You probably know Aldous Huxley as the author of the classic book Brave New World. You may even know he was a pacifist and philosopher and asked for LSD on his deathbed. But did you also know he and his family have several connections to Alice In Wonderland creator Lewis Carroll AKA Charles Dodgson? Today, July 26, is Aldous Huxley’s birthday. What better time to discuss the links between this mescaline-loving meditator and our favorite Oxford don?
Aldous Huxley’s Mother Was One Of Lewis Carroll’s Child Friends
Much has been made of Lewis Carroll’s fondness for hanging out with little girls. One such little girl was none other than Julia Arnold, the future mother of Aldous Huxley! Carroll was friendly with the entire Arnold family and would often engage in era-appropriate activities with them, such as garden walks and croquet. He would also “borrow” Julia and her sister Ethel to use as models, as he was quite an accomplished amateur photographer. Here is a super normal and not at all creepy portrait of Julia now!
Julia and Ethel Arnold also have the distinction of being the inspiration for a game that is still played today, Doublets! Carroll invented the game for their entertainment around Christmas 1877 when the girls were complaining that they were bored and had nothing to do. You may know Doublets by its more common name, Word Ladders. I’ll let LC explain the rules to you:
“The rules of the Puzzle are simple enough. Two words are proposed, of the same length; and the Puzzle consists in linking these together by interposing other words, each of which shall differ from the next word in one letter only. That is to say, one letter may be changed in one of the given words, then one letter in the word so obtained, and so on, till we arrive at the other given word. The letters must not be interchanged among themselves, but each must keep to its own place. As an example, the word “head” may be changed into “tail” by interposing the words “heal, teal, tell, tall.” I call the two given words “a Doublet,” the interposed words “Links,” and the entire series “a Chain.”
Get it? Like this:
Aldous Huxley Wrote An Early Screenplay For The 1951 Disney Alice In Wonderland Movie
Aldous Huxley made a major change to his philosophical, intellectual and all around smarty-pants life in 1937 when he moved to Hollywood, USA and wrote screenplays(!) One script that unfortunately never saw the big screen was his version of Alice In Wonderland, entitled Alice And The Mysterious Mr. Carroll. Walt Disney knew of Aldous’ mother’s personal connection to Lewis Carroll. In 1945, Walt himself commissioned Aldous to write an Alice script for Disney, to the sweet tune of $7500. It was to be a Song Of The South– type amalgam of animation and live action. Interestingly enough, Wonderland was to be a place where Alice escaped to get away from her real life problems. I say “interestingly enough” because that seems to be the crux of almost every modern Alice adaptation I can think of. Walt was enthusiastic about the Huxley script for a while, but eventually lost interest and decided it was “too literary.” I personally think the 1951 Disney Alice In Wonderland could have used a dose of The Mysterious Mr. Carroll, but alas, it was not to be.
Aldous Huxley’s Nephew Wrote A Book Called The Raven And The Writing Desk
The Huxleys are a rather overachieving lot, and Aldous’ nephew Francis Huxley is no exception. He is (was? He was born in 1923, and I can find no evidence of his demise…) an anthropologist who has travelled the globe and written such tomes as Affable Savages: An Anthropologist Among The Urubu Indians Of Brazil. He also wrote an entire book inspired by everyone’s favorite unanswerable riddle, Why Is A Raven Like A Writing Desk? The Raven And The Writing Desk was published in 1976 and is available at Amazon for the bargain price of one penny to fifteen dollars, depending on condition. I don’t have a penny to spare, so I plan to read it at the USC Special Collections Library next time I take a trip downtown.
What do you think? Are you surprised the author of Brave New World has so much in common with the creator of Wonderland?