New building named after Aldous Huxley

Tuesday 14 December 2021
Aldous Huxley by Bassano Ltd bromide print, September 1931 NPG x84301 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Balliol’s newest buildings at the Master’s Field have been named after historic Balliol alumni and academics who reflect the diversity, values and history of the College. Block B1 has been named after Aldous Huxley (Balliol 1913).

Aldous Huxley (18941963) was an English writer and philosopher, best known now for the dystopian novel Brave New World (1932). 

The Huxley family had a number of connections with Balliol, including through his brother Julian (Balliol 1906), a controversial zoologist, and his mother’s uncle, the poet and critic Matthew Arnold (Balliol 1840). Having arrived at the College in 1913 to read English Literature, Aldous Huxley made an unsuccessful attempt to enlist in the British Army during the First World War, but was rejected because of being half-blind in one eye. 

When he left Balliol, he spent some time as a school teacher and later at the Brunner & Mond chemical plant in County Durham. In his introduction to Brave New World he commented that the impression he got there of ‘an ordered universe in a world of planless incoherence’ was an inspiration for the novel.

Aldous Huxley established himself as a writer in his early 20s. A friend of the Bloomsbury Group and of novelist and poet D.H. Lawrence, his first novels were social satires including Chrome Yellow (1921) and Point Counter Point (1928). As well as fiction, he published poetry, journalism and screenplays, living in Los Angeles from 1937 until his death. 

His novels and journalism increasingly expressed his pacifist views and he became interested in mysticism and universalism. These themes are reflected in his novel Eyeless in Gaza (1936). In The Perennial Philosophy (1945), he discussed the links between Western and Eastern mysticism, and The Doors of Perception (1954) describes his experience of taking psychedelic drugs. 

He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature nine times.

Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities’ – Distractions 1 (1945)

See the full list of those for whom the new buildings are named here.

Aldous Huxley
by Bassano Ltd
bromide print, September 1931
NPG x84301
© National Portrait Gallery, London