94%(18)17 out of 18 people found this document helpful
This preview shows page 1 - 3 out of 286 pages.
Collected Essaysby Aldous HuxleyBack Cover:All over the English-speaking world critics have greeted these essays with such comments as "brilliant. . . provocative. . . magnificent." Many find that Huxley is the finest essayist since Montaigne. It has been said that "Mr. Huxley is not only a literary giant, but one of the greatest thinkers of our time."Mr. Huxley's topic is man, the total compass of his faculties in science, literature, music, religion, art, love, sex, speculative thinking and simple being. Here, displayed to the full, is the astonishing virtuosity of Huxley's genius.The range of Aldous Huxley's thinking was astonishing. His opinions on art were as original and well-founded as his discussions of biology or architecture, poetry, music, or history. As a virtuoso of letters, he was unequalled.Born into a famous family with a long intellectual tradition, Huxley attended Eton and Oxford. His reputation as a writer was well-established before he was thirty. Mr. Huxley was not only a master essayist; in 1959 he received the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award of Merit for "having done the best work of our time in what threatens to be a neglected field, the novel of ideas."His novels include Crome Yellow and The Genius and the Goddess.Preface"I am a man and alive," wrote D. H. Lawrence. "For this reason I am a novelist. And, being a novelist, I consider myself superior to the saint, the scientist, the philosopher, and the poet, who are all great masters of different bits of man alive, but never get the whole hog. . . Only in the novel are all things given full play."What is true of the novel is only a little less true of the essay. For, like the novel, the essay is a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything. By tradition, almost by definition, the essay is a short piece, and it is therefore impossible to give all things full play within the limits of a single essay. But a collection of essays can cover almost as much ground, and cover it almost as thoroughly as can a long novel. Montaigne's Third Book is the equivalent, very nearly, of a good slice of the Comédie Humaine.Essays belong to a literary species whose extreme variability can be studied most effectively within a three-poled frame of reference. There is the pole of the personal and the autobiographical; there is the pole of the objective, the factual, the concrete-particular; and there is the pole of the abstract-universal. Most essayists are at home and
at their best in the neighborhood of only one of the essay's three poles, or at the most only in the neighborhood of two of them. There are the predominantly personal essayists, who write fragments of reflective autobiography and who look at the world through the keyhole of anecdote and description. There are the predominantly objective essayists who do not speak directly of themselves, but turn their attention outward to some literary or scientific or political theme. Their art consists in setting forth, passing judgment upon, and drawing general conclusions from, the relevant data. In a third group we find those