation in Arundel Street||109|
|Meditation on the Moon||110|
|Beliefs and Actions||112|
|Boundaries of Utopia||124|
|On the Charms of History and the Future of the Past||129|
|Squeak and Gibber||144|
|Science and Civilization||148|
|Atoms Versus Men||156|
|Monks Among Test Tubes||157|
|Science of Politics?||160|
|Religion, Science, and Man||162|
|Science Turns to the Supernatural||167|
|The Truth About Thinking||179|
|III. HISTORY, POLITICS, SOCIAL CRITICISM|
|The Outlook for American Culture||185|
|In Praise of Intolerance||194|
|The Best Authorities||198|
|America and Europe: Yesterday's Influence on Today||202|
|The New Salvation||209|
|Some American Contradictions||213|
|Machinery, Psychology, and Politics||218|
|This Community Business||221|
|What Ghandi Fails to See||232|
|To the Puritan All Things Are Impure||236|
|Points of View||241|
|Ethics in Andalusia||242|
|Foreheads Villainous Low||246|
|The New Romanticism||250|
|The Beauty Industry||257|
|Wanted, a New Pleasure||260|
|Abroad in England||264|
|Sight-seeing in Alien Englands||274|
|The Victory of Art over Humanity||282|
|On Going Over a Battleship||290|
|Ideals and the Machine Tool||294|
|Greater and Lesser London||295|
|Love Interest Forecast||301|
|A Treatise on Drugs||303|
|A Letter from India||305|
|A Soviet Schoolbook||308|
|Forewarned Is Not Forearmed||310|
|Hyde Park on Sunday||312|
|In Whose Name?||313|
|A Generation War?||315|
|The Use of Uselessness||319|
|Flight from Force||321|
|Are We Growing Stupider?||323|
|Peace in Our Time||325|
|Industrial Progress and Social Stability||328|
|Sex, the Slump, and Salvation||331|
|New World Drama||336|
|The Problem of Leisure||337|
|The Reality of Progress||339|
|Swastika and Arrows||342|
|Dangers of Diversity||345|
|The Problems of Property||347|
|What Is the State?||348|
|Hamlet in Russia||355|
|Living Through History||358|
|Primitive and Civilized||361|
|Functional or Ornamental||364|
|Force and Persuasion||365|
|Anthropology at Home||368|
|The Reality of Progress||371|
|The Race Racket||374|
|Population and Politics||375|
|Swindlers and Swindlees||379|
|The Prospects of Fascism in England||380|
|The Strain of Modern Life||384|
|Pareto and Society||386|
|Dispatches from the Riviera||392|
|What Is Happening to Our Population?||399|
|100 Years Hence||408|
|The Worth of a Gift||414|
|Casino and Bourse||419|
|The Next 25 Years||423|
|Ballyhoo for Nations||426|
|Emperor-Worship Up to Date||438|
|Lord Campbell and Mr. Charles||447|
|Beyond the Mexique Bay||453|