Comments 6

Letter from Aldous Huxley to Rathbone

We’ve read Huxley describing his first encounter with BR and Huxley – possibly – featuring him as a character in one of his novels ANTIC HAY.  Now here is Huxley writing to Basil. It’s 1950. BR is about to appear in Huxley’s play  THE GIOCONDA SMILE  and Huxley is writing to him about changes to the text….

Taken from  The American Reader

31  Pond Street Hampstead, N.W.3 ca. June 1950

Dear Basil,

I hope that all goes well, in spite of the miserable state of the world at large, with you and your family. London is a good deal more cheerful than it was two years ago, when I was here last; and one prays that the respite from war and the improvement in conditions may continue for a while longer. Meanwhile I have seen Valerie Taylor and talked with her about the play, gaining some useful ideas about it from the Janet’s-eye point of view. She made two points which I thought were good. The first was that, when she played the part with Clive Brook, she felt that Hutton was insufficiently the amorist, that it wasn’t made sufficiently clear that he had wantonly and as it were scientifically, as a matter of experiment, played with Janet’s emotionsto the point when she had become filled with a blind, almost physical passion for him, such a passion being the only force strong enough to drive her to murder.The stuff about the talented children is used by her as a justification and rationalization of this blind desire, after the event. A great deal of Hutton’s experimental and vivisecting amorism must necessarily be suggested in the acting. But to help matters, I have added a few lines in the scene immediately preceding the poisoning of the coffee (see accompanying page). These should provide an opportunity for putting across, at a crucial moment of the story, what has to be expressed—namely, Hutton’s gratuitous and wanton scientific arousing of Janet’s emotions; Janet’s taking this seriously as a manifestation of genuine love; and Hutton’s uneasy realization that he may have set in motion forces which he cannot control. I don’t think we shall have to lengthen this scene, and it would be best if it remained brief and unspecific—the hint and not a statement. The statement and explanation will come later, in the thunderstorm scene and in the condemned cell scenes. In the first act we don’t explain, but merely show something in action.

The other point Valerie Taylor raised was one we have all been worried about—the finding of the weed killer by the nurse. To mitigate its obviousness she suggests that the nurse should find a whole collection of gardening equipment, of which the weed killer would be one item. This will, I think, do something to take the curse off the situation, and I have modified the text and stage directions accordingly.

With all good wishes to you both, I am

Yours very sincerely,

Aldous Huxley


  1. Mandy says

    Always been a big fan of Aldous. Doors of Perception is plain weird though. He was quirky and intelligent though I can imagine he and Baz woul hit it off


  2. Barry S says

    I would like to know more about the friendship between Basil Rathbone and Aldous Huxley, any suggested reading?


    • Antic Hay is a novel. A reader suggested Basil might be the character called Theo St.John who apparently appeared in an early draft.


  3. Ellen Foley says

    Started to write about this,but reply disappeared when tried to double check website,but thanks for posting letter.Hope OR didn’t send corrections.At least he still had work in UK,too.Still love his 2nd appearance on Uncle Miltie,musta told him to just go with it like Berle,cuz he’s funny.Still can’t sing solo,but he’s not expected to!Computer keeps shutting itself down again,anybody got some swampland to lose it in?


    • Peg says

      While you’re doing it can you dump mine too? I have been having troubles with my old lap top for about four months. It’s had a new fan and and new hard drive and it is still acting like it’s steam powered. Time to get a new one. Can I afford to switch to a Mac and is it a good idea?


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