'Huxley brings extraordinary vigour and gusto to every page he writes' Spectator
When Theodore Gumbril hits upon the notion of designing a type of pneumatic trouser ('a comfort to all travellers, indispensable to first-nighters, the concert-goers' friends') to ease the discomfort of the sedentary life, he decides the time has come leave his position as a housemaster in a boys' public school and seek his fortune in the metropolis.
But post-First-World-War London seems to be gripped by a fever of hedonism. Gumbril is soon caught up in the delirious world of aesthetes extraordinaire Mercaptan, Casimir Lypiatt and the thoroughly civilised Myra Viveash, and finds his burning ambitions are beginning to lose their urgency... A contemporary commentator coined the word 'futilitarian' to describe the type of desultory, pleasure-seeking intellectual Huxley pinned so mercilessly to the literary map in Antic Hay. Wickedly funny and deliciously barbed, the novel epitomises the glittering neuroticism of its decade.
About the Author
Aldous Huxley was born on 26th July 1894 near Godalming, Surrey. He began writing poetry and short stories in his early twenties, but it was his first novel, Crome Yellow (1921), which established his literary reputation. This was swiftly followed by Antic Hay (1923), Those Barren Leaves (1925) and Point Counter Point (1928) - bright, brilliant satires in which Huxley wittily but ruthlessly passed judgement on the shortcomings of contemporary society. For most of the 1920s Huxley lived in Italy and an account of his experiences there can be found in Along the Road (1925).
The great novels of ideas, including his most famous work Brave New World (published in 1932 this warned against the dehumanising aspects of scientific and material 'progress') and the pacifist novel Eyeless In Gaza (1936) were accompanied by a series of wise and brilliant essays, collected in volume form under titles such as Music at Night (1931) and Ends and Means (1937). In 1937, at the height of his fame, Huxley left Europe to live in California, working for a time as a screenwriter in Hollywood.
As the West braced itself for war, Huxley came increasingly to believe that the key to solving the world's problems lay in changing the individual through mystical enlightenment. The exploration of the inner life through mysticism and hallucinogenic drugs was to dominate his work for the rest of his life. His beliefs found expression in both fiction (Time Must Have a Stop,1944 and Island, 1962) and non-fiction (The Perennial Philosophy, 1945, Grey Eminence, 1941 and the famous account of his first mescalin experience, The Doors of Perception, 1954. Huxley died in California on 22nd November 1963.
"Few present-day writers would dare to be so heroically encyclopaedic, such ardent gleaners of gossip and table talk as well as of the profounder reveries of literature, history, science and religion" - Spectator
"The great uniting principles that swept mankind along in their current have lost their force, and Huxley's intellectuals find themselves in a maelstrom formed by the new forces of the time. For them, life has become boring, futile, full of ennui. So we get the 'Antic Hay', the dance of profane love, but with the wood-wild strains of Pan broken up into the hesitating rhythms demanded by the fever of modern life. Huxley has a fine sensibility and his wit and fresh vision lend Antic Hay a crystalline quality" - Guardian